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Part III

Another of Mr. Dane's children, Elizabeth, had married Stephen Johnson, belonging to a family the members of which had been constables, selectmen, and other town officials in Andover. She was imprisoned for five months but ultimately acquitted. Her daughter, also Elizabeth Johnson, had a much more frightening experience. Brought up before the magistrates, she was so terrified that she pleaded guilty to every suggested charge, even confessing that "Goody" Carrier, the Queen of the Witches, had persuaded her to be baptized in a well by the Devil. The poor girl admitted that she had afflicted many persons with "poppets" and had pricked Anne Putnam with a "speare of iron." She even displayed red spots on her body where she had been sucked by the evil spirit. It seems clear that she was in a mood in which she was directly responsive to the power of suggestion.

In spite of all that her grandfather could do, Elizabeth was condemned; but she was eventually reprieved because it was proved that, in Mr. Dane's words, she was "but simplish at ye best." Her brother, Stephen, only thirteen, was also indicted because he did "wickedly, malitiously & feloniously with the Devil a covenant make, whereby he gave himself soule & body to the Devil and signed the Devil's Booke with his blood and by the Devil was baptized and renounced his Christian baptism." He and his sister, Abigail, were shut up in prison with their mother. One of the extraordinary phenomena of the delusion was the importance attached to children as accusers and victims.

While these younger members of his family were being arrested, Mr. Dane played a waiting game, expecting that such a violent hysteria would soon run its course; but he evidently counseled them how to conduct themselves whenever their situation became critical. Some of the more venomous leaders int he witch hunt had apparently marked him for elimination, but he was invulnerable. When Ann Foster was testifying against Martha Carrier, she declared that she had ridden on a stick with Martha to Salem Village and had there met with three hundred witches, among whom were not only the Reverend George Burroughs (afterwards executed) but also "another minister with gray hair," who resembled Mr. Dane. But nobody dared take the crucial step of charging him directly with witchcraft.

Andrew Foster, one of the original Andover freeholders, had died in 1685, it was said at the age of 106, leaving to his "deare and living wife Ann Foster the use & sole liberty of living in that end of my house I now live in." In 1692 this aged and infirm widow was accused of witchcraft; and feeble though she was, she was carried from her home to prison and examined four times int he court at Salem. Harassed by the magistrates, she agreed to everything alleged against her and even confessed to a series of additional atrocities. Like others before and after her, she admitted that she had employed the traditional practice of making images of people she disliked and running pins through their bodies. Nor did she deny that she had caused the death of one of Andrew Allen's children, probably a niece of "Goody" Carrier.

When, however, Ann Foster's daughter, Mary (Foster) Lacey, and granddaughter, Mary Lacey, were also accused, the widow rose to their defense, crying, "I know no more of my daughter's being a witch than what day I shall die upon." This protest accomplished nothing. The pliant daughter insisted that both she and her mother were witches and the little granddaughter confirmed the story. When Mrs. Foster, in her despair, was heard mumbling to herself and was asked what she was saying, she answered, "I am praying to the Lord." "What God do witches pray to?" inquired one examiner. The poor woman could only reply hopelessly, "I cannot tell; the Lord help me." Ann Foster was condemned as a "confessing witch," but was later reprieved, and died in prison. Her son, Abraham Foster, in petitioning later for the removal of her attainder, declared that he had been compelled to pay the jailer 2 pounds, 10 shillings before he was allowed to remove his mother's dead body. It was probably from this Abraham Foster that Foster's Pond, in the southern part of the township, was named; but where Ann herself lived is a mystery.

Samuel Wardwell, a carpenter by trade, lived with his wife and several small children in the south end of the town. Up to 1692 he was regarded as an eccentric but harmless individual who sometimes told fortunes, played with magic, and perhaps in jesting moods even claimed supernatural powers. His peculiarities attracted the attention of the witch hunters, and he was shortly charged by Martha Sprague, of Boxford one of those involved in the case of Abigail Faulkner of having practiced upon her "certain detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries." In a second and more precise indictment it was alleged that Wardwell had twenty years before made a covenant with the "evill speritt," in which he had promised to honor, worship, and believe the "devill." Witnesses against him were not only the familiar group of Salem Village girls but also three respectable citizens of Andover: Joseph Ballard and Thomas Chandler, neighbors of his in the south end, both of whom had been selectmen; and Ephraim Foster, who for years had been clerk of the proprietors. This was a formidable array of accusers.

Like many others, Wardwell, in his anxiety and terror, was led to make a complete "confession." While he was in a discontented mood because of a thwarted clandestine love affair with "a maid named Barker," he had seen some "catts" meeting together behind Mr. Bradstreet's house. One of them, assuming the form of a black man, told him that if he would only sign the book, he should "live comfortably and be a captain," like Dudley Bradstreet. Following the classic example of Faust, Wardwell attached his name to the contract, was then baptized in the Shawsheen River, and abandoned his church affiliation.

When Wardwell later was released from "brain-storming," he declared that the urgency of his tormentors had persuaded him, under emotional stress, that he must have done the deeds attributed to him. From that hour until his execution he never again weakened. He regretted that he had even once "belyed" himself and announced that even though it might cost him his life, he would stick to the truth. No one of sufficient importance intervened in the poor man's behalf, and he was hanged on September 22, 1692, together with seven others. Even as the noose was being adjusted around his neck, Wardwell declared in a firm voice that he was innocent. While he was speaking a puff of smoke from the executioner's pipe blew across his face and some misguided girl shouted, "The Devil doth hinder his words!" On this occasion the Reverend Nicholas Noyes, of the First Church in Salem, not content with mere watching, addressed the multitude of spectators, saying, "What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there!"

Wardwell's example was used in later trials as a threat to others of what might be their fate if they recanted their confessions. The injustice in his case reached beyond his grave. On January 2, 1693, his wife was brought before the Court of Trials, where a jury delivered the familiar verdict that she was "guilty of covenanting with the Devill." Meanwhile the selectmen of Andover notified the Court of Quarter Sessions at Ipswich that the four Wardwell children were in suffering condition, and then proceeded to bind them out to other households in the neighborhood until they should be mature enough to pursue some gainful occupation. To pay the expenses of Wardwell's trial, the sheriff seized property of his amounting to 36 pounds, 15 shillings, including five cows, nine hogs, eight loads of hay, and six acres of corn upon the ground. Furthermore both Wardwells had to provide their own subsistence while they were in prison. Eventually Sarah Wardwell was reprieved and released. In 1712, his mother meanwhile having died, Samuel Wardwell, Jr., requested and received compensation for the financial loss which his family had suffered. Unfortunately it was too late to bring his father back to life.

Of Mary Parker, who was hanged with Wardwell, little is known except that she was the widow of Joseph Parker, one of the later Andover proprietors. She was directly accused by Mercy Wardwell, Samuel Wardwell's daughter, and by William Barker of having joined in torturing a certain Timothy Swan with iron spindles, pins, and other instruments, thus causing his death on February 2, 1692. Swan's tombstone is still standing in the North Andover burying ground, but the inscription has no mention of witchcraft as the cause of his demise. After Mary Parker's execution, an officer was sent by the sheriff to seize her property to meet the cost of her imprisonment and hanging. When her sons protested that she had no assets, the officer carried off their cattle, corn, and hay; and they were obliged to make a trip to Salem and spend a considerable sum in order to keep their own household effects from being sold.

The dramatic execution of the "eight firebrands of Hell" marked the climax of the hysteria. Already sensitive persons were shocked at the fury which the noxious girls from Salem Village had let loose in Andover. The wholesale denunciations were arousing much concealed and some open indignation, and the imprisonment of respected citizens was a cause of pain to the relatives and neighbors. Common sense, disregarded for weeks, slowly began to reassert itself, supported by the sane attitude of the venerable Mr. Dane. Before the General Court opened on October 12, in Boston, nine of the relatives of the prisoners petitioned for the relief of their wives and children, who were, they said, "a company of poor distressed creatures as full of inward grief and trouble as they are able to bear up in life withal." Even then these petitioners did not venture to ask to have their dear ones taken "out of the hands of Justice," but only to have them released under bonds to their own families, "ready to appear to answer further when the Honored Court shall call for them."

This formal request was accompanied and supported by a petition more resolute in tone, signed by twenty-six citizens, including the two ministers, Mr. Dane and Mr. Barnard, as well as other conservative leaders of the community. In begging for the redress of their grievances, as they had a legal right to do, the signators asserted that "it is well known that many persons of this town have been accused of witchcraft by some distempered persons in these parts and upon complaint have been apprehended and committed to prison." The bold use of the adjective "distempered" at a moment when eight victims had recently been executed has much significance as indicating that Mr. Dane and his allies had resolved to stand their ground. They did not hesitate to say: We can truly give this Testimony of the most of them belonging to this town that have been accused that they never gave the least occasion as we hear of to their nearest relations or most intimate acquaintances as to suspect them of witchcraft.

To Part IV

Extracted from chapter 8 of an out-of-print book called "Andover: Symbol of New England" by Claude M. Fuess.