More About Mary and Lawrence Lacey Home, Site of

One of the most tragic stories of many sad tales related to the witchcraft delusion of 1692 is that of the Foster-Lacey family of Andover. Three generations of women from this family were accused, and confessed to witchcraft. But there was even more tragedy.


Living somewhere on this rural road in 1692, located about three miles from the “center” of town (part of Andover then, North Andover today), were Lawrence Lacey, his wife Mary (Foster) Lacey (moving forward we’ll refer to her as Mary Lacey Sr.), and their children: oldest daughter Mary Jr., born in 1674, Dorothy, born in 1677, Lawrence Jr., born in 1683, Sara, born in 1686, and the youngest, Ephraim, whose birthdate is not recorded. According to Inga Larson at the North Andover Historical Society, Lawrence Lacey was something of a squatter “so would have chosen to settle near an as yet undefined border.” This area is very close to the Boxford town border.


The witch hysteria arrived in Andover at the end of May, 1692, when Martha Carrier was accused and arrested. By the middle of July, elderly and frail widow Ann Foster (in her mid-70s) was also arrested, possibly accused by Joseph Ballard who suspected witchcraft as the source of his wife’s lingering illness. Ballard may have been directed to Foster by afflicted girls from Salem Village who he enlisted to identify his wife’s tormentors. Widow Foster was examined repeatedly beginning on July 15. By the 18th, she claimed there were 305 “witches” operating in the whole country. Joseph Ballard then filed a complaint on July 19 (the same day five women were hanged in Salem) against Ann Foster’s daughter and granddaughter, Mary Lacey Sr., aged 40, and Mary Lacey Jr., aged 18, saying they tormented his wife and caused her illness. At the time it was believed witchcraft ran in families, particularly among the women, so Foster-Lacey family members were perfect targets. On July 21, the two Laceys were arrested at their home on what is today Lacy Street, by constable Ephraim Foster (perhaps a distant relative), who said he found the makings of poppets (items used for counter-magic) in their house.


When questioned, Ann Foster confessed to being a witch (saying it was Martha Carrier who had made her so), but did not implicate her family members. The Laceys, on the other hand, both confessed and accused their immediate family. Mary Sr., examined with her mother present, confessed to riding on a pole with her mother and Martha Carrier to a witches meeting in Salem Village. She said she’d been baptized at Newbury Falls, carried there in the arms of the devil himself. Author Richard Hite points out in his book In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692 that this was the first time baptism was mentioned as part of the devil’s ritual. Mary Sr. confessed to tormenting Timothy Swan of Andover, and implicated her daughter in her confession. Mary Jr., too, pointed fingers at both her mother and grandmother. Mary Jr. initially claimed she’d been a witch for only a week, made so by her mother, but later said the devil had made her a witch a year earlier. Like many others, she admitted tormenting the two Andover residents who were known to be seriously ill – Elizabeth Ballard and Timothy Swan.


Some of Mary Jr.’s most infamous claims were directed toward Martha Carrier, already jailed for witchcraft. Mary said Martha Carrier murdered more people than the thirteen victims of the 1690 smallpox epidemic she was blamed for. She also said Carrier had told her the devil promised her she would be “Queen in Hell.” When Reverend Cotton Mather wrote his book, The Wonders of the Invisible World, he repeated that colorful anecdote, making Martha Carrier the Queen in Hell forever.


Like Mary Warren before her, Mary Lacey Jr. was not only accused of witchcraft but also made numerous efforts to appear afflicted and bewitched by others. Perhaps she was trying to save herself when she accused others of tormenting her, including Martha Carrier’s son Richard, and Martha’s niece Martha Toothaker Emerson, daughter of Roger and Mary Toothaker.


The confessions of three generations of this one family accelerated the Andover witch hunt. By the time it was over, 45 members of the community were accused.


Ann Foster and Mary Sr. were convicted and condemned to death on September 17, along with seven others. They were among the first “confessors” to be condemned. Ann Foster, frail and elderly, died in Salem jail on December 3, 1692. Her body was not released to her son Abraham until he paid her jail fees. Mary Sr. was reprieved by Governor William Phips on January 31, 1693.


Mary Jr. was the only one of the three to be found not guilty. Author Richard Hite says, “She gave evidence against more suspects than any other confessor.” It is interesting to note that bond was posted for Mary Jr. by Francis Faulkner (whose wife Abigail was accused of witchcraft) and John Barker (whose daughter Mary was accused of witchcraft), rather than her father Lawrence or her brothers. Perhaps they had ill feelings toward her for accusing other family members?


Mary Jr. married her cousin Zerubbabel Kemp in 1704, when she was 30, and lived with him in Groton, MA until at least 1748. Mary Sr. died in 1707.  Lawrence Lacey filed for compensation for his wife and daughter, Mary Jr., in 1710.


Earlier family tragedies may have drawn attention to these three women as potential witches in 1692. Ann Foster’s husband Andrew, an original founder of Andover, died in 1685. At that time, there were five living adult Foster children. Daughter Hannah was married to Hugh Stone, with whom she had seven children between 1668 and 1686. Court records reveal that Stone was repeatedly fined for drunkenness. Perhaps he was abusive to his family. On April 20, 1689, Stone committed Andover’s first murder by slitting the throat of his wife Hannah, pregnant with their eighth child. Stone was hanged for the crime in 1690, saying before his execution, “When thou hast thy head full of drink, remembrance of God is out of thy heart. I have cause to cry out and be ashamed of it, that I am guilty of it because I gave way to that sin more than any other and then God did leave me to practice wickedness and to murder that dear woman whom I should have taken a great deal of contentment in; which if I had done, I should not have been here to suffer this Death.” Later that same year, Ann Foster’s son Simon was wounded in a battle with natives in New Hampshire. Ann Foster’s granddaughter Mary Jr. ran away from home for a period of time a few years after her aunt’s murder. Were all of these troubles a sign that Ann had sinned? Was God displeased with her? Is this why she, and her daughter and granddaughter, confessed to being witches?


Additional note: In Charlotte Helen Abbott’s Lacy Family genealogy, available at Memorial Library in Andover, there is this entry about Lawrence Jr. (Mary Jr.’s brother, in his mid-40s at the time of this note) from the North Church records: “May 5, 1729. Church votes to have Lawrence Lacey confess to neglect of public worship, and the idle, lazy life he has led for many years. Capt. Frye, Timothy Osgood, Dan Poor, Lt. Ben Barker to intercede with him. In June he confessed. John Marston and John Johnson assigned to labor with him to appear to be admonished.”


The location of the Lacey property in 1692 was likely near the Forest Street end of Lacy Street. This is a quiet and beautiful residential neighborhood today.