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LOCAL WITCH TRIAL

A witchcraft trial was one held in the Allegheny Valley. It took place in the first quarter of the 19th century and was held before B. F. Brewster a justice of the peace who lived on Brewster’s Island, now known as Twelve Mile Island. It is located below the mouth of Deer Creek.

Brewster did not believe in witchcraft but went through the motions of trying the woman who had been arrested by her ignorant neighbors. But to his utter surprise many witnesses came forward and testified that she was a witch. They related circumstances that convinced Brewster these people actually believed the things they said. The crowd at the trial clamored for the death of the trembling woman. Brewster. to save her life, played for time. He postponed the hearing on the grounds that he had to "look up the law." During the postponement the woman was spirited away and when the hearing was resumed she couldn’t be found. The crowd was furious. Blaming Brewster, some of the people threatened him with violence. But the escape ended the case, unique in the annals of Allegheny Valley court proceedings.

Brewster established his residence on the island in 1802 after obtaining rights to it from Daniel Sweeney, a squatter. In the 1820’s, he obtained a patent to it from the State. He sold the island in 1835 and moved to Texas. It was said that he wrote a report of the trial, the first and perhaps only case of witchcraft to come to trial in Western Pennsylvania.

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