Witch Trials in the Family History

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It was 319 years ago today, on July 26th, 1692, when my family, the Endicott family, became part of one of the most infamous affairs in American history, the Salem Witch Trials. The particular trial in question is not a well known incident, was not any of the 19 that ended in guilty verdicts and hangings, but resulted in the accused Mary Bradbury eventually walking free, likely due to the support of 110 friends and family who swore to her good character in a letter to the court. Among the main accusers of Mary Bradbury were the young girls Mary Walcott and Mercy Lewis, both 17, and the 12 year old Ann Putman, with supporting testimony, and witness to witchcraft, given by Samuel and Zerubable Endicott, among others. This incident in my family history is deeply intriguing to me, because it connects me to an important and controversial moment in American history, in an intimate way that makes me feel slightly ashamed, slightly proud, and determined to draw a lesson from this skeleton in the family closet.

This is the only witch trial I was able to discover involving the Endicotts, but it was one of many trials for Ann Putman, her best friend Mary Walcott, and her family’s servant girl Mercy Lewis. These girls were among the first to become afflicted in the witch craze in Salem, after Betty Parris and her family, and Ann was one of the six girls present at the Caribbean voodoo rituals performed by the Parris household slave Tituba. Ann claimed that sixty-two people were responsible for afflicting her with pains, and erratic behaviors, such as contorting into strange positions, hiding under tables and chairs, and speaking in gibberish. The afflictions began after Ann and her friends attempted to use fortune telling witchcraft in order to imagine what occupations their future husband’s would have, and Ann imaged a specter in a coffin. Considering Ann’s young age, and the vehemence at which her father, Thomas Putman, lodged the largest number of witch complaints in Salem village, it is possible that Ann could have been manipulated to some extent by her parents and the other accusers, and in 1706 she was the only afflicted girl to ever read a public apology for her part in the witch trials. (Ann Putman Jr.)

If you are inclined to read the full transcript of the trial it is available here. Below are the recorded testimonies of Ann Putman, Samuel Endecott, and a joint statement by Zerubable Endecott and Richard Carr:

(Ann Putnam, Jr. v. Mary Bradbury)

(Ann Putnam, Jr, who was the daughter to Ann Putnam & Thomas Putnam)

The deposition of Ann Putnam who tesifieth and saith that I being at Andevour on the 26 day of July 1692 I saw there Mis Mary Bradbery the wife of Capt Tho: Bradbery of Salisbury or hi apperance most grevious afflecting and tormenting of Timothy Swan of Andevor allmost Redy to kill him also sevrall times before and sence that time I have seen mist. Bradbery or hir Apperance most greviously afflecting Timothy Swan and I beleve that Mis Bradbery is a most dreadfull wicth for sence she has been in prison she or her Apperance has com to me and most greviously afflected me ann putnam ownid before the grand Inquest this har evidens to be the truth one the oath that she hath taken: this: 8 day of September 1692

(Reverse) Anna putnam

(Essex County Archives, Salem – Witchcraft Vol. 2 page 37)

 

(Samuel Endicott v. Mary Bradbury)

Sam'll Endecott aged thrity one years or thereabout Testifies Thatt about eleven years since being bound upon a vioage to sea w'th Capt Sam'll Smith Late of Boston Diceas'd, just before we sayl'd mrs Bradbery of Salisbury the prisoner now att the barr came to Boston w'th some firkins of butter of w'ch Capt Smith bought two, one of them proved halfe way butter and after wee had been att sea three weekes our men were nott able to eat itt, itt stanck soe and runn wi'th magotts, w'ch made the men very much distrub'd about itt and would often say thatt they heard mrs Bradbury was a witch and thatt they verily beleived she was soe or else she would nott have served the Capt soe as to sell him such butter. And further this deponent Testifieth that in four dayes after they sett sayle they mett w'th such a violent storm that we lost our main mast and rigin & Lost fifeteen horses and thatt about a fortnight after we sett our jury mast and thatt very night there came up a Shipp by our side and Carried away two of the mizon shrouds and one of the Leaches of the mainsaile: And this deponent further sayth thatt after they arived att Barbados and went to Saltitudos & had Laden their vessell the next morning she sprange a leake in the hold w'ch wasted sevrall tunns of salt in soe much thatt we were forct to unlade our vessell again wholy to stopp our leake there was then four foot of water in the hold after we had taken in our lading again we had a good passage home butt when we came near the Land the Capt sent this deponent forward to looke out for land in a bright moone shining night and as he was sitting upon the windless he heard a Rumbling noise under him w'th thatt he the s'd deponent Testifieth Thatt he looked one side of the windless and saw the leggs of some pson being no wayes frighted & Thatt presently he was shook and looked over his shoulder, & saw he appearance of a woman from her middle upwards, haveing a white Capp and white neckcloth on her, w'ch then affrighted him very much, and as he was turning of the windless he saw the aforsaid two leggs.

Jurat in Curia Sep'r 9th 1692

(Reverse) Sam. Endecott

(Essex County Archives, Salem – Witchcraft Vol. 2 page 37)

 

(Richard Carr and Zerubable Endicott v. Mary Bradbury)

The deposition of Richard: Carr who testifieth and saith that about 13 years ago presently after sume Diferance that happened to be between my Hon'rd father mr Geoge Carr: and Mis Bradbery the prisoner at the barr upon a Sabboth at noon as we ware riding hom by the house of Capt Tho: Bradbery I saw mis Bradbery goe into hir gate turne the corner of and Immediately there derted out of hir gate a blue boar and darted at my fathers horses ledgs which made him stumble but I saw it no more and my father said boys what doe you se: we both answed a blue bore:

Zorobabell Endicott testifieth and saith that I lived att mr George Carr: now deceased att the time above mentioned and was present with mr George Carr and mr Richard Carr and I also saw a blue bore dart out of mr Bradberys gate to Mr Gorge Carrs horses ledges which mad him stumble after a strange manr and I also saw the blue bore dart from mr carrs horses ledgs in att mis Bradberys window: and mr carr immediately said boys what did you see and we both said a blue bore then said he from whence came it and we said out of mr Bradberys gate. then said he I am glad you see itt as well as well as I. Jurat in Curia Sep'r 9'th 92 & they both further say on their Oathes that mr Carr discoursed w'th them as they went home about what had happened and they all concluded that it was mrs Bradbury that so app'rd as a blue boar.

(Reverse) Richard Carr Zorobable Endecott

(Essex County Archives, Salem – Witchcraft Vol. 2 page 38)

The witch trials in Massachusetts came to an end when prominent New England political and church leaders became concerned with the reliance on spectral evidence for the conviction and execution of so many of the accused. I am thankful that my distant relatives were not successful in their own campaign to persecute Mary Bradbury, because judging by the testimonies they provided, she had absolutely nothing to do with the amazing accusations which they brought forth. It seems highly unlikely that Mary Bradbury appeared in ghostly form to torment the young Ann Putman, cast evil spells on Samuel’s voyage to Barbados, causing maggot infested lard and destructive storms, or murdered Richard Carr’s father with a cursed wild blue boar. The witches who were executed did not receive the justice that Mary Bradbury did, and considering that they were certainly just as innocent of the outrageous accusations of witchcraft that convicted them, this is highly lamentable.

I like to think that an awareness of the tragic events in Salem had a significant effect on shaping the modern tradition of American jurisprudence. The lesson that I draw most from studying this history, both for my family and my country, is to recognize that it is better to err on the side of innocence over guilt in matters of capital punishment, at least where there is any reasonable doubt on the direct evidence, no matter the circumstances, and no matter the subjective certainties. This is why I am not one of those people freaking out over the Casey Anthony acquittal, not that I thought the trial was a modern day witch hunt, but rather I think the legacy left to us from the witch trials, teaches us that any time there are ambiguities in the evidence, and the consequence of a guilty conviction is State sanctioned execution, we must err on the side of reasonable doubt. I agree with the words of the famous Puritan Minister, Increase Mather, when he said, "It were better that Ten Suspected Witches should escape, than that one Innocent Person should be Condemned".

Jared Roy Endicott

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