NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

March 27, 2013

Witch hunts almost claimed Salisbury victim

Old Salem Village lost many innocent lives during the infamous witch-hunting era. The same manufactured delusions brought forth at the witch trials preyed upon a Salisbury woman named Mary Perkins Bradbury. Sentenced to die on Sept. 9, 1692, she must have had a higher power on her side, as she was ultimately spared from that perilous place of no return, the gallows.

Mary was fingered by her accusers long 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 Carr family; the most venomous was Anne Carr Putnam, a popular instigator of the witch hunts. Carr’s allies, including the Endicotts, were part of the malicious circle adding fuel to the growing fire.

To add insult to injury, some of the indictments brought against Mary were 20 years old. The superstitious squabble between the two families fed on the hysteria brewing in Salem. At the time of her sentencing, the matriarch was 72 years old and in delicate health.

The Bradburys were, by all accounts, 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 schoolmaster, town representative, associate judge and captain of a military company. He was later 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 she sold to Captain Smith became suspect. During a voyage, the spread became rancid, but more coincidental was the contaminated testimony from the Carr boys and added provocateur Samuel Endicott.

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