Happy Halloween! This will be a spooky Colchester history edition of This Week’s Thoughts. Because Colchester actually has a connection to the Salem Witch Trials. (My thanks to Steve Bradstreet who told me about this and encouraged me to read The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent which tells the story of Martha Carrier and her family’s involvement in the Salem Witch Trials and highlights the Colchester connection.)
Martha Carrier was a woman from Andover, Massachusetts who was accused of witchcraft during the Trials. At one point, the family moved from Billerica to Andover and in late 1690 several of the Carrier children came down with smallpox. A smallpox outbreak occurred in Andover and the Carrier family was blamed by many in the town. This incident (among other issues with neighbors) led to Martha Carrier being accused of witchcraft. “Afflicted” young girls accused Martha Carrier of killing 13 people in Andover in court (historians believe that this was a reference to the smallpox outbreak) and she was hanged as a witch on August 19, 1692.*
After these horrific events (her own children were tortured until they confessed that their mother was a witch), Thomas Carrier (Martha’s widower) packed up the family’s home and belongings and moved to Colchester. Thomas Carrier was actually the first settler in the valley of North Westchester. Land was taken there in his son Richard’s name in 1703 and later his son Andrew Carrier built a home and sawmill on Jeremy’s River. Thomas Carrier died in 1736 (making him supposedly 109 years old!) And one certainly hopes that he spent his remaining years with his children in Colchester finding some sense of peace after this tragedy. So, that’s the brief explanation of the Colchester/Salem Witch Trials connection to the best of my knowledge. Happy Halloween!
*Rebecca Beatrice Brooks, “The Witchcraft Trial of Martha Carrier,” History of Massachusetts Blog, March 10, 2019, https://historyofmassachusetts.org/martha-carrier-salem/