Here is the story of the Mill from the last post. I have taken part of this from Now and Then in Rockland County, NY, compiled by Cornellia F Bedell. 1941 edition. The house where the witch lived was probably where my house is today.
The Clarksville Witch – 1816
The belief in witchcraft in our county is shown in the following story. I not only gives information regarding the locality, but it is undoubtedly true.
The supposed victim of demoniac power in this Clarksville case, was the widow of a Scotch physician, named Jane Kannif, who moved into the hamlet prior to 1816, took a small house situated a few rods west of the old church on the New City Road, and devoted herself to the care of her only child, a son by a previous marriage, named Tobias Lowrie.
Jane, or she was called in the Vernacular of the Clarksville people, “Naut Kannif” seems to have been exceedingly eccentric, a person who would now be regarded by alienists as insane, but her vagaries at the worst took a harmless form.
She was odd in dress, preferred part-colors of wondrous diversity, queer in the fashion of arranging her hair. She was unsocial in a neighborhood where everyone knew each other; and morose and erratic when forced to meet people. From her deceased husband she had a smattering of medicine, and now, when placed where she could get at the herbs known to her, she made wondrous concoctions which she treated such as came to her for aid, and I have been informed by those who knew her, with most excellent results.
She was brought to trial on witchcraft after neighbors complained of “difficulty in making the churning come off”, cows not giving milk, and sleepless nights.
No legitimate judge would hear the case.
It was finally agreed to put “Naut” to a test that would prove her innocence or guilt, namely to bind her hand and foot, and throw her in the mill pond. If she floated, she must necessarily be a witch, but if she drowned then her innocence would be established beyond a doubt.
They brought the woman to the mill pond, across from my house, where they tied her up and were about to throw her in. Squire Yaupy Vanderbilt and Jake Clark (both ancestors of mine) came and stopped it.
Then other counsels prevailed. Instead of the water test, it was decided to take “Naut” to Auert Polhemus’s grist mill and in his great flour scales weigh her against the old Holland Dutch family Bible, iron bound, with wooden covers and iron chain to carry it by.
If outweighed by the Bible, she must be a witch beyond any doubt, and must suffer accordingly. She was taken to the mill against her most earnest protest, put on the scales, and weighed. Weighing more than the Bible, the committee released her.
Shortly after the trial ended, at Pye’s fulling mill, down the street from the grist mill, a large hammer used for beating cloth weighing 200 pounds fell on one of Pye’s sons and immediately crushed him to death. The Pyes were one of the most vocal speaking against “Naut” at the trial.
This ended the last trial for witchcraft in New York State and probably one of the last witch trials in the country. She is buried in the cemetery next to my house and her grave is defaced to show her year of birth as 1247.