“W” or not, Local Street Linked to Witch Trials


I help out El Morro School by doing story telling at their Colonial Days. I stumbled upon this interesting history:

Hawthorne Road in North Laguna is named for Hildegarde Hawthorne who lived in Laguna Beach (circa 1920s). She wrote one of the first tour guides to So. Cal. beach cities (“Romantic Cities of California”). She described Laguna, “as a child of that deathless search, particularly by persons who devote their lives to painting or writing, or for some place where beauty and cheapness and a trifle of remoteness hobnob together in a delightful companionship.” Her book is responsible for the first wave of Laguna tourists, and our short-lived first city motto: Laguna Beach—Where beauty and cheapness trifle.

Hildegarde Hawthorne was the granddaughter of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote great stories about colonial life in New England (“House of the 7 Gables”, “The Scarlet Letter”). He was a friend and confidant of Herman Melville (“Moby Dick”).

However, “Hawthorne” Road should be spelled “Hathorne.”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great, great-grandfather was chief Judge John Hathorne, who presided over the Salem Witch trials. Judge John Hathorne sentenced 19 innocent townspeople for witchcraft, several of which he had executed. Those killed were crushed to death by stones under Judge Hathorne’s order and watch. Judge Hathorne was the only member of the court of Salem who never repented.

Two hundred years later, Nathaniel changed the spelling of his family name from “Hathorne” to “Hawthorne” so he could be published without prejudice. In every depiction of the Salem Witch trials, Judge John Hathorne is shown as the dour, mean, self-righteous, puritan judge (for example, see “The Crucible”, “The Devil and Daniel Webster”).

So, the person responsible for the crushing weight of tourism in Laguna is a direct descendant of chief judge of the Salem witch trials?


Greg Hurley, Laguna Beach

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  1. belladonna

    re: the witch trials…over 150 were imprisoned…19 of the acused where hung…1 was pressed to death by stone…many died in prison…such was salem in 1692…another interesting note…the christian science church was founded in boston in 1879…hawthorne is a small road…i mean no disrespect or connection with the church…they are wonderful people…only a coincidence i though worth noting.

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