More About George Carr Home and Ferry, Site(s) of

George Carr, born in England circa 1613, traveled to the New World during the Puritan Great Migration (1620-1640), first arriving in Ipswich around 1634. He was an early settler of Salisbury (then called Colchester), appearing on the 1639 list of people granted town lots. Other original townspeople included Thomas Bradbury, Robert Pike, Robert Ring, John Sanders, and William Worcester, the latter being the town’s first minister, from his arrival in 1639 until his death in 1662.


A 1639 map shows Carr had a house lot on the original circular road (Mudnock Road today), near neighbors Bradbury, Ring, and Sanders, and a short distance from the meeting house that was built in 1640. That year, the town was officially re-named Salisbury.


By 1641, according to Joseph Merrill in his 1880 book History of Amesbury, Including the First Seventeen Years of Salisbury “George Carr was given the ‘greatest land in the river Merrimack.’ This gave name to the island and it has been known as ‘Carr’s Island’ ever since. Mr. Carr was a ship builder and large land holder and specially known by his ferry across the Merrimac.” There was a floating timber bridge that connected Salisbury to the north part of Carr Island; a ferry then took passengers on to Newbury across the Merrimack River.


A 1648 town meeting, according to Merrill, “ordered that Mr. Carr should have the ferry fourteen years upon the terms agreed upon by the committee chosen in June.” Carr, who died in 1682, and his descendants ran the ferry from Salisbury to Newbury for generations.


Also in 1641, Carr married a Boston woman named Elizabeth (maiden name possibly Dexter). The couple had ten children over the next two decades, the last, Ann, born in 1661. Two other daughters, the oldest Elizabeth, and the third oldest, Sarah, were raised by relatives in Boston. Their second son, Richard, died around the age of 4 in 1649. A decade later, George and Elizabeth named their last son Richard; the tradition of naming a son after a child who had died was often followed in colonial times.


Relocating from the circular road, Carr and his family moved to Carr Island where his shipbuilding and ferry business were based. According to Marilynne Roach in Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, “Besides being a shipwright, George owned a wharf in Boston and kept trading contacts there, owned part of a vessel in 1638 with colony leaders Simon Bradstreet and Richard Saltonstall … and in 1649 traded a quarter share in another vessel to William Hilton for an Indian named James to be his ‘servant forever.’”


Merrill describes Carr’s shipbuilding business around 1656: “Small vessels were built on the river, principally at Carr’s Island, by George Carr and used to ship … staves to the West Indies.” The records show one order numbered 30,000 staves (a stave is a narrow length of wood – oak in this case – with a slightly beveled edge, handmade by coopers, which were hooped together to make casks).


Although George Carr had been dead for a decade, several of his children made serious accusations of witchcraft against their neighbor Mary Bradbury in 1692. Despite the fact that she was one of the most admired and respected members of the community, Carr’s sons James and Richard had old stories to tell, while another son, John, was said to have been bewitched by Bradbury. Their sister Ann, the youngest Carr, was married to Thomas Putnam Jr. of Salem Village. The Putnams, along with their daughter Ann Putnam Jr., were among the main accusers in 1692. In fact, the records show Ann Putnam Jr. and Thomas Putnam accused more people than any others during that tragic time.


Why the animosity between the Carrs and Mary Bradbury?


In 2015, Melissa Berry suggests unrequited love in “The tribal wars between the two families were sparked when Mary passed over an offer of marriage from George Carr and married Thomas Bradbury,” says Berry. It’s a fascinating theory.


In his testimony, son Richard Carr recounted a 13-year-old story that occurred when his father was still living, “…after some difference that happened to be between my honored father, Mr. George Carr, and Mrs. Bradbury … as we were riding home, by the house of Captain Tho. Bradbury, I saw Mrs. Bradbury go into her gate, turn the corner of, and immediately there darted out of her gate a blue boar, and darted at my father’s horse’s legs, which made him stumble.”


Another son, James, felt he’d been cursed by Mary Bradbury 20 years earlier, when he and Bradbury’s son William were courting the same woman, Rebecca (Wheelwright) Maverick. James Carr became ill and thought he’d been bewitched by Mistress Bradbury. During Carr’s recovery, William Bradbury and Widow Maverick were married.


In another tragic romance, son John Carr fell in love with Bradbury granddaughter Jemima sometime in the 1680s. When their relationship was ended by an unknown family member due to the young age of both parties, John wasted away until his death in 1689, just years before the witchcraft hysteria broke out. Members of the Carr family once again blamed Mary Bradbury for his condition. In 1692, as Mary Bradbury was accused of witchcraft, Ann Putnam Jr. claimed John’s ghost appeared in the courtroom and said Mary had murdered him. Ann’s mother was, of course, Ann (Carr) Putnam, youngest sibling of Richard, James, and John.


Contrary to the rest of the Carr family, son William Carr testified, “… my father being persuaded by [     ] of the family (which I shall not name) not to let him [John] marry so young, my father would not give him a portion, whereupon the match broke off, which my brother laid so much to heart that he grew melancholy, and by degrees much crazed, not being the man, that he was before, to his dying day.” When John Carr died in 1689, some family members said Mary Bradbury had bewitched him to death, but William Carr disputed this version of events, saying “… he died peaceably and quietly, never manifesting the least trouble in the world about anybody; nor did not say any thing of Mrs. Bradbury nor anybody else doing him hurt…” In fact, William and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Major Robert Pike, signed the petition in support of Mary Bradbury.


The youngest Carr, Ann, married Thomas Putnam of Salem Village in 1678, when she was 17 and he was 26. Ann had followed her sister Mary to the village when Mary married John Bailey, Salem Village’s first minister. As previously mentioned, Thomas and Ann Putnam, and their eldest daughter, Ann Putnam Jr., became the principal accusers in 1692. Between them, they filed complaints or testified against 40-60 people. Their grievances were many. Both Thomas and Ann felt they had been unfairly cheated out of inheritances that were rightly theirs. Thomas envied the political and economic success of his neighbors. Ann Sr. had suffered trauma in her life, losing some of her siblings at an early age, losing children of her own, and watching as her sisters lost infants. In 1692, Ann had recently lost a child and was pregnant again. She was also fearful, like many, of Native and French attacks. The tragedies she’d suffered, and her fear, may have caused her visions of ghosts and witches. It is impossible to know with certainty what drove a 12-year-old girl to accuse neighbors and strangers of witchcraft, ultimately leading to their imprisonment and, in many cases, execution, but hearing her parents’ many complaints, Ann Jr. may simply have been the means by which her parents sought revenge on their enemies.


The location of George Carr’s first house lot is near 9-11 Mudnock Road. The houses that stand in this neighborhood today are private residences, not open to the public. Carr Island is in the middle of the Merrimack River. Historic signs regarding Carr Ferry can be found at the intersection of Mudnock Road and Ferry Lots Road in Salisbury, and at the intersection of High Street and Jefferson Street in Newburyport.