In 1692, Sarah and Samuel Wardwell lived in the center of Andover, near what is today the border between Andover and North Andover. Samuel was a known fortune-teller, which made him a prime suspect for witchcraft accusations.
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More About Sarah and Samuel Wardwell Home, Site of
In 1692, 49-year-old Samuel Wardwell and his second wife Sarah (Hooper) Hawkes, 42 years old, were living in the center of Andover, near what is today the border of Andover and North Andover. They had married in 1673. Sarah had one child, Sarah, from her first marriage to Adam Hawkes, Samuel had one son, Thomas, by his first wife (name unknown), and the Wardwells had six children of their own.
Wardwell was known to use folk magic and to tell fortunes to the town’s youth. It was said he could predict the number of children his neighbors would have, and their gender. Folk magic was fairly common in the 17th century, yet those who practiced it in 1692 were opening themselves up to charges of witchcraft as suspicion spread.
The witchcraft accusations began in Salem Village in the winter of 1692. By late May, they had reached Andover, where Martha Carrier was the first to be accused. Carrier was a prime target. She was blamed for bringing small pox to the town in 1690 and she was also an argumentative woman. South End constable John Ballard arrested Carrier and brought her to Salem for questioning. Ballard was the brother-in-law of Samuel Wardwell; he was married to Sarah Hooper’s sister Rebecca.
John Ballard’s brother Joseph was married to Elizabeth (Phelps). Elizabeth had been inexplicably ill for some time by July of 1692. John Ballard likely shared with Joseph what he had witnessed in Salem when he brought Martha Carrier to jail.
As the whisperings and accusations increased, Samuel Wardwell became concerned that he himself might become a target, since he was a known fortune-teller. Wardwell expressed his concern to his brother-in-law, John Ballard. Could it be possible that he, Samuel, was suspected of witchcraft, or even suspected of making Elizabeth ill?
Both John and Joseph Ballard were reportedly shocked by the question. They had never suspected Wardwell. But the seed was planted. Maybe Elizabeth’s sickness was caused by witchcraft. In mid-July Joseph Ballard invited two of Salem Village’s afflicted girls (thought to be Ann Putnam Jr. and Mary Walcott) to Andover to visit his ailing wife, to confirm his suspicion of witchcraft and to identify the witches. The girls’ first targets were Ann Foster, her daughter Mary Lacy, and her granddaughter Mary Lacy Jr. The three women were arrested on July 31. The massive Andover witch-hunt was under way. By the time it was over, more people were accused of witchcraft in Andover than in any other town.
Identifying Andover “witches” did not help Elizabeth Ballard. She died on July 27. The fear spread.
It was not until late August that Samuel Wardwell was arrested for witchcraft, accused by 16-year-old Martha Sprague of Boxford. Sprague also accused Wardwell’s wife Sarah, his 22-year-old stepdaughter Sarah Hawkes, and his 19-year-old daughter Mercy. All were arrested and imprisoned.
The Wardwells were questioned on September 1, and all offered stunning confessions. Samuel Wardwell resisted confessing at first, but then admitted to signing the devil’s book twenty years earlier and being baptized in the Shawsheen River. He said he had afflicted Martha Sprague by pinching his coat and buttons, an example of image magic. His wife Sarah gave the most shocking confession of all, stating that she too had signed the devil’s book and been baptized in the Shawsheen. She added that she had attended a meeting of witches in Salem Village. Worst of all, she admitted to squeezing her own child in an effort to cause harm to Martha Sprague, another use of image magic. The child was likely Rebecca, the youngest Wardwell, who was not yet a year old. It was an alarming confession. Author Richard Hite, in his book In the Shadow of Salem: The Andover Witch Hunt of 1692, suggests Sarah Wardwell may have suspected a relationship existed between her husband and the teenaged Martha Sprague, which caused her extreme animosity toward the girl. Sprague and six other afflicted girls testified against Sarah Wardwell, so the hatred may have been mutual. Daughter Mercy and step-daughter Sarah Hawkes also confessed to witchcraft.
Samuel Wardwell was tried on September 14. After his confession was read aloud, he recanted and said his confession was a lie. The trial proceeded, with neighbors telling stories of his fortune-telling and predictions. Wardwell was found guilty, and hanged with seven others (Mary Esty, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Martha Corey, Margaret Scott & Wilmot Redd) on September 22, on Proctor’s Ledge at Gallows Hill. According to Robert Calef’s account of the execution found in More Wonders of the Invisible World, published in 1700, “At execution, while [Samuel Wardwell] was speaking to the people, protesting his innocency, the executioner being at the same time smoking tobacco, the smoke coming in his face interrupted his discourse; those accusers said that the devil did hinder him with smoke.”
In late September, with Samuel hanged and Sarah still in jail, the Andover town selectmen petitioned the court to place the youngest Wardwell children with other families in town. John Ballard, their uncle, took in Samuel Wardwell Jr. for a year.
September 22 was the last hanging day of the Salem witchcraft trials. In October, after numerous petitions in support of the accused, changing public opinion, and an accusation against his own wife, Governor William Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Samuel’s wife Sarah Wardwell, his step-daughter Sarah Hawkes, and his daughter Mercy, were tried by a new court on January 10, 1693. The latter two were acquitted, but Sarah Wardwell was convicted. She, along with seven others, were scheduled to be executed in February. Governor Phips issued last minute reprieves for the condemned. Sarah Wardwell was saved. The jails slowly emptied, as prison fees were paid.
Additional note: Marriages between members of families affected by the events of 1692 were not uncommon. Rebecca Wardwell, the youngest of the Wardwell children and likely the one Sarah Wardwell confessed to squeezing in order to harm Martha Sprague, married Ezekiel Osgood, whose sister Mary was accused, imprisoned, and finally acquitted. Sarah Hawkes, Wardwell’s step-daughter, married Reverend Francis Dane’s grandson, Francis Johnson. Mercy Wardwell married Francis Johnson’s cousin, John Wright.
Additional note: An intriguing story about one of Samuel Wardwell’s relatives concerns his sister-in-law, the Quaker Lydia Wardwell (alternate spelling Wardell). Lydia was the wife of Samuel’s oldest brother Eliakim. They lived in Hampton, New Hampshire but were expected to attend Puritan meeting in nearby Newbury, Massachusetts. They were fined repeatedly for missing church services. In protest, one cold April day in 1663, Lydia entered the meetinghouse, stripped off her clothes, and shocked the congregation. She was whipped for her action. The event is described in Diane Rapaport’s book The Naked Quaker: True Crimes and Controversies from the Courts of Colonial New England.
The exact site of the Wardwell home is difficult to ascertain, but according to Charlotte Helen Abbott’s Notes and Records of the Ballard Family of Andover, available at Memorial Hall Library in Andover, and written between 1853 and 1920, the Wardwells lived on “what is now the Downing estate on Highland-Road.” 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, locates the home in the same general area.
The site may be in the neighborhood where Rogers Brook East and Downing Street intersect with Highland Road.
Looking toward Highland Road from Rogers Brook East
The intersection of Rogers Brook East and Highland Road
The intersection of Downing Street and Highland Road
Samuel Wardwell's bench at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem, MA