The Cucking Stool

“The day afore yesterday at two of ye clock in ye afternoon I saw this punishment given to one Betsey wife of John Tucker who by ye violence of her tongue has made his house and ye neighborhood uncomfortable. She was taken to ye pond near where I am sojourning by ye officer who was joined by ye Magistrate and ye Minister Mr. Cotton who had frequently admonished her and a large number of People. They had a machine for ye purpose yt belongs to ye Parish, and which I was so told had been so used three times this Summer. It is a platform with 4 small rollers or wheels and two upright posts between which works a Lever by a Rope fastened to its shorter or heavier end. At ye end of ye longer arm is fixed a stool upon which sd Betsey was fastened by cords, her gown tied fast around her feete. The Machine was then moved up to ye edge of ye pond, ye Rope was slackened by ye officer and ye woman was allowed to go down under ye water for ye space of half a minute. Betsey had a stout stomach, and would not yield until she had allowed herself to be ducked 5 several times. At length she cried piteously, Let me go Let me go, by God’s help I’ll sin no more. Then they drew back ye Machine, untied ye Ropes and let her walk home in her wetted clothes a hopefully penitent woman.”

~ Thomas Hartley, from Hungars Parish, Virginia; letter to Governor Endicott of Massachusetts, 1634