Monday, January 30, 2012

The Toothaker Family: Witches or Witch Killers?

Illustration of the Salem Witch Trials
Roger Toothaker was a farmer and folk-healer from Billerica who specialized in detecting and punishing witches. For several years before the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692, Toothaker had bragged to locals that he had taught his daughter, Martha Emerson, wife of Joseph Emerson, his trade and that she had killed a witch. According to the book “The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege,” the victim is believed to possibly be Mathias Button of Haverhill, Mass.

Toothaker, his wife Mary and their daughters were eventually arrested of witchcraft themselves when they were accused by Mary Warren and Mary Lacey Jr. Roger Toothaker died shortly after in prison but not before telling the court about his skills practicing counter magic against witches and confirming his daughter had killed a witch by boiling the witch's urine in a pot overnight.

After Roger died, his wife Mary confessed to being a witch and confirmed that her husband had once spoken to her daughter about killing a witch named Button. Martha Emerson, upon hearing of her parent's testimony during her trial, confessed that she kept a woman's urine in a glass jar but did not identify the woman, according to the court documents:

Emerson was told: that her father: had s'd: he had tought his Daughter Martha so that she had killed a witch: and: that was to take the afflicted persons water & put in in a glass or bottle: & sett it into an oven: Emerson owned she had [kept] a womans urin: in a glass.”

Emerson then confessed to being a witch and practicing magic against others. After spending several days in jail, she tried to recant her confession but the court kept her imprisoned. Her case was eventually thrown out of court due to a lack of evidence.

It is not known if Mathias Button or anyone in his family was a suspected witch or the victim of the Toothaker counter magic. Button was never accused of being a witch in his lifetime, although he served as a witness in a witchcraft case against his neighbor John Godfrey in 1665. Mathias Button later sued Godfrey in 1669 for allegedly setting a fire in his house that killed his wife, Ann Teagle Button. Mathias Button later remarried, to a woman named Elizabeth Wheeler, before dying of natural causes in August of 1672 at the age of 67.


New Perspectives on Witchcraft, Magic, and Demonology”; Brian P. Levack; 2001

The Salem Witch Trials: a Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege”; Marilynne K. Roach; 2002

Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England”; David D. Hall; 1991

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Where Did the Shot Heard Round the World Happen?

Engraving of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, circa 1775
The Shot Heard Round the World occurred on April 19, 1775 after British troops, searching for ammunition stockpiles in Lexington and Concord, engaged in a brief battle with local minutemen on the North Bridge in Concord.

Over the years the exact location of the Shot Heard Round the World has gotten muddled. Many writers and historians have attributed it to the first shot fired at the Battle of Lexington, which occurred earlier in the day and was the first official battle of the Revolution. Yet the phrase itself “Shot Heard Round the World” comes from a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem about the Battle of Concord titled Concord Hymn:

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard 'round the world”

According to the book “Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past,” many historians and writers deliberately attributed the Shot Heard Round the World to the Battle of Lexington because that battle, which consisted of 700 British soldiers firing upon just 70 minuteman, better fit the image they wanted to promote of the large bullying British army being defeated by a small defiant army. In the Battle of Concord, the British soldiers had split up into groups and only 90-95 British soldiers were on hand to fight the 400 minutemen near the bridge.

The British were not defeated at the battle of Lexington though and it is not even clear who fired the first shot of the battle, the British soldiers or the minutemen. One of the few witnesses to the battle, Paul Revere, who had warned the minutemen of the British advancement on his midnight ride, was present when the British soldiers arrived yet did not see who fired the first shot, as he wrote in his personal account of that day:

I heard the report [of the gun], turned my head, and saw the smoke in front of the British troops, they immediately gave a great shout, ran a few paces, and then the whole fired. I could first distinguish irregular firing, which I suppose was the advance guard, and then platoons. At the time I could not see our Militia, for they were covered from me, by a house at the bottom of the street.”
Illustration of the Battle of Lexington
When the smoke cleared, eight minutemen and one British soldier lay dead. Both sides accused each other of firing the first shot, according to the book “Primary Source Accounts of the Revolutionary War.” One British soldier, William Sutherland, gave his account of the events:

I heard Major Pitcairn's voice call out. 'Soldiers, don't fire, keep your ranks, form and surround them.' Instantly some of the villains [the colonists] who got over the hedge fired at us which our men for the first time returned...”

Yet, minuteman Sylvanus Wood described Major Pitcairn's actions differently, stating he:

...swung his sword, and said, 'Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men – fire!' Some guns were fired by the British at us from the first platoon, but no person was killed or hurt, being probably charged only with gunpowder...The company immediately dispersed; and while the company was dispersing and leaping over the wall, the second platoon of the British fired, and killed some of our men. There was not a gun fired by any of Captain Parker's company, within my knowledge.”

Since both sides give contradicting accounts, it will probably never be known who fired the first shot. After the battle of Lexington was over, the British marched on to Concord where they were finally thwarted by minuteman on North Bridge. Outnumbered, the British retreated back to Boston, taking heavy gunfire from snipers and suffering many casualties along the way.
Illustration of the Battle of Lexington

Primary Source Accounts of the Revolutionary War”; James M. Deem; 2006

Founding Myths: Stories That Hide Our Patriotic Past”; Ray Raphael; 2004 

The Library of Congress: Today in History: April 19

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Timeline of the Salem Witch Trials

Salem is settled. The settlement soon develops into two sections: an agricultural area where the lower class live, known as Salem Village, and a more developed area where the upper class live, known as Salem town.

British government makes witchcraft a capital offense.

Massachusetts Bay Colony Charter is revoked.

November 1689:
Samuel Parris named new minister of Salem.

October 1691:
Resident of Salem town disapprove of Parris, who denounces them as greedy and unPuritan-like, and try to force him out of Salem. Salem villagers support him. The hostility creates tension in the colony.

British government issues a new charter for the colony. New charter places many restrictions on the colony, also causing tension amongst the colonists.

January 1692:
Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams begin to have fits and exhibit strange behavior. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem village girls begin displaying similar behavior.

February 1692:
Doctors are unable to determine the cause of the strange behavior and suggests the girls are under the influence of satan.
Tituba bakes a witch cake made from rye and the girl's urine to counteract the evil spell placed on them.
The girls accuse three women, Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, of witchcraft. Arrest warrants are issued for the women.

March 1 1692:
Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin examine Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.
Tituba confesses to working for the devil and states there are many witches in Salem.

March 12 1692:
Martha Corey is accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam Jr.

March 19 1692:
Rebecca Nurse is accused of witchcraft by Edward and John Putnam after a number of land disputes with the Putnam family in Salem Village.

March 21 1692:
Martha Corey is examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.

March 23 1692:
Four-year-old Dorcas Good, daughter of Sarah Good, is accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott and arrested.

March 24 1692:
Rebecca Nurse is examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.

March 28 1692:
Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams and Mercy Lewis.

April 3 1692:
Rebecca Nurse's sister, Sarah Cloyce, is accused of witchcraft after defending her sister.

April 11 1692:
Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce are examined by Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin, Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth, and Judge Samuel Sewall.
John Proctor is also accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams and Mary Walcott and imprisoned.

April 18 1692:
Bridget Bishop, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren and Giles Corey are accused of witchcraft by many of the Salem Village girls and arrested.

April 19 1692:
Bridget Bishop, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren and Giles Corey are examined.
Abigail Hobbs confesses.

April 22 1692:
Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Easty, Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Mary Black, Mary English and Sarah Wildes are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and
Judge Corwin.
Nehemiah Abbott is cleared of all charges.

May 2 1692:
Dorcas Hoar, Lydia Dustin, Sarah Morey and Susannah Martin are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.

May 4 1692:
George Burroughs is accused of witchcraft by several girls and arrested in Wells, Maine.

May 9 1692:
George Burroughs is examined by Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin, Judge Sewall, and Judge William Stoughton.
Sarah Churchill, one of the afflicted girls, is also examined.

May 10 1692:
George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs are are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
Margaret Jacobs confesses and testifies that both her grandfather and father are witches.
Sarah Osborne dies in prison.

May 14 1692:
Increase Mather returns from England with the new charter and new governor, Sir William Phips.

May 18 1692:
Mary Easty is released from prison but arrested a second time after her accusers protested her release.
Roger Toothaker is accused of witchcraft by Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam Jr. and Mary Walcott and arrested.

May 24 1692:
Mary Toothaker is accused of witchcraft by Mary Warren and Mary Ireson.

May 27 1692:
Governor Phips sets up a special Court of Oyer and Terminer to hear the witchcraft cases. The new court has seven judges: Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, John Richards, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin.

May 31 1692:
John Alden Jr., Martha Carrier, Elizabeth Howe, Wilmott Redd and Phillip English are examined by Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin, and Judge Gedney.

June 2 1692:
Bridget Bishop pronounced guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death.
After Bridget Bishop's trial, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Judge Corwin.

June 10 1692:
Bridget Bishop is hanged at Gallows hill in Salem. Her hanging is the first official execution of the Salem witch trials.

June 16 1692:
Roger Toothaker dies in prison.

June 29-30 1692:
Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe and Sarah Wildes are tried for witchcraft and condemned.

July 19 1692:
Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Gallows hill in Salem.

July 22 1692:
Martha Emerson, daughter of Roger Toothaker, is accused of witchcraft by Mary Warren and Mary Lacey Jr.

July 23 1692:
John Proctor writes a letter to the Boston clergy describing the torture used against the accused and asks for the Salem Witch Trials to be moved to Boston.
Martha Emerson is arrested and examined by Judge Gedney.

July 30 1692:
Mary Toothaker is examined by Judge Gedney, Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin and Judge Higginson.

August 2-6 1692:
George Burroughs, George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, John and Elizabeth Proctor, and John Willard are tried for witchcraft and condemned.

August 19 1692:
John Proctor, George Jacobs, Sr., George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, and John Willard are hanged on Gallows Hill.

August 20, 1692:
Margaret Jacobs recants her testimony against her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and George Burroughs.

September 3 1692:
Margaret Prince and Elizabeth Dicer of Gloucester are accused of witchcraft by the Salem village girls and arrested.

September 9 1692:
Mary Easty, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeator, Alice Parker, Mary Bradbury and Dorcas Hoar are tried and condemned.

September 13 1692:
Joan Penney of Gloucester is accused of witchcraft by Zebulon Hill.

September 17 1692:
Wilmott Redd, Mary Parker, Margaret Scott, Samuel Wardwell, Rebecca Eames, Abigail Faulkner, Mary Lacy, Abigail Hobbs and Ann Foster are tried and condemned.

September 19 1692:
Giles Corey is pressed to death after refusing to enter a plea.

September 21 1692:
Dorcas Hoar confesses. Her execution is delayed.
Joan Penney is arrested on charges of witchcraft.

September 22 1692:
Martha Corey, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott, Ann Pudeator, Mary Easty, Samuel Wardwell, Wilmott Redd and Mary Parker are hanged at Gallows hill.

October 8 1692:
Thomas Brattle writes a letter criticizing the witchcraft trials and the use of spectral evidence. Governor Phips bans spectral and intangible evidence in the trials.

October 29 1692:
Governor Phips forbids further arrests, releases many of the accused and dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

November 3 1692:
Rebecca Dike, Esther Elwell and Mary Rowe of Gloucester are accused of witchcraft and arrested.

November 25 1692:
The General Court of the colony creates the Superior Court to try the remaining witchcraft cases.

January 1693:
49 of the 52 remaining accused witches in jail are released because their arrests were based on spectral evidence.

May 1693:
Governor Phips pardons the remaining accused in jail.

January 14 1697:
The General Court orders a day of fasting for the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. Judge Samuel Sewall publicly apologizes for his role in the Salem Witch Trials.

Minister Samuel Parris is replaced by Joseph Green.

The General Court declares the 1692 trials illegal.

Ann Putnam Jr. publicly apologizes for her role in the Salem Witch Trials.

The colony passes a bill restoring the rights and good names of the accused and grants 600 pounds in restitution to the victim's heirs. Some of the victim's families do not wish to be named in the bill and do not seek restitution.

Salem Village is renamed Danvers. Salem town keeps the name Salem.

Massachusetts formally apologizes for the events of 1692.

On the 300th anniversary of the trials, a witchcraft memorial designed by James Cutler is dedicated in Salem.

The Massachusetts legislature passes a resolution officially exonerating five victims not named in the 1711 bill: Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.