Abigail Faulkner, Sr., of Andover, Mass., my great (7) grandmother, was indicted twice on August 11, 1692 for the “detestable crime of witchcraft.” The Grand Jury said she practiced “sorceries wickedly, maliciously, and felonously” on Martha Sprague, 16, of Boxford and Sarah Phelps, 9, of Andover. The indictments were handed down “in the name of our Sovereign Lord King William and our Lady Queen Anne.”
The wife of Lieut. Francis Faulkner, she was one of the most prominent women in the township. She was 40, the mother of five, and pregnant. Edmund Faulker, her father-in-law, one of the founders of Andover, was one of the few original proprietors dignified with the title of Mister. Her father, Rev. Francis Dane, was Andover’s senior Minister, appointed in 1648. She was tried in Salem Mass. before the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer (hear and determine), Magistrates John Hathorrne, Jonathan Corwin, and John Higginson presiding. A guilty verdict would mean a sentence of death by hanging.
In February of 1692 a group of girls in Salem ranging in age from 9 to 17 began acting strange and bizarre. They had fits, uttered foolish and nonsensical speeches, made odd gestures, and contorted themselves into grotesque postures. Their actions evoked remembrances of the bewitched children in Rev. Cotton Mathers Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions, published in Boston in 1689. Mather was a Minister at Boston’s North Church.
Dr. Griggs of Salem examined the girls and finding no physical cause for their afflictions concluded they were bewitched. Rev. Samuel Parris of Salem — whose 9-year-old-daughter was among the group — and clergy and elders from surrounding towns met privately with the girls and decided they must name their tormentors so the witches could be brought to justice. To help the girls discover their tormentors, a dog was fed a cake of rye meal made with the children’s urine and baked in the ashes. After the dog ate, the “afflicted” children went into fits and convulsions and claimed to see into the invisible world “ruled by the Devil and inhabited by specters and ghosts.” This new-found spectral sight made it possible for the girls to see who was causing their afflictions. Spectral evidence could now be used to name witches and wizards.
Almost everyone in 1692, the educated and the unlearned, believed in a material (visible) world and a spiritual (invisible) world. Heaven with its Angels was a reality as was Hell and its Devils. People believed inhabitants of the invisible world could intrude on the visible world. Consequently, every accident, sudden or unusual illness of man or beast, inexplicable or menacing circumstance of any sort was apt to raise the cry of witchcraft.
People then believed the witch, while appearing harmless and innocent in the real world, had a specter in the invisible world which inflicted excruciating pain by pinching, pricking, and tormenting. Judges conducting witch trials deemed irrelevant and frivolous testimony based on the fact other people, including themselves, could not see what the girls saw. They believed the girl’s spectral power was the way God provided to detect witches.
On August 11, 1692, Abigail, a life-long resident of Andover who had never been known other than a God-fearing woman, now charged with the most heinous crime known to man, was being examined by three Magistrates of the Commonwealth. She had no attorney as the law did not allow representation. This was the darkest time of her life.
Three afflicted girls from Salem, all strangers to her, are part of the examination. What they do, how they act, will determine if she is indicted. The hearing began with Magistrate Hathorne reading the charge: “You are apprehended for witchcraft.” “I know nothing of it,” she answered while looking around the room. At her glance the afflicted fall to the floor in fits. Hathorne: “Do you not see?” “Yes,” she answered, “but it is the Devil does it in my shape.”
Mary Walcott: “I was first tormented last night but have seen Faulkner’s specter for two months.” “Ann Putnam: “Faulkner pulled me off my horse last night but I saw her before.” Mary Warren: “I saw Faulkner with other witches but was not hurt by her till lately.” She also testified she saw Abigail with other witches. Following their testimony the girls again fell into fits. Hawthorne: “For the credit of your town, confess the truth.” Her niece, Elizabeth Johnson, 22, was charged a day earlier and confessed, saying she was carried to a witch meeting at the village on a pole and that Abigail was there. She is sitting with the afflicted and urges her to confess. The witch hunts are in their sixth month. Scores have been arrested. Six have been hanged; two others died in prison. A pattern had developed. Those who confessed were spared. Those who maintained their innocence were condemned and hanged. Among the hanged was Elizabeth, wife of her first cousin James Howe, Jr. who refused to confess. It is an agonizing decision. What should she do?
Things don’t go well as the examination progresses. Nine-year-old Sarah Phelps went into fits, claiming Abigail as the cause. Idly, Abigail picked up a cloth from the table and squeezed it. The girls immediately fell into fits claiming Daniel Eames and Capt. Floyd were on the cloth as it lay on the table. Abigail reminded the Magistrates when she looked at some of the girls earlier in Andover they were not afflicted. Hathorne ruled the statement inadmissible, saying she only began afflicting yesterday and that she used to conjure (practice magic or legerdemain) with a sieve.” “That’s not so,” she responded. “You are repeating an old story proved untrue long ago. I’m sorry the girls are afflicted.” Sorry isn’t enough because she didn’t shed a tear when saying it. Finally, she knows what she must do. She is not a witch. God would not require her to plead guilty and she plead not guilty. The examination is over. No decision is made.
By the time of the second examination August 30, her first cousin Martha Carrier and four others who refused to confess have been condemned and hanged. Herr widowed sister Elizabeth Johnson, mother of her niece Elizabeth, was charged and confessed implicating her. She began the second hearing as she ended the first – denying the charge. Known for their bullying and absurd leading questions, the Magistrates were relentless in getting the answers they wanted. She admitted to looking at the girls with an “evil eye” and to pinching her hands together stating “if the Devil took advantage of that, it was the Devil, not me that afflicted the girls.” She was pronounced guilty September 17. The verdict is preserved in the Massachusetts State Archives: “The Jury find Abigail Faulkner, wife of Francis Faulkner of Andover, guilty of the felony of witchcraft committed on the body of Martha Sprague also on the body of Sarah Phelps. SENTENCE OF DEATH PASSED ON ABIGAIL FAULKNER … to be carried out after the birth of her child.
Reading about the 1692 witchcraft trials is mind boggling. The reader has no point of reference, no understanding of how Judges conducted the trials or on what basis juries returned guilty verdicts. It seems absurd that a person could be accused, let alone tried for the crime of witchcraft. But in 1692, existence of the Devil, who was a fallen Angel (Ephesians 6:12), was accepted by everyone.
Cotton Mather, one of the colony’s leading ministers, believed New England was originally the Devil’s territory, that the Devil was irritated that a people of God settled there, and was fighting for converts to prevent Christianity from winning the New World. He told the people of Massachusetts there were thousands of Devils among them (Mark 5:15) who were led by a Prince called Beelzebub whose Angels were soldiers like “vast regiments of cruel and bloody French dragoons overrunning a pillaged neighborhood;” that the only person who could doubt the existence of the Devil is one who is under his influence; that the end of the world was near; that the Devil knew the end was near so he recruited new followers and set them loose to attack Christians.
“The Devils swarm about us like the frogs of Egypt,” he said. “We must make just as much use of all advice from the invisible world as God sends. It permits spirits from the unseen regions to visit us with surprising informations (sic) and we are to inquire what cause there is for such things. To do less was to allow the Devil to get so far into our faith, we come at length to believe his lies.” Even those who were skeptical came to believe what Mather and other ministers (not including Rev. Francis Dane, Abigail’s father) were preaching and came to accept that their own wives, children, parents, and siblings were Devils.
Abigail’s conviction, based on the spectral evidence of Mary Walcott, Ann Putnam, and Mary Warren and was supported by the confessions of her sister and niece, both named Elizabeth Johnson, who testified that Abigail was one of them. Also the conviction and hanging of her relatives Martha Carrier and Elizabeth Howe must have weighed heavily with the jury.
Abigail was made of stern stuff. On December 3, after 78 days in Salem prison, she petitioned Governor William Phipps for a pardon, pointing out the evidence against her was spectral and that after she was condemned, the girls admitted that their testimony was false. She was pardoned and released from prison several days later. Determined to clear her name, she wrote the Massachusetts Legislature in 1703 that she was accused by the afflicted who “pretended to see me by their spectral sight (not with their bodily eyes), that no other evidence was presented, yet the jury found me in guilty, and the sentence of death was passed upon me.” She wrote that despite Gov. Phips pardon, the official record still showed her a “malefactor convict . . . of the most heinous crimes that mankind can supposed to be guilty of, which besides its utter ruining and defacing my reputation, will certainly expose myself to imminent danger by new accusations, which will thereby be the more readily believed and remain as a perpetual brand of infamy upon my family.”
On July 20, 1703, the House of Representatives ordered a Bill be drafted to disallow spectral evidence stating “no specter evidence may hereafter be accounted valid, or sufficient to take away the life, or good name, of any person or persons within this Province, and that the infamy, and reproach, cast on the names and posterity of the said accused and condemned persons may in some measure be rolled away. Thus the attainder (forfeiture of property and loss of civil rights of a person sentenced to death) of Abigail Faulkner and others was reversed.
One task remained. People imprisoned in those days were responsible for paying the jailer for all costs associated with their incarceration. Abigail and others petitioned the Legislature to be reimbursed and in 1712 she received £20 as partial payment of her costs.
Abigail (Dane) Faulkner displayed courage and fortitude far beyond the norm for the time. I’m proud to call her my ancestress. The sentence was not to be carried out until she gave birth. She gave birth to a son 20 March 1693 whom she named Ammi Ruhamah. The name was chosen because of its Biblical meaning (from the Old Testament, Book of Hosea, Chap. 2, Verse 1)” My people have obtained mercy.”
My kinship with Abigail (Dane) Faulkner is through her grand daughter Abigail Lamson born 15 Feb. 1708 in Ipswich, Mass. She married Francis Whipple in Ipswich 11 May 1726. Most of their married life was lived in Westborough, Mass. They had 10 children, 5 sons and 5 daughters.
All female descendants, age 16 and older, of Abigail (Lamson) Whipple are eligible to join the Associated Daughters of Early American Witches. For membership details, write Mrs. Melvin D. Austin (Mary), 495 Panorama Dr., Benicia, CA 94510-3901.
ADDITIONAL HISTORICAL FACTS
For the historians among the readers, what follows supplements the above.
A main source for the 1692 Witchcraft Trials is found in Massachusetts Archives, Witchcraft. Boston, Mass., 1656-1750. Vol. 135.
Google 1692 Salem Witchcraft Trials for unlimited sources to research.
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings before local magistrates followed by county court trials to prosecute people accused of witchcraft in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex Counties of colonial Massachusetts, between February 1692 and May 1693. Over 150 people were arrested and imprisoned, with even more accused who were not formally pursued by the authorities. Two courts convicted twenty-nine people of the capital felony of witchcraft. Nineteen of the accused, fourteen women and five men, were hanged. One man (Giles Corey) who refused to enter a plea was crushed to death under heavy stones in an attempt to force him to do so. At least five more of the accused died in prison.
Despite being generally known as the “Salem” witch trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in Salem Village, Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover, Massachusetts. The best-known trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town. All twenty-six who went to trial before this court were convicted. The four sessions of the Superior Court of Judicature in 1693, held in Salem Town, Ipswich, Boston, and Charlestown, produced only three convictions in the thirty-one witchcraft trials it conducted.
Of the 154 people accused of witchcraft, a staggering 75 percent lived in Andover or were relatives of its residents. It was also only community where children under 18 who were accused turned into accusers, and where they used a ‘touch test’ to find witches.
The Court of Oyer and Terminer was an archaic form of an old English judicial system. Some felt creating this Court without the vote of the people was illegal as precedence limited its power to civil cases. The Magistrates had no formal legal training. Puritans had a low opinion of lawyers and did not permit the professional practice of law in the colony, so the accused had no counsel. Nor did the Judges acknowledge that fine old English concept of innocent until proved guilty. The “W” was added to Judge Hathorne’s name by Nathaniel, great great grandson of the Magistrate and notable American author from 1830 to 1852.
Of Abigail’s examination, Sarah Loring Bailey wrote: Her conduct in the Courts was worthy of her position, free alike from credulous weakness on the one hand and scornful defiance on the other. Either from her own good sense, or upheld by the wise counsels of her father (who never yielded to the delusion), she showed the greatest discretion, paying due deference to the Court, yet never losing her firmness and dignity. That she was not to be intimidated by superstitious terrors, the examiners knew, it is evident, for they forbore to argue with her about ‘peace and judgment to come’ but they urged her to confess ‘for the credit of her town.’ Bailey further believes Abigail acted under instructions of her father who saw that only concession of some points could save her, and could advise it conscientiously since neither he or any one else at the time could know with certainty that the Devil was not concerned in these “extraordinary manifestations.”
Abigail’s daughters, 12-year-old Dorothy and 9-year-old Abigail, Jr. were accused in the infamous Andover Touch Test on September 7. Both were imprisoned for a month, being released on bail Oct. 16 and cleared by proclamation in May 1693. Abigail (Faulkner) Lamson, Jr., daughter of Thomas Lamson and Abigail Faulkner Jr. of Ipswich and grand daughter of Abigail Faulkner, is the author’s great (6) grandmother. See details below for the £500 bond required for Dorothy and Abigail’s release.
Elizabeth (Jackson) Howe was 13 years older than Abigail. Her husband James Howe, Jr., Abigail’s cousin, had been blind for about seven years and Elizabeth had assumed the full burden of caring for him and managing the farm. The complaint filed against her 28 May was for afflicting Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Mercy Lewis, and Ann Putnam, Jr. She was arrested May 31 and refused to confess, saying “If it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent of anything of this nature.” She was tried 30 June and despite many depositions supporting her character and Christian behavior, she was condemned 2 July and hung 19 July. Enders A. Robinson, Salem Witchcraft and Hathorne’s House of Seven Gables. Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1992.
Andover is 25 miles north of Boston and originally included the present towns of Andover, North Andover, and that part of Lawrence south of the Merrimack river. It was called Cochichawick by the Indians and was part of the territory of the Naumkeag and within the domain of the Massachusetts tribe. The Sagamore was Cushamache who lived near Dorchester, Mass. The Andover of today represents the southern part of the original 17th century Andover township. North Andover represents the northern part.
In 1644 the General Court granted ownership of the township to 23 proprietors. A church was formed Oct. 24, 1645 with John Woodbridge as pastor. In 1646, Edmund Faulkner, eighth great grandfather of the author, and Rev. Woodbridge, acting on behalf of the proprietors, paid Sagamore Cutshaamache £6 and a red coat for the land within the township. Roger, the Indian, and his company were given liberty to take alewives in the river for their own consumption so long as they did spoil any or steal corn or fruit belonging to the English. Roger was also granted permission to use the four acres he then cultivated. Most Indians were living north of the Merrimack river and Andover was considered the frontier. Sarah Loring Bailey, Historical Sketches of Andover, Massachusetts. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1880, 11. Faulkner, who married Dorothy Robinson 4 Feb. 1648, died 18 Jan. 1687. His headstone still stands in Andover’s original buring ground. Dorothy died in 1668.
Francis Dane became Minister when Rev. Woodbridge returned to England. Born in Essex Co., England ca 1615, he was 33 at the time and had no formal education for the ministry. He served 49 years until his death. Unlike most towns which had two ministers, Dane was Andover’s only minister until 1682 when Rev. Thomas Barnard of Hadley was appointed assistant. Barnard believed the witches existed and supported the efforts to find and kill them.
Dane was a highly respected and powerful member of the Andover community, comparable only to Dudley Bradstreet, former Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. More members of his family were accused than any other family. However he was still regarded as the hero of Andover during the Witch Trials.
Dane is an eighth great grandfather of the author. He died in Andover 17 February 1696/97. His wife, Elizabeth Ingalls, daughter of Edmund Ingalls and mother of Abigail, died 9 June 1667.
Dane was a highly respected and powerful member of the Andover community, comparable only to Dudley Bradstreet, former Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. More members of his family were accused than any other family. However he was still regarded as the hero of Andover during the Witch Trials. He was born about 1615 in England and died 17 Feb.1696/97 at the age of 81.
The Andover “touch test” was organized by its junior minister, Rev. Thomas Barnard, and held at the Meeting-house (church) on Wednesday morning 7 September. He invited certain members of Andover’s elite, including children. The majority of the congregation was absent. A group of Andover’s “afflicted” girls awaited them. After a short prayer, Barnard launched into a sermon describing the evils of witchcraft. “Perhaps there are few persons, allured by the Devil into a covenant with himself. If any among ourselves be so, my counsel is, that you hunt the Devil from you.”
As several of those accused later recounted, they were blindfolded and led to the afflicted persons. When our hands were laid upon them they fell into fits and said we were guilty of afflicting them. After a warrant issued by the justice of the peace was issued, we were carried to Salem and jailed. Rev. John Hale explained that “the Witch by the cast of her eye sends forth a Malefick Venome into the Bewitched to cast him into a fit, and therefore the touch of the hand doth by sympathy cause that venome to return into the Body of the Witch again”.
By reason of that sudden surprise, knowing ourselves altogether innocent of that crime, we were all exceedingly astonished, amazed, consternated, and affrighted even out of our reason; and our nearest and dearest relations, seeing us in that dreadful condition, and knowing our great danger, and believing there was no other way to save our lives (except) but confessing, persuaded us to confess what we did confess.
“That confession was suggested to us by some gentlemen, who told us that we were witches, and they knew it, and we knew it, and they knew that we knew it, which made us think it was so… with our understanding, reason, and faculties almost gone, we were not capable of judging our condition. With the hard measures they used to influence us rendered us incapable of making our defense, we said anything and everything they desired, and most of what we said was in effect a consenting to what they said. Some time after, when we were better composed, we did profess that we were innocent and ignorant of such things. After hearing that Samuel Wardwell had renounced his confession and quickly after was condemned and executed, some of us were told that we were going after Wardwell.”
Eventually some good men of Andover including Capt. Osgood, Deacon Frye began to comprehend the full implications of the storm raging in their midst. They turned to Rev. Dane and formed a resistance movement. Under his guidance they started to take the strong steps required to free the imprisoned members of their families.
Andover sent the first petition to stop the trials to Gov. William Phips whose wife Ann had also been accused. On Oct. 12. Phips ordered that the hearings stop and that cases go to the Supreme Court. He then released the accused under age 18 and subsequently others.
Cotton Mather was the first of Rev. Increase Mather’s nine children and grandson of Rev. Richard Mather, first teacher of the Dorchester, Mass. Church. Richard (1596-1660), born in Lowton near Liverpool, was suspended from his ministry at Toxeth Park Chapel in 1635 because of his Puritan leanings. He immigrated to Massachusetts that year and was with the Dorchester Church from its founding in August 1636 until his death. He helped shape New England’s Congregational way, collaborating in preparing the Psalms in meter for the Bay Psalm Book and wrote the original draft of the Cambridge Platform in 1648. He was one of the men responsible for the “Half Way Covenant” and advocated the plan against fierce opposition by those who insisted on the necessity of personal conversion.
Mather’s prayer for New England: “And now, O thou Hope of New-England, and the Saviour thereof in the time of trouble. Do thou look mercifully down upon us, & rescue us, out of the trouble which at this time does threaten to swallow us up. Let Satan be shortly bruised under our feet, and let the covenanted vassals of Satan, which have traitorously brought him in upon us, be gloriously conquered, by the powerful and gracious presence in the midst of us. Abhor us not, O God, but cleanse us, but heal us, but save us, for the sake of thy Glory, enwrapped in our salvations. By thy Spirit, life up a standard against our infernal adversaries, let us quickly find these making of us glad, according to the days wherein we have been afflicted. Accept of us all our endeavors to glorify thee, in the fires that are upon us; and among the rest, let these my poor and weak essays, composed with what years, what cares, what prayers, thou only knowest, not want the acceptance of the Lord.. Cotton Mather, Cotton Mather on Witchcraft: Thee Wonders of the Invisible World. New York: Dorest Press, 1999. First published at Boston in October 1692.
(Recognizance for Dorothy Faulkner and Abigail Faulkner Jr., accused following the Andover “Touch Test.”)
Know all Men by these presents That I John Osgood Sr. of Andover in the County of Essex in New England And Nathaniel Dean S..r of the Same Town & County aforesaid Husbandmen Are holden & firmly Bound Jointly & Severally to their Majesties King William & Queen Mary of England & Scotland France & Ireland King & Queen Defenders of the faith in the full & Just Sum of five hundred pounds Sterling for the True & Just payment of which said Sum of five hundred Pounds to their Majesties King William & Queen Mary We do bind Our Heirs Executors Administrators & Assigns firmly & By these presents Dated in Salem the Sixth day of October in the Year of Our Lord One thousand six hundred & Ninety & to and in the fourth Year of the Reign of Our Majesties King William & Queen Mary King & Queen of England Scotland France & Ireland Defenders of the faith.
The Condition of this Obligation is Such that whereas the Above named John Osgood Sr, & Nathaniel: Dean Sr, Husbandmen Both of The Town of Andover in the County of Essex in New England have Taken into Their Care and Custody the Bodies of Dorothy Faulkner Aged about Ten Years And Abigail Faulkner Aged about Eight Years who was both Committed to their Majesties Jail in Salem in the County of Essex in New England for Having Used practiced & Committed Divers Acts of witchcraft Upon the Bodies of Sundry persons who themselves also have Confessed the Same If that the Aforesaid John Osgood Sr, & Nathaniel Dean Sr. Aforesaid Husbandmen shall well & Truly keep the Aforesaid Dorothy Faulkner & Abigail Faulkner & Them Secure Until they shall Receive Order from George Corwin Sheriff of the County of Essex to deliver the Aforesaid Dorothy Faulkner & Abigail Faulkner Unto William Downton Now keeper of their Majesties Jail in Salem or to Any Other Whom the Aforesaid George Corwin shall Appoint, that then they shall forthwith deliver the Same Dorothy Faulkner & Abigail Faulkner According to his Order — and if the Above bound do perform the Above Mentioned Articles & shall pay Unto George Corwin the Sheriff aforesaid the forfeiture of Said Bond for there Majesties Use in Case of Default then this Obligation shall be void & of Now Effect Or Otherwise to stand in full force & Virtue — In Witness hereof we have set Our hands & Seals this Six Day of October in the Year of Our Lord One thousand Six hundred Ninety & two and in the fourth year of their Majesties Reign
*John Osgood *Nathaniel Dane
Witness *Joshua Conant *Elizur Keysar *Joseph Phippen Jun’r.
( Mass. Archives, Vol. 135 No. 56 )