Whenever "witchcraft" is mentioned, people generally think first of Salem, and the famous witch trials of 1692-1693. And while it is true that the trials took place in Salem, there were actually more accused witches, and more confessed witches, in Andover, which in those days bordered Salem, the county seat where all trials were held.

In both Salem and Andover, the earliest accusations of witchcraft were directed against people who were poor or in some way seemed to be "outsiders."

The first accused witch in Andover was Martha Carrier. Martha was known as a strong-minded woman who had no trouble speaking out- not a condition Puritans admired in women. Her 7-foot tall Welch husband was also marked as an outsider. Moreover, the family suffered from the dreaded smallpox. After Martha got into an argument with a neighbor, Benjamin Abbot, he fell sick, and accused her of having caused his illness. Her young children were sent to prison with her, apparently in hopes that their confinement would cause her to confess.

The Puritan sense of justice preferred a confession as proof of guilt. It soon became evident that those who confessed suffered only a prison term, while those who did not were hanged.

Convicted, Martha Carrier refused to confess, and was therefore hanged. Her children, who had confessed and even accused their mother of witchcraft, were released.

The familiar story of young girls accusing adults of "afflicting" them repeated itself in Andover when Joseph Ballard, an Andover resident, asked two of the Salem girls who had already accused several Salem women, to visit his sick wife, Elizabeth. The girls immediately announced that Mrs. Ballard was under the spell of a group of Andover women whom they named as witches.

As in Salem, the accusations increased and spread to more and more victims. By the summer of 1692, about 40 Andover residents had been accused. All the accused except Martha Carrier lived in the part of the town that later became the "North Parish" and, still later, North Andover.

Many of the accused were closely related. Abigail Faulkner was accused along with her daughters, ages 10 and 8. Five members of the Johnson family, including several children, were accused; one was convicted. The Lacey, Tyler, Parker, Bridges, and Wilson families all had several members brought to trial.

Besides Martha Carrier, two other Andover residents were hanged, and one died in prison. Mary Parker, who went to the gallows in the fall of 1692, was sentenced in part because of the "touch test," which seems to have been unique to Andover. Accused witches were forced to touch the people whom they were charged with afflicting. If their touch seemed to make the person sicker, this was a sure sign of guilt.

Ann Foster, a poor and senile widow, confessed to being a witch, but refused to confess that she had turned her daughter into one as well. Condemned to be hanged, she died in prison before the sentence could be carried out.

Town carpenter and fortune teller Samuel Wardwell at first admitted to witchcraft, but later recanted his confession. As a result, he, too, went to the gallows.

Also accused were several members of Rev. Francis Dane's family. Dane was the minister of the Andover parish church, who, unlike his assistant minister, Thomas Barnard, refused to take part in the rash of accusations. From her prison cell, his daughter, Abigail Dane Faulkner, wrote to the Massachusetts General Court a letter which ultimately caused the authorities to end the witch hysteria and eventually to compensate the accused families for their suffering.

"Andover Stories" is a weekly column about interesting local people and events, told to celebrate the Andover Historical Society's 100 anniversary in 2011.

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