Z is for Zebulon Hill

For some unknown reason, Zebulon Hill got caught up in the hysteria and accusations during the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. He became one of the accusers, and his motivations are unknown. Did he have a long-standing feud with Joan Penney or was he working cooperatively with Joan’s stepchildren who wanted their share of their father’s estate?  It seems that Thomas Penney left his widow Joan as his sole heir and his children received nothing. Unfortunately, it was easy to seize a defenseless widow’s home and land and sell off her property while she was in prison.

Zebulon went before the courts on the thirteenth of November and accused Joan Penney of inflicting torture and torment upon his daughter Mary.  Joan’s diabolical act caused Mary great pain. Zebulon was required to post 100 pounds currency to make this accusation.

Joan appeared before the court to receive the accusation and proclaimed her innocence. She even recited the Lord’s Prayer without error which was an act that a real witch was not supposed to be able to accomplish. Nineteen men and women had already been hung for witchcraft, and the court didn’t seem to be swayed by a correct recitation anymore.  Joan languished in prison for months and likely left prison a pauper.

The following are the court records and the transcriptions. Many of the court records from the Salem Witchcraft Trials have been preserved. The spelling and punctuation have been preserved in the original form.


Original Document of the Complaint Against Joan Penney

 (Complaint v. Joan Penney )

ZebulonHill Complaineth in the behalfe of Our Sovereigne Lord and Lady William and Mary King and Queen Unto this Honorable Court now Assembled and Sitting in Salem this 13 day of September 1692./ Against one Goodwife Piney wife of [] Piney of the Towne of Gloster in the County of Essex for that shee the said [] Piney Did on the Tenth and Eleventh Day of this Instant September Afflict, torture, and Torment, your Honours Complain’t — Daughter Mary: by that Diabollical Art of Witchcraft, by which the said Mary is in great Paine, and Torture, — as well be made appear./

(Bond to Prosecute Joan Peney )

Zebulon Hill Obliges himselfe to our Soveraine Wm & Mary King & Queen of England &c in the full & whole Sume of one hundred pounds Currant mony of New England The Condition is that the Said Zeb’n Hill shall & will procecut the within mentioned Complaint against [] Peney of Gloster to Effect.

before me * John Higginson

Just’e Peace

(Warrant for Arrest of Joan Peney )

To the sherife of the County of Essex his Deputy or the Constable of Chebaco

Complaint haveing ben made to us whose names are underwritten Justices of the Peace in the County of Essex by Zebulon Hill of Salem against Joan Peny. widow of Thomas Peney Late of Gloster for that she the Said Joan Peney hath feloniously comitted Severall acts of witchcraft. on the Body of Mary Hill of Salem Singlewoman. to her great hurt & Torment. the Said [Zbar ][bbar ] Hill haveing given sufficient bond for the procecution of the Said Complaint to Effect. These are therefore in their Majesties name to require you forthwith to Aprehend & seize. the Body of Joane Peney widow as abovesaid & bring her. before their Majesties Justices of the Peace to be examined & proceded w’th according to law for w’ch this shall be your sufficient warant Dated in Salem this 20: September 1692:

The. 21: of September 1692: I have seased the body of wedowe peni and have brought hur to Salem by me

*John Chote Constable of Ipswich

*Bartho’ Gedney

*John Hathorne

*Jonathan. Corwin

*John Higginson