March 15, 2015

Simeon Smith: Wizard, Necromancer, and Patriot

Simeon Smith was one of the early settlers in the New Hampshire town of Wentworth (located near Waterville Valley). Town records indicate that he arrived in 1772 or 1773 and built a farm on the border of the nearby town of Warren.

Simeon held town office in Warren (thinking that's where his property really was), and named his first-born son Warren as well. Simeon was employed as a tailor but also fought with the Continental army. One of his sons grew up to be Wentworth's first town historian.

All in all, Simeon Smith sounds like a good, upstanding citizen. He sounds like the kind of patriotic, hard-working individual New England was built by.

Suprisingly, he might also have been a witch. I guess he was also the kind of mean, malefic individual who built this region.

The following is a quote from George Plummer's History of Wentworth (1930):

The old people, or many of them, did believe in witches; there is no doubt about that... The archwizard and head necromancer of our town was no doubt Simeon Smith. He, it was commonly believed, had supernatural powers and thereby made his neighbors uncomfortable at times. 

What exactly made his neighbors so uncomfortable?

Wonderful were the feats he could perform. Sometimes, from sheer malice, he would saddle and bridle one of his neighbors and ride and gallop him all over the country round. The butter would not come and he was in the churn. The children behaved strangely and he bewitched them. Smaller than a gnat, he could go through the keyhole; larger than a giant, he was seen at twilight stalking through the forest...

Most of those are the typical actions of witches found in New England folklore: riding neighbors in their sleep, disrupting household tasks, and afflicting the children. Turning into a giant is a new one to me though!

It's hard to reconcile the patriotic New Hampshire pioneer with the malevolent necromancer who tormented his neighbors. He obviously cared about his town, but it's clear his neighbors disliked him enough to called him a witch.

Several stories tells how Simeon's witchcraft and patriotism were united in acts of evil magic. For example, in the early years of the Revolutionary War he once rushed out of a Sunday meeting because he had seen through second sight a battle happening far away. This was not entirely unusual. He would often go into a trance like state while mounted on his horse, but neighbors assumed he was "gazing upon fiendish revels", aka the witches sabbath.

Here's another story. A Tory family named Merrill lived in Wentworth and Simeon decided to torment them because they supported the British cause. He bewitched their son Caleb, making him go deaf and causing him to "run up the sides of the house or barn like a squirrel."

To protect their son the Merrills fought back with their own magic. They put some of Caleb's urine into a bottle and set it by the fire. As the boy's urine boiled, Simeon Smith, miles away in his own home, bled from his eyes. But the urine ran out through a crack in the cork, and Simeon recovered.

The Merrills tried again. This time they put Caleb's blood in the bottle, and stuck a small blade through the cork until it reached the blood. This was some serious magic! The next day Caleb recovered his hearing and told his family that Simeon Smith was dead. When they investigated they found the "archwizard and necromancer" of Wentworth had indeed passed away.

However, his magic lived on after his death. Simeon was buried underneath an apple tree (per his will), but children never stole any fruit from the tree. The apples that grew on it were "crabbed and bitter beyond belief."

The information about Simeon Smith is from Richard Dorson's Jonathan Draws the Long Bow (1946), George Plummer's History of Wentworth (1930), and this genealogy site.


Wade Tarzia said...

HP Lovecraft would like this one!

Peter Muise said...

Thanks Wade! I think he would!

Earl Smith said...

Oh my goodness! I have an uncle named Simeon... (O_O)