There Be Witches Here?

Within these stone walls lie the mortal remains of an accuser, an accused, an accuser/accused and a man who in his capacity as assistant parson supported the Trials adding further to the maelstrom of hysteria. 


 
 

It wasn't just Salem Town (present day Salem, Mass.)...

When asked about witchcraft in America, most people think of Salem, Massachusetts. It's only natural as Salem has sought to capitalize on history of which it played only a part. Today, Salem portrays witches in the familiar Halloween black cape and broomstick, but in 1692, the word "witch" could easily lead to a death sentence from which there was no appeal.

Salem's Gallows Hill, where the condemned were executed, is now a municipal park. No one was burnt at a stake. That was the European method of dispatching "witches". In Europe, witchcraft was considered heresy against the Catholic Church. Witchcraft was a criminal offense in Massachusetts and the convicted were hanged (with the exception of Giles Corey who was pressed to death).

Spectral Evidence was permitted to be used against the accused. This evidence consisted of an accuser stating that the accused witch had sent forth a spectre to afflict the accuser. That only the accuser could see the spectre made a defense difficult. There was the Andover Touch test where the accused, bound and blindfolded is forced to touch the hand of the accuser who screamed and flailed being under the command of a witch's spectre. When the hysterical accuser relaxed upon being touched; Unimpeachable evidence of witchcraft as the witch had been forced to call off the spectre. What would be considered a judicial outrage today was the norm for proceedings in the 1690's. It was not until after eight of the accused were hanged in one day coupled with accusations being leveled at the more prominent members of the communities that spectral evidence alone became insufficient "proof" of witchcraft. 
 
 

It began in Salem Village (present day Danvers, Mass.)...

Known as Salem Village, it is here that the hysteria began. Rev. Samuel Parris became concerned at the antics of his daughter Elizabeth and her cousin Abigail Williams in January 1692. The girls appeared to suffer seizures, blackouts, fits of dementia, often barking like dogs.  Finding no physical cause, Dr. William Griggs attributed the behavior to possibly witchcraft. Little did he know what his diagnosis would unleash. Within a month, the accusations began, the first arrest occurring on Leap Year's Day and snowballing through the spring. The first of the accused to die was Sarah Osburne who perished in prison in May. She would not be the last. On June 10, 1692, Margaret Bishop was the first to be hanged for the crime of witchcraft. She continued to proclaim her innocence while being led to the gallows. In the four months, from June to September of 1692, twenty people met their end. Nineteen were hanged at Gallows Hill and the aforementioned Giles Cory was pressed to death outside the Salem Jail. It took two days for him to die. There are stories that two dogs were also hanged.
 
 

...And spread to Andover (present day North Andover, Mass.)

Joseph Ballard was certain that his ailing wife was being bewitched. In July of 1692, he brought Ann Putnam and Mary Walcott, "noxious girls" from Salem Village, to discover the identity of his wife's tormentors. Fueled by fear, residents turned on one another with a vengeance. Old enmities resurfaced and slights of the past remembered. Suspicion became the watchword. According to the Andover Historical Society, the little Parish of Andover holds the distinction of having the most residents accused of witchcraft than any other community, the most confessions to the charge of witchcraft and the most children arrested for witchcraft. 80% of Andover's residents were in some way touched by events of 1692. From the out of print book "Andover: Symbol of New England" by Claude M. Fuess,  "The consequences of this visitation were extraordinary. The previous residents under suspicion in both Salem Village and Andover had been definitely 'queer' or 'half-witted,' or anti-social, like Martha Carrier. Every New England village has a few forlorn souls on the fringe of society who for one reason or another are not popular. Now, however, the two girls from another township were accusing not only outcasts and disreputables but also some of the most respected citizens. Before this 'epidemic of audacity' was over at least forty members of the community were under arrest one out of every twelve or fifteen, almost a decimation."  Of all the accused in Andover, only one person, Martha Carrier, never made a confession to the charge of witchcraft. She was hanged Aug. 19,1692 .
 

Located in the First Burial Ground are the tombstones of an accused, William Barker, Jr. who was the son of accuser/accused  William Barker. Accuser Timothy Swan is buried here as is the Rev. Thomas Barnard. Barnard was assistant to Rev. Francis Dane, but it was Dane who spoke forcefully against the madness which resulted in accusations of witchcraft being lodged against eight of his family members, more than any other family.

* This link provides a partial listing of internments at the Old Burying Ground: FindAGrave.com, (see below for information on the 1869 listing)

"It is false; and it is a shame for you to mind what these say that are out of their wits."

- Martha Carrier - condemned as "Queen of the Witches"


Photos of  Salem Town (Salem, Mass.) and  Salem Village (Danvers, Mass.)  

Outstanding links:

The chapter of the above-mentioned Claude Fuess book concerning the 1692 witchcraft in Andover begins here.

Another superior source is "The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Inquiry into the Salem Witch Trials", Chapter XV - The Devil in Andover

Salem Village Witchcraft Victims' Memorial at Danvers         Map of Andover 1690's

 Chronology and the Accused's Statements                             Court Records of the Trials

 The Witch Trials of 1692                                                       Rev. Francis Dane

 
Non-witch related:
 Additional photographs of some of North Andover's First Burial Ground graves.

 * Information on the Old Burying Ground from the North Andover Citizen (local newspaper)
 * And this from the 1950 publication: The Old Burying Ground on Academy Road, North Andover - Vol. XLI of the "Old Time New England, the bulletin of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, 1950
 * "Historical Sketches of Andover, (Compromising the Present Towns of North Andover and Andover), Massachusetts" by Sarah Loring Bailey. 1880. Available (digitized by google) here - 631 pages "jam-packed" with local information and lore.
 * Vital Records (birth/marriages/deaths) for Andover 1646-1849

 * The earliest compilation of the interred was done in 1869, 200 years after the first burial. No doubt many graves and names have been lost to history - The 1869 list can be found in the "Essex Institute Historical Collections", Vol. LXXXIX,  pp. 57, Salem, Mass. 1953.

* Although Massachusetts was the first state to abolish slavery when a court decided in 1781 that the phrase in the first article of the Massachusetts Constitution ( All men are created free and equal..) applied to "Negroes," there were many "manservants" and "permanent apprentices" through the 1800's according to census records. One grave belonging to a "manservant" can be found here - His name was Primus.

* As a final note, many trees were taken down over the last few months. One large pine measuring 7 feet in diameter and 22 feet in circumference had over 200 rings. It's hoped that new trees will be planted so in a couple of centuries, it will look much as it did recently.

    

December, 2003




August, 2008
"Guardian Trees " removed




January, 2004
Large pine left center removed. Counting the rings that could be seen, this tree was over 200 years old.

  (updated 4/14/2007)
  (* - updated 8/26/2008)