This story was written by Janis Pahnke, Chicago L. Anyone descended from this line will be interested to learn that Janis has proven that John Frost was the son of John and Ruth (Scripture) Frost. Ruth Scripture was the daughter of this Elizabeth Knapp. Also of interest is the fact that Elizabeth Knapp's mother was the sister of Mary (Warren) Bigelow.
Elizabeth Knapp (see below) was born on 21 February 1655 in Wolburn or Watertown, Mass., the daughter of James and Elizabeth (Warren) Knapp. Elizabeth married Samuel Scripture on 11 September 1674 in Cambridge, Mass. and moved to Groton, Mass. where her 10 children were born. She died between 1720 and 1728, probably in Groton. Her husband, Samuel Scripture, served in King Philip's War under Capt. Jos. Syll, 24 August 1676.
These are the records of Elizabeth's life and not much information can be added about how she lived and what she did, except for an extraordinary incident which occurred when she was 16 years old in 1671. This incident has been recorded in many books and even documented by Church Elders and a certain Cotton Mather in particular. It was during the time of the Massachusetts "witch hunts," and Elizabeth was "possessed by the Devil" on and off for a period of three months.
Elizabeth had gone to work as a servant in the home of the minister, Samuel Willard, in Groton. This was a household that was much more prosperous than her own and probably for the first time she was exposed to a life that was much nicer than the one to which she was accustomed. The Puritanical lifestyle was a very restricting one, especially for a 16-yearold girl.
Sometime after, Elizabeth's strange behavior began. Samuel Willard wrote, documenting the case, and sent his report to the Church Elders, and also to Cotton Mather. According to his account, in some of Elizabeth's early fits, she frequently cried out "money, money" and sometimes "sin and misery." She "was violent in bodily motions...in roarings and screamings, representing a dark resemblance of hellish torments." She tried to blame her condition on an older woman in town, but because Willard did not think this woman was a witch, he paid no attention to Elizabeth's accusations.
When Willard pressured Elizabeth to tell "the true and real occasion" of her fits, she said that the Devil had appeared to her many times over the previous three years and had offered to make her a witch. He offered her "money, silks, fine clothes, ease from labor, to show her the whole world..." She admitted that the Devil came because of her discontent and that he came much more frequently once she started to work as a servant in the Willard household.
As the weeks went by, Elizabeth's fits became worse and she was more confused. She alternated between violent, convulsive states and trance-like stupor's, between denying that she had given into the Devil's temptations to become a witch and admitting that she had. She said that "it is too late for me...I've done it already...I am his sure enough." Other times she condemned herself as a sinner, admitted that she was tempted to sign the Devil's book, but said absolutely that she hadn't done it. Throughout the period of time that she was "possessed," there were times when Elizabeth could not speak at all, when her breath or speech were "stopped" by her invisible Devil. At one point, Willard noted, "her tongue was for many hours together drawn into a semicircle up to the roof of her mouth and could not be dislodged, despite the efforts of some people to do so. "
In the second month of her possession, Elizabeth made another unsuccessful attempt to hold a second woman accountable for her problems. Willard refused to believe her and, pushing her again to tell the truth, received the following explanation:
She declared that the Devil had sometimes appeared to her, that the occasion of it was her discontent; that her condition displeased her, her labor was burdensome to her, and she was neither content to be at home nor abroad; and that she had oftentimes strong persuasions to practice in witchcraft, had often wished the Devil would come to her at such and such times, and had resolved that if he would, she would give herself up to him soul and body. But though he had oft times appeared to her, yet at such times he had not discovered himself, and therefore she had been preserved from such a thing.
Samuel Willard talked to Elizabeth, telling her that as a good Puritan, she needed to rest contented with the conditions that so upset her, and that he would help her. He told her that Satan was responsible for her actions. This talk seemed to cause a crisis. Her fits now became more extreme and her emotions more volatile. She tried to kill herself, and began to lash out at others, "striking" those who tried to hold her, "spitting in their faces," and then laughing. A few days later, as Willard recounted, the Devil in Elizabeth Knapp took over completely.
The Devil made his presence known, Willard continued, "by drawing her tongue out of her mouth more frightfully to an extraordinary length and greatness, and making many amazing postures of her body." He then began to speak "vocally in her," railing at her father and another person. When Willard himself tried to intervene, "Satan" turned his rage on him directly, calling him "a great rogue" and telling Willard that he told the people "a company of lies." Amazed and apparently shaken, Willard fought back, challenging the Devil to prove his charges and called him "a liar and a deceiver."
The Devil continued to speak in Elizabeth but within a few weeks, he was "physically" gone - apparently for good. Elizabeth continued "for the most part speechless." Her fits became less intense, although she was "seen always to fall into fits when any strangers go to visit her - and the more go, the more violent are her fits."
Willard concluded in his report that Elizabeth's "distemper" was both real and diabolical, and that the Devil was actually present within her. To support his belief, he pointed out that the terrific strength of Elizabeth's fits was "beyond the force of dissimulation," that the healthiness of her body when she was not having convulsions argued against any "natural" explanation, and that when "the voice spoke" within her, her mouth and vocal chords did not move and her throat was swelled to the size of a fist. He also said that Elizabeth herself had never expressed hostility towards him. On the contrary, both before and after "being thus taken," she had always been observed to speak respectfully concerning him.
Throughout Elizabeth's "possession," Willard never gave up on her. He said, "Charity would hope the best, love would fear the worst, but thus much is clear; she is an object of pity, and I desire that all that hear of her would compassionate her forlorn state. She is, I question not, a subject of hope, and therefore all means ought to be used for her recovery. "
Elizabeth Knapp was an imaginative, unhappy, and frustrated teenager who was expected to work hard and to be "seen and not heard." Her "possession" can perhaps be explained as the result of her extreme dissatisfaction with her prospects in life. What better way to vent her anger and frustrations than to cry out and then say, "It wasn't me...the Devil was responsible!" Remember also the narrow and rigid society in which Elizabeth lived, where witchcraft was believed to be a very real thing, a personification of the Devil himself. Finally, the possibility of a physical or mental malady cannot be ruled out.
Puritans did not believe that possession was of itself witchcraft, only that it could lead to witchcraft. They also believed that ministers could prevent this from happening by helping the possessed adjust to their place in society. Apparently, this is exactly what Reverend Willard accomplished, as Elizabeth never did become a "witch." She became a good Puritan and lived out her long life as a wife and mother.
There are many detailed accounts of this time in Elizabeth Knapp's life, thanks to the many books written concerning the witches of Colonial New England. Cotton Mather gave a very complete account, which is a little difficult to read because of the English written at that time. More recent books on Witchcraft are much more accessible, and interesting to read.
Three years after her "possession by the Devil," on 11 September 1674 in Cambridge, Mass., Elizabeth married Samuel Scripture. She was 19 years old. She and Samuel went on to have ten children, all born in Groton. Both Elizabeth and Samuel died between 1720 and 1728, probably in Groton. Their lives may have been interesting, or even exciting, but nothing else has been recorded with the detail found concerning Elizabeth's "possession."
Children of Samuel and Elizabeth (KNAPP)SCRIPTURE:
|i||Samuel||b 4 Nov 1675, m 1) Mary (PIERCE) GREEN, m 2) Elizabeth (LUND) SPAULDING|
|ii||Elizabeth||b 15 Aug 1677|
|iii||Mary||b 7 Feb 1680/1, m Eleazer LAWRENCE|
|iv||Sarah||b 8 Feb 1682|
|v||Anna or Hannah||b 10 Jan 1685, m Nathaniel LAWRENCE|
|vi||Abigail||b 28 Jan 1686/7|
|viii||Deborah||b c169O, m Jonathan WHITCOMB|
|ix||Ruth||b 2 Feb 1696, m John FROST|
|x||Lydia||b 28 Jul 1700|
1. The Devil in Massachusetts, by Marion L. Starkey.
2. The Devil Discovered: Salem Witchcraft 1692, by Enders A. Robinson.
3. History of the Town of Groton, by Caleb Butler.
4. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman - Witchcraft in Colonial New England, by Carol F. Karlsen.
5. Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases 1648-1706, by George Lincoln Burr.
6. William Knapp of Watertown, Mass. and some of his Descendants, by Alfred Averill Knapp, M.D.
7. Ancestral Families of Alsace L. Daniels, by Beverly Czar.
8. The Descendants of Samuel Scripture, by William A. Walter.
Hi, I am descended from the Knapps and Warrens through Samuel
Scripture and Elizabeth Warren Knapp. Down from there I descend
their son John to his son John to his son Eleazer, to his son Roswell
to their daughter Sophia Scripture who married into the Mabie family,
From William and Sophias son Arba to Elmer to Elmer to Luella
Mabie to me. Anyhow, on your web page you mentioned that there is proof that our Elizabeth Warren Knapp is the one who was tried as a witch. Could you tell or show me what that proof is? You also have quite a few varying dates for Samuel and Elizabeth Knapp Scriptures children. Mostly it is a month or year that is off. Where did you get your documentation?
Thanks for any help you may give. Barb Kineke