Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"A Keen Sense of Justice & a Sharp Tongue"

Martha Carrier is one of the most well-known of those executed for witchcraft in Salem. She was born Martha Allen - my first cousin 11 times removed. 
An outspoken old woman makes an easy target for accusations

In 1674, Martha became pregnant by a young Welsh servant, Thomas Carrier and they married. They left Andover, Massachusetts and moved to Billerica, probably to get away from the gossip. In the 1680s, they returned to Andover, still poor and with more mouths to feed. Martha was disliked for freely speaking her mind and not knowing her place. She is described in Historical Sketches of Andover, "Martha Carrier was, too, a woman of a disposition not unlikely to make enemies; plain and outspoken in speech, of remarkable strength of mind, a keen sense of justice and a sharp tongue." 

The second major misfortune came in 1690 when a smallpox epidemic erupted and although her own family suffered greatly, the community blamed Martha for the outbreak. Her family accounted for 7 of the 13 deaths in town...apparently no one considered that it would be unlikely that she would afflict her own family. 

When the Salem girls accused her of witchcraft, her neighbors were quick to come forward with tales of wounds that would not heal and sick or dead livestock. These included Benjamin & Sarah (Farnum) Abbott, my 9th great-grandparents. Martha's response was "it is a shamefull thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits."

New accusations were aimed at her children. Sons Richard, 18, and Andrew, 15, were tied "neck to heels until blood was ready to come out of their noses." Daughter, Sarah, age 7, and son, Thomas, Jr., age 10 testified against their mother and admitted to being witches themselves. 

Martha never confessed despite all that was done to her and her family. This was very unusual among those accused. Martha was hanged on August 19, 1692. 

Enders Robinson, in his book Salem Witchcraft, proposed that there was a conspiracy by assistant minister, Thomas Barnard to discredit the senior minister, Rev. Francis Dane. Robinson's evidence is the number of accused who were either related to Dane or to the powerful founding families in the town. Rev. Francis Dane is my 10th great-grandfather and Thomas Barnard was married to Abigail Bull, my 9th great-aunt. 

Historical Sketches of Andover describes how she never gave in to the pressure, even when she was taken to the gallows.

"In the examinations of the accused which preceded the regular trial, most made confession and thus averted the extreme penalty. Martha Carrier was the only one of all, male or female, who did not at some time or other make an admission or confession. From the first moment to the last, under all the persuasions and exhortations of friends, under denunciations and threats of the magistrates and examiners, she held firm, denying all charges, and neither overborne in mind nor shaken in nerve, met death with heroic courage...The prisoner [Martha Carrier] was hanged August 19, 1692, along with four men, among them the Rev. George Burroughs. they were carried in a cart through the streets of Salem, crowds thronging to see the sight. Even from the scaffold, Martha Carrier's voice was heard asseverating her innocence. Her dead body was rudely treated, then thrust into the ground in the same hole or grave with the bodies of Mr. Burroughs and John Willard...in the year 1711, her [Martha's] name occurs on a list of sufferers, whose legal representatives received money for losses sustained by the imprisonment and death of their relations. Seven pounds six shillings was allowed to the representatives of Martha Carrier." 

Given what we know today about the psychology behind false confessions, it is remarkable that Martha refused to be broken. 

I have connections through three of my grandparents - though the Yates connection is only a half-cousin. 

Martha (Allen) Carrier - First cousin 11 times removed - granddaughter of Edmund Ingalls - my 11th great-grandfather through Fern Lyndell Cotton
Abigail Bull - daughter of Thomas Bull - my 10th great-grandfather through T. Richard Carter. 
Benjamin & Sarah (Farnum) Abbott - my 9th great-grandparents through Fern Lyndell Cotton, Benjamin is also my 7th great-uncle through T. Richard Carter. Sarah is also my 2nd cousin 8 times removed through Fern Lyndell Cotton and my half-2nd cousin 10 times removed through Linona Alica Yates
Rev. Francis Dane - my 10th great-grandfather through Fern Lyndell Cotton and one of his wives, Hannah Chandler, is my 8th great-grandmother through T. Richard Carter


1 comment:

  1. I descend from the Ingalls line and I'm also a direct descendant of Rev. Francis Dane. Martha Carrier was hung on August 19, 1692 with two of my other 9x great grandfathers, John Proctor and George Jacobs. Such a sad anniversary approaching!