In recognition of Valentine’s Day, we present the little known, and extraordinary, love story of two seventeenth-century individuals.
Many are unaware of the unique story of Martha and Thomas Carrier. The couple and their five children lived in Andover, an area that had more people accused of witchcraft in 1692 than any other place in Essex County, including Salem. Argumentative or outspoken women were frequently early targets during witch trials, and Martha Carrier was known to be an outspoken woman who often quarreled with her neighbors. Not only was Martha the first person to be accused of witchcraft in Andover, but she was eventually labeled the “Queen in Hell,” a title that followed her for the remainder of the witch trials.
While there are many excellent nonfiction books recounting the lives of the individuals involved in the Salem witch trials, some of the most evocative works are in the historical fiction category. These books give authors the ability to dive into untold stories, interwoven with facts and imagination, and allow a deeper level of connection to the humanity of those involved in these events.
Kathleen Kent, a descendant of Martha Carrier, published her account of the Carrier story in The Heretic’s Daughter, in 2008. A prequel, The Traitor’s Wife, (originally titled The Wolves of Andover), followed in 2010. The books bring the love story of Martha Allen and Thomas Carrier to life in ways that are unforgettable. Their love for their children is equally powerful.
Kent’s research is impeccable, rendering her stories vivid and believable, even when she is creating dialogue that is entirely imagined. The Heretic’s Daughter is written through the eyes of seven-year-old Sarah Carrier, who, along with her mother and three of her siblings was accused of witchcraft and jailed. Martha Carrier, an outspoken and fierce woman who refused to confess to compacting with the devil, was hanged as a witch on August 19, 1692.
The Traitor’s Wife, set over 20 years earlier than Kent’s first book, follows a young Martha Allen as she meets a man with a mysterious past, the Welshman Thomas Carrier, in Billerica. Her bold independence attracts this giant of a man – he was reportedly over seven feet tall. Guesses can be made at the mysterious past of Thomas Carrier, and while we will never know for sure, there is strong evidence to suggest he may have been an executioner or guard involved in the death of King Charles I, before fleeing to the new world. Although he was 20 years Martha’s senior, the two fell in love and married. Their life to come was tough, tragic, and heartbreaking. One can imagine Martha and Thomas and their five children banding together in the face of their neighbors’ suspicion and fear.
Today, Martha is remembered for her courage, while Thomas is admired for his strength in the face of adversity, and for keeping his family together after the witch trials were over. Thanks to Kathleen Kent, their remarkable story is brought to life and remains with readers long after the last pages are read.
For more information about the Carrier family, visit our Online Sites Tour to read about their homestead: