Rachel Clinton (Haffield) (1629 - 1694)

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Birthplace: Sudbury, Suffolk, England
Death: Died in Hog Island, Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts
Managed by: ANDREW SMITH
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About Rachel Clinton (Haffield)

Rachel Haffield Clinton (1629-95) - The best known of those accused of witchcraft in Ipswich, Massachusetts, Rachel was born to Richard and Martha Haffield, in Suffolk County, England, in 1629. Her father was previously married to a woman named Judith Watson and the couple had two children. Richard Haffield was a wealthy man, who after his first wife died, married Martha Mansfield, who was below his social station. This caused problems for Martha, who had earlier worked as a maid and resented the higher social standing of Richard's first wife, and let it be known in many ways, including showing great animosity toward the two children from his previous marriage.


In the spring of 1635 the Haffield family emigrated to New England with their five daughters. Just five years later, her father died in 1639 and her mother rented out sections of their property to tenants. Over the years the Haffield family fortune dwindled and Rachel's mother's mental condition deteriorated and she would later be deemed to be mentally insane. It was in this turbulent environment that Rachel grew up. In about 1665, when Rachel was 36 years-old, she married Lawrence Clinton, a man 14 years her junior. Just six years later, she accused him of not providing her with regular maintenance and he was sentenced to prison until he "hath paid her 40 shillings for times past". In the meantime, Rachel was ordered "to entertain him as her husband when he comes to her". Further legal problems presented themselves in September, 1676 when the court convicted Mary Greeley, a maidservant, of "committing fornication with Lawrence Clinton". Some time later, Rachel petitioned for divorce but, before it was granted, she herself was imprisoned for pursuing an extra-marital affair with a man named John Ford. Both were jailed on "suspicion of uncleanliness and other evil practices". After they were released, the relationship ended and Rachel renewed her efforts to obtain a divorce from Lawrence Clinton. Though not yet divorced, her husband married again and had children. Whether they were ever legally divorced is unknown.


At this point, Rachel was forced to beg for money to support herself and before long, allegations of witchcraft were made against her. At the end of March, 1692 she was arrested for witchcraft. In the examinations, several people testified against her, including a girl named Mary Fuller who would say that Rachel had caused the death of a neighbor simply by passing her by; Thomas Boreman, who described an incident in the Ipswich meeting-house where "Some women of worth and quality" had accused Rachel of "hunching them with her elbow." Boreman would further say that Rachel was able to shape-shift into creatures including a dog and a turtle. She was also accused of stealing items by supernatural means. Rachel was indicted and imprisoned for months. In 1693, she was finally released after a court-ordered reprieve. She died destitute in Ipswich just two years later.

Source: "Witches of Massachusetts"

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Rachel Clinton's Timeline

1629
1629
Sudbury, Suffolk, England
1665
December, 1665
Age 36
Ipswich, , Massachusetts
1694
1694
Age 65
Hog Island, Ipswich, Essex, Massachusetts