Accused widow Ann Foster may have lived near Foster’s Pond in 1692, in the southern-most area of Andover.
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Widow Ann Foster was around 75 years old and very frail when she was accused of witchcraft in 1692.
The first person to be accused in Andover was Martha Carrier, who was arrested by South End constable John Ballard on May 31. Ballard’s brother Joseph was married to Elizabeth (Phelps), who had been ill all summer. Joseph Ballard invited two afflicted girls (believed to be Ann Putnam Jr. and Mary Walcott) from Salem Village to visit his wife. He thought the girls might be able to confirm if witchcraft was behind his wife’s sickness. The girls’ first targets were the elderly Ann Foster, her daughter Mary Lacey, and her granddaughter Mary Lacey Jr. Joseph Ballard was likely the one who filed the complaint against Ann.
Ann Foster was interrogated by the magistrates four times over a week, starting on July 15. Perhaps her age and fragility made her especially vulnerable. She confessed to witchcraft immediately, only the eighth person to do so. The devil came to her in the form of a bird on three occasions, she said. She could afflict people by merely looking at them. She had been made a witch six years earlier by Martha Carrier (already in jail), had ridden to a witch meeting in Salem Village on a stick with Carrier, and she had seen Reverend George Burroughs in attendance at the meeting (he was also already jailed). The most astounding claim was that there were 305 witches operating in the area. It was their mission, Ann Foster said, to create the devil’s kingdom in Essex County.
By July 21, Ann’s daughter, 40-year-old Mary Lacey, and granddaughter, 18-year-old Mary Lacey Jr., were also arrested for witchcraft. Mary Sr. had moved to the North End of Andover when she married Lawrence Lacey in 1673, but it was common for relatives of accused witches to fall under suspicion. Both Laceys confessed to witchcraft, and implicated Ann Foster and each other. Ann, for her part, did not accuse her family members.
Accusing and jailing Ann Foster and her family did not help Elizabeth Ballard, who died on July 27. Had she been killed by witchcraft?
The Court of Oyer and Terminer condemned Ann Foster to death by hanging on September 17. Five days later, on September 22, eight people were hanged. Ann Foster was not among them. September 22 turned out to be the last execution day of the witchcraft trials. Governor William Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer in October, and a new court would not address the accused and condemned until early in 1693. It was too late for Ann Foster. On December 3, still condemned, she died in Salem jail after five months of imprisonment.
What brought a charge of witchcraft to Ann, and why did she confess? Family tragedies from the past may have been part of it, surmises author Richard Hite in his book In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692. Ann and her husband Andrew Foster’s daughter Hannah married a man named Hugh Stone in 1667. The Stones had seven children by 1686. Also by that year, Hugh Stone had been fined in court on three separate occasions for drunkenness. In 1689, Stone murdered Hannah by slashing her throat. When he was hanged for the crime in January of 1690, Stone’s last words implied some blame was due his wife’s family for his terrible act, even if alcohol also played a role. Later in 1690, Hannah and Hugh Stone’s 19-year-old son Simon was wounded by natives in New Hampshire, something that apparently affected Simon’s health for years. Ann’s granddaughter Mary ran away from home for a time after the murder, which she claimed was at the suggestion of the Devil. Hite suggests Ann may have thought her family troubles could have been caused by witchcraft. All three generations – Ann Foster, her daughter Mary Lacey, and her granddaughter Mary Lacey, Jr. were accused. “The witch hunters of 1692 showed a propensity to attack those already suffering adversity,” says Hite.
It remains a mystery where Ann Foster lived in 1692, or where her remains are buried. There is a lot of conflicting information. Ann’s husband, a Scot named Andrew, was one of the “original proprietors of Andover.” He died seven years before the witchcraft hysteria took hold, in 1685, at the reported age of 106 years. In his will, he said he was “leaving to my deare and loving wife Ann Foster, the use and the sole liberty of living in that end of my house I now live in.” Where was that house? According to Charlotte Helen Abbott’s Early Records of the Foster Families of Andover, “Under the grandstand at the track at the Richardson training stables on Elm Street, is the site of what was known as the “witch’s cellar,” a part of Ann’s home.” However, according to the Plan of Andover in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, Essex County, 1692, a map created by the Andover and North Andover Historical Societies in 1992, the accused Sarah Wilson is more likely the “witch” whose cellar stood near the stables grandstand. It is Joseph Wilson’s house that is located on the map at the spot where Merrimack College meets Route 114 today.
Also according to the Plan of Andover, one of the Foster sons lived north of Foster’s Pond in 1692. While the Plan of Andover identifies the son as Andrew, the Foster’s Pond Corporation says it was son Abraham who lived there. It was Abraham who “had to pay £2 10s to get his mother’s body from the prison” when she died in December, according to Charlotte Helen Abbott. Perhaps Ann Foster lived with her son north of Foster’s Pond, and perhaps she is buried there. The pond was named after her husband Andrew, according to the Foster’s Pond Corporation. In 1692, it was much smaller in size, covering approximately 50 acres. After a dam was built in the early 1850s, the pond started to increase in size. Today, its area has more than doubled, covering 120 acres.
Another theory about the location of Ann Foster’s final resting place is suggested by Char Lyons, historian of the South Church in Andover. She points out Foster Circle, off of Elm Street, as an area once owned by the Foster family and a possible location for Ann Foster’s burial place.
North of Foster’s Pond, near the intersection of Rattlesnake Road and Pinetree Lane, is a possible location of former Foster property. Another possibility is Foster Circle, off of Elm Street.
A view of Foster's Pond from Foster's Pond Road.
A view of Foster's Pond from Rattlesnake Road.
Foster Circle, off of Elm Street.
Looking down Foster Circle, from Elm Street.