By Judy Wakefield
---- — The setting is 1692 Andover. The Wabanaki Indians are wreaking havoc in town while occurrences of witchcraft are so numerous that Andover makes an “outside town” list, meaning militia men are coming from Boston to help restore the peace.
Today, the only Wabanaki we hear of in Andover is Wabanaki Way, a pretty neighborhood near Indian Ridge Country Club. Plus, Andover is much more likely to make an inside list, rather than an outside list.
But a former Andover resident is taking readers back to the time of the witch trials through the lens of the town where she once lived.
Juliet “Julie” Mofford, the former director of education and research at Andover Historical Society, tells the story of a purported witch from Andover in “Abigail Accused — A Story of the Salem Witch Hunt.”
Mofford, who is now retired and living in Bath, Maine, says the 238-page novel is the dramatic account of one family whose lives became entangled in the infamous witch trials of 1692. While historical fiction, it’s based on her researched history of Andover.
“This book is truly an Andover story — all about people and events in the Andovers during the Salem witch trials of 1692,” said Mofford, who was at the historical society from 2001 to 2006.
Abigail Dane Faulkner, a 40-year-old mother of six, gets most of the attention in the book. She was convicted of witchcraft and condemned to die. Yet she survived.
“She has always been my favorite witch because she was a survivor,” Mofford said.
Neighbors turned against neighbors and cried witch quite often in Andover in 1692, Mofford writes. In her book description, she says, “Why were more men, women and children from Abigail’s hometown of Andover carted off to prison? And, why did so many Andover residents confess to the cardinal crime of witchcraft — more than from any other town in New England?”
“That has always fascinated me,” she said.
In Faulkner’s case, her sister, nieces and even her own daughters testified against her in court and confessed to committing witchcraft themselves, according to Mofford, who writes about the humiliation of being accused, then arrested and the torments of being imprisoned in chains.
“How did Abigail Faulkner manage to save herself from the noose when 19 others, dubbed `Firebrands of Hell,’ were executed that September day?” she writes.
Mofford said she will always be intrigued by the town’s witch history and how Andover got to be the town that it is. She researched 17th century documents to give some weight to her novel.
“What makes my book unique ... is this historical novel explains what became of those who survived the witch trials and their treatment when they were finally released and returned home,” Mofford said.
The book also chronicles the Wabanaki Indians’ devastating attacks on Andover. In fact, a sister of Faulkner’s husband, Francis Faulkner, died after their childhood home in Andover was torched by Native Americans and she was slaughtered.
Faulkner and her father, Rev. Francis Dane, Andover’s senior minister, ultimately fought to end such tragedies and eventually helped bring an end to Puritan New England’s deadly witch hunts, Mofford said.
“The determined petitions by father and daughter are landmark documents of free speech and serve to remind us all of the ongoing struggle for human rights,” Mofford writes.
“They helped put a halt to the madness and bigotry of that tragic time,” she said.
Mofford had been working on the book since 1995. She also wrote another book about the Salem witch trials for young adults. Titled “Cry Witch,” it was published in 1995 by Discovery Enterprises for its Perspectives on American History series.
Her community play, “Cry Witch — The Andovers Remember 1692,” was performed in town by local storyteller Susan Lenoe in 1998 and 1999, supported by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Mofford has written a total of 12 books, including two that received national awards from the American Association for State and Local History. Her last book, “The Devil Made Me Do It: Crime and Punishment in Early New England” (Globe Pequot Press), came out last year.
“Abigail Accused — A Story of the Salem Witch Hunt” is available on Amazon’s Kindle for $3.99. Online reviews have been favorable and Mofford hopes to eventually see the book published in paperback.