The Brown Hare Society was an organization formed in 1693 to help aid witches and suspected witches that were persecuted during the Salem witch trials. The group provided shelter and escape routes for women seeking to escape the hearings and executions. They grew as witch-hunts spread across the colonies. With ongoing anti-witch hysteria lasting to the mid 1800’s, the group worked with the Underground Railroad to provide escape routes for Wiccans wanting to flee the country.
Sisters Ann and Alice Murray formed the Brown Hares, after their mother Abigail was accused and found guilty of witchcraft. The two stole food and a horse from a neighboring plantation for their mother the night before her execution. With the help of a husband who lost his wife from the persecution, they raided the Salem jailhouse to rescue Abigail. They escaped north to a Native American village, where they would plan to liberate more of their friends held for trial.
The Murray sisters would go on to free dozens of accused witches in their hometown. Their actions were spread by word around the Massachusetts area. Wiccans and accused women would try to seek for their help. With the increase in notoriety, the sisters had to move from village to village to escape hunting vigilante groups.
A Boston coven reached out to the sister, offering their manpower to provide assistance to their operations. With a growing number of safe houses and workers, the sisters decided to plan monthly meetings with Wiccans, victims, and sympathizers. Here, they would agree to form their official name for solidarity. A code of symbols was developed to organize the growing network of safe houses. The Brown Hares would spread to the other northeastern states as the witch-hunt craze expanded.
In 1736, both Ann and Alice disappeared during a blizzard. Their niece, Mathilda Murray, was elected to lead the Brown Hares after numerous failed search parties. Mathilda would go on to further develop escape route to Canada for witches in danger. She would also help recruit more undiscovered witch covens as word spread among the colonial population of their practice.
In 1750, a manor was built in the forests of Quebec, named in honor of the founding sisters. The Murray Manor served the Brown Hares as a base of operations. During the revolutionary war, the manor proved useful in keeping the Brown Hare leaders safe from combat. Witch trials died down significantly after the war, however their role was still important in the witch community.
The Brown Hares collaborated with the Underground Railroad in the early 1800’s. With less witches and women being persecuted, the safe houses would take in runaway slaves escaping to their freedom. Their escape routes were useful for the railroad due to their direct route to the Canadian border. The Brown Hares would also consult in developing new routes south to Mexico.
After the civil war the Brown Hares escape network ceased with the end of slavery and witch trials. Brown Hare Society then focused on advocating for the acceptance of the Wiccan religion and other religious rights. Currently, the society still holds annual meeting at the Murray Manor in Ontario, Canada.