In the spring of 1671, Mister Edward Cole apparently lost his mind and accused “Granny Neale,” the wife of DANIEL NEALE-1, of “bewitching” his wife. There are several references to this and depositions taken concerning this event. This may be the same Edward Cole who appeared as a head-right in 1642, and was entering patents for 900 acres by 1655. [The Planters of Colonial Virginia, page 77.]
Edward Le Breton, who was a merchant of the Island of Jersey, gave a power of attorney to Thomas Matthew of Cherry Point, in Northumberland County, concerning some business. CHRISTOPHER NEALE-2 witnessed this document. This is the same Thomas Matthew to whom William Presley wrote. Edward Le Breton also mentioned that he had heard Edward Cole say that Mrs. NEALE, the wife of DANIEL-1, had bewitched his wife. Thomas Matthew of Cherry Point was a very prominent member of the community.
A deposition, taken in May of 1671, also mentioned that Edward Cole had accused “Granny Neale” of being a witch. In July of that same year, another deposition, this time from Mary Saunders, wife of Captain Edward Saunders, said:
the Monday after the 12th” Mr. Edward Coles came to her house and she asked him how his wife was. He replied that she was dead and then when Mary Saunders told him she was sorry, he said that his wife wasn’t dead at all but bewitched and that Mrs. Neal was the one he suspected. [Family Tree Maker, Virginia Colonial Abstracts, Volume I, Northumbria Collectamen, 1645-1720, M-Z. Broderbund Software, Inc. 1998, pg. 582.]
What the outcome of this accusation was is unclear, but several years later, what appears to be this same Edward Cole, holds offices of responsibility in the community. The accusation was probably not taken lightly by the NEALE family, however, since at this time, “witchcraft” was believed in by many in the community and the church. It is interesting that HELEN NEALE was called “Granny Neale” when she was probably only about 50 years old. Today, most women aged 50 still think of themselves as “middle aged,” but in that period, 50 years old was ancient.
“No person was ever executed in Virginia for that offense. Instead, the courts actively punished false accusations of witchcraft, often assessing heavy fines and costs against those who denounced their neighbors as minions of the Devil.” [Fischer,Albion’sSeed.pg.340.]
One example of a witchcraft trial in Virginia was held in 1705, 34 years after the episode where “Granny Neale” was accused of witchcraft. In Princess Anne County, Grace Sherwood was long suspected of witchcraft, and a jury of women was brought in to search her body and they returned that there were at least two things [besides her breasts] on her body that resembled “titts.” Her house was searched and no evidence was found, but it was eventually decided to “try” the woman by ducking, when no jury of women could be found to examine her body a second time. The day of the ducking, however, the weather was bad and the ducking was delayed in order not to injure her health. What the ultimate outcome of that trial was is unknown to this author.
“Ducking” an accused consisted of tying them into a chair at the end of a long pole. They were ducked in a pool as punishment which could progress to drowning. At some times, they were ducked to see if they were indeed a witch. The theory was that an innocent woman would drown and a witch would float, so therefore if the woman drowned, she was “innocent.” If she didn’t drown, she was guilty, and therefore a witch, so she was burned. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, and the interest they seemed to have in not letting the woman’s health be harmed by a cold ducking seems to indicate that they did not intend to drown her. Common “scolds,” or women who were nags, were ducked as punishment.
In 1691, CHRISTOPHER NEALE-2, Phil Shapleigh, and PETER PRESLEY, Sr., were appointed trustees to lay out a town.
In 1691, PETER PRESLEY, Sr.-2, Phil Shapleigh, and CHRISTOPHER NEALE-2 were appointed trustees to lay out a town. [Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts] ANNE NEALE’s father, PRESLEY NEALE-4, named a son Shapleigh Neale. Whether this denotes kinship or friendship is not proven at this point in time, but the giving of a surname as a given name usually denoted kinship. In Westward the American Shapleys, the author, Brian Berry, states on page 406, that Philip Shapley was a justice in Northumberland County and he was with Peter Presley as foeffes in trust for land laid out for a new town and was a bondsman for Colonel Presley in 1712.
In 1702, CHRISTOPHER was the executor for the will of the local minister, the Reverend John Farnefold. Edward Cole was appointed in the Reverend’s will to be a pallbearer. One may wonder if this was the same Edward Cole who slandered “Granny Neale,” or if it was his son or nephew by the same name. Other executors for the Reverend’s will were Rodham Kenner, John Haynie, and Thomas Hobson.
In 1703, CHRISTOPHER was also a Justice of the county. In 1705, CHRISTOPHER witnessed the will of John Bowers, the elder. In 1706, he and HANNAH witnessed the will of Rodham Kenner, her nephew. He was referred to as “cozen” CHRISTOPHER NEALE in the will. Some of these names were passed on to future generations as evidenced by the signature of a later Rodham Kenner and an Edward Sanford on the Leedstown Resolves, which was a protest against the Stamp Act October 2, 1766.
Richard Kenner, the son of Rodham Kenner, was placed under the guardianship of CHRISTOPHER NEALE-2 and Richard’s uncle, Francis Kenner. Richard apparently didn’t like this, however, and he petitioned the court in 1715 to allow him to choose his own guardian. CHRISTOPHER-2 and Francis contested this because the will stated that they should be the guardians. The petition of Richard was granted in 1716 though. One may wonder just why Richard Kenner was anxious to get new guardians, or why CHRISTOPHER-2 and Francis protested the change. There was one notation in the same records that his father, Rodham Kenner, had thought about cutting Richard Kenner out of his will entirely, but had changed his mind at the last minute. Apparently, the young man was a “problem child” of some sort.