Adultery, Black Hat, and Dark Arts in Colonial Philadelphia

Dateline: in Chester Co., PA, 1689, 1695: Richard Buffington was a prominent member in the community, often serving on the jury and passing over and receiving deeds (land records). His wife Anne was not quite as stable or upstanding.

3rd day, 4th month, 1689 (June 3, 1689)

A modernized transcription of the court record reads:

Anne the wife of Richard Buffington being by warrant apprehended and convicted before John Bristow for defiling her marriage bed was by her sureties Richard Buffington and Francis Little bound over to this court and accordingly made her appearance and was indicted.

Witness and prosecutor James Chivers

The grand Inquest finds the bill, whereupon she is called to the bar and pleads not guilty and refers herself to God and the country.


The testimony of James Chivers taken in writing before John Bristow remains on the file; the said James Chivers being again attested in open court says that as he was coming from Concord down to Chichester he did see a man and a woman lying upon the ground and the man lying upon the top of the woman; and the woman looking up, he saw it was Anne Buffington.

John Eldridge being attested declares as above.

James Chivers upon his attestation further says that Ann Buffington was very earnest to know who this man and woman was, for said she, “there is never a woman hereabouts that has a black hat but I; then it must needs be me.”

Transcription ends.

June 5, 89 [sic]

We the jury unanimously agree that Anne the wife of Richard Buffington is guilty of this indictment, Walter Marten foreman

Whereupon judgment is granted that she receive 10 stripes upon the bare back well laid and 12 months imprisonment at hard labor in the house of correction and to pay all court charges.

Transcription ends.

No word about who the man was and why he wasn’t punished. Richard Buffington may have asked his wife to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law—no mercy from him. Or maybe the sentencing was typical.

I don’t imagine he and his wife had an emotional reconciliation after the year of hard labor was completed.

But the saga of Anne Buffington continues six years later—and who knows what was going on outside of court in those six years.

Her life is now involved with Robert Roman.

December 11, 1695 [sic]

It looks like the court is shifting over to the names of the months that the rest of the world used outside of the Quaker community.

Here is where bad character attracts the dark arts or is attracted to them.

Modernized transcription begins:

We the Grand Inquest by the King’s authority presents Robert Roman of Chichester for practicing geomancy according to hidon [sic] and divining by a stick; Walter Martin foreman

Chester County, December the 11th 1695 we the Grand Inquest be the King’s authority do present Robert Roman of Chichester and Ann Buffington the wife of Richard Buffington; the said Robert Roman taking the wife of Henry Hastings away from her husband and children and conveying her away and the said Ann Buffington being confederate with the said Robert Roman; Walter Martin [sic] foreman

The court orders that they be summoned to appear at the next county court

Chester County, December 11th 1695 we the Grand Inquest by the King’s authority presents these following books, hidons, temple of wisdom which teaches geomancy and seats [or secret?] discovery of witchcraft and Cornelias Agrippa’s teaching necromancy; Walter Martin, foreman; the court orders that as many books as can be found be brought to the next court


Chester County March the 10th 1695 … And the wife of Richard Buffington was called to answer the presentment of the grand jury the last court; and answers was made that she was ill and could not be here; ordered that she appear the next court.

Transcription ends.

The records don’t show what happened afterwards.

Robert Roman was the son of Philipp and Dorothy Roman, both prominent members of the county, buying and selling land and he served on juries. Robert did not get very involved in land purchases or sales, while his brother Jacob did. Henry Hastings has a son of the same name, and both were landowners. Whose wife was taken, the father’s or son’s? I imagine she had to be the son’s wife.

Today Robert would be considered a “deadbeat” son.

The seventh commandment says don’t commit adultery. Further, the dark arts should be avoided, for they tap you into the dark kingdom. Yes, this realm really does exist.

The baser parts of of our nation’s history and its original, seventeenth-century founding has to be included.

But redemption is always the key. I like to think that later in life (or sooner) these people got their lives back on track–redeemed. Or at least they repented before meeting their Maker.


A ‘Strange’ Woman Arrives in Colonial Philadelphia

Quakers Investigate Witchcraft in Colonial Philadelphia

Bible Basics about Satan and Demons and Victory Over Them

Satan and Demons: Personal

Satan and Demons: Theology

Satan and Demons: Origins

Bible Basics about Deliverance

Magic, Witchcraft, Sorcery, and Fortunetelling


Record of the Courts of Chester County, Pennsylvania, begun the 13th day of September, 1681, ending the 10th day of March 1696-7, pp. 157-58; 363-64; 371.

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