witch photo

The legendary Pownal 'witch trial' is said to have involved a trial by water near this outcropping facing the Hoosic River in North Pownal. It is called Kreiger's Rocks, after an early family of settlers that included the alleged witch, who survived. A historical marker about the trial is proposed.

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NORTH POWNAL — Pownal’s contribution to the lore surrounding New England’s infamous witch trials of the 17th century could soon be recognized with a marker near the site of an early settler’s legendary ordeal in the icy Hoosic River.

Pownal Historical Society member Joyce Held and Jamie Franklin, curator at the Bennington Museum, who are working with the Vermont Folklife Center, plan to submit a grant application to fund an explanatory historical marker sign near the river. They received a promise of a letter of support Thursday from the Select Board.

Franklin said they hope to highlight intriguing Pownal people and stories that are not widely known.

LEGANDARY ‘TRIAL’

The application, to the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, will be submitted by the museum, seeking the estimated $1,300 to $1,500 cost for the metal sign, which will explain the trial of “the widow Kreiger” for alleged witchcraft.

She was dunked in the Hoosic River as a trial to determine whether she would float — proving to her jurors that she was a witch — or sink. Sink she did, but residents quickly dove in to rescue the woman, whose first name was not recorded.

The widow is presumed to have lived out her life in Pownal.

The Pownal witch trial was said to be the only one held in Vermont in a series on witchcraft and witchcraft trials in New England, which first aired on Vermont PBS in 2017.

The show in part pointed out that the 1692-93 trials and executions in Salem, Mass., were not the only ones held in the region during that time period.

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DUTCH ERA

Kreiger was believed to be a member of one of the Dutch families that first settled along the Hoosic River in Pownal, beginning in the 1600s. After the English took control of New York from the Dutch, Pownal was chartered as a British settlement in 1760 and named after a royal governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Pownall.

While no gravestone for the woman has been located, the Kreiger name is familiar in Pownal, and a cliff outcropping called Kreiger’s Rocks is across Route 346 from the North Pownal Bridge over the Hoosic River.

The incident was described in a book on the earliest days of Bennington County, compiled in the 19th century by historian T.E. Brownell. The woman is referred to only as “the widow Kreiger” or “Mrs. Kreiger.”

PARK LOCATION

Franklin and Held suggested that a good place for a historical marker would be in the Strobridge Recreation Area, along the river near the former mill dam and on the site of the factory building that was razed during the early 2000s.

They noted that a marker already exists there with information about Addie Card, a girl who worked in the North Pownal textile mill and was immortalized in one of Lewis Hine’s iconic photographs illustrating scenes of child labor in the early 1900s.

Franklin said the Pomeroy Foundation is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history. Applications due Oct. 17.

He said the foundation earlier provided a grant to help fund a marker noting a suspected vampire in Manchester.

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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