Margaret Foster (Jacobs) (1675 - 1717) MP

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Nicknames: "Margaret (Jacobs) Foster", "Salem Witch"
Birthplace: Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
Managed by: Elizabeth-Gaye Jeans
Last Updated:

About Margaret Foster (Jacobs)

Margaret Jacobs Foster (1675 - 1717) - Margaret Jacobs, daughter of accused witches George Jacobs, Jr. (16149 - 1717) and Rebecca Andrews (1646 - 1717), and granddaughter of executed witch George Jacobs, Sr., was born 26 November 1675 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts; she died 22 March 1717 at Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Margaret Jacobs married John Foster on 30 November 1699; they had at seven known children. A prominent figure in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, Margaret confessed to witchcraft and accused her grandfather, in order "to save my life and to have my liberty."

Marriage and Children

Margaret Jacobs married John Foster (30 November 1678 Salem, Essex county, Massachusetts - c1763 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts) on 30 November 1699 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts

  1. Rebecca Foster (born 14 August 1701), married Thomas Tewksbury 27 December 1722 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
  2. Israel Foster (born 22 February 1703), married Anna Woodbury 2 November 1724 Ipswich, Essex County, Massachusetts
  3. Jacob Foster (born 10 November 1704), married Abigail Allen
  4. Emma Foster (20 March 1707 - 1788 Manchester, Massachusetts), married Ezekiel Knowlton (7 February 1702/3 Manchester, Massachusetts - 18 March 1734/5, lost at sea), son of Ezekiel Knowlton and Sarah Leach, on 2 December 1724 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
  5. Hannah Foster (born 6 January 1708), married Mr Morgan
  6. John Foster (born c1713), married Mary Neal
  7. Daniel Foster (born 27 February 1718), married Lydia Mansfield

Biographical Sketch

Margaret Jacobs was the daughter of George Jacobs, Jr. After she, her parents, her uncle, and her grandfather were accused of witchcraft, her father and uncle fled, abandoning their families. Margaret Jacobs, her grandfather, and her mentally-ill mother were arrested.

Indictment vs Margaret Jacobs

Essex in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England ss//

Anno RRs & Reginae Gulielmi & Mariae Angliae &c'a Quarto Anno'qe Domini 1692

The Juriors for our Soveraigne Lord & Lady the King & Queen doe present That Margarett Jacobs of Salem

Single Woman

In the County of Essex

aforesaid

Att or upon the Eleventh day of Maÿ

In the yeare aforesaid and divers other days and times as well before as after Certaine detestable Arts called Witchcrafts & Sorceries Wickedly Mallitiously and felloniously hath used practised and Exercised at and in the Towne of Salem

in the County of Essex

Aforesaid in upon & against one Elizabeth Hobert of Salem

Aforesaid

Single Woman

by which said Wicked Acts the said Elizabeth Hobert the day & yeare

aforesaid & divers other days and times both before and after was and is Tortured aflicted Consumed Wasted Pined and Tormented, and also for sundry other Acts of Witchcraft by the Said Margarett Jacobs Comitted and done before and Since that time against our Sov'r Lord and Lady the King & Queen theire Crowne and Dignity and the forme in the Stattute in that Case made and Provided.

Confession of Witchcraft

Only seventeen, the safest course seemed to Margaret to be through confession. Overwhelmed by fright and horror, bewildered by the statements of the accusers, and probably controlled by her minister, Mr. Noyes (whose peculiar function in these proceedings seems to have been to force the accused to confess) Margaret Jacobs confessed to witchcraft, and in turn accused her grandfather, along with Constable John Willard and Reverend George Burroughs. When George Jacobs, Sr. was finally tried for witchcraft in August 1692, Margaret was one of nearly a dozen primary witnesses against him.

Recantation of Margaret Jacobs

According to Marion Starkey in the Devil in Massachusetts, Margaret "confessed only under pressure of fright when she had seen the accusing girls tumble down before her, and out of terror of hanging." After Jacobs’s death sentence was pronounced in court, Margaret had a change of heart and wrote to the magistrates to retract her testimony and her own confession:

The humble declaration of Margaret Jacobs unto the honoured court now sitting at Salem, sheweth

That whereas your poor and humble declarant being closely confined here in Salem goal for the crime of witchcraft, which crime thanks be to the Lord I am altogether ignorant of, as will appear at the great day of judgment:

May it please the honoured court, I was cried out upon by some of the possessed persons, as afflicting them; whereupon I was brought to my examination, which persons at the sight of me fell down, which did very much startle and affright me. The Lord above knows I knew nothing, in the least measure, how or who afflicted them; they told me, without doubt I did, or else they would not fall down at me; they told me, if I would not confess, I should be put down into the dungeon and would be hanged, but if I would confess I should have my life; the which did so affright me, with my own vile wicked heart, to save my life; made me make the like confession I did, which confession, may it please the honoured court, is altogether false and untrue.

The very first night after I had made confession, I was in such horror of conscience that I could not sleep for fear the devil should carry me away for telling such horrid lies. I was, may it please the honoured court, sworn to my confession, as I understand since, but then, at that time, was ignorant of it, not knowing what an oath did mean. The Lord, I hope, in whom I trust, out of the abundance of his mercy, will forgive me my false forswearing myself.

What I said, was altogether false against my grandfather, and Mr. Burroughs , which I did to save my life and to have my liberty; but the Lord, charging it to my conscience, made me in so much horror, that I could not contain myself before I had denied my confession, which I did though I saw nothing but death before me, chusing rather death with a quiet conscience, than to live in such horror, which I could not suffer. Where, upon my denying my confession, I was committed to close prison, where I have enjoyed more felicity in spirit, a thousand times, than I did before in my enlargement.

And now, may it please your honours, your declarant, having, in part, given your honours a description of my condition, do leave it to your honours pious and judicious discretions, to take pity and compassion on my young and tender years, to act and do with me, as the Lord above and your honours shall see good, having no friend, but the Lord, to plead my cause for me; not being guilty in the least measure of the crime of witchcraft, nor any other sin that deserves death from man; and your poor and humble declarant shall for ever pray, as she is bound in duty, for your honours happiness in this life and eternal felicity in the world to come.

So prays your honours declarant.

[signed] Margaret Jacobs

It was too late for both men. Margaret's letter repudiating her confession and accusations was produced in court but had no effect on the judges, who wished to believe her confession. The result of this reversal was that Margaret was moved from the cell of the confessed witches and back to the cell of those awaiting trials and executions, but her grandfather's conviction was not overturned. Margaret was, however, allowed to visit her grandfather in jail the day before his death. She explained to her grandfather her feelings of regret for the part she had played in condemning him, and he forgave her.

Execution of George Jacobs, Sr.

George Jacobs, Sr. was hanged on 19 August 1692 along with the Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor, John Willard, and Martha Allen Carrier. This was the first time men were executed as witches in Salem. In the meantime, Sheriff George Corwin confiscated much of his property, right up to the food in the pantry, forcing the widowed Mary Jacobs had to buy back her own provisions. George Jacobs, Sr. had made a special provision for his granddaughter in his will. Although his bequests were not honored, it is likely that his specific mention of his granddaughter must have helped ease her conscience.

Letter from Margaret Jacobs to her father George Jacobs, Jr.

Written the day after her grandfather's execution.

From the Dungeon in Salem Prison. August 20, 1692.

Honored Father,

After my humble duty remembered to you, hoping in the Lord of your good health, as, blessed be God! I enjoy, though in abundance of affliction, being close confined here in a loathsome dungeon: the Lord look down in mercy upon me, not knowing how soon I shall be put to death, by means of the afflicted persons; my grandfather having suffered already, and all his estate seized for the king.

The reason of my confinement is this: I having, through the magistrates' threatenings, and my own vile and wretched heart, confessed several things contrary to my conscience and knowledge, though to the wounding of my own soul; (the Lord pardon me for it!) but, oh! the terrors of a wounded conscience who can bear? But, blessed be the Lord! he would not let me go on in my sins, but in mercy, I hope, to my soul, would not suffer me to keep it any longer: but I was forced to confess the truth of all before the magistrates, who would not believe me; but it is their pleasure to put me in here, and God knows how soon I shall be put to death.

Dear father, let me beg your prayers to the Lord on my behalf, and send us a joyful and happy meeting in heaven. My mother, poor woman, is very crazy, and remembers her kind love to you, and to uncle; viz., D.A.

So, leaving you to the protection of the Lord, I rest, your dutiful daughter,

[signed] Margaret Jacobs.

The "uncle D.A." that Margaret referred to was Daniel Andrew, their nearest neighbor, who had escaped at the same time with her father. He was probably a brother of John Andrew who had married Ann Jacobs, sister of her father.

Aftermath

Bernard Rosenthal in Salem Story puts it best when he says, "One does not often find people with the strength of Margaret Jacobs," especially at such a young age. She remained in prison after her grandfather's death, awaiting her own fate. In January 1693 she was brought before the newly-established Superior Court of Judicature and found innocent.

It is not known when George Jacobs, Jr. returned to Salem, but his wife and daughter were not released from prison until January 1693, after at least eight months incarceration. Rebecca Jacobs was acquitted due to mental incompetence. She never regained her mental health, dying in 1717, insane.

Sources and Further Information

  • Burns, M. The Salem Witchcraft Papers. A Guide to the Online Primary Sources of the Salem Witch Trials. 17th Century U.S., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014. This page links the entries in Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, Bernard Rosenthal, General Editor (Cambridge University Press, 2009), with the publicly available facsimiles online of the manuscripts and published sources from which they were transcribed.
  • Calef, Robert. More Wonders of The Invisible World (London, 1700), excerpted in Burr, ed., Narratives of The Witchcraft Cases, "MARGARET JACOBS" pp. 365-366.
  • Felt, Joseph Barlow. The Annals of Salem: From Its First Settlement W. & S. B. Ives, 1827, Salem, Massachusetts, 611 pages.
  • Fowler, Samuel P. Salem Witchcraft; Comprising More Wonders of the Invisible World. Salem, MA: H.P. Ives and A.A. Smith, 1861. Print.
  • Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2000. Print.
  • Hutchinson, Thomas. History of Massachusetts-Bay, vol II, "Margaret Jacobs" pp. 30-31.
  • Linder, Douglas O. An Account of the Events in Salem. The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Sept. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Massachusetts Archives Vol. 135 No. 100
  • Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, Kory L. Witches in Colonial America. ProGenealogists. Ancestry.com, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Odrowaz-Sypniewski, BFA, Margaret. [http%3A%2F%2Fwww.angelfire.com%2Fmi4%2Fpolcrt%2FSalemTrials.html The Salem Witch Trials]. Salem Trials. Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, BFA, 9 Sept. 2005. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
  • Ray, Benjamin, and University of Virginia. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive. University of Virginia; Scholar's Lab of the University of Virginia Library; Intitute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, 2002. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story,1997.
  • Notes & Notions: George Jacobs, Sr.
  • Salem Witch Trials. Salem Witch Trials.com. Siteclopedia Network, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive
  • Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts, 1949.
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon, and Elizabeth Petty Bentley. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Genealogical Publishing Com, 1985, 1009 pages. p.278: Foster, John (1678 - ) and Margaret Jacobs (1675 - ); 30 Nov 1699; Salem.
  • Upham, Charles Wentworth. Salem Witchcraft, Volumes I and II. Cirencester, Eng.: Echo Library, 2005. Print.
  • Wikipedia Contributors. Salem Witch Trials. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 04 May 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
  • Woodward, W. Elliot. Records of Salem Witchcraft, Copied from the Original Documents. Whitefish, Mt: Kessinger, 2007. Print.
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Margaret Foster's Timeline

1675
November 26, 1675
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
1699
November 30, 1699
Age 24
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
1701
August 14, 1701
Age 25
1703
February 22, 1703
Age 27
1704
November 10, 1704
Age 28
1707
March 20, 1707
Age 31
1708
January 6, 1708
Age 32
1713
1713
Age 37
1717
March 22, 1717
Age 41
Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
March 25, 1717
Age 41