Sarah Bassett (Do You Know Her Story)

20140323-204857.jpg Sarah Bassett or more commonly Sally Bassett (died 21 June 1730) was a mulatto slave in the British colony Bermuda in the North Atlantic. She was judged guilty to the attempted murder of several persons by poisoning and executed by burning. The trial against her has some times been referred to as a witch trial. She is associated with a local flower, the Bermudiana.

Sarah Bassett was a mulatto and had raised many grandchildren. In 1713 she had been judged guilty of killing livestock and had been whipped through the parish. Prior to 1727 she was owned by blacksmith Francis DIckinson of Pembroke Parish. In 1729, she had been valued as useless because of age. In 1730, Thomas Foster, his spouse Sarah Foster and a household slave, Nancey were taken ill. Nancey subsequently discovered some hidden poison; Bassett’s granddaughter Beck, also owned by the Fosters, testified that Sarah had made her give them the poison. Bassett denied the charges but was judged guilty of attempted murder 17 June 1730 and sentenced to be burned alive. The execution took place at Crow Lane by Hamilton Harbour. On her way there, she was to have said to the crowd: “No use you hurrying folks, there’ll be no ’til I get there!” When the remains of the stake was cleared, legend say that a purple flower (the “Bermudiana”, a New World iris of the genus Sisyrinchium) was found in her ashes; before her death Sarah had declared that there would be a sign that she was guiltless and today the flower blooms about Bermuda. The day of the execution was very hot, and since then, hot days are sometimes referred to in Bermuda as a “real Sally Bassett day”. A historian at the University of the West Indies has suggested that news of poisoning inspired slave rebellions throughout the West Indies.


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