Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 20, 1971

The Baptism Of A "Witch"

Earl Kimbrough

Many people in Colonial America believed in witchcraft. They thought some men and women, mostly women oddly enough, possessed demonic powers and blamed them with certain accidents that took place. In 1692 nineteen persons were put to death as witches in Salem, Mass. and 150 others were imprisoned for the same reason. After this frenzy against witchcraft erupted things improved somewhat in the new world. As people became better educated and truth replaced superstition, belief in witchcraft subsided. However, there were still those who clung in ignorance to this belief in the early nineteenth century.

Samuel Rogers in his Autobiography mentions a settlement of "very superstitious people, who believed in witches" near a place where he and Daniel Combs held a meeting in Eastern Kentucky in the 1820's. The meeting was at "McAllister's, on Little Sandy." The people of the nearby settlement not only believed in witches, they also harassed some of their neighbors whom they suspected of witchcraft and whom they believed had bewitched them.

"One of the most notorious of the supposed witches, who had been burnt in effigy, and whose effigy had been shot with a silver bullet," came to the meeting and upon hearing the gospel asked to be baptized. "On the day of her baptism, all her superstitious neighbors came to see her baptized, believing that she would not sink in the water, and that, therefore, she would be completely exposed before the multitude as a veritable witch. They had such a tradition among them, that a witch could not be put under water. Therefore, when they saw me baptize her with much ease as I baptized other candidates, they seemed astounded."

Rogers and Combs did not know about this until near the close of the meeting, "when we learned that the preaching of the gospel and the baptizing of the woman had determined those superstitious ones to abandon the persecution of witches."

There are still some around no doubt who believe in witchcraft. While I deny being one of that persuasion, yet, there are things that give pause to wonder. There are these strange people in our neighborhood who just might be tainted with a small dose of witchery. There are also a few "in the church" (not in Tuckerman of course) whose conduct is such as to make us wonder if they really sank when they were baptized. But then I suppose Samuel Rogers was right — it's all just superstition.