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Thursday
Oct272011

Thriller Thursday: Mary Bradbury, A Convicted Salem Witch in My Family Tree!

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:

Judge Sewall's Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of an American Conscience

Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft

The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege

The Story of the Salem Witch Trials (2nd Edition)

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?

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Reader Comments (17)

I have three ancestors who were hung during the witch hysteria, one who escaped the Salem jail, several who testified against their neighbors, and a juror in my family tree. This is not unusual since I was born in Beverly, and two grandparents were born in Salem. If you have one victim in your tree, search the documents for more ancestors who were involved. Remember that only 19 were hung, but hundreds were accused and imprisoned. For each who was accused, several had witness and testify against that person. Hundreds signed petitions for and against victims. This means that a large number of potential ancestors are in the records, but folks tend to only focus on the the "witches". Keep searching, and I'm sure you'll find more ancestors on either side of the this hysteria!

Oct 28, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterHeather Wilkinson Rojo

That requires in-depth research. With mine, there was none. Can I ask you something? What were your feelings when you found out about your ancestor?

Oct 29, 2011 at 12:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterHalley | Brochure Printing

I myself was rather shocked to find Mary Perkins Bradbury was my aunt. Soo - helloo cousin! Funny as this may seem but I initially was intrigued then became a bit irritated over it all.
Today the accusations are so incredibly ridiculous that it seems preposterous that a community would pull an old woman out to be scorned and held captive. I cant imagine living in such a time where this could be possible. Aunt Mary was an incredibly strong woman. Who was well connected as the lore is the night she escaped from prison one of her accusers went missing to never be seen again.. Justice or coincidence? You decide..

Dec 17, 2011 at 12:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterAPerkins

Mary is also my ancestor! It's quite a shock, but oh so fascinating.

Jan 31, 2012 at 9:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterpeggy overstreet

Wow, I am also a direct descendant of Mary Bradbury though my matrilineal heritage. Our branch came from her son, Thomas. My grandmother was Eunice Bradbury-she was born in 1900. We have a Bradbury geneaology book which my mother created from her family tree... if anyone is interested in finding some information

Mar 23, 2012 at 3:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterMichele Sullivan

Mary Bradbury is my 9 great grandmother. At times in my life I have felt betrayed and stabbed in the back. Her trials have given me perspective. It could be worse.

Aug 10, 2012 at 1:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterHelen Lai

Mary Perkins Bradbury is my 10th gr.grandmother. We fall in at the Estes part of the family (my father's paternal family). No one ever really talked about this. Imagine my surprise when read about her in the Bradbury family book and then I looked it up on the internet and read more about it. I know she was older and already had children and grandchildren or our family history could have been very different or not at all.

Sep 20, 2012 at 9:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterKristen Estes

Mary was my 9th great grand Aunt... So interesting... Cannot wait to find out more :)

Oct 25, 2012 at 9:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterKerri Goff

Hello there very distant cousin! Mary Perkins is my eight great-grandmother (through her daughter Elizabeth). I find her story so fascinating and have been studying the witch trails in-depth since I found out this fall. I spent a day at Salem last year on a trip to Boston and saw a re-enactment of the trials by actors and toured a replica of the underground cells where the accused were held. I wish I had known that day that my own great grandmother was one of the prisoners. Found this post while googling her name and so glad to find you.

Jan 17, 2013 at 2:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterMolly

Hi Cousin !! Mary Perkins Bradbury is my 10th great grandmother, as I was thrilled/horrified to discover. Now that I have gotten over the shock, the witch identity has become part of mine, and I've had quite a few interesting discussions with various people about the trials. My book club just read "The Heretic's Daughter", written by Kathleen Kent, a descendant of Martha Carrier, executed during the trials. A very interesting read !!

Mar 1, 2013 at 1:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterVeronica

Mary is my 8th great-grandmother through her daughter Mary who married John Stanyan. I have found this story fascinating, I can't imagine living to 80 years old with good standing in the community and then have friends and neighbors turn on you. What a helpless feeling that must have been! It is amazing to realize how many of our ancestors actually shapped the history we read about in school.

May 22, 2013 at 4:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterDeb

Hello,
Mary Bradbury is my ninth great-grandmother through Jane Bradbury True.
How sad and appalling that with the accusation of witchcraft, no matter how many witnesses she had for her she still was convicted.

Jun 14, 2013 at 12:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterAimee

Hello Cousin,
Mary Bradbury is my 10th great-grandmother through Jane Bradbury True. I just recently learned of my connection using Ancestry.com. It is one thing to have your life threated by war, or natural disasters or disease, but it is another thing to have your neighbors turn on you. One can only hope that her children and grandchildren learned to trust and cherish one and other. Maybe that is one of the silver linings of this story.

Jun 20, 2013 at 1:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterT McKean

I too am a defendant of hers! I live in Maine, not far from Bradbury Mountain

Sep 13, 2013 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterI disselkamp

We seem to belong to a very large club. I am also a direct descendant of Thomas and Mary Bradbury. What I think is amazing about this story is that her husband fought for her life by testifying for her and by asking people to testify on her behalf ( a large number did just that). When that failed, he did what he had to do to save her life. Mary was a very good woman who was married to an equally good and brave man. All the people who testified for her, risked their own lives as well.

Oct 22, 2013 at 11:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPaula Higgins

Hello,
My (11th) grandfather and grandmother, Rodger and Sarah Eastman (sometimes spelled Easman), and several of their children signed a petition (22 July 1692) supporting Mary Bradbury! (they also lived in Salisbury) How amazing that over 300 years later I stumbled upon your blog!

Jan 17, 2014 at 3:02 AM | Unregistered CommenterSarah C.

Hello to all, my distant relatives! Mary Perkins Bradbury is my 8 times great grandmother through Minnie Bradbury. Fascinating to learn that this is in my family heritage, and horrific to imagine what Mary went through, especially at her age. Veronica, thank you for the tip, I've just ordered "The Heretic's Daughter".

Feb 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterKat Clary

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