Old Mother Honeywell


Stories from Packer Corners have been chosen from the research done by J. C. L. Clark of Lancaster, Mass. The autobiography of Nathan Noyes furnished much material. Stories have been handed down of the alleged uncanny performance of a woman who, probably late in the eighteenth century, bore the reputation, on the Guilford and Leyden borders, of being "a witch". It is not known for sure whether the Guilford witch, known as "Old Mother Honeywell," was, as supposed, a member of the Noyes kindred. She was a product of the super-religiosity of that border region, where the dwellers on adjoining farms--Denison, Packer Billings, Belden Noyes--were holding meetings in barns and schoolhouses, where deluded souls saw as visions the mirage in the fog and mist of Weatherhead Hollow, and a mile or two away the followers of William Dorrell received the doctrine of their false prophet.


The stories have a familiar ring but probably all witches belonged to a union and had to follow a general pattern in their activities. The first tale is about some householder who bought a pair of sheepshears and laid them on a closet shelf, done up in paper. A few days later he took them down to show to a friend and found them rusty and apparently old. No one could account for it, and he put them back in the closet, thinking he had been cheated. A day or so later another friend, who had heard the rumour of these strange doings, dropped in to offer sympathy. The shears were taken down again--all bright and new. Mother Honeywell!


Another tale was the load of hay which was halted unaccountably. The oxen couldn't move it. It was discovered that a mouse had her shoulder under the hind wheel. Mouse removed. No more trouble. Of course Mother Honeywell suffered about that time from a lame shoulder! Another story concerned the time that someone shot a white owl one night, and Mother Honeywell fell down stairs and received severe injury at the same moment. "You may imagine the thrill I got", writes the lady who recalled this tradition, "the only time I ever went into the old Noyes' 'mansion' in the southern part of Guilford to find a stuffed white owl on the mantel."


Official History of Guilford, Vermont 1678-1961; with Genealogies and Biographical Sketches. Edited by Broad Brook Grange No. 151. Published by the Town of Guilford and Broad Brook Grange No. 151, 1961. Pages 156-7.


John Calvin Lancaster Clark (1871-- ) attended Harvard College 1892-1897 and was for years Town Clerk of Lancaster, Massachusetts.


In Brattleboro he is best known for "The Famous Dr. Stearns: A Biographical Sketch of Dr. Samuel Stearns with a Bibliography, the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society, October 1935" [Worcester, Massachusetts: Published by the Society, 1936 reprint].


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