Here are the chapter summaries for The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a Newbery Award winner by Elizabeth George Speare. It is the tale of a young girl in 1687 who moves to the Connecticut Colony and is accused of being a witch.
These chapter summaries for "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" are primarly meant to be a reference for students to help them focus on the important facts within each chapter. However teachers and homeschooling parents who wish to quickly familiarize themselves with this historical fiction book may also find these summaries useful.
In 1687, Katherine Tyler, the main character, leaves the home of her late grandfather in Barbados and sails in a brigantine to Connecticut. She is coming to live with her aunt’s family, none of whom she has ever met. They are unaware of her coming. On the ship, she meets Nathaniel Eaton, the first mate and son of the captain. She also meets John Holbrook who is coming to study in Connecticut and the Cruff family. Young Prudence Cruff drops her doll in the water and Kit impulsively dives in after it. This unnerves the ship’s passengers. Goodwife Cruff says that Kit must be a witch because she did not sink in the water.
Upon landing, Kit informs the captain that her relatives do not know she is coming. This provokes the captain who needs to have extra help to haul her seven trunks and find her aunt’s home. Not only that, Kit is disappointed with the dreary town.
Dressed in her lavish clothing, Kit plods down the dirt road in hopes of finding Aunt Rachel’s house. Though surprised and shocked, her aunt gives her a warm welcome. Her uncle was not so welcoming, especially when her sees her seven trunks of clothing. It was then he learns that Kit was not just there for a visit but rather to live. She tells the family that when grandfather died, she learned that he had many debts. The plantation and slaves had to be sold to pay everyone. That’s why she has no place else to go. The only thing her uncle, Matthew Wood, wants to know is if her grandfather was a royalist, loyal to the King of England.
Kit soon learns that her clothing and possessions do not fit into a Puritan Connecticut lifestyle. The cousins, Judith (longing for the finer life) and Mercy (humble, kind and crippled) have some fun trying on Kit’s dresses. When father catches them, they get a good scolding and return to the chores. Kit begins to learn how to process wool. She finds that the chores never end and she is not very good at any of them. She hears her cousin, Judith complaining about her.
On the Sabbath day it is necessary for Kit to wear one of her fancy dresses because it was all she had. It is a rigid and tedious service. Afterwards, several folks remind her that she should be grateful for her uncle’s charity because he took in “this orphan from Barbados".
Reverend-Doctor Bulkeley and John Holbrook come for dinner. The family works hard prior to the visit so they can impress them. Tension mounts as the men discuss the politics of the day. Matthew Wood (Kit’s uncle) is loyal to free government of the new land and the Reverend is a King’s loyalist. After the guests leave, Kit finds out that a man from the church service, William Ashby, wants to call on her. Judith, who had set her sights on William, decides to switch her plan and pursue John Holbrook.
When William calls on Kit, their conversation is awkward. Then, when they join the family, William has a lively political discussion with Kit’s uncle. Kit happily thinks she will not see William again but the cousins explain that he’ll be back every Saturday evening. William, from a wealthy family, has begun to build his house and has chosen Kit to be his bride.
Kit and Judith have a job to weed the onion field. On the way there, Kit asks about a lone shack by Blackbird Pond. She learns that Hannah Tupper lives there with her cats. People think Hannah is a witch. Back at home, Kit learns that she has been asked to teach the town’s young children during the summer with her cousin Mercy.
Kit’s teaching methods are unorthodox. When the head master walks in on the children role-playing, he dismisses Kit from the job. Seeing Mercy so upset, Kit runs from the house to the field and throws herself on the ground in tears. Later she notices Hannah Tupper there ready to help her. Kit finds a friend in the old woman and finds strength from her time with Hannah. On her way home, Kit boldly pleads her case to the headmaster and gets another chance at the teaching job.
Kit tells Mercy and Aunt Rachel about her new friend Hannah Tupper. The ladies warn Kit to stay away from Hannah because she is a Quaker, banished from Massachusetts. They say that Uncle Matthew will be furious if he finds out about the friendship. The gentleman callers, William and John, continue their visits to the Woods home and it was evident that Judith was in love with John. One day after working in the field, Kit visits Hannah again. This time Nat Eaton (first-mate from the ship) also comes to visit Hannah. Kit, Nat and Hannah have a good visit.
Kit encounters little Prudence Cruff, the little girl from the ship. Prudence wants to learn to read but her mother claims she is too dumb. Kit takes Prudence to meet Hannah. They decide to meet at Hannah’s so that Kit can teach Prudence to read. The evenings are spent with the John and William visiting the Wood family. Kit discovers that Mercy secretly loves John but does not say anything for the sake of her sister Judith. Kit knows Mercy and John would be perfect together. Kit is bored with William’s constant talk about his house.
Kit and her cousins finish making the candles for the day and now Kit has a free afternoon. She visits Hannah and finds Nat there. Kit and Nat climb on the roof to fix it for Hannah. They have a wonderful conversation. Nat walks Kit home and finds William waiting for her. When Uncle Matthew finds out that they have been helping Hannah, he is angry. He claims that Hannah is a heretic.
The Husking Bee, a grand social event, is tonight and Judith is excited that she may become engaged to John. Kit finds out that John really loves Mercy. When John comes to the house to talk to Matthew about marrying Mercy, Judith misinterprets his intentions and thinks he wants to marry her. Suddenly he is sadly betrothed to Judith. William and Kit discuss marriage but she asks him to wait.
Judith and Kit go to the docks to pick up supplies from an incoming ship. Kit sees Nat and he questions her about her intent to marry William. The family finds out that the royal governor is expected to come to govern Connecticut. Uncle Matthew is upset.
The townsmen meet at Uncle Matthew’s home for a heated discussion about how to handle the coming of Governor Andros, representative of the King. The curious people of the town gather along the road to watch the governor’s arrival. They are respectful. At a meeting later, the colonial charter disappears. Governor Andros annexes the colony of Connecticut to Massachusetts.
Thanksgiving is going to be canceled in the Wood’s home because of the tension in the colony. Three vandals from the ship put light jack-o-lanterns in the windows of William’s house. Nat and his friends are locked up and Kit sneaks away to see if Nat is one of the vandals. She speaks to him and then goes to Hannah’s and avoids the mandatory Lecture night at the Meeting House. She talks to Hannah about love. Prudence shows up at Hannah’s and Kit teaches her how to write her name. Hannah and Kit worry that Prudence will be beaten if her mother finds out that she comes there for lessons. John Holbrook enlists in the militia to do medical work. Judith is very upset for selfish reasons.
Many of the townspeople, including Judith and Kit, have contracted a mysterious fever. Kit recovers quickly but now Mercy is very ill. Kit tends to her cousins. Uncle Matthew allows Doctor Bulkeley to enter and treat the girls even though they have political differences. Goodwife Cruff comes to the house with a group and accuses Kit of being a witch because of her association with Hannah. Uncle Matthew defends Kit. The group backs away and heads to Hannah’s. Kit sneaks out to rescue Hannah and hides from the angry mob as they burn Hannah’s house. Kit hides Hannah overnight in the forest. Nat’s ship appears on the river and he takes Hannah. He wants Kit to come, also, but she is worried about her sick cousins and returns home.
Kit thanks her uncle for standing up for her. Her uncle says he is grateful that Kit was there to care for his daughters. A group comes again to the house and accuses Kit of witchcraft. They have Kit’s hornbook that they found in the remains of Hannah’s house. They arrest Kit and put her in a shed behind the Constable’s house. It is bitter cold and dirty. Aunt Rachel visits her during the night. Kit worries that the horrible Goodwife Cruff will punish Prudence if she finds out that she has also been to Hannah’s.
Kit is taken to trial and faces the crowd of people in the Town House. One after another the people make accusations against Kit. Finally Goodman Cruff produces a copybook as evidence that was found at Hannah’s house. It was the book Prudence used to copy her name. Kit refuses to explain the book to protect Prudence. Then, at the door, Nat appears with little Prudence. Goodwife Cruff causes an uproar but Prudence bravely stands up for Kit. Prudence reads and writes for the audience proving that Kit taught her these things. Anger turns to pride in Goodman Cruff as he beams at his daughter and tells his wife to shut up. He drops the charges and Kit goes home.
Mercy is well enough to be helped to see the first snowfall. William comes to call on Kit who gives him a chilly reception. He says that he has missed her but wants her to use better judgment in the future. They decide that they have no future. Later the family attends a lavish wedding. Kit feels homesick for Barbados or for something she can’t explain. William tends to Judith when she faints over news of deaths in the militia. During the harsh lonely winter, Kit longs to see her old home and plans an escape. John Holbrook suddenly arrives and rushes to Mercy, his true love, instead of Judith.
By April, two engagements are announced: William to Judith and John to Mercy. Kit knew she could leave without any guilt because John and Mercy were going to live with Rachel and Matthew and help with the chores. In mid-May Kit is on the docks and finds what she has been searching for in her heart-Nat. He is there waiting for her with a new boat and a new life.
These concise chapter summaries of "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" will have given you a good overview of this award-winning book by Elizabeth George Speare. As you read each chapter, did you find yourself better understanding the main facts in each chapter? Use the comment section to let us know what you did or did not like about the book as a whole, or to ask questions about parts you did not understand.
For a journal writing activity and chapter summaries of another of the author's award-winning books, visit the lesson plan entitiled "The Sign of the Beaver Book Chapters: Matt's Journal."