Category Archives: Knopp/Knapp

Elizabeth Knapp, Possessed by the Devil!

I have written a bit about my Scripture ancestors and have even mentioned that, for two months from 30 October 1671 to 12 January 1672, my 8x great grandmother, Elizabeth Knapp, was said to be possessed by the devil. I’ve wondered if the date of 30 October is coincidental and if Elizabeth knew of this night and, further, if she had any control over the appearance and removal of the symptoms of her “possession”, being the night before Halloween (All Hallows Eve) and often called “Devil’s Night.” Not that I am skeptical, or anything!

Now, my family is quite ordinary and like everyone else’s in that I have discovered no relatives who achieved a wide degree of either fame or notoriety. That is, with the exception of this Elizabeth Knapp, whose demonic possession occurred twenty years before the witchcraft trials in Salem, Massachusetts.

Elizabeth was born 21 February 1655 in Watertown, Suffolk, Massachusetts to James Knapp and Elizabeth Warren. Elizabeth was also very unusual for the time, as she was an only child. James’ and Elizabeth’s parents happen to be the subjects of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #18 and #19.

Her “case study,” if it can be called that using modern jargon, was written up by Rev. Cotton Mather in his Magnalia Christi Americana, Book VI, Chapter VII, pages 66-67, published in London in 1701. However, this wasn’t a first hand account on his part as he was born in Boston in 1663. Groton was a small village on the frontier in the 1670’s. It isn’t likely that the Mathers ever even visited there.

Here is his presentation of Elizabeth’s case:

In the Town of Groton, (October 1671) one Elizabeth Knap was taken after a very strange manner; sometimes weeping, sometimes laughing, sometimes roaring, with violent Agitations, crying out Money! Money! Her Tongue would be for many Hours together drawn like a Semicircle, up to the Roof of her mouth; so that no Fingers apply’d unto it, could remove it. Six Men were scarce able to hold her in some of her Fits; but she would skip about the House yelling and howling, and looking hideously.

On December 17,  her Tongue being drawn out of her mouth to an extraordinary Length, a Demon began manifestly to speak in her; for many Words were distinctly utter’d, wherein are the Labial Letters, without any motion of her Lips at all: Words also were utter’d from her Throat sometimes when her mouth was wholly shut; and sometimes Words were utter’d when her mouth was wide open; but no Organs of Speech us’d therein. The chief things that the Demon spoke, were horrid Railings against the Godly Minister of the Town; but sometimes he likewise belch’d out most nefandous Blasphemies against the God of Heaven. And one thing about this young Woman was yet more particularly remarkable: She cry’d out in her Fits, that a certain Woman in the Neighbourhood appear’d unto her, and was the only Cause of her Affliction.

The Woman thus cry’d out upon, was doubtless an Holy, a Devout, a Vertuous Person; and she, by the advice of her Friends, visited the Afflicted. The possess’d Creature, tho’ she was in one of her Fits, and had her Eyes wholly shut, yet when this innocent Woman was coming, she discover’d her self wonderfully sensible of it, and was in grievous Agonies at her Approaches.

But this Innocent Woman thus accus’d and abus’d by a malicious Devil, pray’d earnestly with as well as for this possess’d Creature: Whereupon coming to her self, she confess’d, That she had been deluded by Satan, and compell’d by him unreasonably to think and speak Evil of a good Neighbour without a Cause. After this, there was no further Complaint of such an ones Apparition; but she said, some Devil in the Shape of divers, did very diversly and cruelly torment her, and then told her, it was not He but They, that were her Tormentors.

Source: Magnalia Christi Americana, by Cotton Mather, published in 1702, found in the digitized book collection of



Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way – William Knopp

While last week’s ancestor, John Warren, apparently had the financial wherewithall to outright pay the passage for his family in the Winthrop Fleet of 1630, fellow countryman William Knopp was not in the same financial circumstances. More about that in a bit.

William Knopp (many years later the surname standardized to Knapp) was baptized on 1 January 1580/81, the son of Thomas and Alice (Howlat) Knopp, in Bures St. Mary, Suffolk, England. William married Judith Tue on 11 January 1606/07 in the nearby village of Wormingford, which happens to be just over the county line in Essex. Judith was baptized on 31 May 1589 in that same village,  daughter and last of four children born to John and Cicely Tue.

William and Judith may have moved back and forth between the two villages as they had children baptized in both Bures St. Mary and Wormingford.


1. Elizabeth, baptized 10 July 1608, Wormingford; married Mr. Buttery and remained in England when her family emigrated. She was buried 23 February 1661/62 in Bures St. Mary.
2. William, baptized 3 February 1610/11, Wormingford; married (1) Mary, by 1642 and (2) Margaret, by 1652; died 25 September 1676, Watertown, Suffolk, Massachusetts
3. Mary, baptized 19 August 1613, Wormingford; married Thomas Smith by 1637
4. Anne, baptized 24 December 1618, Wormingford; married John Philbrick, by 1650; died 20 October 1657, at sea
5. John, baptized 20 January 1622, Bures St. Mary; married Sarah Young, 21 May 1660, Watertown, MA; died by 9 April 1696, Watertown, MA
6. James, baptized 30 April 1626, Wormingford; married Elizabeth Warren, by 1655; died by 11 November 1700, Watertown, MA
7. Judith, baptized 16 July 1629, Bures St. Mary; married Nicholas Cady, by 1650

The first of the ships in the Winthrop Fleet landed in Salem in the summer of 1630. By 30 November 1630, a notice appeared in the records of the Court of Assistants that “whoesoeuer employth Will[ia]m Knopp or his sonne in any work shall pay the one half of their ways to Sr Rich: Siltonstall, & whoeuer buyeth boards of them shall pay one halfe of the price to Sr. richard, till the money hee hath disbursed for them be satisfied.” On 22 March 1630/31, “It appears by Sir rich: Saltonstall’s note of disbursements that Will[ia]m Knopp owes him the sum of £19 5s., as was evidenced to the Court by Richard Browne & Ephraim Childe, being men indifferently chosen betwixt them to judge thereof.”

William was a carpenter by trade, as apparently was his son, William Jr., and William had borrowed monies from Sir Richard Saltonstall to finance his family’s emigration. William must not have made any payment in return to Sir Richard and was thus taken to court to have both his wages and those of his son garnished until the debt was repaid. William Knopp fits the second part of the theme challenge “There’s a way” as he found the financial means to emigrate even if he wasn’t quite up to speed with the payment plan.

That was not William’s only run-in with the authorities as he next appears in court records dated 6 October 1633, with a £10 bond and ordered to appear at the next session, to be censured for swearing.

More followed:

William, like John Warren, was not afraid to challenge authorities. On 6 June 1637, William Knopp “upon pain of £100 & imprisonment, to bring in sureties within 8 days for his appearance at the next Quarter Court to answer what shalbe objected about his speeches of Mr. Vaine, our late governor. 

On 1 June 1641, William was fine £5 for selling beer for two years with no license.

On 13 November 1644, he paid a fine of 20s., which had been reduced from £5 for an unspecified offense.

Lastly, on 7 October, 1651, he was hauled into court for “scurulus and undecent words” spoken to the schoolmaster. His penalty was 13s 4d. or two hours in the stocks. No mention is made of his choice!

William Knopp was a crusty old man who apparently went his own way. His religious beliefs aren’t known by records except that he sailed with Puritans to the colonies. It also isn’t known whether he knew the Warren family back in England, but it is certainly possible. Take a look at the map:

William Knopp was a carpenter who likely traveled to nearby villages for work. Bures St. Mary is just over five miles away from John Warren’s home in Nayland. The Knopp family also lived for a time in Wormingford (south of the Google travel time white box), which is even closer to Nayland, just over four miles away.

It is also possible that the families only met by chance if they sailed on the same ship in the fleet or maybe they never met at all until they settled in Watertown. Regardless of how they met, both John Warren and William Knopp were not the kinds of men to keep their opinions to themselves!

William’s wife, Judith died by June 1651 as he married widow Priscilla Akers shortly after that date. William became a welfare charge to Watertown late in life, so he never had much in the way of material goods. Economically and socially, he never attained the status of John Warren so I believe their common bond may have been their religious and political beliefs.

The odd story of their granddaughter, Elizabeth Knapp, is the subject of my post on 15 May, the day after tomorrow.