The Puritan, The Witch And
Written by Sue Ellen Holland
Edited by Patricia Jacques
In a warm bedroom of an elegant, two-story colonial cottage, near the end of Wildwood Street, in now Wilmington,MA, baby Jonathan Cornelius Buck screamed himself into the world, on a snowy February 20, 1719.
Jonathan grew up in Haverhill, MA and later married one Lydia Morse on September 16, 1742, in the neighboring town of Newberry, MA. Their family of two quickly swelled to nine children: Asa, Isaac, Ebenezer, Lydia, Jonathan jr, Mary, Amos, Daniel and Ebenezer 2. Of the posse, only six survived to adulthood, having been lost to the perils common in those days.
In 1764, Jonathan Buck led an expedition which began construction of what would later become the city of Bucksport. He also served on the Colonial side during the Revolutionary War and gained the admiration of his soldiers.
In 17790, the British destroyed most of what had been build in Bucksport. In 1784, Jonathan returned to Bucksport and brick by brick, beam by beam, rebuilt everything that the vindictive British had destroyed. He died on March 18, of 1795 at the age of 76. Jonathan was buried at Buck Cemetery in Hancock, Maine a town east of Bucksport.
However, the story of the local war hero is just starting…
In 1852, his grandchildren erected a monument near his gravesite. As the monument weathered, a stain in the image of a woman’s leg and foot emerged from the stone under the Buck name. Stories began to circulate as soon as the image was noticed, but the first record of it appearing in print was in the Haverhill gazette in 1899. One of the most popular controversial stories suggests that as a Puritan, Jonathan Buck was staunchly opposed to witchcraft. One time, he sentenced to death a woman accused of witchcraft. As the executioner was about to light her on fire, the woman ominously turned and fixed Colonel Buck with her intense gaze.
She raised one hand to heaven as if her next words had the power to open the gates of hell and draw hellfire from its dark abyss, to scorch the ground he stood on. She pronounced in a monotone voice:
“Jonathanb Buck, listens to these words, the last my tongue will utter. It is the spirit of the only true and living God which bids me to speak them to you. You will soon die. Over your grave they will erect a stone that all may know where your bones are crumbling into dust. But listen, upon that stone the imprint of my feet will appear, and for all time, long after you and your accursed race have perished from the earth, will the people from far and wide know that you murdered a woman. Remember well, Jonathan Buck, remember well.”
Research suggest that the legend is just that, a legend. No record exists of anyone having been executed by burning in Maine. As a Justice of the Peace, Buck did not have the right to sentence any souls to death. The witch trials of Salem, MA took place more than 25 years before Jonathan Buck was born. Regardless, there is the matter of the image of the leg…
Attempts have been made to remove it, to deface it, to gouge it out —but always it has returned. Over the years, people with knowledge of monument have theorized that this surendepedous image result of a natural flaws in the stone. Or, it could even be a vein of iron that darkens through exposure to oxygen. Some researchers have concluded that the story evolved after the image appeared on the monument. However, sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction.
- Elizabeth S. Richards, Genealogy of the Buck Family: Which Settled in Cambridge, afterwards Woburn, Mass., in the Year 1635 (Reading, PA: Eagle Book and Job Press, 1913), 21-30.
- City of Bucksport
- Haverhill, MA
- Newbury, MA
- Wilmington, MA
SOURCES | REFERENCES
- Research directly resulted from a patron archive research request at the Glennon Archives, Woburn Library
- “Haverhill’s Cursed Son: Jonathan Buck,” News Editor, October 23 2016, 2020.11.16
- “The History of Bucksport,” BucksportMaine.gov, accessed 2020.11.10
- “Jonathan C. Buck (1719 – 1795),” Wikitree.com, accessed 2020.11.16
- “History: Maine pioneer born in Woburn, but house in Wilmington,” Wilmington Town Crier. Homenewswhere.com
- Marriage Certificates, Ancestrylibrary.com
- Jonathan C Buck Jr,” Findagrave.com
- Digital collage illustrations designed by Patricia Jacques
- Public domain graphics sourced from Free-Images.com & Canva.com