A blend of history and fiction
I chose names from the history books for my characters in the Immoral Virtue trilogy. I mixed them up, though, combining one surname with another first name and so on. I wanted to capture the feel of the period without stealing anyone’s identity.
One such character in THE ACCUSED, Martha Farrington, is a village elder, a pious woman, who lost her temper one day and sparred with her debtor. She used angry words, nothing more, but the man died soon after. Naturally, in that time of fear and paranoia, she was seen as the cause and believed to have signed a pact with the devil. Her words thus becoming true weapons of evil. And so, in Book 2, she became one of the accused.
In real Salem, 1692, there was real Martha. There were several of them, in fact. One grabbed my attention and was the reason I used the name ‘Martha”.
Martha Carrier. At the time she was accused, she was 33 years of age, a wife and a mother of five children.
In April,1692, it was said, Martha Carrier led a flying pack of witches to a field where other witches would meet them. Together, they ate, they drank and talked gaily of turning all of God’s houses into houses for Satan. The afflicted testified to this for they had watched this gathering and heard, from their hiding spots, the witches’ plans. Those who had gathered that night, including the Reverend George Boroughs, were arrested and questioned, but it was Martha Carrier who led them… and of course she would for Martha Carrier was known to be not only an argumentative woman, but also a scandalous woman whose first child had been born out of wedlock.
This was a sin not forgotten.
Her maiden family, the Allen family, had been among the founding families of Andover. Yet even that fact could not grant her respect or admiration, for a loose woman such as herself brought evil to herself and those around her. Evils including the curse of smallpox… for surely only dark deeds would bring forth such punishment from Above.
Martha’s own spawn died from the horrendous disease, as did neighbors and others in their midst. But Martha, her husband, Thomas and their other children somehow survived.
Upon the death of Martha’s father sometime later, Martha, Thomas and her youngest children moved in with Martha’s mother and brothers in Salem, who soon showed signs of the pox. Martha, her children, and Thomas survived again while Martha’s brothers perished. With her father dead and now her brothers, Martha, through her husband, stood to inherit her family’s possessions.
There must be evil afoot. How could the Carrier family outlive the pox if not with aide from evil? And all for greed… a sin known to all.
It was no surprise, then to learn Martha led the witches that night. And so she was arrested.
But also detained were Martha’s children. Surely they knew of their mother’s allegiance to the devil.
They denied such knowledge at first, but upon further questioning, seven-year-old Sarah and ten-year-old Thomas did confess to knowledge of their mother’s pact with Satan.
The elder children, 18-year old Richard and 16-year old Andrew, were also brought before the court, not merely as witnesses against their mother but themselves accused as well.
They denied such truths even as those denials brought horrendous seizures upon the afflicted right there before the court. So violent were the effects on the afflicted that the boys were taken from the meeting house and brought elsewhere so they might not harm the girls further.
And then, in this place where other prisoners were held, each of the Carrier boys was tightly bound, standing bent – neck to heels – and left so until only truth would pour from their lips. And a day later, their statements confirmed what the examiners, the witnesses and the afflicted already knew: their mother was indeed a witch. As were they.
Two of the five are (Carrier’s sons) young men, who would not confess anything till they tied them neck and heels, till the blood was ready to come out their noses; and it is credibly believed and reported that this was the occasion of making them confess what they never did, by reason the said one had been a witch a month.
The boys’ confessions were accepted by the court.
On August 19th, 1692, Martha Carrier stood upon the cart which took her to Gallows Hill, and there, one last time, her youngest pleaded for her to confess so she might be forgiven. She did not and, after a prayer for her soul by Reverend Cotton Mather – who at one time called her a “rampant hag”- Martha Carrier was hanged until dead.