This week’s challenge is “Frightening”, in honor of Halloween. I am writing about Rev. Deodat Lawson this week. I chose him because he was intimately involved in the Salem Witch Hunts. Deodat’s second wife was my eighth great-grandaunt.
Deodat Lawson was born about 1640 in England to Rev. Thomas Lawson. It is not known what his mother’s name was and she died shortly after Deodat was born. She named him Deodat which means “given to God”. Deodat had an older brother, Jabez. It’s not known if there were other siblings.
After Deodat had graduated from college, he immigrated to Massachusetts around 1676. At that time, Deodat was not an ordained minister, but he took a position as a minister in Edgartown, Massachusetts. He married his first wife, Jane, in 1680, and had a son Deodat in 1682. The following year he and his family moved to Salem, Massachusetts. He and Jane soon had another child, a daughter. In 1687, Deodat left for a position in Maine after there was some opposition to him becoming an ordained minister in Salem. However, in 1688, he and his family returned to Salem where, according to sources, his wife and young daughter both unexpectedly died. He then left for Boston where he remained in seclusion. In 1690, Deodat married Deborah Allen in Boston. Deborah was the daughter of Hope Allen and was about thirty years younger than Deodat.
After unusual and mysterious occurrences began in Salem, Deodat was asked to return to Salem in There he witnessed the trials for the accused witches and, after a month, he returned to Boston and wrote about what he had seen. The book was A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village which Happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the fifth of April, 1692.
In the book, Deodat provided an eyewitness account of the events, and trials that were occurring in Salem. Interestingly, in an appendix that Deodat wrote for the book several years later, he also described the trial of Reverend George Burroughs who was accused of witchcraft and was hung. Rev. Burroughs had been accused of, among other things, being the cause of the death of Deodat’s wife and young daughter.
From accounts that I have read, it is unclear if Deodat was a leader of the prosecution of those accused of witchcraft, if he was just an observer there, or if he helped to create the hysteria.
After Deodat’s return to Boston, he was a minister at a church there, and was finally ordained in 1694. Deodat’s father died in England in 1695 so Deodat returned to England to settle the estate. However, he never returned to the United States and is believed to have died in England in 1715. It’s not known if his family went with him or if they remained in the United States.