Mary Nason, Witch of York

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A witches’ sabbat night would be a good time to post about one of my ancestors: Mary Nason, the Witch of York, Maine.

In the fall of 1986 my father (Eugene Nason Doherty) and I traveled to Maine to visit my sister, Sharon, who was teaching at the Berwick Academy in So. Berwick, not far from York.   A Nason landed in Kittery Point, Maine in 1629 and the family spread out from there to various towns in southern Maine and Portsmouth, NH. Mary Nason is buried in the Old Burying Yard on Rt. 1A in York Harbor, Maine.

Mary Nason (1745-1774) was 29 years old when she died on August 18, 1774.  According to local lore Mary Nason was a respected herbalist and healer (probably a Wiccan) and skilled at ridding people of evil spirits and hauntings.  

Maybe she was a good witch–or maybe not–but anyone with supernatural power can still raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

By the time we found her grave it was late afternoon and long shadows were falling across the cemetery. It was easy to spot: her husband put a headstone and footstone, and a very large, heavy stone slab covering the ground over her body. There is no other burial with a stone covering the grave in the cemetery.   Some nave souls have posited this was done to protect her from grazing cattle or pigs.

Baloney.   It was to keep her from walking.

The headstone has a carved portrait of Mary Mason.   Given that puritan time, I thought it was a little weird to have exposed breasts. Defiance? Or perhaps it was the face with the slightly demonic eyes. She must have been a powerful, scary woman with a very compelling gaze.

The crows which perch on the trees by the cemetery are reported to be her familiars. I don’t recall if we saw any, but probably one or two eyed us from nearby.

Her husband, Samuel Nason, wrote a loving epitaph on her stone.   However, he and the children decamped for Rhode Island shortly after her death.   Was he afraid?   I think so.

The three of us were glad to get back in the car.   It isn’t a place I would want to stay after dark.

I would like to go pay her a visit again sometime. But only in the morning.

Happy Samhain!





3 thoughts on “Mary Nason, Witch of York

  1. I rather think Mary’s husband had money and wanted ro protect his wife’s grave from the local wandering livestock with the cover stone . Her stones portrait is unusual for a tomb of the time – most had angelic skulls -but carved portraits and photos did later become a fashion – perhaps Mr Nasson was just a head of the crowd . Will say – Mary’s face looks fairly simplistic in her portrait – though her dress and Colonial Dame hairstyle is impressive ! As for her exposed bosom…. It looks rather small and high – though perky ! I think it’s more scalloped neckline of her dress . For magical skills – I’ll wager they were the usual of most small town housewives of the time . I think Mary’s grave caught the attention and imagination of a later generation who wanted to cash in on the New England witch tales . There’s the tombstone in Bucksport – said to be where the spirit of a witch kicked and left her mark … looks as if someone tossed a wet stocking on it and it left an impression . Will say…. I have fallen spell to Mary’s story and when I visited her grave Ileft a small gift , as others have ,and asked her for luck… she does have some power !

  2. Hi, I’m a direct descendant as well. Not sure about Mary’s husband Samual moving to Rhode Island but from what we have researched he stayed in York and eventually moved to Sanford Maine. There used to be an actual footstone on her grave but some years ago it came up missing. Your photo shows the remnants of it. I am traveling there next week and hope to speak with the local historians to see if they know the where abouts of the footstone or at least what happened to it. The theories are many and unfortunately we only know very little about the real Mary.
    Bob Nason

  3. Hello Karen! I just found out about this Nason ancestor from my.Mother-in-Law. She sent me your article about Mary. I am an ancestor, by marriage, and am fascinated by your story, and would LOVE any additional information there might be left in existence? Do you know if there is any way to locate additional information/details on this fascinating ancestor of ours…? Thank you in advance for any assistance you might offer!

    Blessed Be,
    Debbie Nason ?

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