Legend Lost in Time Crone of the Quequechan: Baby Thief or Pirate Mistress?
Fall River folklore has long told the tale of the Crone of the Quequechan. But is there any truth to her tale?
Seems there just might be.
Like many legendary stories, the exact origin of the Crone's tale is not clear. Early settlers along the Taunton River first started telling tales of the Crone somewhere in the early 1600s. She was said to be feared for her witch-like powers and stories of her stealing babies were spread around the area.
But the source of her story really seems to be the Quequechan River itself.
Life on the Quequechan River
Most of the Quequechan is a pretty peaceful stream making its way northwest toward the Taunton River, but as it flows through the heart of Fall River things get a little rocky and a series of eight small waterfalls appear.
That rocky spot was essentially uninhabitable to settlers due to the danger it posed, but allegedly a lone hut appeared on its banks, with a lone woman living inside.
Legend has it the dilapidated hut would be filled with ungodly bursts of noise and unearthly flashes of light late at night and an old crone in strange garb could be seen "pacing before its threshold."
Folklore Gets a Public Retelling
Villagers told this story so often that in 1845 it actually appeared in Fall River's former newspaper, The Weekly News.
The newspaper story reads like fiction:
Though the villagers muttered that the hut should be fired or tossed into the foam below, none truly dared do such a thing. They left both hut and hag to themselves.
It goes on to say the villagers met at a local store so the men could make a plan when the crone broke the door down and confronted them. She's described as
a smut streaked crone, her back folded over twice like a letter to be posted, her head hanging down from the first of these folds with a face like a guttered candle. Her brows, nose, and flesh all seemed of wax that was blown down. Her chin seemed long melted down, then lifted up by a sharp intake of breath, perhaps of shock at the effect of the rest of the face. And as if nature was not yet satisfied by this poor prank, it further bedecked its scarecrow with warts, some even sporting tufts of hair that teased and tickled at the wretch’s mouth–a mouth already caving in upon the vacancies left by long forgotten teeth.
Legend says she grabbed at a baby and headed for her house by the falls, but when the mother spoke to her with kindness she gave the baby back, walked into her hut and the hut instantly burst into flames.
Tale With a Twist
But the best part of the newspaper's telling is the twist at the end. They wrote of the hut-burning for a week and a single paper floating among the ashes that read:
"Boston, June 10, 1700
I am in the iron grasp of the king’s bloodhounds, and I fear I am done with this world. My wife and my daughter are assured their seats in heaven, but if you set a beacon fire, I’ll come to make thee my bride in hell.
Yes, in the end the newspaper presented the Crone of the Quequechan as the mistress of the captured pirate, Captain Kidd, lighting her house on fire so she could join him in the afterlife.
Real History in the Tale
It all sounds a little far-fetched, but Kidd could have had a mistress along the river on the SouthCoast. He was mostly traveling around New York before his capture in Boston in July 1699.
But he did spend over a year in jail in Beantown before finally being shipped back to London for execution, so the letter's date is plausible.
We may never really know who the Crone of the Quequechan was or how her tale came to be told, but it's not hard to imagine townsfolk making up stories about an older woman living alone in a dangerous area and turning her into a baby-napping witch.