A Witch in the Family

52 in 52:  Week 10

Depending on your views of witches and of the Salem Witch Trials, the news that your 10-times-great grandmother was a convicted witch could be met with pride or embarrassment.  At the very least, it makes this ancestor just a little more interesting than some of the others.  Adding a twist to the story, although Mary Perkins Bradbury was convicted of witchcraft on 9 September 1692, it appears that an old family feud could have been behind the accusations that led to Mary’s trial.

(For family members following along, this is an ancestor of Elmer’s mother.)

Mary Perkins was baptized 3 September 1615 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England, the daughter of John Perkins and Judith Gater Perkins.  In 1631, the ship Lyon brought John Perkins and his family to the new world.  John and Judith are found first in Boston, and by 1634, they were settled in Ipswich.  John Perkins represented Ipswich at the General Court in 1636.

Mary Perkins was courted by a man named George Carr.  She turned down his proposal of marriage and instead married Thomas Bradbury.  Thomas was a man of prominence in the colony.  He was the deputy to the General Court.  His family in England held title to land, and his mother, Elizabeth Whitgift, was the niece of the Archbishop of Canterbury during Elizabeth I’s reign.

Mary and Thomas Bradbury became pillars of their community and together, they had 11 children.  Mary ran a successful business making and selling butter, and Thomas was a schoolmaster, town representative, associate judge, and captain of a military company.

In the spring of 1692, when Mary was 77-years-old and in declining health, she was accused of witchcraft.  Many of the accusers have a connection to rejected suitor, George Carr.

According to Richard Carr, George’s son, Mary had transformed herself into a “blue boar” and attacked his father’s horse, causing George to fall outside of her home. Zerubabel Endicott came forward to support the accusation that Mary had sent her specter to “dart at Carr.”

During a voyage, butter that Mary had sold to Captain Smith had spoiled.  Several men claimed the butter had made them ill.  They accused Mary of creating a storm that caused them to lose their mast and rigging.

Mary was accused of tormenting Ann Putnam, Jr., daughter of Sgt. Thomas Putnam, and the granddaughter of George Carr.  She was also accused of causing the death of George Carr’s son, John, by “dethroning his reason” and leaving him “weakened by disease, with disordered fancies.”  Ann Putnam stated that John Carr’s ghost had confirmed that Mary had killed him.

[In a “coincidence”, John Carr had been a suitor of Jane Bradbury, Mary and Thomas’ daughter.  Jane had spurned John’s advances, and he had not taken her rejection well. ]

All but one of the depositions against Mary were recorded by the same man — Sergeant Thomas Putnam, George Carr’s son-in-law.

Mary entered a plea of “Not guilty.”

Mary Bradbury’s Plea of Not Guilty


The Answer of Mary Bradbury in the charge of Witchcraft or familliarity with the Divell :
I doe plead not guilty.””I am wholly inocent of any such wickedness through the goodness of god that have kept mee hitherto. I am the servant of Jesus Christ & Have given my self up to himas my only lord & saviour: and to the dilligent attendance upon him in all his holy ordinances, in utter contempt & defiance of the divell, and all his works as horid & detestible;; and accordingly have endevo’red to frame my life; & conversation according to the rules of his holy word, & in that faith & practise resolve by the help and assistance of god to contineu to my lifes end:” For the truth of what I say as to matter of practiss I humbly refer my self, to my brethren & neighbors that know mee and unto the searcher of all hearts for the truth & uprightness of my heart therein: (human frailties, & unavoydable infirmities excepted) of which I bitterly complayne every day:” Mary Bradbury

Thomas Bradbury testified on his wife’s behalf.  He said,

“Concerning my beloved wife, Mary Bradbury, this is what I have to say: We have been married 55 years, and she hath been a loving and faithful wife unto me unto this day. She had been wonderful, laborious, diligent and industrious in her place and employment about [bringing] up our family which have been 11 children of our own and four grandchildren.  She was both prudent and provident, of a cheerful spirit, liberal and charitable. She being now very aged and weak, and grieved under many afflictions, may not be able to speak much for herself, not being so free of speech as some other might be.  I hope her life and conversation among her neighbors has been such as gives a better or more real testimony than can be expressed by words.”

Reverend James Allen testified that Mary was “full of works of charity & mercy to the sick & poor,” and 118 of the residents of Salisbury and Ipswich signed the following statement verifying Mary’s good character:
“Concerning Mary Bradbury’s life and conversation, we, the subscribers, do testify, that it was such as became the gospel: she was a lover of the ministry, in all appearance, and a diligent attender upon God’ holy ordinances, being of a courteous and peaceable disposition and carriage.  Neither did any of us (some of whom have lived in the town with her above fifty years) ever hear or ever know that she ever had any differences of falling-out with any of her neighbors, man, woman or child, but was always ready and willing to do for them what lay in her power night and day, though with hazard of her health or other danger. More might be spoken in her commendation, but this for the present.”

The testimony on Mary’s behalf was not enough, and she was found guilty on 9 September 1692 and was sentenced to hang on the 22nd.  Four others who found guilty at the same time were executed, by Mary was not.

There are no official records that explain how and why Mary was not executed, but in 1711, the governor of Massachusetts authorized a payment of £20 to compensate the heirs of Mary Bradbury.

Some notable descendants of Thomas and Mary (Perkins) Bradbury include Ralph Waldo Emerson and the astronaut, Alan Shepard.

Notable descendants of John and Judith (Gater) Perkins of Ipswich include Franklin D. Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Millard Fillmore, Lucille Ball, Montgomery Clift, Anthony Perkins, and Tennessee Williams.

  • My Line from Thomas Bradbury (d. 1695) and Mary Perkins (1615 – 1700) through their son, William
  • William Bradbury (1649 – 1678) m. Rebecca Wheelwright (d. 1678)
  • Their son, Thomas Bradbury (1674 – 1718/9) m. Mary Hilton (d. 1723)
  • Their daughter, Jemima Bradbury (1703/4 – 1779) m. Capt. William Chandler (1698 – 1754)
  • Their son, William Chandler (1728 – 1756) m. Mary Hodges (d. 1796)
  • Their son, William Chandler, Jr. (1754 – 1844) m.  Patty Hill (1750 – 1787)
  • Their daughter, Polly Chandler (1787 – 1854) m. Isaac Lovejoy (1783 – 1871)
  • Their daughter, Lucy B. Lovejoy (1823/4 – 1887) m. George Clark (1816 – 1895)
  • Their daughter, Martha Ann Clark (1846 -1926) m. William T. Kimball (1845 – 1914)
  • Their daughter, Carrie Wealthy Kimball (1876 – 1957) m. John Morey Chase (1875 – 1936)

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