I found another reference to Humphrey Atherton in Epitaphs from the Old Burying Ground in Dorchester, Massachuetts.
“In 1644 he went to Narragansett, with Captains Johnson and Cooke, to arrest and try Samuel Gorton, for heresy.He led several expeditions against the Narragansett Indians, and when at length they became subject to Massachusetts he was often appointed to collect their tribute of wampum.To complete the catalogue of honors bestowed upon him; he was Town Treasurer and several times Selectman in Dorchester."
Among his personal friends was Miles Standish, whose name has been rendered immortal by Longfellow.
Atherton, as a believer in witches, felt it to be a duty which he owed to God and to his Country to mete out to the poor creatures, against whom accusations were brought, the punishment, which, in his opinion, they so richly merited.As assistant, a position which he occupied during the last eight years of his life, he was instrumental in bringing about the execution of Mrs. Hibbins, who was hung for witchcraft, June 19, 1656.This was probably the second murder in New England, for the same imaginary crime.”
Apparently General Atherton was known for his persecution of Quakers too.In a book written by some of them called New England Judged by the Spirit of the Lord, they condemn him and say that his horrible death to be God’s visitation of wrath (starting on page 305, they call him “Humfray Adderton).
They graphically describe how the General died:
“…but the Judgements of the Lord God are not upon us yet,’ was suddenly surprised:having been, on a certain day, exercising his men with much pomp and ostentation, he was returning home in the evening, near the place where they usually loosed the Quakers from the cart, after they had whipped them, his horse, suddenly affrighted, threw him with such violence, that he instantly died; his eyes being dashed out of his head, and his brains coming out of his nose, his tongue hanging our at his mouth, and the blood running out of his ears:Being taken up and brought into the Court-house, the place where he had been active in sentencing the innocent to death, his blood ran through the floor, exhibiting to the spectators a shocking instance of the Divine vengeance against a daring and hardened persecutor; that made a fearful example of that diving judgment, which, when forewarned of, he had openly despised, and treated with disdain.”