Like all good urban legends, there are several versions of the original story, and the Chesterville Witch is no exception. The basic premise is that a woman, for some unknown reason was accused of witchcraft, and subsequently murdered because of the accusation.
One of the first versions I heard, was that around the early 1900's, an elderly woman, in front of her entire Amish community, openly professed to be a witch and communing with the devil. A week later she was found murdered in a nearby farm field. The community was so relieved of her death that no one even bothered to investigate her murder.
In another version of the story, sometime in the mid-1800’s a woman openly disputed the teachings of her Amish faith. Over-zealous members of her community were offended by her objections and accused her of witchcraft. They began shunning her, and eventually, enough people believed the accusations of witchcraft, that they tried, convicted, and sentenced her to hang.
In a third version of the legend, there was a woman in the mid-1800’s who was a well-known healer. She was also known for her knowledge of the local flora. She would often make remedies for her patients from plants and items she gathered from the forest. After a prominent member of the community had died a mysterious death, the healer was accused of murder and practicing witchcraft. Her accusers claimed she killed the man by either casting an evil spell or by brewing a deadly concoction. She was soon tried for witchcraft, summarily found guilty, and put to death for her supposed crimes.
According to the rest of the legend, the accused witch was buried in the Chesterville Cemetery, and a tree was planted on top her grave. It is believed that by planting a tree on top of a person’s grave, its roots will trap their soul. As long as the tree is alive, she will be bound to her grave.
The name of the accused and the date of her death are unknown because her headstone is missing. The questions I have about this urban legend are: Why is there a wrought iron fence surrounding her grave? Did someone think enough of her to decorate her grave? If she was truly an evil witch, why is she buried in consecrated ground? Also if the members of the community feared her of being a witch, why would they bury her in the town cemetery with the rest of the community? Why would they allow her grave to be marked? If they feared her to be a witch and took the extreme measure of binding her soul to her grave, wouldn’t it make sense to have buried her in an unmarked grave in an unknown location, that was far away from the town?
I would think that if they feared her of being an evil witch, they would want the memory of her too quickly fade away; not bury her where she can be memorialized.
There is proof that people still believe in the legend of the Chesterville Witch because saw marks are distinguishable in the tree’s bark. Also, trees are living things, and their existence is finite. Eventually, the tree will die, and the witch’s vengeful soul will escape. Sometime in the future, the Chesterville Witch will get her chance to take revenge on the community that murdered her and imprisoned her soul!