Home Crime and Scandal Rhoda Dustin, The Butter-Stopping, Horse-Flying Witch of Weare, N.H.

Rhoda Dustin, The Butter-Stopping, Horse-Flying Witch of Weare, N.H.

She seemed OK to visitors, not to her neighbors


To an outsider travelling through New Hampshire in the late 1700s, Rhoda Dustin seemed a peaceful innkeeper. But the tongue-wagging gossips around her hometown called her the Witch of Weare.


Sketch of Weare, NH, where Rhoda Dustin ran an inn with her husband

William and Rhoda Dustin kept an inn. Farmers traveling to and from markets in Massachusetts liked to stop at the Dustins’ inn.

William, who had fought with Gen. John Stark’s militia in the American Revolution, also farmed.

Rhoda Dustin

William and Rhoda Dustin were born in southern New Hampshire in Rockingham County, she in 1736 and he in 1740. After they married, they came to Weare, a town near Concord.

William Dustin had nothing but an axe and a jug. But the couple eventually prospered as farmers and innkeepers, raising nine children. But Rhoda Dustin had a reputation around the town for her powers of witchcraft. She supposedly deployed them to plague her neighbors.

Whether Rhoda Dustin did anything to encourage this superstition isn’t clear, but her neighbors accused her of making all sorts of mischief. If she was angry, they said, she could prevent butter from forming in their churns. The only solution was to take a flat iron and burn out the inside of the churn to remove Rhoda’s curse.

Townspeople also claimed she could fly and inflict illness on people and animals. When a young man named Reuben Favor took ill, the family blamed Rhoda Dustin.

Tales of Torment

Reuben Favor’s family first tried to drive her spell away by boiling his urine. In this unusual ceremony, everyone in the room had to remain silent while the urine came to  a boil. But someone slipped and spoke, which the family believed prevented the ceremony from working.

Following that, Reuben’s father and a group of his friends confronted Rhoda Dustin with an axe, demanding she leave the boy alone. She promised to stop any tormenting. The boy soon recovered.

Satan’s Fall from Heaven, by Gustave Dore

It’s the most dramatic story about the Witch of Weare, but hardly the only one. When an animal took sick, and its owner believed Rhoda caused it, he would cut off the animal’s tail or an ear and burn it to rid it of Rhoda’s spell. This supposedly caused a boil to form on Rhoda’s skin.

In another instance, a cow got sick and vomited, so its owner concluded Rhoda caused the illness.

In one last tale, Rhoda Dustin traveled more than 100 miles from Weare to Whitefield, N.H., to attend to her pregnant daughter in a remarkable six hours. She accomplished this by fitting her horse with a special bridle provided by the devil that allowed the animal to fly.

For all the accusations leveled at Rhoda, no one tried to officially punish her. After William died, she moved to Vermont, where she died in 1824.

Thanks to: The History of Weare, New Hampshire, 1735-1888.

This story was updated in 2023.


Eileen Murphy Sloan October 21, 2016 - 7:29 am

She must have been pretty.

Stepheny Cappel October 21, 2016 - 7:46 am

Yes I figured that also.

Kerri Campbell October 21, 2016 - 7:47 am

spooky. yet intresting. just in time for all hallows eve. 🙂

Betsy Berk October 21, 2016 - 10:15 am

Poor woman. False accusations were common amongst the early settlers in the 1700’s. My best guess is that she was kind, attractive and owned land. The neighbors were a jealous lot.

Jonathon Brackenbury October 21, 2016 - 1:10 pm

Well neighbours don’t change much…mine think I’m Elvis….

Richard Swett October 22, 2016 - 7:19 am

Brian and Wendy, a little gossip from your town…

Eunice Cole, The Witch of Hampton Who Could Not Be Stopped - New England Historical Society April 13, 2018 - 8:41 am

[…] speech. In and out of prison over the next ten years, in 1673 she was again formally charged with witchcraft. This time she was accused of attempting to lure a young girl into living with her, taking various […]

Comments are closed.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest artciles from the New England Historical Society

Thanks for Signing Up!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join Now and Get The Latest Articles. 

It's Free!

You have Successfully Subscribed!