More About Lydia Wardell Protest, or The Naked Quaker

A tangential tale to the Salem witch trials, but a fascinating one, is that of Lydia Wardell. She and her husband Eliakim were Quakers living in Hampton, NH, then a town in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts. About thirty years before the Salem troubles, in April of 1663, Lydia shocked Newbury’s Puritan congregation (this would have been in the third meeting house, so situated in the current First Parish Burying Ground), by appearing naked at Sunday worship. She was protesting the Puritan’s requirement that all residents were to attend meeting every Sunday, despite their own personal beliefs. Those who failed to do so faced fines. According to historian Diane Rapaport, author of The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England, “…at the latest county court session in April 1663, the judges had ordered Lydia and her Quaker husband, Eliakim Wardell, to pay fines for missing church on twenty consecutive Sundays.” Rapaport reports that, in response to her shocking protest, disrobing in church, Lydia “’was ordered to be severely whipped’ for her offense, presumably in a similar fashion at the public whipping post.” By “similar fashion,” Rapaport means that Quaker women were, ironically, often whipped while naked to the waist.


The interesting connection to the Salem witch trials thirty years later is Samuel Wardwell of Andover. He was one of the accused. Samuel confessed, recanted, and was hanged on September 22, 1692, along with seven others. Samuel, likely born in Exeter, NH, was Lydia’s brother-in-law. (In the records, their last name is sometimes spelled Wardle or Wardell. Inconsistent spellings were typical in the seventeenth century, as they depended on who was taking notes; name spellings were formalized in the  century.) Samuel was the youngest Wardwell sibling. When his father Thomas died in 1646, Samuel was three years old. Eventually, he, two of his siblings, and his widowed mother appear to have moved in for a time with Samuel’s oldest brother Eliakim and wife Lydia in Hampton, NH.


The First Parish Burying Ground, where the third meeting house stood, was the site of Lydia Wardell’s protest in 1663.


Opposite 20 High Road