Mary Ingleman-First Witch in Winnsboro SC
My 7th Great Grandmother
My 3rd great grandfather was responsible for bringing this person into the folds of our family. Vincent E Collum married a lady named Sarah Jeter. Her mother’s maiden name was “Free”. Sarah’s 2nd great grandfather, Lawrence Free (my 7th great grandfather) married a lady named Mary Criggan. She became my 7th great grandmother, and the sensational subject for this tantalizing tale.
The year 1714 brought many famous composers, writers, historians, painters, and physicians. None, however, could hold a candle to my 7th great grandmother. The beautiful woman was a temptress with her piercing dark eyes and long red hair. She was a true seductress to the male gender. Her choice for a mate, however, was Lawrence Free, the handsome young German who came here for a better life.
It was difficult to pinpoint the worst enemy of this new hard working couple. The deadly wilderness with dark untouched secrets was a constant battle. The many wild beasts in search of food were almost impossible to hide from. The savage Indians claimed ownership of the land, and would attack anyone they felt to be a threat. It was a most devastating time to try to create a home in a most dastardly place and time. The primitive tools with which to work were slow and very difficult to use. Insects, rodents, poisonous snakes and plants were other hardships. Many diseases and Illnesses were prominent during that era. With limited medicines in the 1700’s, it was fortunate that Mary had been taught how to recognize herbs, roots, plants, and how to apply each to a given ailment. She was very wise in many useful cures for various ailments and injuries. If not for her invaluable experience, surely they would have many times met with peril. Her success soon spread through the townspeople, and others were calling on her for help in their ailments. Others were asking for training to learn things that only she could teach.
I found evidence that this couple only had three children. The first was born in 1733. I located some places mentioning more children, but no documentation; so I trust the documents that mention only three boys.
Against remarkable odds, this family worked very hard carving out a very modest lifestyle. No one used money during that time; the general tradition was to barter for all goods needed. Trapping was most likely the largest means of income. I cannot refrain from thinking how many animals were sacrificed to provide furs for trade. But, all things were evenhanded in the world; the supply and demand were usually equally balanced.
The vegetables were generally grown in the rich soil; and meats were trapped. Salt mines provided salt with which to preserve the meat. With the exception of fruits, rarely did they enjoy anything sweet.
This lifestyle was difficult, but they forged ahead as only true pioneers could do. Each son matured, and soon embarked on his own to find his place in the world. One son, Adam Free, received 150 acres of land from his parents in a business deal. A copy of said document was uncovered during my research. The other two boys might have also received the same deal, but no document has been found to substantiate this.
Evidence shows that Lawrence Free died in 1771. His beautiful wife Mary was fifty seven years old. By this time, all three sons had started their lives apart from their mother’s home.
Mary then remarried for companionship. She married Jacob Ingelman, who also lived in South Carolina. This couple worked together, and for several years, everything was civil and peaceful. Fairfield County would soon be going through an historical event the magnitude of which no one had ever seen!
In 1789 and 1790, things started happening across the Fairfield countryside. Cattle were getting sick and falling dead. Horses and mules were acting loco. Smaller animals were also acting very odd. People started acting strange, and claimed to be possessed by some kind of demons. This behavior brought on many fights and injuries. More loss of cattle and people, brought on the collected thoughts of the townspeople that something must be done.
As with most tragedies, it must be someone’s fault. Their knowledge of plagues and diseases was nonexistent, so they had to find someone to blame. In search of something they could explain, they remembered the witch hunts of Salem, and all agreed that there must be witches among them to cause such catastrophic occurrences.
Seventy Seven year old Mary Ingelman was the first to be accused, because of her uncanny abilities to cure various ailments. There were three more individuals in the area who also worked with herbs, roots, and other forms of healing. All four of these people were taken to the farm of Thomas Hill; he was one of the most affluent and influential people in the area. By the time of the trial, Mary was seventy eight years old.
There, the volunteer townspeople held a trial for the four “witches”. The testimonies were unbelievable! Thomas Hill took over the role of judge, jury, and executioner.
One farmer testified that he witnessed Mary turn into a deer, then into a Black Panther, then back to herself.
One farmer stated under oath that he saw Mary use magic to pick up his cow, throw it back down and break its neck.
Another witness testified that Mary turned a young man into a horse and rode him to the witches’ convention. He further stated that the devil was in attendance as well.
More witnesses came forward and claimed that Mary had used magic to “levitate” them, and hold them off the ground. They claimed the force was so strong, that four men could not pull them back from the air.
Possibly the most damning testimony came from Mary’s son and her grandson!
Her son Adam swore that his mother had tried to get a cow from him. When he refused, she put a spell on the cow so that the udders gave blood instead of milk.
The grandson of Mary stated that she had turned him into a horse and rode him to an apple orchard. At the orchard, he stated that she hit him on the head when he tried to get an apple.
The four accused could not offer any defense except denial. This was not sufficient for this “court” of farmers. They were found guilty, hanged in the ceiling joists where they hung until they were flogged severely. Near death, they were removed, gagged and bound; their feet were placed in a fire until the soles of their feet popped off.
When she was released from the macabre torture, Mary was attacked before she got off the Hill farm. A man knocked her down, and placed a heavy log across her neck. She was still very weak and injured from the torture, so she remained there until the next day, when she was rescued.
They were likely as not injured and crippled for life, but they were released after the torture. Mary was the only one of the four to seek justice. She approached a judge with charges against John Crossland (he was the one who had beaten and tortured them) the judge was sympathetic to her cause, and had Mr. Crossland arrested and charged with battery. Being found guilty, he was fined five pounds. Incidentally, he never paid the fine.
It was told that Mary was attacked numerous times, and beaten severely. It was stated that once she escaped an attempted hanging.
I was unable to locate a place and time of Mary’s death. She apparently lived to be extremely old. She is quite popular with Google search, just type in: Mary Ingelman, the First Witch of Winnsboro, S. C. ….. Or…………….
It is said that she is sitting on the courthouse steps of the Fairfield County Courthouse, still awaiting justice to those who wronged her more than two hundred years ago.