From the Fortress of Solitude
Tonight we meet our 11th Great Aunt Mary Bliss Parsons, daughter of our 11th Great Grandfather and his second wife Margaret Hulins. We are descended from this same Thomas and his first wife Dorothy through another daughter with the same name "Mary Martha" who married Nathanial Harmon.
Our Great Aunt had an interesting life, to say the least. Yet once again we have a relative accused of witchcraft, providing another fascinating chapter in America's early history. We begin with the Relationship Chart:
Thomas Bliss b. abt. 1590 England married Dorothy Wheatley and 2nd wife Margaret Hulins
Sarmal Harmon married Mercy Simpson
John Harmon b. 1716 d. 1742 and Mary Hasty b. 1721 d. 1753
Martha Harmon b. 1740 and William Williams B. 1740 Prince George Maryland.
Nancy Ann Williams and William Cantwell
Martha Cantwell and Jacob George
Frances George and Henry Fiddler
Eldora Elizabeth Fiddler Edwin Sherman Pierce
Walter Edwin Pierce and Vesta Althea Dennis
Violet Mae Pierce and Walter Albert Mattson
Luella Mae Mattson and Charles Ray Williamson
The Mary (Bliss) Parsons Story
ary Parsons is perhaps the most infamous resident of Northampton's early settlement period. She was involved in witchcraft-related trials in 1656 and 1674, and possibly again in 1679. Her story is a fascinating one that sheds light on the workings of the Puritan mind and the complicated social and cultural situation of the period.
The Parsonses were one of the first families of Northampton; Historic Northampton's buildings are located on what was once Parsons family land, where Mary and her husband, Cornet Joseph Parsons, started their family in the newly settled town. The Parsonses moved to Northampton in 1654, where the were very successful. Cornet Joseph Parsons earned his title as a color-bearer in the Hampshire Troop of Horses, and held various positions of merit in the town. In his early career, he earned money and distinction working as a merchant and fur trader for the Pynchon family, and eventually kept the first house of entertainment in Northampton; the Parsonses would eventually become the wealthiest family in Northampton. Their wealth can also be measured in terms of their family size: Mary and Joseph had a total of eleven children, most of whom lived to adulthood.
But soon after the Parsonses moved to Northampton, rumors of witchcraft began to circulate, implying that the family's success came at the expense of other families, and was the result of Mary's dealings with the devil. To head off the allegations, Joseph Parsons initiated a slander case in 1656, which he won. But eighteen years later, Mary was officially accused of and tried for witchcraft in 1674. She was eventually acquitted, but it seemed that the residents of Northampton, despite any court decrees, were convinced that Mary was a witch. Mary may have been the subject of another witchcraft inquiry in 1679; however, no records remain to prove this theory. Joseph and Mary Parsons left Northampton in 1679 or 1680, amid lingering questions and gossip.
The story of Mary's trial in Northampton serves to show how the law courts worked in such complicated cases, and establishes a pattern that can be seen in witchcraft trials across New England, eventually culminating in the Salem Witch Hysteria in 1692.
For more information on our Great Aunt and detailed information on her trials please refer to the following web site: