I lived one town away from Salem Ma for 4 years. The story of the Salem Witches was ever-present. The town is a tourist trap, and the events of 1692 have been glamorized and are used to make money.
The reality though, is that this tragedy killed 20 +people , imprisoned many others ,and destroyed many people’s lives.
Through Martha Elsey, who I spoke of in another blog, I am the descendent of Martha Allen Carrier. Martha was hanged in Salem on August 19th 1692. She is my 9th great Grandmothers. Martha’s Mother was Faith Ingalls and that relationship makes me the cousin of Half Pint herself. Laura Ingalls Wilder.
To understand the witch trials, one needs to understand the atmosphere in Salem in 1692. They had suffered Indian Attacks, smallpox and hunger. They were highly superstitious , religious people. They saw the devil in everyone and everything. My guess is that they felt that if they could control the devil, they could have some control over their own lives. There were also many disputes in Salem about land and property right. All of this left Salem a powder keg, set to ignite.
But back to Martha. Cotton Mather called her a Rampant Hag and the Queen of Hell. She was a 48-year-old woman and probably not much of a hag. She was married to Thomas Carrier, A Welsh indentured servant. She married him after having their first child, which was quite scandalous in those days.
2 of their children died of smallpox in Billerica Ma. They then moved to Andover and were accused of bringing small pox there. Martha also had some dispute with neighbors over land.
When she was accused of being a witch her entire family was put in jail, including her young children. Eventually her own children testified against her, including her 7-year-old daughter Sara, who had also been imprisoned. It is alleged that 2 of her sons were tortured to obtain their confessions. It is reported that Andrew and Richard were “tied neck and heel until the blood was ready to come out of their noses” before they confessed
Martha claimed her innocence on the scaffold and refused to admit to being a witch, stating that was “a falsehood so filthy”. Her body was thrown into an unmarked gave with the other people she was hanged with.
Martha was an outspoken women in an era when women were meant to be quite and docile.
Thomas Carrier lived to be very very old. 109 and 113 years have been reported. A description of him reads
Thomas Carrier was born in Wales, England, about 1626 and
died in Colchester, Conn. May 18, 1735; Colchester records say in his
109th year although the family claimed his age to be 113 years.
Records of the town embody some remarkable traditions about him.
He was 7′ 4″ tall, was notorious for his fleetness of foot, and his
strength was his pride at one hundred years of age. He settled in
Colchester soon after the turn of the century, when his age was about
76 years. He would frequently walk from Colchester to the mill in
Glastonbury, a distance of eighteen miles, carrying a sack of corn on
his shoulder to be ground, walking very fast and erect, stopping but
once to shift his load and then walk back. The New England Journal
for June 9, 1735 stated: “His head in his last years was not bald nor his
hair gray. Not many days before his death he traveled on foot six
miles to see a sick friend, and the day before he died he was
visiting his neighbors. His mind was alert until he died,
when he fell asleep in his chair and never woke up.”
A great book on this topic is The Heretics Daughter , by Kathleen Kent. This book tells the story of Martha through the eyes of her daughter