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Historic Women of Killingworth: Goody Wee & Killingworth folklore

Submitted by Claudette Lagasse, Killingworth Historical Society.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series about the Historic Women of Killingworth. In 2001 Sandy Smith proposed making small replicas of Historical Killingworth Women. Each doll was sold for $15 as a fundraiser for the Historical Society. Five dolls were made, one for each year 2001-2005. The first article can be found HERE. The second article can be found HERE. The third article can be found HERE. The fourth article can be found HERE. Below is the information that was included with the Goody Wee doll.

Goody Wee

Our Fifth “Historic Women of Killingworth”
Christmas Doll Ornament

In the earliest days, Killingworth and Clinton were one town, Clinton being known as Killingworth and the present-day Killingworth being known as North Killingworth. Our town, at this time, was referred to as the “Wilderness.” According to local folklore, witches and ghosts lurked in this area. Legend has it that Goody Wee was one of them, and it is believed that the original written source for the tales was Martin Lord’s letter in the 1884 Beer’s History of Middlesex County.

Goody Wee and her daughter, Betty Wee, supposedly traveled the Killingworth roads and paths, especially “Goody Wee Crotch” near Wildcat Ledge. According to Martin Lord’s aforementioned letter, the Crotch was a little “northeast of the Watrous place” on Champlin Road, just north of Deer Lake. Thus, the Crotch is most likely a sharp notch along the upper part of Coughlin Road, which ran all the way to present Route 80 and came out opposite the present entrance of Chatfield Hollow. The Crotch is west of Buell Hill and now partially filled in by Forster’s Pond. Wildcat ledge, which was near the Crotch, might possibly be the ledge in Chatfield Hollow where Indian caves are located. Goody and Betty were said by Lord to have lived in Chatfield Hollow.

According to Martin Lord, he heard the Goody Wee stories from his grandfather. Quote: “It was formerly reported, the above-named witches made their neighbors considerable trouble. For instance, they would enter the cream so it could not be worked into butter, and perform, according to legends, other equally strange feats. It was said a person could not reach the top of Cedar Swamp Hill with a load of rails, as they would all slide out of the cart, by the agency of witches.”

Today, Cedar Swamp would include Lower Chittenden Road, a section of Cow Hill Road, and Beech Tree Ridge. A Larger area may have been considered part of the swamp in earlier times. A wet area extends north of Green Hill Road and west of upper Chittenden Road. Buell Hill is to the west of this, and this very possibly may have been the troublesome hill.

From man’ s earliest history to the late 1700’s, when someone in a village fell under bad circumstances, they would oftentimes find someone to blame. The accused could be the odd, old, unattractive, or disliked. Most, but not all, were women. History involving witchcraft has had a long, bloody history, and the amount of deaths estimated range from a few hundred thousand to several million. Most of the persecutions were in Europe, but they also spread to the New World.

In all probability, Goody Wee and her daughter, Betty, were chosen to be blamed for the townspeople’s misfortunes because they were somehow different from those living in Killingworth. In checking the name of Wee, its genealogical origins are Chinese, Norwegian, Native American, and Irish. It is very possible that Goody and Betty could have been Native Americans, but they also could have been of Irish blood with red, curly hair as we have portrayed our Goody. She is dressed in mid-1700’s rural costume, and for those of you too young to know, that’s a butter churn in her hands.

Photo provided by Claudette Lagasse.

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