Rev. Samuel Hooker 1633-1697

There is not much recorded about Samuel Hooker’s life. What we know is that that Cotton Mather claimed him to be a brilliant preacher in that he gave rousing sermons reminiscent of his own father’s. Otherwise what we know is essentiall what Edward Hooker recorded in his The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker :

“Samuel, 7th known child of Rev. Thomas & Susan (Garbrand) was born in 1633. He married Mary Willet on September 22nd, 1658 in Plymouth. Mary was the daughter of Thomas Willet.

He entered Harvard College in 1651, and graduated in 1653. He entered the ministry in 1657, and preached at Plymouth, Mass., though probably not regularly settled there. He was invited to settle in Springfield, Mass., but declined the invitation and remained at Plymouth until he removed to Farmington, Conn., in 1661, where he succeeded his brother-in-law Rev. Roger Newton and became the second minister of the place and remained there until his death in 1697.

He was famous as an eloquent preacher. Mather in his “Magnolia” says of him, “Thus we have to this day among us our dead Hooker, yet living in his worthy son Samuel Hooker, an able, faithful, useful minister at Farmington, in the Colony of Connecticut.”

Rev. Samuel Hooker occupied at Farmington, the parsonage which had been used by Rev. Roger Newton, on the East side of South Main St. and nearly opposite to the road going to the meadows across the stone bridge which now spans the Pequabuc river. This house stood a few feet northward from the site of the house so long occupied by Mr. Solomon Cowles, who was one of Mr. Hooker’s descendants, and here in this parsonage Rev. Samuel Hooker died.

He was succeeded at Farmington by Rev. Samuel Whitman whose grandfather was Mr. Hooker’s cousin. Mr. Whitman like Mr. Hooker, died while the minister of the town, and tradition says he was buried by the side of Mr. Hooker.

Rev. Samuel Hooker d. Farmington, Nov. 6, 1697, and his wife Mrs. Mary Willet (Hooker)- Buckingham died at Norwalk, Conn. June 24, 1712.

1653- graduated Harvard; 1657- Pastor at Plymouth, MA; from 1661 till death, was 2nd pastor of the church at Farmington, CT, ordained there July; in 1662- one of four to meet w/ the New Haven Colony Rep abt the proposed union with CT, under one colonial government.

On account of his earnestness and piety he was called the ‘Fervent Hooker’. He could commit his sermons to memory and was considered a powerful and effective preacher.”

What Edward Hooker ignores is Samuel’s role in the witch trials in Hartford in the 1660’s, well before the more famous Salem witch trials.

Samuel Hooker and the witchcraft trials

The Hartford witch trials predate the more famous Salem witch trials by about 4 decades. They were just a brutal often involving trial by water, beatings, long imprisonments in horrible conditions and finally, hanging. Initially, an accusation was the same as a death sentence since witchcraft was a capital crime. Gradually the climate changed, not from within the Hartford community, but from the influence of Governor Winthrop who, although he believed in magic, alchemy and witchcraft, he did not believe that witches could be responsible for the things they were accused of. He commuted sentences, delayed executions and deftly changing laws.

Nearly all the literature on the Hartford witch trials basically ignores the prosecuters, concentrating instead on the stories of the accused. The prosecution consisted of magistrates and ministers. Rev. Samuel Hooker would have naturally been part of the prosecution and even the interrogation of the accused. Court records have been nearly impossible to uncover. In addition there was a jury. the exact composition of prosecution and jury is unknown.

History professor W. Wooward wrote in “New England’s Other Witchhunt: The Hartford Witch-hunt of the 1660s and Changing Patterns in Witchcraft Prosecution.”  Magazine of History 17, no. 4 (July 2003): 16-19:

“The aggressive prosecutorial attitude of ministers and magistrates was essential to the outcome of these cases.  Although learned elites are frequently presented as resisting popular pressure to convict witches through official skepticism and scrupulous insistence on direct evidence of the devil’s involvement in inflicting harm, this certainly was not the case in the early days of Hartford’s witch-hunt.   Hartford’s venerable Reverend Samuel Stone, accompanied by the youthful Reverend Joseph Haynes of Wethersfield and Reverend Samuel Hooker of Farmington, formed a prosecutorial tribunal.  They gathered evidence, recorded notes, and forcefully interrogated witnesses.  Rebecca Greensmith crumbled under the ministerial assault. When Joseph Haynes had begun to present evidence against her, Greensmith felt as if “she could have torn him in peeces” (4).  But as his battering interrogation persisted, she broke down. She said she felt “as if her flesh had been pulled from her bones… and so could not deny any longer””

A different version of the tale is that Nathaniel Greensmith visited his wife in prison and threatened her that if she did not confess he would harm her 2 daughters by a previous marriage. She confessed that Nathaniel was also a witch. Her revenge? Both of them were hung. Was she tortured into confession? Was she trying to save her daughters? Both?

Neither Nathaniel nor Rebecca were well liked in the community by all accounts. He was apparently a tyrant in the household and she liked to join like-minded on the outskirts of the town and drink and carouse.

Podcast Connecut history and witch craft trials:

Samuel’s wife and children

Samuel married Mary Willet in 1658. She seems to have been having babies about every 2 years for over 20 years. Must have been one strong lady.

  • Rev Thomas HOOKER (1659-1720)
  • Capt. Samuel HOOKER Jr. (1661-1730
  • Rev William Joseph HOOKER (1663-1689)
  • Judge John HOOKER (20 Feb 1664-21 Feb 1744)
  • James HOOKER (1666-1742)
  • Roger HOOKER (1668-1742)
  • Nathaniel HOOKER (1671-1711)
  • Mary HOOKER (1673-1740)
  • Hezekiah HOOKER (1675-1686)
  • Dr. Daniel HOOKER (1679-1742)
  • Sarah HOOKER (1681-1746)
  • Henry HOOKER (1683-)

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