Lewis and Clark Expedition

One year after the United States doubled its territory with the Louisiana Purchase, the Lewis and Clark expedition leaves St. Louis, Missouri, on a mission to explore the Northwest from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.

Even before the U.S. government concluded purchase negotiations with France, President Thomas Jefferson commissioned his private secretary Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, an army captain, to lead an expedition into what is now the U.S. Northwest. On May 14, the “Corps of Discovery”—featuring approximately 45 men (although only an approximate 33 men would make the full journey)—left St. Louis for the American interior.

The expedition traveled up the Missouri River in a 55-foot long keelboat and two smaller boats. In November, Toussaint Charbonneau, a French-Canadian fur trader accompanied by his young Native American wife Sacagawea, joined the expedition as an interpreter. The group wintered in present-day North Dakotabefore crossing into present-day Montana, where they first saw the Rocky Mountains. On the other side of the Continental Divide, they were met by Sacagawea’s tribe, the Shoshone Indians, who sold them horses for their journey down through the Bitterroot Mountains. After passing through the dangerous rapids of the Clearwater and Snake rivers in canoes, the explorers reached the calm of the Columbia River, which led them to the sea. On November 8, 1805, the expedition arrived at the Pacific Ocean. After pausing there for the winter, the explorers began their long journey back to St. Louis.

On September 23, 1806, after almost two and a half years, the expedition returned to the city, bringing back a wealth of information about the region (much of it already inhabited by Native Americans), as well as valuable U.S. claims to OregonTerritory.

Source: history.com

Who Were The Puritans?

The roots of Puritanism are to be found in the beginnings of the English Reformation. The name “Puritans” (they were sometimes called “precisionists”) was a term of contempt assigned to the movement by its enemies. Although the epithet first emerged in the 1560s, the movement began in the 1530s, when King Henry VIII repudiated papal authority and transformed the Church of Rome into a state Church of England. To Puritans, the Church of England retained too much of the liturgy and ritual of Roman Catholicism.

Well into the 16th century, many priests were barely literate and often very poor. Employment by more than one parish was common, so they moved often, preventing them from forming deep roots in their communities. Priests were immune to certain penalties of the civil law, further feeding anticlerical hostility and contributing to their isolation from the spiritual needs of the people.

In the early decades of the 17th century, some groups of worshipers began to separate themselves from the main body of their local parish church where preaching was inadequate and to engage an energetic “lecturer,” typically a young man with a fresh Cambridge degree, who was a lively speaker and steeped in reform theology. Some congregations went further, declared themselves separated from the national church, and remade themselves into communities of “visible saints,” withdrawn from the English City of Man into a self-proclaimed City of God.

One such faction was a group of separatist believers in the Yorkshire village of Scrooby, who, fearing for their safety, moved to Holland in 1608 and then, in 1620, to the place they called Plymouth in New England. We know them now as the Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock. A decade later, a larger, better-financed group, mostly from East Anglia, migrated to Massachusetts Bay. There, they set up gathered churches on much the same model as the transplanted church at Plymouth (with deacons, preaching elders, and, though not right away, a communion restricted to full church members, or “saints”).

The main difference between the Pilgrims and the Puritans is that the Puritans did not consider themselves separatists. They called themselves “nonseparating congregationalists,” by which they meant that they had not repudiated the Church of England as a false church. But in practice they acted–from the point of view of Episcopalians and even Presbyterians at home–exactly as the separatists were acting. 

By the 1640s, their enterprise at Massachusetts Bay had grown to about 10,000 people. They soon outgrew the bounds of the original settlement and spread into what would become Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine, and eventually beyond the limits of New England.

The Puritan migration was overwhelmingly a migration of families (unlike other migrations to early America, which were composed largely of young unattached men). The literacy rate was high, and the intensity of devotional life, as recorded in the many surviving diaries, sermon notes, poems, and letters, was seldom to be matched in American life.

The Puritans’ ecclesiastical order was as intolerant as the one they had fled. Yet, as a loosely confederated collection of gathered churches, Puritanism contained within itself the seed of its own fragmentation. Following hard upon the arrival in New England, dissident groups within the Puritan sect began to proliferate–Quakers, Antinomians, Baptists–fierce believers who carried the essential Puritan idea of the aloneness of each believer with an inscrutable God so far that even the ministry became an obstruction to faith.

Puritanism gave Americans a sense of history as a progressive drama under the direction of God, in which they played a role akin to, if not prophetically aligned with, that of the Old Testament Jews as a new chosen people.

Perhaps most important, as Max Weber profoundly understood, was the strength of Puritanism as a way of coping with the contradictory requirements of Christian ethics in a world on the verge of modernity. It supplied an ethics that somehow balanced charity and self-discipline. It counseled moderation within a psychology that saw worldly prosperity as a sign of divine favor. Such ethics were particularly urgent in a New World where opportunity was rich, but the source of moral authority obscure.

Source: history.com

The First American Witch Hunt (Hartford, Connecticut)

In March 1662, John and Bethia Kelly grieved over the body of their 8-year-old daughter inside their home. Little Elizabeth had been fine just days before when she returned home with a neighbor, Goodwife Ayres. The distraught parents, grasping at any explanation for their loss, saw the hand of the devil at work.

The parents were convinced that Elizabeth had been fatally possessed by Goody Ayres. The Kellys testified that their daughter first took ill the night after she returned home with her neighbor, and that she exclaimed, “Father! Father! Help me, help me! Goodwife Ayres is upon me. She chokes me. She kneels on my belly. She will break my bowels. She pinches me. She will make me black and blue.”

After Elizabeth’s death, accusations of bewitchment flew, and fingers were pointed at numerous townspeople. Hysteria gripped Hartford, a town that a generation before had witnessed the first execution of a suspected witch in the American colonies. Alse Young of Windsor, Connecticut, was sent to the gallows erected in Hartford’s Meeting House Square on May 26, 1647.

Witchcraft was one of 12 capital crimes decreed by Connecticut’s colonial government in 1642. The legal precedent cited by the devoutly Puritan colonists was of a divinely higher order: biblical passages such as Exodus 22:18 (“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”) and Leviticus 20:27 (“A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death”).

After Young’s public hanging, at least five other Connecticut residents met a similar fate. However, it was in Hartford in 1662, 30 years before the infamous Salem witch trials, that a witch hunt hysteria took hold, resulting in seven trials and four executions.

Shortly after Elizabeth Kelly’s death, the pious Ann Cole suddenly became “afflicted,” shaking violently and spouting blasphemy. According to one account, Cole was “taken with strange fits, wherein she held a discourse for a considerable time.” Cole blamed her bewitchment on neighbor Rebecca Greensmith, described by one townsperson as “a lewd, ignorant, considerably aged woman,” and others already suspected of witchcraft in the Kelly case. The accused began to accuse others, and even their spouses, of being the true witches. In what became a vicious circle, neighbors began testifying against neighbors. Goody Ayres’ husband, perhaps in an attempt to save his wife, joined in the chorus of Greensmith’s accusers.

The most damning testimony supposedly came from Greensmith herself, who reportedly admitted to having “familiarity with the devil” and said that “at Christmas they would have a merry meeting” to form a covenant. Greensmith implicated her husband and said she had met in the woods with seven other witches, including Goody Ayres, Mary Sanford and Elizabeth Seager. Neighbors testified that they saw Seager dancing with other women in the woods and cooking mysterious concoctions in black kettles.

Two of the suspects, likely the Greensmiths, were subjected to the swimming test in which their hands and feet were bound and they were cast into the water to test the theory that witches are unable to sink. After they were tried, the Greensmiths were indicted “for not having the fear of God before thine eyes; thou hast entertained familiarity with Satan the grand enemy of God and mankind and by his help hast acted things in a preternatural way.” The court’s verdict: “According to the law of God and the established law of this commonwealth, thou deserves to die.”

Rebecca Greensmith had confessed in open court. Nathaniel Greensmith had protested his innocence. But they both met the same fate: the noose. Sanford was also sent to the gallows. After their executions, Cole reportedly was “restored to health.” Ayres fled Hartford, while Seager was finally convicted of witchcraft in 1665, although the governor reversed the verdict the following year. Mary Barnes of Farmington, Connecticut, was also swept up in the region’s witch hunt and executed alongside the Greensmiths.

The four executions of suspected witches in Hartford were to be Connecticut’s last. Another hysteria broke out in Fairfield, Connecticut, in 1692, but none of those convicted met death. Connecticut held its final witch trial in 1697, a half century after Alse Young’s execution. During that period, there were 46 prosecutions and at least 11 executions.

Sources: history.com, historycollection.com, washingtonpost.com

Witchy History: Grace Sherwood

One of the most famous witches in Virginia’s history is Grace Sherwood, whose neighbors alleged she killed their pigs and hexed their cotton. A farmer, healer, and midwife, she was accused by her neighbors of transforming herself into a cat, damaging crops, and causing the death of livestock. She was charged with witchcraft several times. Sherwood was accused of bewitching her neighbor, Elizabeth Hill, causing Hill to miscarry. Other accusations followed and Sherwood was brought to trial in 1706.

The court decided to use a controversial water test to determine her guilt or innocence. Sherwood’s arms and legs were bound and she was thrown into a body of water. It was thought if she sank, she was innocent; if she floated, she was guilty. Sherwood didn’t sink and was convicted of being a witch. She wasn’t killed but put in prison and for eight years.

A satirical article (supposedly written by Benjamin Franklin) about a witch trial in New Jersey was published in 1730 in the Pennsylvania Gazette. It brought to light the ridiculousness of some witchcraft accusations. It wasn’t long before witch mania died down in the New World and laws were passed to help protect people from being wrongly accused and convicted.

Witchcraft and Dark Magic in Colonial America

The power of the “Indian Curse” – whether in New England or in Virginia, as in the case of the equally famous Curse of Chief Cornstalk – was considered an irrefutable truth by the colonists because of their belief in the Native Americans as diabolical servants of Satan. This belief was strengthened early on by the Indian Massacre of 1622 in Virginia when, on the morning of 22 March 1622, the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, Opchanacanough (l. 1554-1646) launched a surprise attack on the settlements, killing 347 people. Prior to the attack, the natives had appeared friendly (purposefully so, on Opchanacanough’s orders, to lower the colonists’ defenses), and this, to the colonists, was proof that no native could be trusted and all posed a potential threat.

The belief in natives wielding supernatural powers continued, however, as they became more marginalized, and it was understood that they had grounds for holding a grudge. Other minorities were equally apt to be suspect though, whether African slaves – who were thought to be able to cast spells through their own associations with Satan – or Catholics whose religious beliefs were considered diabolic by the majority of Protestants.

Witchcraft, thought to be practiced by all three of these groups, was understood as an intimate relationship between a person or people with Satan himself, God’s adversary, who continually plotted against those whom the Bible claimed God had made in his own image. Although the Salem Witch Trials are easily the most famous expression of the fear and hysteria generated by a belief in witchcraft, marginalized people – most often women – were charged, convicted, and hanged or otherwise dispatched in colonies from Massachusetts down to Florida.

Source: World History Encyclopedia Online, ancient.eu

Archaeological Finds 2020: Lost Capital of Maya Kingdom

Associate professor of anthropology, Charles Golden and bioarchaeologist Andrew Scherer believe that the site (now named Lacanja Tzeltal) was the capital of the Sak Tz’i’ kingdom, located in what is today the state of Chiapas in south-eastern Mexico.

Sak Tz’i’ was a minor kingdom of the Maya, the ruins are certainly more modest when compared to the larger sites of Palenque and Chichén Itzá.

First settled around 750 BC, the city remained in continuous occupation for 1000 years and comprises of a royal palace, ball court and the ruins of several pyramids, the largest of which towers 45 feet high.