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The Salem Witch Trial Executions, 1692

2017-09-18T17:19:07+00:00 September 18, 2017|HH 2017|

“On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death, he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.” —Deuteronomy 17:6

The Salem Witch Trial Executions, September 22, 1692

The word “Puritans” often triggers the instant response of “witch burners“ among both casual and professional historians of American history. Who the Puritans actually were, and the details of the civilization they established in New England, seems to be a blank slate, but for one incident which occurred in the third generation of the English settlers. On September 22, 1692 nine men and women were executed by local government authorities in Salem, Massachusetts for practicing “witchcraft.” Before the accusations and trials came to an end, a hundred people had been accused, twenty were executed and five died in jail. What is the truth behind the “Salem Witch Trials?”

An accused woman defends herself before the judge while a girl — presumed to be Mary Walcott (1675-c.1752), one of the “afflicted” witnesses — falls to the floor in a fit

The tragedy of 1692 did not happen overnight or in isolation to the situation in Europe. Salem had been founded early in the New England Puritan hegira and had become the most important port in Massachusetts. The town people and the church established there exhibited signs of spiritual decline and contention for decades, although the town prospered economically. Factions developed over land-use and politics, creating bitterness and family feuds, which festered. The church could hardly keep a pastor in place and the current one was the worst of the lot. The Rev. Samuel Parris had failed in business and then pursued the Gospel ministry. He rarely seemed happy and complained from the pulpit about the inadequacy and slowness of his pay. Church discipline was all but non-existent.

Examination of a Witch,
by Thompkins H. Matteson (1813-1884)

Trial of George Jacobs, August 5, 1692,
by Thompkins H. Matteson

The slave of the Parris family, a Caribbean women named Tituba, met with a group of adolescent girls from the Parris family and neighboring households, in the pastor’s cellar, teaching them secrets of occultic practices. The girls had visions, saw apparitions and fell down in fits, sometimes in church. They began accusing certain women and men of Salem of bizarre activities and of appearing in weird forms in the girls’ bedrooms, flying around the room, causing them to have fits, etc. Because the Puritans believed that real spiritual warfare could be manifested in the world, the accusations were taken seriously and the accused were arrested and put on trial.

Tituba was said to have been “learned in the practices of sorcery”

Mary Walcott, called to the witness stand, was among the principal accusers

The court cases did not follow the precedents of English common law nor biblical law principles. Because witchcraft and consorting with the devil or demonic forces was a capital crime, two witnesses should have been required for the accused to go to trial. One hysterical twelve-year-old or eighteen-year-old for that matter, regaling the court with outrageous stories resulted in arrests. The judges allowed for “spectral evidence” for which there was no legal precedent, thus elevating subjective experience over objective evidence and reason. A number of the accused were from families in the town who contended with the families of the girls in legal cases of the past or were friendless or isolated elderly single people.

Witch Hill or The Salem Martyr,
by Thomas Satterwhite Noble (1835–1907)

The execution in Boston in 1656 of accused witch Ann Hibbins predated the Salem trials

Eventually the governor of the colony put an end to the trials after prominent men were accused and after protests by respected pastors and colonial leaders. In subsequent years, some of the girls and even Judge Sewell publicly repented of their role in the events of those months. Most of the accused were innocent of practicing the “dark arts.” The number of executions at one small town in New England were dwarfed by the hundreds and thousands who died for “witchcraft” in Germany, France and England in that same era, but the events of Salem have been grasped by the enemies of godly government and Puritan culture to condemn all Christian rule in America as nothing but witch burning and hypocrisy.

Salem, Ipswich, Boston & Plymouth!
November 12-17

As part of this year’s Pilgrims & Patriots Tour, we have arranged a special treat for our guests: a bonus day in Salem and Ipswich with local expert Dr. Paul Jehle, pastor and Executive Director of the Plymouth Rock Foundation. Space is limited to register to attend today!

Learn More and Register

The American Flag at Brandywine, 1777

2017-09-18T17:14:18+00:00 September 11, 2017|HH 2017|

“We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners.” —Psalm 20:5

The American Flag at Brandywine, September 11, 1777

We tend to take for granted the power of national symbols. They do not have the same grip on us that they used to, in part because they are down-played in our new multi-cultural ethos that hates our past, and partly due to the opposite — its commonplace use. The Stars and Stripes flag is likely the most common national symbol, flying from every ballpark, post office and car dealership, seen on hats and t-shirts, in front of churches and on car bumpers. On September 11, 1777 it was seen for the first time on a battlefield, the fresh symbol of a new nation.

A scene from the battle of Brandywine as depicted in Nation Makers, by Howard Pyle

Map of the Brandywine battlefield (1830 engraving)

In June of 1777, the “marine committee” in Congress passed a flag resolution authorizing the creation of an American flag. They even specified that it contain thirteen stripes, red and white and thirteen stars on a blue field. They did not specify how those stars and stripes ought to be arranged, or how many points the stars should have, etc. Francis Hopkinson, Congressman from New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was also a flag designer. He claimed to have produced the first flag in compliance with Congressional order, although his original drawings have been lost. He designed a stars and stripes to be used as a naval banner, since he was on the committee that oversaw naval affairs. He billed Congress for the design. Vexilology experts (those who study the science of flags) claim that the idea of a national flag was relatively new, although a number of banners had already been sported on battlefields and camps.

Whatever banner George Washington accepted prior to the Battle of Brandywine, it did not prove to be standard issue yet, since he complained to Congress in 1779 that no standard flag had yet been adopted for the armies to use in battle. Nonetheless, it seems that individual state units carried Stars and Stripes by the time of the battle. A Captain of the British 33rd Foot captured the home of a militia colonel a few days before the Battle of Brandywine and seized a stand of colors, one of which was “of dark blue fringed silk with a canton of thirteen red and white stripes.”

General Sir William Howe (1729-1814), Commander-in-Chief of British forces

Gilbert du Motier the Marquis de La Fayette (1757-1834) as a Lieutenant General, 1791

Sir William Howe carried the British Army from New York to the environs of Philadelphia in September of 1777 with the intention of capturing the rebel capitol. George Washington with the American Continental Army met the redcoats along the Brandywine River near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania and fought the largest and longest (eleven hours) battle of the Revolutionary War. With unprecedented battlefield heroics by Washington himself, in which he providentially survived un-hit, debuted the Stars and Stripes in combat, along with the conspicuously heroic Marquis de Lafayette, who was wounded, but would live to play a significant role in American independence.

Somewhat ironically, the American flag did not capture the emotions and meaning that we would expect today. That occurred when Major Robert Anderson lowered the garrison flag at Fort Sumter at the beginning of the Civil War in 1861. The people of the Union states were suddenly seized with a love and attachment to the Stars and Stripes that had not been there before. It became the symbol of all that had gone before in the sacrifices, creation and maintenance of the Republic and would be embraced to the death by more than 300,000 men over the following four years.

Peyton Randolph Elected First President of Congress, 1774

2017-09-06T22:47:54+00:00 September 4, 2017|HH 2017|

Peyton Randolph Elected First
President of Congress, September 5, 1774

George Washington was the 15th President of the United States — everyone knows that… right? The Constitution of the United States — ratified in 1789 — authorized a separate office of President to head the Executive branch of the central government, but before that, American presidents presided over the Congress, beginning with the Continental Congress in 1774.

Peyton Randolph (1721-1775) First and third President of the Continental Congress

Williamsburg served as the capital of the Virginia colony from 1699 to 1780

Historians have called Peyton’s parents the Adam and Eve of Virginia. Nine of their children lived to adulthood and all contracted excellent marriages. Sir John himself eventually acquired about 20,000 acres of land, many slaves, and wealth enough to insure his children’s legacies. Among his descendants and kinship network were John Randolph of Roanoke, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall. Peyton was born in Williamsburg, graduated from William and Mary, studied law at the Inns of Court in London, and took his place as the Attorney General of Virginia. Considered a prodigy, Randolph mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French before the age of twenty and taught Oratory and Rhetoric at the College. He also served in the House of Delegates, which led to several conflict-of-interest charges against him since he also represented the Crown in the Governor’s administration.

The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was founded in 1693 by a royal charter issued by King William III and Queen Mary II

Randolph crossed swords with Patrick Henry over the proper response to the Stamp Act, hoping for a more conservative resolution to the high-handedness of Parliament. Peyton became the Speaker of the House in Virginia and tried to conciliate the disparate parties contending for and against the Crown. He served as mediator between Henry and the colonial militia storming to Williamsburg in response to the Governor stealing the gunpowder from the Magazine. Randolph joined the committee of correspondence and was the sitting speaker when the Governor dissolved the House. He was the convener, as well, of the Second Virginia Convention where Patrick Henry delivered his famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech.

Virginia colonial currency (1773) signed by Randolph and John Blair, Jr.

Upon his arrival at the First Continental Congress, on September 5, 1774, Peyton Randolph’s experience, maturity and caution resulted in his being elected President of that very first Congress and thus became the first President. The same thing happened at the Second Congress, so he became the third President also. Randolph became ill in Philadelphia and died before the Declaration of Independence, but he would likely have signed it, having come round to the cause after hearing all the debates and discussions with the other founders in Philadelphia. He is buried in the chapel at the College of William and Mary.

Peyton Randolph played the role that Providence had assigned him in his day and, like James Otis of Massachusetts, his leadership was crucial in the initial stages of the move to independence, a role that many thought ended prematurely. A family with more connections than any other in the Old Dominion, the Randolphs were well represented among the creators of the Republic. Peyton’s wife was the sister of Declaration signer Benjamin Harrison, and his nephew was on the staff of General Lafayette. John Hancock called Peyton Randolph “the father of his country”.

Save the Date!

Stay tuned for more information about our spring tour of Jamestown, Yorktown and Williamsburg!

The Death of Saint Augustine, A.D. 430

2017-08-24T00:04:52+00:00 August 28, 2017|HH 2017|

“Not in rioting and drunkenness, nor in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” —Romans 13:13, 14

The Death of St. Augustine, August 28, A.D. 430

When historians of the history of Christianity examine the lives and teaching of the men who most influenced the Church and the world in the post-apostolic era, Augustine of Hippo invariably occupies a preeminent place. He served as pastor in the city of Hippo Regius, the ruins of which are now found within the precincts of the Algerian city of Annaba. The Protestant reformers looked to Augustine as one of their theological forerunners. Martin Luther, after all, was an Augustinian monk.

Saint Augustine and Saint Monica, by Gioacchino Assereto (1600–1649)

Most scholars agree that Augustine was born to a Romanized North African Berber family who had received full Roman citizenship more than a century earlier. His mother Monica was a devout Christian who prayed for her son her entire life. His pagan father apparently had more influence on the young Augustine regarding ethics. He received a pagan education in his youth and he learned Latin, the language in which he would both speak and write throughout his life. In Carthage he learned rhetoric and fell in love with philosophy. Though his mother tried to raise him as a Christian, he rejected Christ and reveled in his sin, beginning a fifteen-year relationship with a woman outside of marriage.

Monica of Hippo (A.D. 331-387), Mother of Augustine

Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430)

Augustine’s superior abilities led him to start a school of rhetoric in Carthage, then in Rome and Milan. However, he held his Manichean religion (a pseudo-Christian Persian gnostic religion) lightly and was urged by his mother (the relentless prayer for his soul), to follow Christ as revealed in Scripture and by Ambrose his newfound friend and fellow rhetorician, the Bishop of Milan. In late August of 386, at the age of thirty-one, Augustine finally repented and came to Christ alone for salvation; he abandoned his false beliefs, concubines, and hedonistic life, and pursued Gospel ministry. In his great and classic autobiography entitled Confessions, he related his conversion:

Late have I loved Thee, O Lord; and behold,
Thou wast within and I without, and there I sought Thee.
Thou wast with me when I was not with Thee.
Thou didst call, and cry, and burst my deafness.
Thou didst gleam, and glow, and dispel my blindness.
Thou didst touch me, and I burned for Thy peace.
For Thyself Thou hast made us,
And restless our hearts until in Thee they find their ease.
Late have I loved Thee, Thou Beauty ever old and ever new.

In AD 391, Augustine was ordained as a priest and established a monastic fellowship on his ancestral property near Hippo. His fame as a preacher and apologist for Christianity spread throughout the Church. More than three hundred fifty of his sermons have been preserved and his book entitled The City of God is a classic, still read today. In it, he argued that history is the story of two cities, the City of Man wherein dwells though unconcerned of their souls or in rejection of God and his Word, and the City of God, a heavenly city in which all true believers reside. He intended his work to comfort and encourage Christians in the midst of barbarian invasions and the dissolution of the Roman Empire.

Saint Augustine in His Study, by Vittore Carpaccio (c. 1465-1525)

Augustine of Hippo’s influence on the Christian Church of his day and throughout the succeeding centuries has no parallels among the “Patristic Fathers”, till the coming of Thomas Aquinas. His embrace of salvation by grace and of the doctrine of predestination set him apart from many of his time. He spent his last days in prayer and repentance, with the penitential Psalms of David affixed to the walls of his room.

Though he also held heterodox beliefs about Mary and purgatory, and was highly influenced by neo-Platonic philosophy, Augustine’s influence, upon both the Medieval Church and the Protestant reformers centuries later, proved profound and powerful.


Land ho! Spanish admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés and his fleet first set eyes on Florida on August 28, 1565, the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo, in whose honor “America’s Oldest City” was named. Avilés served as Florida’s first governor and the city of San Augustín served as the capital of Spanish Florida for over 200 years.

Join us January 15-17 on our Pirates, Presidents, Conquistadors and More Tour as we explore the ancient sites of northeastern Florida, redolent with the sea breezes of the Atlantic and steeped in centuries of fascinating providential history!

St. Augustine Pirate Museum

Rich Christian Fellowship

Distinctly Christian Perspective

Africans Arrive at Jamestown, 1619

2017-08-21T15:59:10+00:00 August 21, 2017|HH 2017|

Africans Arrive at Jamestown, August 20, 1619

The history of Africans in America is a far more interesting and complex story than most historians care to admit. In fact, the distortions, farragos of deceit, and myths they have created, seem to have more to do with modern political and social agendas than honest examination and interpretation of the past. The story of the first Africans brought to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia does not conform to the typical narrative so readily advanced in most textbooks.

Africans arriving at Jamestown in 1619

African participation in the slave trade

In the early 17th Century, Portugal and Spain dominated the African slave trade. Over the course of several hundred years, about 95% of the slave cargoes purchased from African dealers ended up in South and Central America and the Caribbean islands. England was the newcomer to New World plantations; Jamestown, founded in 1607, being the first to survive. English “sea dogs” though, raided the Spanish Main, seizing valuable cargoes of gold and silver, and occasionally African slaves. King James of England prohibited the seizure of Spanish ships, and stopped issuing letters of marque that allowed for such depredations. In 1619, two English-flagged ships, White Lion and Treasurer, waylaid the San Juan Batista and the African survivors of the “middle passage,” destined for slavery in South America. Aware of the King’s prohibitions, and fearing exposure, the English captain sailed to Jamestown where the governor took the Africans off his hands.

The Spanish San Juan Bautista Battles the English Treasurer and White Lion

Thirty-two Ndongo tribesmen, victims of the Imbangala, “a rampaging class of renegade marauders,” and their Portuguese slave merchants, made landfall in Jamestown on August 20, 1619, where some were kept as slaves and others indentured out to plantations along the James and York Rivers. The seventeen females and fifteen male Angolan natives proved expert cattlemen and traders, and the stories of their subsequent years of working off the indentures, marrying with Powhatan natives, English, and one another, provide a number of amazing Providential stories of success.

English “sea dogs” like Sir Francis Drake (c. 1540-1596) operated under the protection of Queen Elizabeth I, but to the Spanish were little more than pirates

King James I (1566-1625) stopped issuing the letters of marque previously issued under Elizabeth I that sanctioned the activities of the English “sea dogs”

According to Tim Hashaw, author of The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown, they called themselves Mulungus, “comrades who came over the sea from the same homeland in the same ship.” Some of them purchased their own freedom from slavery, others purchased slaves themselves. Their descendants included some of the first cowboys to enter Texas from the United States (“dogie” is a Bantu word for cow), the doctor of colonial Jamestown, soldiers in many of America’s wars, including at least one Confederate general. Some remained Roman Catholic (a legacy of Portuguese missionaries in Africa), and many became Baptists. A few even moved to the Pilgrim Colony in Massachusetts.

It is likely that the descendants of those Africans who started their American sojourn as indentured servants never experienced slavery again after their arrival in Virginia. Once again, Providence overruled the plans of men, and provided a rich and interesting heritage for those willing to dig out the truth buried under the river of time.

Image Credits:Africans Landing at Jamestown (Wikipedia.org); 2 African participation in the slave trade (Wikipedia.org); 3 Battle of San Juan Bautista (KinFolkDetective.org); 4 Sir Francis Drake (Wikipedia.org); 5 James I of England (Wikipedia.org)