1894 Witchcraft Trials of Salem – Ohio

Introduction: In this article, Melissa Davenport Berry writes about a witchcraft trial in Salem – only this one was 1894, not 1692, and it was in Ohio, not Massachusetts. Melissa is a genealogist who has a blog, AnceStory Archives, and a Facebook group, New England Family Genealogy and History.

During the late 19th century newspapers across the country reported that the devil had laid siege on a township (Salem) in the northern part of Ohio via a warlock. Yes, another town called Salem has on record a witchcraft case that occurred two centuries after the infamous 1692 witchcraft trials of Salem, Massachusetts.

In 1893 German-born Jacob Culp (1839-1928), a wealthy farmer, was accused of being in league with the devil – and it was his own family who cried witchcraft on him.

Illustration: warlock. Credit: Kjpargeter.
Illustration: warlock. Credit: Kjpargeter.

The ordeal created suspicion and sensationalism which split the community. It was not much different than Salem, Massachusetts, had been in the 17th century.

However, soon after the accusations were made against Jacob the tables quickly turned on the accusers. Instead of putting Jacob on trial for practicing witchcraft, officials tried his accusers for the crime of believing in witches – in opposition to the teachings of the Methodist Church.

A brief history: Jacob created a web with his in-laws years before the incident. To start, Jacob was in hot water with the Loop clan when he married Hannah Walker, 16 years his elder, the daughter of John Loop and Mary Crum and widow of Alexander Walker.

When Hannah died in 1886 Jacob caused more resentment when he scooped up Hannah’s much-younger niece Hattie, the daughter of Samuel and Lydia (Weaver) Loop. He married her just a few months later.

There was another factor, more shrouded in suspicion. Hattie had a sister, Sara “Sadie” Loop, who had a son Harry born out of wedlock in 1878. The family suspected that Jacob fathered the child, but there was no proof.

Also, Jacob had the Midas touch in biz leaving him the wealthier of all his kin. The Loop’s festering fury hit a head. According to sources, Sadie Loop and her sister Francis “Fannie” Loop Hughes (wife of Howard Hughes) made claims that Jacob had hypnotized his neighbors to rob them, and also practiced black magic on animals.

They also said his wizardry and use of occult powers brought death and sickness on the family. Jacob supposedly caused the death of livestock owned by Norma Bleam, husband of Ella Loop, a third sister to Jacob’s wife Hattie.

Jacob’s accusers were essentially his family circle: the Loop sisters and two of their spouses, Howard Hughes and Norman Bleam.

Here is a snippet from the Waterbury Evening Democrat of some of the drama that went down after the accusers alleged that Jacob’s “evil eye” had bewitched them all.

An article about a witchcraft trial, Waterbury Evening Democrat newspaper 26 January 1894
Waterbury Evening Democrat (Waterbury, Connecticut), 26 January 1894, page 5

This article reported:

In April 1893, Mrs. Loop [Lydia Weaver Loop] became ill, and her sickness did not yield to the treatment of the regular local physicians. Miss Sadie Loop and Mrs. Fannie Hughes then consulted Peter Burns of Salem, known as the “Powwow Doctor.” He told them their mother was bewitched by a near relative and advised them to consult “Dr.” Andrew Hoff of Alliance [best known witch finder in Ohio]. He confirmed with emphasis what they had already said and added that the suspected witch was a member of their church [Hart’s Methodist Church].

This person was identified by the sisters as their brother-in-law, Jacob Culp. They carried the news to H. [Homer] B. Shelton, their class leader, and the other church members. Then their mother died.

Finally, Mr. Shelton preferred charges against Miss Sadie Loop, accusing her of immorality and falsehood in circulating the story that Jacob Culp was a wizard and practiced witchcraft. She was tried before a church court held in Salem on May 23, 1893, and convicted.

Sadie’s rumor mill was shut down and she was kicked out of the church.

Jacob’s congregation led a crusade via another trial to finish off the rest of the gossiping family units and exonerate him.

An official trial held on Thursday, 25 January 1894, lasted four hours. Jacob was found innocent, and the accusers were expelled from the church by jurors and the oversite committee of Dr. D. M. Bloom, Professor C. Davidson, George Jeffries, and Gilbert Williamson.

Here is more, from the Jackson Citizen.

An article about a witchcraft trial, Jackson Citizen newspaper 30 January 1894
Jackson Citizen (Jackson, Michigan), 30 January 1894, page 1

This article reported:

For belief in the power of witches contrary to the teachings of the Methodist Church, Norman Bleam and Howard Hughes and his wife were tried and expelled from Hart’s Church, four miles south of this city, yesterday. The accused charged Jacob Culp, a brother-in-law, with possessing an evil eye and practicing witchcraft, thereby causing the death of old Mrs. Loop and his first wife [Hannah], bringing sickness upon Mrs. Hughes and another woman, and killing and bewitching cows. A hoodoo doctor from Alliance located Culp as the witch and said a look from his evil eye meant death. The accused refused to appear for trial, and the case proceeded without them. The jury pronounced all guilty and formal sentence of expulsion was passed upon them. The attorney gave notice of appeal to the quarterly conference. Sadie Loop, a sister of the trio, was expelled from the church a year ago on the same charge. Culp bears a good reputation and is one of the pillars of the church.

Sadie and her two sisters and their spouses never got back in the good graces of the church.

Jacob died at age 89 on 8 May 1928 in his home on Franklin Road, Salem, Ohio. He remained a respected, active, and loyal member of that same church. His obituary mentioned Hattie, a brother Fred Culp, a sister Elizabeth Culp Obert (wife of Ludwig Obert), and nieces and nephews living in St. Louis.

Despite Jacob’s lady dramas he never held a grudge, as the Repository reported he left $2,000 to the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society of the First Methodist Church.

An article about Jacob Culp, Repository newspaper 19 July 1928
Repository (Canton, Ohio), 19 July 1928, page 6

For genealogy and more on the families involved in the 1894 witchcraft trials of Salem, Ohio, visit Americana-Archives.

Explore over 330 years of newspapers and historical records in GenealogyBank. Discover your family story! Start a 7-Day Free Trial

Note on the header image: grave of Jacob Culp (1839-1928) and his wife Hattie Loop Culp (1863-1951), Franklin Square Cemetery, Franklin Square, Columbiana County, Ohio. Credit: David and Joyce Humphrey of Ohio.

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