November 2023 Program
The 1829 Answer and Defense of Catharina Ziegler of Codorus Township to Accusations of Witchcraft.
Presented by Richard Konkel
The June 5, 1829 German language edition of the York Gazette features a lengthy article written by or for Catharina, wife of Johannes Ziegler of Codorus Township in answer to accusations made against her by "Doctor" Sebastian Keller and members of the Michael Lau family about participating in a Hexentanz (Witches' Dance) along the road to York lead by a musician clad in red (the devil); being able to read people's minds and other traits historically attributed to witches. The presentation will explore the parties involved, the accusations and the popular beliefs they were based on and how some of these beliefs have persisted into modern times. These events were almost exactly 100 years prior to the murder of Nelson Rehmeyer in 1928 and the 1929 Hex trials of the three murder suspects.
About the presenter: Richard K. Konkel is Vice President of the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society
Recorded program available here.
Review of the program by Becky Anstine:
While searching for information on his Lau ancestors, Richard came across an interesting article in the German edition of The York Gazette, published on pages 2 and 3 of June 5, 1829, edition. Newspapers.com also shows two articles published in The York Gazette on November 28 and December 6 in 1828 that appear to precede the testimony. Oddly enough nothing appeared in any of the English papers published during this time. Catharina lived in Codorus Twp., with her husband Johannes. Their daughter had married into the Lau family. The two families became involved in a family dispute, involving a dispute with a Dr. Sebastian Zeller of Lancaster County. Dr Zeller had inferred that the individual (Catharina’s daughter) was ill because of an evil spirit. Catharina felt that Dr. Zeller was sorcerer who practiced black magic. The Lau family felt otherwise and spread stories that Catharina had been seen dancing with the devil, among other things. Catharina claimed that her reputation was being harmed by these lies and wanted her reputation to be restored. Witnesses were produced stating that Catharina was a good person, and that she and her husband were good neighbors, and honest and admirable people. Several people also testified that they had seen Lau family members take their daughter-in-law who spent six weeks being locked in her home for about 10 weeks. The daughter had recently given birth and had not recovered from it. Johannes Ziegler accused the Lau family of telling too many lies about his wife and that he would not forget that they had raised their fists against him. Catharina said that she had paid Zeller a visit but that after he learned her identity, he ran and hid in the stable from her. She said that she was not afraid of him and that eventually he would have to pay for his
attack on her; she ended by reminding him of the eleventh commandment – “Leave everyone be whohe is, so you will stay who you are.” If he kept this commandment, she would no longer bother him.