|an 1849 painting by Thomas Noble meant to |
depict a Salem witch being arrested. Perhaps
this was similar to the scene when my ancestor Mary
Lacey, who was 18, was arrested for witchcraft
The Salem Witchcraft Trials
of 1692 was a period of mass hysteria in colonial Massachusetts. The outbreak began in Salem Village (now Danvers), but soon spread to other towns and villages in the colony. Witches were accused in other towns and were brought to Salem Village for their incarcerations, interrogations, trials and in some cases, executions.
I have four known ancestors who were accused or convicted witches during this period:
- Mary Lacey (18) of Andover, MA - accused, interrogated and tortured, but never tried or convicted
- Mrs. Mary Foster Lacey (40) of Andover, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but eventually released
- Mrs. Ann Foster (about 75) of Andover, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but died in prison
- Mrs. Mary Perkins Bradbury (77) of Salisbury, MA - convicted and sentenced to death, but supposedly escaped from prison
Sometime in 1692, Mrs. Elizabeth Phelps Ballard of Andover, Massachusetts (who also happens to be my ancestor) began to suffer from a mysterious fever and illness that baffled her doctors. She eventually died in July of 1692. Considering the witch hunt going on in nearby Salem Village, her husband Joseph naturally assumed that witchcraft or sorcery was the cause of his wife's demise. Several "afflicted" girls were brought from Salem to Andover to identify the witches that were responsible. Their identifications fell on three of my direct ancestors; a teenage girl (Mary Lacey), her mother (Mary Foster Lacey) and her grandmother (Ann Foster).
The grandmother, Mrs. Ann Foster (aged about 75) was the first to be arrested and taken for questioning. On July 15, 1692 she was taken to Salem and at first denied all charges of witchcraft, but then confessed. She explained that the devil had first appeared to her in the form of a white bird. Then on, July 20, 1692, her daughter Mrs. Mary Foster Lacey (aged 40) was arrested and taken to Salem, where she immediately confessed. Following her confession, an arrest warrant was issued for Mary's daughter Mary Lacey (aged 18). They arrested the younger Mary in Andover and searched her belongings for puppets, quills and rags (assumed paraphernalia of witches) and apparently found some. Once in custody in Salem, all three women were then interrogated together and separately. Some sources also indicate that they were tortured. Aside from afflicting Elizabeth Ballard, all three were accused of afflicting various other people through their witchcraft. Mrs. Mary Lacey is also accused of afflicting her husband, Lawrence Lacey.
Part of the
original examination/testimony of Mary Lacey
interrogations for witchcraft, July 21, 1692
(Click to enlarge)
Interestingly, the transcriptions of some or most of these interrogations have survived and reveal very colorful stories. Mrs. Ann Foster confessed that on one of her broomstick rides from Andover to Salem, her broomstick broke in mid-air and to save herself she clung to the neck of Martha Corey (another flying witch), hurting her leg in the process. Both the younger Mary Lacey and her mother had no trouble in implicating each other or the grandmother. The grandmother though, Ann Foster, was the only holdout in accusing her family members. She was accused of making her daughter Mary a witch and when asked about this, she responded: "I know no more of my daughter's being a witch than what day I shall die upon."
The younger Mary Lacey was never charged or tried for being a witch and was eventually pardoned. It is not explicitly stated why, but it is inferred that it was because she was young and under "parental control." (Although she was 18 years old, the court records refer to her as being about 15 years old. Perhaps she or her family lied about her age to make her less culpable?) It was probably though because while in prison, Mary testified against a variety of other accused witches, claiming to be afflicted by them in the courtroom. She was kept in prison though until October 1692, when some neighbors put up a bond for her release. Meanwhile, both Mrs. Mary Lacey and Mrs. Ann Foster were convicted of witchcraft in September 1692 and were sentenced to death by hanging. Fortunately, the sentences were delayed indefinitely. The elderly Ann Foster languished in prison and eventually died in December 1692 in her Salem jail cell. The records indicate she had been incarcerated for 21 weeks (since July). Afterwards, her son had to pay for her upkeep before they would release her dead body to him for burial. Mrs. Mary Lacey was apparently kept in prison until she was eventually pardoned and released, probably sometime in early 1693.
The younger Mary Lacey returned home and was eventually married at the age of 29 to her cousin Zerubbabel Kemp. Zerubbabel was also a grandson of Ann Foster - meaning I am descended from her twice.
My descent from Ann, Mary and Mary:
Ann md. Andrew Foster
- Mary Foster md. Lawrence Lacey
-- Mary Lacey md. Zerubbabel Kemp
--- Zerubbabel Kemp md. Abigail Lawrence
---- Mary Kemp md. John Brooks
----- Nathan Brooks md. Sarah Morse
------ Mary M. Brooks md. Reuben H. Thurston
------- Irvin H. Thurston md. Lydia E. Dunham
-------- Julia M. Thurston md. Henry W. Bixby
--------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
---------- Patricia J. Bixby md. Ben T. Plymale
----------- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
------------ Ryan Wadleigh
The fourth witch in my family tree, Mrs. Mary Perkins Bradbury of Salisbury, aged 77,
Mary's specialty as a witch was apparently taking the form of different animals, including a blue boar. Another colorful claim was that she had bewitched a vessel that was on its way to the Caribbean and caused its butter on board to go sour the moment that a storm hit. Many people, including her husband, came to her defense during the trial. For unknown reasons, she was not executed with the other convicted witches in September 1692. Some sources indicate that she remained in prison until she was pardoned and released (probably in 1693). Another source indicates that she escaped and fled to Maine. Still another source indicated that her husband bribed her jailer and fled with her to Maine, where they waited until the hysteria died down. Whatever the circumstances, she eventually returned to her home in Salisbury where she died of natural causes in 1700. In 1711, the attainder against her was officially reversed and her heirs were paid a fee of reparation.
|A 1655 image of witches being hanged in England|
brought to Salem Village where she was tried and convicted of witchcraft on September 9, 1692.
My descent from Mary:
Mary Perkins md. Thomas Bradbury
- Jane Bradbury md. Henry True
-- William True md. Eleanor Stevens
--- Benjamin True md. Judith Morrill
---- Abraham True md. Sarah French
----- Sarah True md. Josiah Tilton
------ Josiah Tilton md. Sarah Dearborn
------- Jeremiah D. Tilton md. Abigail Freese
-------- Abigail R. Tilton md. John Wadleigh
--------- Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
---------- Odin Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
----------- Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
------------ Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
------------- Ryan Wadleigh
As mentioned above, my ancestor Joseph Ballard of Andover
assumed that his wife's illness and death was caused by witchcraft. After convincing the "afflicted" girls from Salem to come and identify witches in Andover, he specifically accused Mrs. Ann Foster. After she had been arrested, he then demanded the arrest of her daughter and granddaughter, Mary Lacey Sr and Mary Lacey Jr, and even put up a bond on condition that they were prosecuted against. He eventually accused a variety of other people as being responsible for his wife's death.
My descent from Joseph:
Joseph Ballard md. Elizabeth Phelps
- Elizabeth Ballard md. George Abbott
-- Uriah Abbott md. Sarah Mitchell
--- Sarah Abbott md. Josiah Stearns
---- John Stearns md. Sarah Lane
----- Ruth Stearns md. Dudley Freese
------ Abigail S. Freese md. Jeremiah Tilton
------- Abigail R. Tilton md. John Wadleigh
-------- Oscar S. Wadleigh md. Charlotte Winters
--------- Odin Wadleigh md. Louise Custer
---------- Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
----------- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
------------ Ryan Wadleigh
Another witch accuser is my ancestor, Mrs. Hannah Chandler Bixby of Andover (aged about 35)
. In September 1692, Hannah testified that an accused witch, Mary Ayer Parker, had tortured her with witchcraft. Mary Parker was then convicted and was executed on September 22, 1692. Hannah Bixby may have just been in a frenzy like everyone else, but it has also been proposed that her family, the Chandlers, had some kind of feud with Mary's family, the Parkers.
My descent from Hannah:
Hannah Chandler md. Daniel Bixby
- Mephibosheth Bixby md. Mary Emmons
-- Samuel Bixby md. Mary Buck
--- Manassah Bixby md. Elizabeth Dunsmore
---- Thaddeus Bixby md. Hannah Worrick
----- Henry A. Bixby md. Mary Palfrey
------ Henry W. Bixby md. Julia Thurston
------- Neil F. Bixby md. Bertha Hoffman
-------- Patricia Bixby md. Ben Plymale
--------- Barbara Plymale md. Randy Wadleigh
---------- Ryan Wadleigh
Perhaps most ironically, another accuser in my family tree is Lawrence Lacey of Andover
, the husband of Mrs. Mary Lacey, the convicted witch (above). Lawrence Lacey was said to have been afflicted by a young woman named Elizabeth Johnson of Andover, who apparently sat on his stomach (the inference is that he experienced some sort of unidentifiable pain and attributed it to her.) Although he apparently did not directly accuse her, others indicated that his wife Mary Lacey had also afflicted him. Because other people eventually paid for the release of his wife and daughter, it can be surmised that Lawrence might have been estranged from his family.
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. The Salem Witchcraft Papers. Verbatim transcriptions of the court records in three volumes
. De Capo Press: New York, 1977.
Roach, Marilynne K. The Salem Witch Trials: a day-by-day chronicle of a community under siege
. Taylor Trade Publishing, Larnham, MD, 2002.