The “Witches” of Massachusetts – B

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Witchcraft Trial

Witchcraft Trial

Abigail Wheeler Barker (1656-1743) – From Andover, Massachusetts, Abigail was accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. Abigail was born to David and Sarah Wise Wheeler in 1656. She grew up to marry Ebenezer Barker, also of Andover. Abigail’s sister was Lydia Wheeler Eames, who was married to Daniel Eames. By the early part of August 1692, Abigail’s brother-in-law, Daniel Eames, and his mother, Rebecca Blake Eames, both found themselves in prison accused of witchcraft. On August 29, 1692, Ebenezer’s brother, William Barker Sr., and his niece, Mary Barker were also imprisoned for witchcraft. Three days later, Ebenezer’s nephew, William Barker, Jr, was also arrested on September 1st.

On September 7th, the Reverend Thomas Barnard conducted what was known as a “Touch Test” in the Andover Church. In this ludicrous exercise, those who were accused of witchcraft were blindfolded and forced to touch the “afflicted” girls, which could identify them as a witch. With such evidence, Abigail Barker was arrested. Her husband, Ebenezer Barker, quickly joined the newly formed Andover resistance and was a signer of petitions of October 12, October 18, and December 6 sent the governor and the high court. Despite the petition, the grand jury at the Superior Court of Judicature indicted Abigail. However, in a trial by jury on January 6, 1693, she was found not guilty. She was released, having been imprisoned for 18 weeks in Salem. Afterward, Abigail went back to her life in Andover and was 87 years old when she died there in 1743.

Mary Barker (1679-1752) –  From Andover, Massachusetts, 13-year-old Mary Barker was accused of being a witch and imprisoned. On August 25, 1692, a complaint was filed by Samuel Martin and Moses Tyler against her, her uncle, William Barker Sr., and Mary Osgood Marston, for afflicting Abigail Martin, Jr., Rose Foster, and Martha Sprague. Four days later, on August 29th, Constable Epharaim Foster traveled to Andover and arrested the three accused. The daughter of an Andover church deacon, Mary felt confident that she would be freed after questioning. However, though she initially denied the charges, she soon confessed and blamed Goodwives Faulkner and Johnson of forcing her to sign the Devil’s book. She then began to demonstrate hysterical symptoms. She was placed in prison, but, was later found not guilty.

William Barker, Jr. (1678-1745) – From Andover, Massachusetts 14-year-old William, Jr. was accused of witchcraft and imprisoned. During that frightening summer of 1692, two of his family members had already been accused and jailed. His first cousin, 13-year-old Mary Barker and his father, William Barker Sr. had been arrested in August. On September 1st Constable Epharaim Foster arrested 14-year-old William, and the Reverend Francis Dane’s grandson, Stephen Johnson, whose mother, sisters, and aunt were already in prison. Examined the same day he was arrested, he, like his father, William Barker, Sr., confessed. He said that he had so recently converted to witchcraft that he had only been in the snare of the Devil six days. During his examination, he also accused Goody Parker. Though there were several Parker women in the area, the court magistrates took it upon themselves to issue a warrant for the arrest of Mary Ayer Parker without making sure they had the right woman in custody. Unfortunately, Mary Ayer Parker would be hanged just weeks later on September 22, 1692. William Barker, Jr. remained imprisoned until he was released on bail in January 1693. He was tried the following May in Ipswich and was acquitted. He lived until January 16, 1745, dying at the age of 67.

William Barker, Sr. (1646?-1718) – From Andover, Massachusetts, William Barker, Sr. was accused of witchcraft and imprisoned; but, managed to escape. On August 25, 1692, a complaint was filed by Samuel Martin and Moses Tyler against William and his nieces Mary Barker and Goodwife Mary Marston, for afflicting Abigail Martin, Jr., Rose Foster, and Martha Sprague. Four days later, on August 29th, Constable Epharaim Foster traveled to Andover and arrested the three accused. Barker was examined the same day and confessed to having been in the snare of the devil for three years. He went on to describe the devil looking like a black man with a cloven foot. He stated that the Devil promised to pay all of his debts if he would give him his body and soul. He continued by confessing to having afflicted his accusers and also accused the Reverend George Burroughs of being the ringleader of the witches and that Goody Howe was also a witch. William Barker, Sr. was imprisoned, but, somewhere along the line, he was able to escape. Obviously, at some point, he returned to Andover where he lived out his life and died in 1718, at the age of 73.

Sarah Hood Bassett (1676-17??) – The sister-in-law of accused witch Elizabeth Bassett Proctor, Sarah would be indicted and imprisoned. She would take her 22 month-old daughter and deliver another child while in jail. She was later released. See more HERE.

Witch Hanging

Witch Hanging

Bridget Playfer Bishop (1632?-1692) – The first person to be executed during the Salem witchcraft trials, Bridget Playfer was born about 1632 in England. She was married the first time in 1660 to Samuel Wesselbe in Norwich, Norfolk, England and the couple immigrated to America. After he died, she married Thomas Oliver in 1666. When he died, she was accused of bewitching him to death; but, was acquitted for lack of evidence. She married for the third time in about 1687 to Edward Bishop. Described as a feisty, fun-loving, lusty, innkeeper who couldn’t seem to keep herself out of trouble, she may have been accused of these very reasons. She was said to have owned one or more taverns, played shuffleboard, was outspoken, and dressed in provocative clothing – particularly red clothing which suggested sexual prowess. She was accused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard. During her trial, several men provided damaging testimony, including one who said that many people in town considered her a witch and another man accused her of bewitching his child and also of striking his son with a spade. John and William Bly, father and son, testified about finding poppets (voodoo dolls) in Bishop’s house and also about their pig that appeared to be bewitched, or poisoned, after a dispute with Bishop. There were also allegations that Bishop’s specter appeared in the rooms of several men while they slept and attacked them. During her examination, she allegedly made several conflicting statements and had a spiteful attitude, which made the case against her even stronger. In the end, she was found guilty and hanged on June 10, 1692.

Edward Bishop, Jr. (April 23, 1648?-??) – Married to Sarah Wildes Bishop, the couple had as many as 12 children. He was the son of the husband of Bridget Playfer Bishop, who would be found guilty and hanged on June 10, 1692. Said to have been tavern keepers, both he and his wife were accused of witchcraft and were arrested on April 21, 1692, along with Sarah’s stepmother, Sarah Wildes; William and Deliverance Hobbs, Nehemiah Abbott Jr., Mary Eastey, Mary Black and Mary English. The couple were examined by Magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne the next day and were found to have committed witchcraft against Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams. They were indicted and transferred to the Boston jail to await trial. In the meantime, Sarah’s stepmother, Sarah Wildes, was executed for witchcraft on July 19, 1692. The couple was able to escape in October 1692. After their escape, their property was seized. What happened to them afterward is unknown, but, their son, Samuel Bishop was able to recover some of their property. Ironically, another son, Edward Bishop III eventually married Susannah Putnam, who was a relation of the Putnam family who was the main accusers in the witchcraft hysteria.

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