Return to “Our Town” index

Read more articles about Goody Cole

'Our Town' Logo

Read previous column

Our Town” By James W. Tucker

Hampton Union

Thursday, September 6, 1951

The oversigned is an “Apprehending Member” of “The Society in Hampton Beach for the Apprehension of Those Falsely Accusing Eunice (Goody) Cole of Having Familiarity with the Devil.” Our daughter (Phyllis Tucker) was secretary and William “Bill” Cram was president of the group which was informally organized in the summer of 1936. As a matter of fact, the three of us were charter members of this unique society. It was spontaneously formed during one of the many delightful sessions of conversation which this trio used to have in the Chamber of Commerce office. Two of us were officially connected with the Chamber. “Bill” was a frequent caller at the office on his regular “beat” for news.

“Bill” Cram Started It

“Bill” Cram, as many readers will remember was a delightful character — a newspaperman of the old school, who conducted a small print shop and wrote many stories of historical significance concerning this area. He was born in Haverhill but the last years of his life were spent in our town — a community which he had always loved. On the day in question he had been telling us about “The Society in Dedham, (Mass.) for the Apprehension of Horse Thieves.” Some one of the trio may have remarked that in the age of autos there was as little practical use for a group to apprehend horse thieves as there would be for an organization to hunt witches. Thereupon, in all probability “Bill” launched into an entertaining and probably “embroidered” discourse about Hampton’s witch, “Goody” Cole. In any event, at his suggestion we decided then and there to organize the society with the long name for the purpose of calling attention to the fact that superstition was nearly as prevalent then as it was three centuries ago. And the next time that “Bill” called at the office he brought along a bunch of membership cards which he had printed for the new society.

‘The Society In Hampton Beach for the Apprehension of Those Falsely Accusing Eunice [“Goody”] Cole of Having Familiarity With the Devil”
[Membership card courtesy of the Bill Elliot Estate
& not in original article]

Society With An Objective

Obviously it was a loosely knit group without a charter and minus constitution and bylaws. But eventually it grew to a point where officials on the local and state levels were carrying membership cards. We remember that Francis Parnell Murphy, then governor of New Hampshire, accepted membership, along with Highway Commissioner Fred Everett and Mrs. Harry Houdini, widow of the world famous magician. Eventually the “Goody” Cole Society — to shorten its long name — adopted an objective. Plans wer being made to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the settlement of our town. Would it not be a good idea to focus attention on Hampton and on its Tercentenary by making restitution to Goody Cole and restoring her citizenship of which she had been deprived by imprisonment of fifteen years for witchcraft? And at the same time and by the same token our town would be telling all who cared to listen that it was done forever with that type of ignorance which is based on fear engendered by superstition. And, as it turned out, literally millions of people cared to listen. In pursuit of its established objective, the charter members of the “Goody” Cole Society conferred with many representative Hampton citizens, including clergymen, town officials and business people and in a short time the society objective became the objective of the community.

Town Takes Official Action

Direct action was taken at the annual Town Meeting, held on March 8, 1938. Article 16 of the Warrant read as follows: “To see if the town will adopt the following resolution: Resolved that we, the citizens of the Town of Hampton in town meeting assembled do hereby declare that we believe that Eunice (“Goody”) Cole was unjustly accused of witchcraft and of familiarity with the devil in the seventeenth century, and we do hereby restore to the said Eunice (“Goody”) Cole her rightful place as a citizen of the Town of Hampton.

“And be it further resolved: that at such time as the Selectmen shall elect during the Tercentenary of the Town of Hampton, appropriate and fitting ceremonies shall be held to carry out the purposes of this resolution by publicly burning certified copies of all the official documents relating to the false accusations against Eunice (“Goody”) Cole and that the ashes of the burned documents, together with soil from the reputed last resting place and from the site of the home of Eunice (“Goody”) Cole be gathered in an urn and reverently placed in the ground at such place in the Town of Hampton as the Selectmen shall designate.”

Millions Learn of Restoration

The oversigned moved for the acceptance of the resolution, telling of the reasons behind it. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Margaret M. Wingate. A letter was read from Arnold Philbrick of Haverhill, Mass., a direct descendent from one of Goody Cole’s persecutors, in which the passage of the resolution was urged. Judge John W. Perkins and Rev. Herbert Walker also spoke in favor of the article which was unanimously adopted. As far as we know, this constituted the first attempt on the part of a New England community to make official amends to one of its early citizens who had been persecuted for witchcraft. Similar amends have been made by other communities since 1938. The immediate results of the local action surprised even those who had planned it.

Newspapers and magazines, the world over, published the fact of our town’s action in stories that ran from a few inches in a single column to full page, illustrated articles in color. The National Broadcasting Company featured a half hour radio re-enactment of the town meeting which was heard from coast to coast. Radio and newspaper commentators used the incident as a basis for the discussion of the gradual decline of superstition throughout the world. Millions learned of our town’s generous act of restitution to one of its early citizens who by reason of ignorance based on superstition, had been whipped and imprisoned for witchcraft. And millions applauded!

The Mandate Is Carried Out

During the week of intensive celebration of our Town’s Tercentenary in the summer of 1938, special exercises were held on the afternoon of August 25 at the bandstand in front of the Hampton Beach Casino, for the purpose of carrying out the mandate of Hampton citizens relative to Goody Cole. Mrs. Harry Houdini, whose husband had devoted much of his life to combatting superstition by exposing the many charlatans who professed spiritualism, made a special trip from the West Coast to be present at and to speak briefly at the exercises. The principal address was delivered by Dr. Ralph Walker, Selectmen Batchelder. Munsey and Shaw had important parts in the pageantry which included the burning copies of the records and the placing of earth, collected at the reputed burial place and home site of Goody Cole by William Cram, together with the ashes of the burned documents in a burial urn which still reposes in the office of our selectmen.

With But One Exception

And in this manner, Eunice (“Goody”) Cole was restored to citizenship. It was not a publicity stunt. It was a ringing declaration that our town was free forever from superstition based on ignorance and fear. The mandate of the citizens as expressed in the resolution adopted at Town Meeting on March 8, 1938 has been carried out with but one exception. And when the Goody Cole burial urn is “reverently placed in the g round at such place in the Town of Hampton as the Selectmen may designate,” may we respectfully venture the hope that the “place” may be appropriately marked by a simple, plain and inexpensive memorial stone. There could be no better monument to the progress which our town has made in three centuries of its existence.