Sunday, June 16, 2013

Mary Perkins Bradbury - Salem Witch Escapee

Melissa Berry the Newburyport News Old Salem Village lost many innocent lives during the witch hunting era. The manufactured delusions brought forth at the witch trials preyed upon one Salisbury woman named Mary Perkins Bradbury. Sentenced to die on September 9, 1692, she must have had a higher power on her side, as she was spared from that perilous place of no return, the gallows.
Mary was fingered by her accusers before the hysteria started. A host of personal grudges made her the supernatural scapegoat of a family feud. There was conflict between her and the Carrs; the most venomous was Ann Carr Putnam, an influential instigator during the witch hunts. Carr’s allies, including the Endicotts, were among the malicious circle adding fuel to the growing fire.
View the case file & court records. To add insult to injury, some of the indictments brought against Mary were twenty years old. The superstitious squabble fed on the hysteria brewing in Salem. While a little common sense may have prevented the whole debacle, all attempts from pastors, legions of townspeople and a high-profile husband could not sway her conviction. At the time of her sentencing, the matriarch was 72 years old and in delicate health.
By all accounts, the Bradburys were pillars of the community. Mary ran a successful butter business out of her home in Salisbury. The Rev. James Allen testified that she was “full of works of charity & mercy to the sick & poor.” Her husband, Thomas Bradbury, was a school master, town representative, associate judge, and captain of a military company. He was described as one of the “ablest men in Massachusetts during his life.” Mary’s ordeal began in May of 1692 when she was named a tormentor of Ann Putnam, Jr. and the other afflicted girls who were casting wild accusations, setting the stage for adults. A batch of butter sold to Captain Smith became suspect. The spread became rancid during a voyage, but more coincidental was the contaminated testimony from the Carr boys and Samuel Endicott. They claimed Mary’s voodoo butter made them ill and insisted that she had unleashed a storm that “lost our main mast and rigging and fifteen horses.” Her specter even haunted them on “a bright moonshining night.” Mary was also accused of causing the death of John Carr by “dethroning his reason” and leaving him “weakened by disease, with disordered fancies.” Ann Putnam, Jr. included spectral evidence provided by John Carr’s ghost confirming this. The real skinny was that John had been slighted in love by Jane True, Mary’s daughter. He pined away for many years and lived a most dismal existence. Another love triangle spread more bad blood when James Carr was passed over by Widow Maverick, who fancied Mary’s son William. James testified that, after his visits to see the widow, he felt “a strange manner as if every living creature did run about every part of [his] body ready to tear [him] to pieces.” He also claimed that, in the night, Mary came to his bedside as a black cat.
Though the ringmaster, George Carr, was long passed, his scorn with Mary was rekindled by his son Richard’s testimony. According to him, Mary transformed herself into a “blue boar” and attacked his father’s horse, causing George to fall outside her home one Sabbath. Zerubabel Endicott came forward to support the ridiculous accusation that Mary had sent her spectator to “dart at Carr.” It’s too bad the horse could not testify and expose the truth behind their reckless gamboling. William Carr, the only sane one from the tribe, came to Mary’s defense, giving testimony to diminish the manic fantasies of his family’s plot. Sadly, it did not have much effect on the court’s noticeably partisan stance. In fact, all efforts to save Mary fell short. Mary’s husband gave a heart-wrenching plea for her innocence. He noted her “wonderful” abilities in industry and motherhood, the eleven children they lovingly shared, and her “cheerful spirit, liberal and charitable.” He asked for compassion for his aged wife who was “grieved under afflictions” and could not speak for herself, hoping the petition signed by 117 district members would speak for her. There are no official records available to explain how Mary escaped the rope, but there are many entertaining rumors among Bradbury descendants. Dr. Howard Bradbury passed on the story that Mary’s nephew from Boston appeared before Constable Baker in a phosphorescent devil's costume, prompting him to release her. In Ancestry Magazine, Catherine Moore suggests that Mary’s husband bribed the jailers and staged a break out with help from a muster. The disappearance of Samuel Endicott added another mysterious twist to these events. He went missing around the time Mary got out of jail. After seven years of not turning up, he was finally declared dead. In 1711, the governor of Massachusetts issued compensation via monetary payment of £20 to the heirs of Mary Bradbury. Although most families were eventually pardoned, this empty gesture was rarely accompanied by true atonement. The men of the cloth were the real transgressors, and dirty laundry always rings out in the wash. Fourteen years later, Ann Putnam, Jr. came clean in front of the church assembly, as pious crimin
als who fall into the mud must eventually clean up their act.

Taken From Harvard Crimson Article 1997
Some truly notable descendants of Thomas and Mary (Perkins) Bradbury include Ralph Waldo Emerson 1832 and the astronaut Allan Shephard. Notable descendants of John and Judith (Gater) Perkins of Ipswich include Franklin D. Roosevelt '04, Calvin Coolidge, Millard Fillmore, Max Perkins, Archibald Cox, the Harvard law professor, Lucille Ball, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins and Tennessee Williams. --Martin E. Hollick, reference librarian for the Widener and Lamont libraries
http://archive.org/details/englishancestryo00port

16 comments:

  1. Thank you! I am also a descendent of Mary Bradbury through her daughter Jane who married Henry True.

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  2. My husband is too. Thank you very much

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  3. Interesting. I am a descendant of Mary Perkins Bradbury on my mother's side and Samuel Wardwell on my fatther's.

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  4. I am a descendant of Mary Perkins Bradbury. Thanks for posting this story. I learned some things.

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  5. Francine Corbett VoltzDecember 29, 2014 at 8:54 PM

    She's. My ancestor. Family lore (we all know how that goes) says that one night her family literally broke her out of jail and took her home. (I think she had been ill). It was towards the end of the fiasco, everybody was embarrassed and I think heartsick over what had happened. She was a very old woman who had always been liked in the community and the authorities just sort of pretended it never happened. I have no idea if that is all true or not.

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  6. 11th Great grandmother here. There is so much documented history of Mary and her trial. Everything about her supposedly foul deeds and her accusers and their history has been recorded in the transcripts of her trial. The story of her breakout is the only mystery left to the whole affair. There are several versions, but the most popular seems to be that she was broken out of jail by her husband Thomas, with the assistance of some of his Salisbury militia comrades. It seems logical that money was exchanged with the jailer as well. Her execution had been delayed by the fact that she and Thomas were held in high regard by the townspeople of Salisbury, and they shared a position of power in the community. Thanks for posting, Melissa D Berry!

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  7. I am her 11th great greatdaughter, my dad said that he thinks Major Robert Pike was the one who got her out because he defended her at her trail. He was very influential in the military at the time in Salisbury and her husband Thomas was a Captain in his company!

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  8. Where can I find the stone that is at the bottom of your blog? Thanks for writing this story. Mary is my 9th great grandmother, too.

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  9. I am a direct decent of Mary Perkins Bradbury My mom is a Perkins direct decedent she is now 87 yeas young. I have the whole family tree and can prove with out a doubt that my link is John Perkins line that cam from England and I have records to state such facts.

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  10. Thomas Bradbury, her husband, is my maternal 8th great grandfather, and curiously, Zerubabbel Endicott, one of her accusers, is my paternal 9th Great Grandfather. Interesting, but sad to see this unfortunate intersection up my genetic line.

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  11. I am also a descendent through her son Wymond

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  12. She is my 8th great gram. My grandmother denied it.

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  13. We are all related! Both daughters Mary and Jane are my greatgrts grandmothers. Also related to the Carrs.

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  14. Thanks Melissa I am so glad Mary my ancestor escaped

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