On October 9, 1685, Rebecca Fowler was executed for witchcraft for “having not the fear of God before her eyes, but being led by the instigation of the devil certain evil and diabolical arts, called witchcrafts, enchantments, charms, and sorceries…”
Rebecca arrived in Maryland in 1656 as an indentured servant. Over the years, she met and married a fellow indentured, with the two of them working off their debt and earning enough to purchase land they called “Fowler’s Delight.” After Rebecca’s husband passed and she became widowed, a servant, Francis Sansbury, accused her of witchcraft. Documents show Francis testified she made him “very much the worse, consumed, pined & lamed.” Rebecca Fowler was seized and brought to Provincial Court in St. Mary’s City.
She was not the only person accused of witchcraft in Maryland, nor was she the first. In all, there are records of twelve men and women that were brought up on charges.
In 1635 the Maryland Assembly adopted the English Witchcraft Act of 1604; it wasn’t until 1670 that a provision was passed disallowing county courts to execute for witchcraft, leaving it to the Provincial courts (showing the level of seriousness with which the colony took charge of witchcraft). Records do not remain telling of the evidence presented in Rebecca’s case, but it was strong enough for the jury to find her guilty. What’s curious is they turned over the evidence and their finding to the court, offering the court to look it all over and make their verdict – basically saying, this is what we think, but we accept whatever you decide.
Ultimately, the court agreed with the jury’s verdict. “It is considered by the Court that the said the neck hang Rebecca Fowler until she is dead…” (Judgment Records of Provincial Court, Liber T.G. (2) 1682 – 1702, pp. 23, 25, 34)
Her death in 1685 made her the sole person to be tried, found guilty, and executed for witchcraft in Maryland.