Was an elderly woman from the upstate of South Carolina the last to be accused of and put on trial for witchcraft in the United States? In this paper, we investigate claims from an old letter sent to the president of South Carolina College to determine whether or not Barbara Powers was truly accused of witchcraft during a criminal trial. After thoroughly investigating census data, court records, marriage records, and other historical data in the named counties and those surrounding them, we were unable to determine conclusively if the trial was real or fabricated. Despite not knowing if the case occurred or not, we explored the historical context of the United States and specifically upstate South Carolina in and around 1813. The purpose of this study was to identify factors that may have prompted a witchcraft trial and to analyze moral panics including the causes and ramifications of historical and contemporary moral panics. Ultimately, we concluded that moral panics, such as those that lead to accusations of witchcraft, continue to shape our perceptions of the world.
Smith, Brandon; Wimberly, Bobbie Jo; and McDonald, Courtney
"Barbara Powers: Witch or Myth? The Last Case of Witchcraft in South Carolina,"
University of South Carolina Upstate Student Research Journal: Vol. 14, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarcommons.sc.edu/uscusrj/vol14/iss1/5