Thursday, July 12, 2012

Gallons of Corruption

Okay, I just need to write this post. Every time I start, I end up getting sidetracked looking up my connections to the various people involved in this incident. At one time I taught US history in an integrated class with an English teacher. When we covered the Salem Witch Trials, he always pointed to this testimony as an example of the hyperbole that fueled the hysteria.

Benjamin & Sarah (Farnum) Abbott are my 9th great-grandparents and because of the intermarrying of the Abbott family, they are related to me in a myriad of other ways also. Benjamin had an antagonistic relationship with Martha Carrier, who happens to be my first cousin, 11 times removed. After several nasty verbal exchanges, Benjamin inevitably became sick and Martha was accused of being the cause of his troubles. Martha had an interesting background that tarnished her reputation in the community and made her an easy target. 
Cotton Mather called Martha a "rampant hag"
Cotton Mather wrote The Wonders of the Invisible World - The Trial of Martha Carrier. Her trial was held in Salem on August 2, 1692. Benjamin Abbott testified about the verbal abuse directed at him by Martha and then went on to relate his story of illness. (Bold text was added by me for emphasis)

"Presently after this he was taken with a swelling in his foot, and then in his side, and exceedingly tormented.  It bred a sore which was lanced by Dr. Prescott, and several gallons of corruption ran out of it.  For six weeks it continued very bad; and then another sore bred in his groin, which was also lanced by Dr. Prescott.  Another sore bred in his groin, which was likewise cut, and put him to very great misery.  He was brought to death's door, and so remained until Carrier was taken and carried away by the constable; from which very day he began to mend, and so grew better every day, and is well ever since. Sarah, his wife, also testified that her husband was not only all this while afflicted in his body, but also that strange, extraordinary, and unaccountable calamities befell his cattle; their death being such as they could guess no natural reason for."

As my esteemed colleague would point out, the human body  does not contain gallons of anything, including blood. Combined with the vivid, disgusting mental image, this story would make quite an impression on our students. Unfortunately, my colleague moved on to another school before I made the connection between Benjamin Abbott and my family.

Just to add to the memorable accusations, Martha's nephew, Allen Toothaker, testified against her:
"Toothaker had received a wound in the wars; and now he testified that Martha Carrier told him he should never be cured. Just before the apprehending of Carrier, he could thrust a knitting needle into his wound four inches deep; but presently after her being seized, he was thoroughly healed."

What I wonder is why he was thrusting a knitting needle into his wound in the first place and could that have been the reason it wasn't healing...perhaps?

Martha was one of five people hanged on August 19, 1692. Also executed on that date were George Burroughs, John Proctor, John Willard, and George Jacobs, Jr.

Martha Carrier's grandfather was Edmund Ingalls - my 11th great-grandfather through my grandmother, Fern Lyndell Cotton.

Benjamin Abbott & Sarah Farnum (spelled in various ways)
Jonathan Abbott & Zerviah Holt
Jonathan Abbott II & Martha Lovejoy
Jonathan Abbott III & Mehitable Abbott - 3rd cousins
Zerviah Abbott & John Ellingwood
John Ellingwood, Jr & Rachel Barrows
Asa Freeman Ellingwood & Florilla Dunham
Nina K. Ellingwood & George Gibbs
Annie Florilla Gibbs & Ray Everett Cotton
Fern Lyndell Cotton - my grandmother


  1. Lots of cousin connections here, I descend from Edmund Ingalls, too. I'm also a descendant of John Proctor and George Jacobs, who were hung. Allin Toothaker's sister married one of my Emerson cousins. Another Toothaker married a Crosby cousin. I could go on if I kept on looking. An Essex County tangled web!

    1. That Essex County tangled web kept getting me sidetracked as I tried to write this post. Today I decided I would just write it and then link to all the others in later posts. Otherwise I might never finish it.