One of my great grandmother Lorena Murch's ninth generation ancestors was Susannah Martin, who was hanged during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.
Born Susannah North in Olney, England, in 1621, she sailed to Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1643. She married George Martin in the summer of 1646, and they had nine children together. George died in 1686.
Like many of the victims, just prior to the trials of 1692, she had been recently widowed, and owned a large portion of land, that the Commonwealth would have the right to sieze upon her death (or criminal conviction). That motivation by the Commonwealth, along with the tendency of young girls to clamor for attention during their flu-like symptoms (some historians believe ergot poisoning) and implicate various women they didn’t like as “witches”, in order to deflect from their own tendencies to dance in the woods with Tituba the slave woman, led to the eventual arrest, conviction, and hanging of many people, like Susannah, who was one of the oldest executed.
This is a very dark, yet fascinating, part of American history. Witch trials were prevalent at the time in England as well as other places.
Susannah had to undergo regular humiliating bodily examinations for “signs of witchcraft”.
Here is a transcript from the Warrant for her arrest:
To the Marshall of the County of Essex of his Lawful Deputies or to the Constable of Amesbury:
You are in their Majests names hereby required forthwith or as soon as may be to apprehend and bring (before us) Susanna Mertin of Amsbury in ye county of Essex Widdow at ye house of Lt. Nathaniel Ingersalls in Salem village in order to her examination Relating to high suspicion of sundry acts of Witchcraft donne or committed by her upon ye Bodys of Mary Walcot, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis of Salem village or farmes whereby great hurt and damage hath beene donne to ye bodys of said persons according to complt of Capt. Jonathan walcot & Serg Thomas putnam in behalf of their Majests this day exhibited before us for themselves and also for several of their neighbors and here you are not to fail at your peril.
Dated Salem Aprill 30th 1692.
John Hathorn, Jonathan Corwin, Assistants
According to this Warrant I have apprehended Susanna Martin Widdow of Amsbury and have brong or caused her to be brought to the place appointed for her examination pr Me.
Salem Village this 2d May 1692, Orlando Bagley, Const of Amsbury
Memorial states, "Here stood the house of Susanna Martin. An honest, hardworking, Christian woman. Accused as a witch, tried and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. A martyr of superstition."
Links for further reading: