Way Back When

(The Spirit is pleased to share with our readers vignettes of life in the 19th century as originally reported in past issues of the newspapers. These reproduced stories include their original headlines and spelling.)

Local Intelligence
April 28, 1888

Believed in Witchcraft

Lincoln Wadding, a resident of Indiana was arrested on Tuesday last, on a warrant is sued by Sidney Marlin, Esq., on information of Reuben Black a resident of East Mahoning township, for fraud.

In his evidence before Squire Marlin, at the hearing on Friday morning, Mr. Black states that some time ago Wadding came to him and offered to rid his farm and premises of witches for the sum of fifty dollars, but Black refused to pay that amount, and a compromise was made by which Wadding was to visit Black's three times for the purpose of driving away the witches and receive in payment of his services a cow and calf.

After this bargain was concluded, Wadding performed some sort of an incantation to drive the witches away and promising to return again in a short time, drove the cow and calf home.

For some reason Wadding never returned to fill his part of the contract, and Mr. Black made the information for the purpose of recovering his cow and calf. Wadding had disposed of the calf but returned the cow and paid the costs and the suit was withdrawn.

From other sources we learn that Mr. Black and his wife are industrious and honorable, but very ignorant and superstitious and firm believers in witchcraft, and are constantly being victimized by designing wretches who play upon their fear of witches.
— Indiana Democrat

Singular Combustion
A peculiar case of spontaneous combustion occurred at the residence of Rees Pantall, in this place, yesterday afternoon.

A cotton skirt was lying on the floor upstairs in such a position as to be directly under the influence of a brilliant ray of sunlight which peeped through the window.

Presently the garment began to smoke then suddenly burst into a flame, and was consumed in a minute.

One of Mr. Pantall’s boys was lying on the bed reading at the time and saw the singular proceedings, else the house might easily have been set on fire.

It is probable that some defect or flaw in the window pane acted as a concave lens, concentrating the sun’s rays and bringing them to a focus on the cotton garment.

The fire cannot be explained on any other hypothesis, and the boy is positive in his assertion that the sun caused the fire.

This is another explanation for the mysterious origin of conflagrations, which, for want of a better reason are so ofted charged to incendiarism.