I never thought I would find a convicted witch from the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 in my family tree. I never thought I would go anywhere near my ancestors who were alive in 1692. It sounds ridiculous to say that I've uncovered the story of my 11th great grandmother Mary Perkins Bradbury, who was one of the last to be convicted during the Salem Witch Trials. But it's true! And now I'm intrigued.
Who was Mary (Perkins) Bradbury?
Born in Hillmorton, England 1615 to John Perkins and Judith Gater. Mary came to the United States in 1631 aboard the Lyon with her parents at the age of 16. There were only 15 recorded passengers aboard this ship, I can't even imagine how scarey that trip would have been! They landed and settled near Boston, MA. She married Thomas Bradbury, a very distinguished member of the community, in 1636 at the age of 21. They lived in Salisbury, Massachusetts.
Mary and The Salem Witch Trials
In 1692 accusations of witchcraft and evil magic were flying through the town of Salem. It all started when 10 young girls started having nightmares and fits of inexplicable behavior, as if someone or something had cast a spell on them. The town was in a frenzy trying to pinpoint the evil source. Thus began the Salem Witch Trials.
Mary Bradbury was 80 years old in 1692 when several people testified and accused her of changing her appearance to that of a blue boar meant to bewitch and place spells upon them. She was also accused of casting spells upon ships, encouraging them to sink.
Testimony of Richard Carr and Zorobable Endicott vs Mary Bradbury "Appearing as a Blue Boar"
September 9, 1692
“The deposistion of Richard Carr who testifieth and saith. That about 13 years ago presently after sume differance that happened to be between my Hon'rd father mr George 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 go into her gate turn the corner of and immediately there derted out of her gate a blue boar and darted at my fathers horses legs 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 at mr George Carr: now deceased at 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 Brdbery gate to Mr Gorge Carrs horses ledges which mad him stumble affter 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 [a]s wel[l] as I. And 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.” Source: Essex County Archives, Salem -- Witchcraft Vol. 2 Page 38
Richard Carr was the son of said Mr. George Carr. Wonder why he didn't testify against Mary himself? Supposedly it was this event that spooked and affected George Carr in such a way that inevitably lead to his death! So they were basically accusing her of assuming the shape of a blue boar to bewitch and kill George Carr. Now why would an elderly, well liked woman do such a thing? Well, it is said that when they were younger, Mary Perkins and George Carr were sweethearts and she broke off the relationship and married Thomas Bradbury instead. A scorned lover? A son giving retribution for his father's broken heart (or ego!)? Makes for an even juicer story and reason for the sons' accusation. Other members of the community testified in agreement to Mary Bradbury's wicked ways, but it is also documented that MANY gave testimony of her good character and plead her innocence.
Her husband, Thomas Bradbury (remember he was a distinguished member of the community) testified on his wife's behalf.
July 28, 1692
“Concerning my beloved wife Mary Bradbury this is that I have to say. Wee have been maried fifty five yeare: and she hath bin a loving & faithfull wife to mee, unto this day shee hath been wonderfull laborious dilligent & Industryous in her place and imployment, about the bringing up o'r family (w'ch have bin eleven children of our owne, & four grand-children: shee was both prudent, & provident : of a cheerful Spiritt liberall Charitable. Shee being now very aged & weake, & greived under her affliction may not bee able to speake much for herselfe, not being so free of Speach as some others may bee: I hope her life and conversation hath been such amongst her neighbours, as gives a better & more reall Testimoney of her, then can bee exprest by words. Own'd by mee”
*Tho: Bradbury. Source: Essex County Archives, Salem -- Witchcraft, Vol. 2 p. 36
Despite all of this, she was still convicted and sentenced to be hanged! I was RELIEVED to learn that she somehow escaped her death sentence. One report says her husband and other community members paid the jailors to keep her in jail while her hanging date was pushed further and further away- until those imprisoned were released after the trials were overturned. Another source indicates that her husband paid the jailors and helped Mary escape prison and they left the town for Maine. Either way, she was one of the lucky ones. In total, 19 accused witches were hung on Gallows Hill in 1692.
If the accused plead guilty, they would not be sentenced to death, just kept in prison. If they maintained their innocence and were found guilty through trial- a death sentence was given. If only they had known that within a few months, the trails would be overturned and those who remained in prison would be freed and exhumed of all charges. Judge Samuel Sewall, one of the main judges of the witch trials issued a formal apology 5 years after the trials. In 1957 Massachusetts offered an official apology for the events of 1692.
Interesting books covering the events of the Salem Witch Trials:
Phew, that was quite a long post! I just find it all so fascinating and sad. It amazes me that the original documents have been preserved all this time. I'm still shocked I found this thrilling story hiding in my family tree. What unbelievable stories have you uncovered?