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Accused in Salisbury 

Mary Bradbury

Accused on May 26 by Mary Marshall, Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, and Ann Putnam Jr., the elderly Mary (Perkins) Bradbury of Salisbury was arrested by Constable William Baker on June 28. Mistress Bradbury, in her late 70s, was the wife of prominent Salisbury citizen Captain Thomas Bradbury, who had been one of the first colonial settlers of the town in 1639. (“Mistress” denoted a woman of higher social standing than “Goodwife” or “Goody,” the polite salutation for a woman from the fourteenth to the mid-eighteenth centuries). She was related by marriage to the Nurse, Easty, Cloyce, Wildes, and Bishop families.

 

On July 2, Bradbury was questioned in Salem Town. Her accusers alleged she was the leader of spectral attacks against Timothy Swan of Andover. Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam Jr. also claimed to see the ghost of Putnam’s uncle, John Carr, in the courtroom. The ghost, in a winding sheet, accused Bradbury of murdering him. Bradbury was held for trial. By the end of the month, 115 of her neighbors and friends had signed a petition in an effort to save her. Among the signers were Robert Pike and Salisbury’s pastor, John Allen. Mistress Bradbury herself wrote to the judges, insisting she had led a good and upright life. Her husband added that she had been a good mother to their eleven children and four grandchildren, and a good neighbor. All pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

Years before, in 1679, there was a disagreement between Mistress Bradbury and Salisbury’s George Carr, father of Ann Putnam Sr. Following this disagreement, Carr accused Mistress Bradbury of being a witch. Could this family grudge have been the start of troubles to come, a dozen years later?

 

Bradbury’s accusers, many from the Carr family, swore their depositions against her in Salem Town on August 9. The list of grievances were many: butter purchased from Bradbury had turned rancid, she had raised a storm at sea resulting in the loss of horses in a ship’s hold, she had turned herself into a wild boar, and she was accused of causing John Carr’s death. Years prior, Mistress Bradbury had not allowed Carr to marry one of her granddaughters, feeling the girl was too young. In response, Carr had grown melancholy and “by degrees much crazed.” When he died, some suspected witchcraft.

 

Mistress Bradbury was convicted and sentenced to death on September 9. While the petition and overwhelming support of her friends and neighbors did nothing to change the judges’ minds, Bradbury eluded the hangman’s noose. With the help of her many friends, and her wealth, she escaped from jail and lived as a fugitive. She remained in hiding into 1693, finally returning to her family in May of that year. She died in 1700 at the age of 85.

 

In September of 1710, her family petitioned for a reversal of the conviction, which was granted in October of that year.

 

Additional note: One of Mary Bradbury’s eleven children, a son named Wymond, married Sarah Pike, daughter of Major Robert Pike. Among Mary Bradbury’s descendants are two distinguished literary figures: Ralph Waldo Emerson (a fourth great-grandson) and Ray Bradbury (a seventh great-grandson).