Salem – July 1692 – Witches and Trials – Susannah North Martin, my ancestor

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In earlier posts I have mentioned my love of genealogy and through my research discovered an ancestor named Susannah North.  The ‘North’ family is related to me on my maternal side.   Susannah was accused and found guilty of witchcraft and died by hanging in 1692.  She proclaimed her innocence up until the end.

The witch hunts ended almost abruptly as they started, lasting from 1692 to early 1693.    Many villagers stopped hunting for witches because they had lost friends and family during previous trials.  They felt that innocent people were being executed and wished to end the witch hunts.  Another villagers began to doubt the evidence provided in court. They claimed that some of the evidence was not practical and that confessions were being forced through torture and were not true.  When Salem villagers realized that the witch hunt had resulted in executing innocent people, they greatly regretted their actions and the jurors and judges of the court began to lose their status as villagers.  These accusations eventually forced the jurors to flee the village or apologize.

In May of 1693, Governor Phipps pardoned all accused “witches” currently in custody.  Later, on January 14, 1697 the general court of Salem ordered a day of fasting to commemorate the innocent lives that were lost during 1692 and 1693.  In 1702 the general court of Salem named the 1692 witch trials un-lawful. The trials then became a dark part of American history.

My ancestor, Susannah, was born in Buckinghamshire, England in 1621.  Her mother died when she she was a young child and she later emigrated with her father, Richard North, her stepmother Ursula and at least one sister to the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in Salisbury, Mass in 1639, about 40 miles north of Boston.  The North family was one of the first families to settle in that area which at that time was inhabited by Penacook Native Americans and surrounded by wilderness.

On August 11, 1646 Susannah married a widowed blacksmith named George Martin and they had eight children.  In 1654 Susannah and George moved to nearby Amesbury.

Descriptions of Susanna say that she was short, slightly plump, active, and “of remarkable personal neatness.” She was also said to be very outspoken, contemptuous of authority, and defiant in the face of slander which had followed her for years.

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Over time Susannah, much like the other accused witches, was viewed as a troublemaker and her name appears numerous times in court records even prior to the Salem Witch Trials.   In one trial she was accused by a William Browne of tormenting his wife Elizabeth with her spirit.  She was released on bail and that charge was eventually dropped.  In 1671, George and Susannah (her sister Mary Jones would join them later) became involved in lengthy litigation over Susannah’s father’s estate. Both she and her sister Mary expected to inherit a large share of it. However, their stepmother produced what  they considered a fake Will which left almost all the estate to her. In October 1674, their inheritance would be lost when the court found against them. After her husband George Martin died in 1686, Susannah was left a poor widow.  Her reputation as a troublemaker, her previous witchcraft accusation, and litigious nature, made her even more vulnerable.  When Susannah was accused of witchcraft in 1692 she had no one to come to her rescue.  There was no mention of her children at that time and I have always been curious why they did not come to the aid of their mother unless they were too afraid of being accused along with her?

On April 30, 1692, a warrant was issued for Susannah’s arrest on a charge of witchcraft, and she was arrested on May 2nd.   A personal longstanding friend of hers, Orlando Bagley, was the one who approached her on the morning of her arrest.

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On May 2, Susannah was taken to Ingersills Tavern in Salem Village for examination. She pleaded not guilty, and answered the charges against her. She underwent the indignity of a physical examination on June 2, 1692. The examinations were intended to discover whether the accused had any physical abnormalities, especially anything that could be used to suckle a familiar or even the devil himself. Susanna was examined twice during the same day; at neither examination was any abnormality discovered.  According to her arrest warrant she was accused of witchcraft by four girls who lived in Salem Village, Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr and Mercy Lewis.  It is not known how these girls knew Susannah, as they did not live in the same village, but perhaps they heard about her bad reputation from others and made the decision to accuse her?  The history books do not really say.  After her arrest in Amesbury on May 2nd she was brought to Salem Village and questioned by Judges John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin.   She was one of the few people accused of witchcraft not from Salem.  Despite the lack of concrete evidence against her, Susannah was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged at Proctor’s Ledge near Gallows Hill on July 19 along with Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe and Sarah Wildes.  She was aged 71.  She was buried in a shallow grave near the execution site with the other victims but because the exact location of the executions has never been found, it is not known where her body currently lies.

Residents of the town of Amesbury later placed a stone marker near Susannah and George Martin’s home that read:  “Here stood the house of Susannah Martin. An honest, hardworking Christian woman accused of being a witch and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. She will be missed! A Martyr of Superstition. T.I.A. 1894”

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendants. Susannah Martin’s family did not wish to be named and did not seek restitution, perhaps out of fear or shame?

In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but did not specifically mention any of the victims by name.  Finally, in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution officially exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.

I can only imagine what my ancestor and her family went through but it does mean something even after so many many many years to know that she and the others with her at that time were finally left to rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday Elvis

Elvis (Presley of course) and I have one thing in common, we both were born in January.  He was born in 1935 – flip the years to 1953 and it’s my birthday year.   He was part of my youth and early adulthood and along with millions of others it was a shock when he passed away at such a young age of 42 in 1977.  He definitely challenged the status quo and changed the world.  As John Lennon said “before Elvis there was nothing“.

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The lyrics to one of his most popular songs sums it up:

“Like a river flows, surely to the sea, darling so it goes, some things are meant to be….”

Happy Birthday Elvis.  

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Family trees and old west outlaws- Tom Horn

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I have been fascinated with genealogy and my family tree for several years and every so often I have come across a colorful ancestor or two.  One such character was Tom Horn, an authentic old west outlaw (1860-1903).  He wasn’t a true blood relative but became a branch in my tree through his younger sister Mary “Maud” Ambrosian Horn (1869-1968), who married a distant uncle of mine.

Tom was one of 11 children and was born in Missouri, USA.  He ran away from home at the age of 14 to escape his father’s beatings and cruel punishments.  He ended up doing a variety of occupations, working for a railroad in Kansas, a driver for Overland Mail in Sante Fe, where he became proficient using a rifle, a wrangler in Arizona, an interpreter and scout with the army in dealing with Apaches, a job as a detective for the Pinkerton Agency in Colorado, hunting down cattle rustlers, to name a few of his many jobs.  It was told that he craved excitement and didn’t like to stay in one place.  He spoke several languages fluently, English, German, Spanish and several Native American dialects.

He was eventually hung for the killing of a 14 year old boy but there was always some doubt as to the real facts surrounding that event.  He always claimed his innocence.

When reading of the ‘Wild West’ Tom Horn was very much a man of those times.  He was a cowboy, gun for hire, cattle rancher, miner, drifter, and his life story makes for a fascinating read:  <http://www.historynet.com/tom-horn-misunderstood-misfit.htm&gt;

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Plane travel – 1970s – San Francisco

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With the holiday season upon us I was remembering past vacations when traveling by air was still somewhat of a novelty and an adventure in itself.  Nowadays, with so many people traveling and passengers crammed into smaller and smaller spaces with less and less amenities and long delays air travel has certainly lost its magic.  Yes, we can get to places cheaper and more quickly but at what cost?

Back in the day I remember traveling from Vancouver, Canada on Western Airlines, CP Air, Pacific Western Airlines.

I remember back in the mid 1970s taking a couple of trips from Vancouver to San Francisco, USA.  They were short trips; I was working full time but helping to support my mother and so money was scarce.  Flying from Vancouver to San Francisco in itself was exciting not to mention the 3 or 4 days spent down there.  Back in those days I seldom traveled which added to the adventure.  One trip I went by myself as no one else could get away and even though I was a bit apprehensive about flying alone and staying a few days in the city by myself I also felt a sense of freedom.   Another time I went with my mother and our friend Rachel.  That time we went by bus – 24 hours each way.  My mother had spent a year living down there when she was young with her aunt and uncle and had always wanted to return to visit.

Another trip, I took with my sister and during that trip we also booked a tour of Carmel, Monterey, and the Redwood Forest by bus.   I always stayed at the El Cortez, a very old but dignified hotel 2 blocks off Union Square on Geary Street.  It was an amazing city back then (and still is I am sure), with its cable cars, quaint little streets, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and beautiful gardens.  A sightseer’s dream, and being close in time to the 1960s it still had some of the atmosphere of the ’60s though the hippies at Haight-Ashbury were now just memories in time.

It’s a shame that plane travel has lost its magic and has just become a way to get from point A to point B.  I miss those days when air travel was as much a part of the excitement as the destination.

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Christmas Tinsel – Vintage 1960s

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I still can’t get used to the idea that when remembering things from my past it is now considered ‘vintage’.  To me, vintage should refer to the 1800s or very early 1900s, not to my generation!  With Christmas approaching I got to thinking about tinsel or as we called it “icicles’ that everyone adorned their Christmas trees with.  I wonder how many people nowadays still use it?  A lot of people nowadays tend to go for the ‘natural’ look when it comes to decorating.

The history of tinsel is interesting – it actually goes back to the early 1600s in Germany.  People would adorn their fir trees with pieces of silver metal so that the tree would sparkle.  However, it was discovered that the smoke from candles would turn the tinsel black and eventually tinsel consisted of lead foil, a practice which ended in the early 1970s when it was discovered it was a health hazard.

lead based tinsel

The old fashioned  tinsel made from lead  would hang heavily on the branches giving it a dripping effect.  Nowadays, tinsel is made from plastics and aluminium and is much more lightweight.

No matter how they are decorated I love seeing all the beautiful Christmas trees shining brightly on a wintery night.

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The Queen and her handbag

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When is a purse more than just a purse…. when you are the Queen of course.  

People have been fascinated for years what is in that bag.  If you ask the average woman what is in her purse you may be surprised by the answer.   She may be carrying a hammer (never know when you might need a tool), scissors, gorilla glue, light bulb, a passport (for that unexpected trip), stethoscope (always handy to have if you feel the need to listen to your heart or maybe a friend’s), a calming moon rock (for those hectic shopping days when you just need to calm down), a harmonica (for those times when you want to entertain a crowd),   The list is endless.

But back to the Queen, she never leaves home without her little mirror and lipstick, mints, a small camera (does she do selfies?), reading glasses, a handkerchief, and a fountain pen.  On Sundays she always carries a freshly ironed  £5 or £10 (note)  for the Church plate.

But being the Queen, her purse is much more than just a place to keep her peppermints and pen.  She uses it as a secret signal to her staff.  If the Queen places her handbag on the table at dinner, it signals that she wants the meal to end in the next five minutes. If she puts her bag on the floor, it shows she is not enjoying the conversation and wants to be rescued by her lady-in-waiting.   If the queen is on a walk-about and shifts her handbag from her left arm to her right arm, it means that she is ready to move on.  Who knew.  I think I will remember that the next time I am at a state dinner and am bored and ready to go home to watch the telly, maybe a bit of Coronation Street?

 

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“If I could put time in a bottle…”

timeSomeone recently asked me if I could pick a place and time in the past to visit what would be my choice.   The answer was immediate “Victorian England”.  I have always been fascinated with this era.  I know there was much poverty and hardship but if I could, I would love to see the wonderful inventions, the amazing architecture, the lovely gardens, and the beautiful furniture.

The Victorian era was from 1837-1901, when Queen Victoria ruled England and the British Empire and by the end of her reign, The British Empire extended over about one-fifth of the earth’s surface and almost a quarter of the world’s population.  It was also the time of the Industrial Revolution, which in turn also lead to wide-spread poverty.  There was a real distinction between the ‘classes’.  It must have been amazing to witness the invention of the steam engine, the bicycle,  the incandescent light bulb, the first underground railroad (subway), the ‘Great Exhibition’ in 1851 which featured daguerreotypes, the first pay toilet (a penny to use!), a telescope, moving machinery,  and the Crystal Palace.  There were just so many amazing things to witness during that time period.

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I was lucky enough to actual visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221B Baker Street in London and it gave a fascinating view of the Victorians.

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For sure, that is the time in our history I would visit!

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