While Martha Carrier was lying in her cell, an Andover resident named Joseph Ballard, son of William Ballard, one of the original proprietors, was much troubled by his wife's mysterious and persistent illness, and knowing of the charges against "Goody" Carrier, resolved to find out whether witchcraft had anything to do with her ailment. He appealed, therefore, to Salem Village; and soon there rode out on horseback to Andover not only Ann Putnam, now notorious as a discoverer and exposer of witches, but also her sixteen-year-old accomplice, Mary Walcott, daughter of a church deacon. These brisk young ladies, as might have been predicted, brought with them little but trouble. It now seems probable that some malicious person must have given these girls some advance information regarding the Andover community.
The two were received with respect, as if they had been imminent specialists or missionaries of the church, and were escorted not only into the Ballard home in the south end but also into a score of other sickrooms. In each of these they went through their repertoire of frenzied acts, barking like dogs, mewing like cats, and wriggling in fantastic contortions. When they were brought into an afflicted house, various blindfolded people, some of them already labeled as suspects, were led up one by one to touch them. If Ann or Mary then drew a sobbing breath and relaxed her convulsions, it was then assumed that a witch had been made to call off her devils and that the one who had done the touching was therefore guilty. As thus described, the procedure seems preposterous, but most of those present regarded it as an infallible test. Some local residents must, of course, have taken the leadership in authorizing such a program, but it is now impossible to ascertain who assumed the responsibility. Whoever it was, he or she is not named in the records.
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.
As the full scope of the charges was disclosed, Justice Dudley Bradstreet refused to sign any more warrants, on the ground that the evidence was insufficient. Bradstreet was the town's foremost citizen, and at the moment was its representative in the General Court. But when he attempted to curb the hysteria, the extremists took over, and he was himself denounced. Alone, he could doubtless have endured the ignominy, but when his wife was also named as a suspect, he and she packed up and left until the excitement died down. For a few weeks the worst elements in the Andover township gained control. Conditions were much like those under the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. Nobody, even with the most spotless reputation or the surest social standing, could feel himself or herself safe. During those fateful weeks the town went wild, and the most absurd tales passed unchallenged from one home to another.
One remarkable case was that of Mary (Clemance) Osgood, wife of Captain John Osgood (1654-1725), whose name has appeared frequently in these pages. His grandfather was the town's first representative in the General Court in 1651. That pioneer's son, the second of twelve children, lived in the home left to him by his father, the house in which Andover's first recorded town meeting had been held. Captain John had been for many years a selectman and an officer in the militia. He had been moderator of the town meeting in 1689 and representative to the General Court from Andover when the royal governor was making his autocratic demands. In short, he was a local leader of the highest respectability and prominence. Yet although his wife was also a woman of irreproachable character, she was hounded by her brother until she admitted that she had prayed to the Devil instead of God, had seen the Devil in the form of a cat, and had for eleven years been devoted to the service of Satan. Her husband even testified that he believed her absurd confession. Later, after she had recanted, she told the Reverend Increase Mather "that they continued so long and so violently to urge and press her to confess that she thought verily her life would have gone from her." Here was a woman presumably of better than average intelligence who gave way under the strain and thus seemed to justify her prosecution.
In 1692 the Reverend Francis Dane was seventy-six years old and had been minister of the parish for forty-three years. As far back as 1658, when a certain John Godfrey, of Andover, had been accused of witchcraft by Jon Tyler, of Boxford, Dane had expressed grave doubts regarding the validity of diabolical influence. In 1692, he was not at all impressed by the young fanatics of Salem Village, and his cool judgment remained unimpaired as the frenzy mounted. He was seriously disturbed when some of his parishioners and neighbors, like Mary Osgood, confessed under stress to crimes which they could not possibly have committed. Mr. Dane, in his long pastoral career, had seen much human nature. It is small wonder that he listened incredulously when William Barker admitted that he had signed the Devil's book in exchange for an agreement that Satan would pay all his debts and give him a comfortable existence of the end of his days. He was astounded when members of his congregation told weird stories of taking midnight journeys through the air and being baptized by the Devil in Five Mile Pond. Doubtless he made no secret of his skepticism, and before long the anonymous instigators of the campaign made attacks on the family of the minister and even on the aged Mr. Dane himself.
Dane's youngest daughter, Abigail, had married "ffrancis ffaulkner," son of Edmond Faulkner, one of the few original proprietors dignified in the records with the title of "mr." The Faulkner family, like the Bradstreets and the Osgoods, was among Andover's best. Nevertheless the Salem Village girls marked Abigail Faulkner out as a suspect, and a warrant was sworn out against her. Nothing that her father or her husband were able to do could prevent her being brought up for examination. In court, her daughters, Dorothy and Abigail, aged ten and eight respectively, were induced to confess that they were witches and that their mother had taught them their iniquity. Her inquisitors at one stage urged her to confess "for ye credit of her Towne," but Mrs. Faulkner valiantly replied, "God will not require me to confess that of which I am not guilty!" She did acknowledge that, when the accusing girls from Salem Village irritated her, she had struck her hands together; but she added, rather plaintively, that it was "the Devil, not I, that afflicted them." Although in moments of weariness and weakness she lost her self-assurance, she refused to save her life by admitting her guilt, and her father supported her in this resolution.
Searching through the State Archives, the indefatigable Miss Bailey came across the verdict of the court inscribed in huge letters on the record, as if somebody had taken a malignant joy in placing it there:
THE JURY FIND ABIGAIL FAULKNER Wife of Francis Faulkner of Andover Guilty of ye Felony of Witchcraft Comited on ye body of Martha Sprague also on ye body of Sara Phelps SENTENCE OF DEATH PASSED ON ABIGAIL FAULKNER Copie Vera
Of all the entries relating to Andover in the official files this is the most tragic. I have been unable to trace either Martha Sprague or Sarah Phelps. But Abigail's case was unquestionably one of clear persecution by enemies now unknown. After being detained in a cell for thirteen weeks she was at least released only because of her pregnancy. What happened to her husband during this long interval of suspense must be left to the imagination. Miraculously she survived all these trials and tribulations and in 1700 presented a memorial to the General Court praying for the obliteration of the verdict against her, which, she declared, was likely to remain "a perpetual brand of infamy upon my family." Not until October 11, 1711, was a reversal of attainder finally obtained. She lived on until 1729, thirty-seven years after her devastating ordeal.
Extracted from chapter 8 of an out-of-print book called "Andover: Symbol of New England" by Claude M. Fuess.
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