From the Fortress of Solitude
Overlooking the Pleasant Grove Valley
Valentine’s Day 2010
- Today I report on a family tragedy.
- Today I report unjust accusations, false imprisonment, torture and murder.
- Today I report Indian attacks and kidnapping.
- Today I report on the hanging of a Great Aunt, accused by her own nephew!
- Today we uncover confessed Witches in our family line! Halloween will Never be the Same Again.
Where did this all begin you ask? Read on....
In 1692, 19 innocent men and women were hanged for witchcraft. An old man was pressed to death under heavy rocks for refusing to stand trial. Four others, Including our 9th Great Grandfather Dr. Roger Toothaker, died in prison as they awaited trial.
Our 9th Great Grandfather, Roger Toothaker was born in 1634 in England. He came to America with his family on the ship “Hopewell” and settled in Billerica, Mass near Salem. At 31 years old he married Mary Allin at Billerica on June 9, 1665. Roger was a doctor, although possibly more of a herbalist by today’s standards. There is no record of proper medical training. His wife, Grandmother Mary was a midwife.
It seems Roger was away from home and neglected the care of his wife and growing family. Town records show that on March 12, 1682/3 and on December 15, 1684 the town Selectman (Council) wrote and demanded that Roger return and care for his family. It seemed the order was ignored because town records show the family received charity from the town.
In 1692 a wave of witchcraft hysteria swept through Salem. Nine year old Betty Parris and her 11 year old cousin started having seizures or “fits”. Of course, in the days before modern medicine such fits might be thought of as devil induced because doctors couldn't find cures or remedies.
Grandfather Roger and his family lived in Salem, Mass. at the time. During questioning, Roger claimed to many that his daughter (Martha) killed a witch. On May 18, 1692 Salem filed a complaint against Dr. Roger Toothaker for witchcraft. He was taken to Boston Prison because all local jails were full of witches waiting for trial. Roger was accused by Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam and Mary Walcott. I should note that Elizabeth Hubbard’s father was a rival doctor in the community. I’m sure with our grandfather behind bars his practice increased. It seems Dr. Hubbard was a witchcraft conspirator, using his 17 year old servant Elizabeth to accuse many of witchcraft.
The story now continues down its sad path. On May 28th Roger’s wife Mary (our 9th Great Grandmother), their 9 year old daughter Margaret and Mary's sister Martha Carrier were arrested for witchcraft. One month later, Grandfather Roger died in Boston Prison. Many believe he was tortured.
Grandmother Mary was examined by John Hawthorne on July 30, 1692. She told the court that she was afraid of Indian attack and made a secret pact with the devil to protect her. Of course the confession was either fabricated or coerced. Her fear of Indians was justified however; the area had been attacked by Indians many times in the preceding few years. Mother and daughter stayed in prison. Two days later, Indians attack Billerica, Mass. burning down the Toothaker house. At the end of January 1693 they were freed and returned to the burned out house. Mary went on working as a midwife. Martha Carrier, our Grandmother’s sister was hanged as a witch on the testimony of her nephew, our 9th Great Uncle Allin.
On August 5, 1695 Indians attacked their small town of Billerica. Grandmother Mary was killed. Great Aunt Margaret was captured by the Indians and was never seen again.
The Children of Roger and Mary Toothaker
- Nathaniel b. 27 April 1666 d. 18 May 1683 Billerica
- Martha b. 23 July 1668 d. 14 January 1725/6 Haverhill, Mass. m. Joseph Emerson 16 July 1690 Haverhill, Mass.
- Allin b. 17 September 1670
- Roger b. 27 November 1672
- Sarah b. Circa 1674
- Mary b. 7 June 1675 d. 14 October 1675 Billerica
- Mary b. 28 September 1676 d. 5 December 1683 Billerica
- Andrew b. 4 October 1679 THIS IS OUR 8TH GREAT GRANDFATHER.
- Margaret b. 31 January 1682/3 Captured by Indians 5 August 1695 at Billerica
HERE LIES TH BODY OF
DOCTr ROGER TOOTHAKER
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
DECEMBER ye ?????
Our Grandfather's Tombstone.
DOCTr ROGER TOOTHAKER
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
DECEMBER ye ?????
Our Grandfather's Tombstone.
EXTRA INTERESTING READING:
The case against Dr. Roger Toothaker is described in Russell's article as follows:
"Thomas Gage, aged thirty-six, testified on 2 May 1692 that sometime the previous spring Dr. Toothaker was at Gage's house in Beverly, where they discussed a child of John Maston of Salem and a child of Philip White of Beverly, who were strangely sick or having fits. Toothaker stated that he had seen both children and concluded they 'were under an Evill hand' and that his own daughter [Margaret] had killed a witch. [El]ias Pickworth, aged thirty-four, testified to the same story."This is the actual Court Testimony of our 9th Great Grandmother taken during her trial as a witch:
30 July 1692 The Examination and confession of widow Toothaker Taken before Major Gidney Mr Hauthorn Mr Corwin & Cap'n Higginson.
After many questiones and negative answers returned and her Stricking Down of severall of the afflicted persons with her looks, she was Desyred to tell the truth in this matter She then said that this May last she was under great Discontentednes & troubled w'h feare about the Indians, & used often to dream of fighting with them. Being asked what was the Devils temptation under her discontent t she said she would confess if she could But that there was something at her breast that hindered her. she said she had often prayed but thought she was the worse for praying and knows not but that the Devil has tempted her not to pray, for her breath has been often Stopt as it was just now; Being asked if the Devil did not Desier her to renounce her baptisme, she answered that she had thoughts she was rather the worse for her baptisme and has wished she had not been baptised because she had not improved it as she ought to have done she saith she used to get into a corner alone and Desryed to prey but her mouth would be Stopt but sometymes she had been helped to say Lord be merce full to me a sinner. Being again asked how far she had yeilded to Satan she said the Devil promised her she should not be discovered and if she was discovered & brought down that she should goe home Innocent & cleare but now find he has deluded her. Being again asked how long it is since saten furst wrought with her in this manner she said she could not well tell how long but thinks it is not two years. And confesses that she went In her Spirit [to Timo' Swans] and did often think of him & her hands would be clinched, and that she would grip the dishclout or anything else and so think of the person; And by this & afflicting of others since She came down she is convinced she is a witch -- she saith now, the Devil appeared to her in the shape of a Tawny man and promised to keep her from the Indians and she should have happy dayes with her sone -- she was asked if she did not signe the Devills book; answered he brought something which she [took] to bee a piece of burch bark and she made a mark with her finger by rubbing off the whit Scurff. And he promised if she would serve him she should be safe from the Indians (she was then a litle stopt again & believed it was the Devil that did it)// Being asked if the Devil did not say she was to serve him Answered Yes, and signed the mark upon that condition and was to praise him w'h her whole heart, and twas to that appearance she prayed at all tymes for he said he was able to delyver her from the Indians And it was the feare of the Indians that put her upon it. she confesses she hurt Timothy Swan and thinks she was twice at salem Village witch meeting and that Goody Bridges was one of her company -- she said as she came along in order to examination she promised herself twenty tymes by the way (but [seald] it was to the Devil) That if she should Dye upon the Gallowse yet she would not say any thing but that she was Innocent. & rejoyced In the thought of it that She Should goe home Inocent -- she saith that Goody Green and Goody Broomage were also her companions and that Broomage afflicted Swan by squeezing his arms, And is afrayd that she the s'd Toothaker squeezed his throat -- she said further that when Goody Bridges (who had confessed before) urged her also to confess she had then no remembrance of this but with the justices Discourse and the help of god it came into her mind. she saith she thought that that appearance was God her creator & being asked if she did not know otherwise answered The Devil is so subtel that when she would confess he stops her and deludes also by scripture and being asked what scripture he made inser of to her she mentioned that in the Psalmes where it is said Let my enemies be confounded, And so she had wished them all Destroyed that raised such reports of her she confesses that her sister was with her at all the meetings & particularly at Salem Village & there went with her Goody Bridges Goody foster Goody Green & Goody Broomage Several afflicted persons said they saw the black man before her in the tyme of her examination And she now, her self confesses she saw him upon the table before her. She sayes further there was a minister a litle man whose name is Burroughs that preached at the Village meeting of witches, and she heard that they used read & write at these meetings And, that they did talk of 305 witches in the country. she saith their discourse was about the pulling down the Kingdom of Christ and setting up the Kingdom of satan, and also Knew Goody How emong the rest. Being asked if there was not a woman that stirred them up to afflict Swan Answered yes there was a pretty [Elderly] woman that was most busie about him and encouraged the rest to afflict him. she thinks she set her hand to that book at Salem Village meeting. And thinks the [End] of all their setting their hand to that book was to come in, and afflict & set up the Devils Kingdome. she being asked if her husband did not speak to his daughter to Kill one Button a reputed witch answered yes, and that they used to read many historyes, especially one book that treated of the 12 signes, from which book they could tell a great Deale. -- she saith she never knew her daughter to be in this condition before this summer, But that she was at Salem Village meeting once with her, she cannot tell that her daughter did then signe the book but a great many did. Being asked how many were of her Society she said Goody Broomage, foster, green, the two Mary Laceyes older and younger, Richard Carrier, her sister Carryer and another aged woman -- she saith she heard the Beating of a drum at the village meeting And think also heard the sound of a trumpet.
I underwritten being appointed to take the above & within examination in wryting Doe testify upon oath taken in Court That this is a true coppy, of the substance of it, to the best of my knowledge
6't Jan'ry in 1692/3