Last Massachusetts “Witch” Finally Exonerated 329 Years Later

The exoneration comes as a result of a middle school civics teacher, Carrie LaPierre, and her students.

Stories of witches often capture the imagination. But in the history books, tales of witches were not met with the same curiosity as today.

In fact, entertaining any sort of thought of witches was often grounds for being arrested and then put to death. The state of Massachusetts is one that will forever be synonymous with tales of witches after its very infamous chapter in history: the Salem Witch Trials.

Photo: flickr/Christine Zenino

According to the Smithsonian Magazine, the Salem Witch Trials took place between the years 1692 and 1693, during which a panic broke out over witchcraft accusations.

In the end, hundreds were accused, but only 30 people were found to be guilty, and of those, 19 people were executed by hanging. One man was even crushed to death by rocks, according to the Associated Press.

Amongst those that stood accused, was Elizabeth Johnson. During the trials, she was found to be guilty and sentenced to hang. Her death sentence was then commuted by then-governor, William Phips. It was said that she lived to the ripe old age of 77 when she passed away in 1747. While she might have escaped the noose, she was still legally classified as a witch – even more than 300 years later.

Photo: flickr/Peter K. Levy

But over the years, there have been several exonerations of the accused. And, according to a report by the New York Times, Elizabeth Johnson – the last remaining Massachusetts resident to still be legally classified as a witch – has finally been exonerated, thanks to an eighth-grade civics class.

On July 28, the current Governor Charlie Baker officially exonerated Johnson. But the exoneration comes as a result of the hard work of one North Andover civics teacher, Carrie LaPierre, and her students.

Photo: NARA & DVIDS Public Domain Archive

For three years, the teacher and her students campaigned for Johnson’s exoneration by drafting legislation and lobbying their state officials. Eventually, their time and dedication paid off when lawmakers officially agreed to exonerate her in May, and it went through on July 28 when Governor Baker signed the state budget.