The Witch House in Winter, Pigeon Cove, Mass., circa 1920

In honor of today’s snow, here is a nice winter view of the building known as the Witch House. The house has long been a source of fascination and was the subject of many early 20th Century postcards. (I have previously posted two others, here and here.)

The name of the house derives from the Salem witchcraft trials. In 1692, John and Elizabeth Procter were convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to die. John was hanged but Elizabeth, who was pregnant, was let go on the condition that she leave Salem. Her two sons brought her to this house, giving it the name.

No one knows for certain whether that is true. Some say the house was built much earlier, as a garrison to protect woodcutters and fishermen against Indian raids. Historical documents from 1676 describe two such houses in Pigeon Cove. The other side of this house, not visible in this picture, has a garrison-style overhang on the second floor. Reportedly, the overhang originally existed on all four sides. In further support of this theory, the house was long referred to not as the Witch House, but as the Garrison House.

Starting around 1704, Joshua Norwood and his family lived in this house. This is the same man who also owned the property occupied by The Old Castle and who may have constructed the original structure there. Norwood lived here until somewhere between 1732 and 1740, when he resettled at Gap Cove near Straitsmouth Point. I have read that the house Norwood built when he moved to Gap Cove is the one that now stands at the corner of Atlantic Ave. and Mt. Pleasant St., where it was later moved. Norwood was the man who first cut mooring stones out of granite, starting around 1710. You can see an example of one in the front yard of The Mooring Stone inn on Norwood Ave.

Another resident of the Witch House was Joseph Babson, the man who later operated the Babson Farm quarry at Halibut Point.

This European plant was found growing on the property.

Here is an interesting footnote about this house. This house was mentioned in an 1876 issue of The American Naturalist magazine because of an unusual plant found there. The plant, the sedum reflexum or Blue Stonecrop, was native to Europe but rarely seen in the U.S. The article said that the plant appeared to have been cultivated on the property before going wild. Someone remembered having seen the plant there 60 years earlier, the article said. Someone had also planted some of it at the cemetery at Folly Cove, it said.

This postcard was published by the Rockport Photo Bureau. There is a blurred postmark on it that appears to say 1920.

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8 Responses to The Witch House in Winter, Pigeon Cove, Mass., circa 1920

  1. Eoin says:

    I spent a lot of my time at this house in my youth. Great post card! thanks for posting.

  2. coffeecup says:

    If the witch story is true, I also wonder how old her sons were. It seemed that they were teenagers/ 20’s . Then again (Gasp) did this new born child have a different father?.

  3. Big Smoken says:

    190 Granite Street?

  4. christine says:

    I live in a house “built for James Norwood in 1738” and I cannot seem to trace any history for it. Its last occupant was Elizabeth Mongan, art curator for the Sears & Robuck company. She died in the house at the age of 93 or thereabouts. She left the house to the audubon society, from whom I purchased it.

    Can anyone help me?

  5. Pingback: The Old Log Cabin, at the Foot of Cove Hill, Oldest House in Rockport, Mass. | Vintage Rockport

  6. Pingback: The Witch House, Pigeon Cove, Mass., c. 1915 | Vintage Rockport

  7. Pingback: Visiting Day at the ‘Witch House,’ Pigeon Cove, circa 1920 | Vintage Rockport

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