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Molly Garfield...

Old Moll Garfield the Witch

While Parson Gushing was yet living, and Nathaniel Whittemore was tanning calf- skins for schoolboys' aprons, before Old Tombolin had worn out his sheepskin breeches, little Mary Garfield was growing up. And when the military companies were forming and Ross Wyman was making his patriotic horseshoes, when "Old Grimes'' was visiting the Baldwin Tavern and Dr. Sumner was preaching in the new meeting-house, she was lively Molly Garfield.

By the time that Luther Goddard preached the Gospel and cleaned the people's watches, while Milly Goulding was patiently awaiting the fulfillment of her modest wishes and Dr. Knowlton began to dispense his herbs and fishworms, she was called Old Moll Garfield the Witch. Not that she was ever thought to be a disagreeable, mischief-making witch, but one whose character would bear inspection even in those days when suspicion had not yet died out.


She fared better than her predecessors of a century before, for no one meddled with her liberty and she was allowed to sit quietly in her hut and distill her rose water and cider brandy — harmless decoctions for a witch to bring out of her cauldron. Some say that her little habitation was on the spot where Mr. Cook's carnations bloom so marvelously now. Others say that it was in the vicinity of the present Garfield residence, which is a more marvelous place still than Mr. Cook's greenhouses.

horseshoes were used to repel witches fr

However, this may be, she did good work in spinning for the neighbors; but the boys were shy of her, and being determined to settle the question once for all whether she was a true witch, hung a horseshoe over the door of the room where she sat spinning one day. This story does not say whether they saw her come out, or whether she quietly slid up the chimney, but she was ever after called a witch.

The legend says that on very dark nights she would mount her broom-stick and sail off into the clouds much higher than the church steeple, coming down again as gently as a thistle down. Such frolics as these indulged in at her extreme age look a little as though she was at least an unusual person, but many strange things happened long ago that we cannot account for.

Elizabeth Ward, OLD TIMES IN SHREWSBURY MASSACHUSETTS, Gleanings from History and Tradition (The McGeorge Printing Company, 1892)

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