Susannah Martin

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Susannah Martin (North)

Nicknames: "Susannah North Salem Witch"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Olney, Buckinghamshire , England
Death: Died in Salem Village [present Danvers], Essex County, Massachusetts
Cause of death: execution by hanging
Place of Burial: Burying Point Cemetery, Cenotaph , Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Richard North and Joan Bartram
Wife of George Martin, Sr.
Mother of Esther Jameson; Richard Martin; George Martin; John Martin, of Amesbury; Jane Hadley and 4 others
Sister of Mary Wensley; Sarah Oldham and Hepzibah North

Occupation: Accused witch
Managed by: Michele McAffee
Last Updated:

About Susannah Martin (North)

Susannah (North) Martin (1621 – 1692) was executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials. The fourth daughter and youngest child of Richard North and Joan Bartram, Susannah North was baptized on 30 September 1621 in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England. She married George Martin on 11 August 1646 at Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts. She was first accused of witchcraft in 1669, but her husband mounted a strong defense by fighting a protracted legal battle with the accuser. By the time of the infamous 1692 witchcraft trials in Salem, George Martin had died and Susannah was impoverished. This time when she was accused, she was found guilty, and was hanged on 19 July 1692 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts.

Marriage and Children

  1. George Martin, married 11 March 1646 in Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts
    1. Richard Martin
    2. George Martin
    3. John Martin
    4. Esther Martin
    5. Jane Martin
    6. Abigail Martin
    7. William Martin
    8. Samuel Martin

Biographical Sketch

The Martin family moved to Salisbury, Massachusetts around 1639. On 11 August 1646 at Salisbury, Susannah married the widower George Martin, a blacksmith with whom she had eight children. She was accused of witchcraft as early as 1660 or 1661, by Elizabeth Browne of Salem, although no record of proceedings on Elizabeth's charges against Susanna has been found. In 1669, Susannah was formally accused of witchcraft by William Sargent Jr., whom George Martin sucessfully countersued for slander against Susannah. The Court upheld the accusation of witchcraft, but a higher court later dismissed the witchcraft charges.

Later in 1669, Susannah said unsavory things about Christopher Bartlett, who responded by suing her husband for slander. Bartlett's suit was upheld. The same year, charges were brought against Richard Martin, son of George and Susannah, for "abusing his father and throwing him down, taking away his clothes and holding up an axe against him." The court found him guilty and sentenced him to be whipped ten stripes at Hampton Meeting House on 14 October 1669. By 1671, the Martin family was again involved in legal proceedings regarding a family inheritance. The court sided against Susannah and George. Though Susannah brought five further appeals, each was decided against her.

George died in 1686, leaving Susannah an impoverished widow, widely disliked and with a history of flouting authority. On 30 April 1692, another warrant was issued for Susanna Martin's arrest for witchcraft, this time as part of the hysteria that had begun several months earlier at Salem Village. A preliminary examination following her arrrest on 1 May was noteworthy for the vigor of her answers and for the lack of respect she showed for the presiding magistrates. She laughed when the "afflicted girls" went into a fit and when asked why she did so, she responded, "Well I may at such folly." When she was asked what ailed the girls, Susanna said: "I do not desire to spend my judgm't upon it." She stated bluntly that she did not think the girls were bewitched. When requested to provide her thoughts about them, she responded impertinently, "Why my thoughts are my own, when they are in, but when they are out, they are anothers." Other replies show that she was aware of the seriousness of her situation and that she denied guilt fervently. But she kept her sharp tongue even at the end of the examination:

"Do you not see how God evidently discovers you?"

""No, not a bit for that."

"All the congregation think so."

"Let them think w't they will."

Susannah was indicted - not directly because of her lack of respect for authority, but it can hardly have prejudiced the magistrates in her favor. Reverend John Hale, minister of Beverly Church, stated that Susanna was one of those who "had been suspected by their Neighbours several years, because after quarrelling with their Neighbours, evils had befallen those Neighbours". Several depositions indicate that Susanna was given to muttering enigmatic phrases that were interpreted as threats - something she may very well have known, and used in order to get her own way in village dealings or simply to increase her own sense of importance.

If she had, indeed, been consciously fostering suspicion against her, it was something she must have soon come to regret. Her neighbors were practically standing in line to offer testimony against her:

  • William Brown testified that his wife Elizabeth had been driven insane by Susanna some thirty years earlier
  • John Pressy testified that about twenty-four years previously, he had followed a light "about the bignes of a half bushell" and gave it "at Lest forty blows." Later he saw Susanna and decided that she was the source of the light, to the modern mind an obvious ignis fatuus.
  • Joseph Ring, aged 27, deposed that he had seen several "mery meettings" with "most dreadfull shapes noyses & scretching" and that among those present was Susanna Martin
  • Joseph Knight testified that around 20 October 1686, Susanna had picked up a dog running at her side and changed it into a "Kegg or halfe feirkin".
  • Sarah Attkinson "testifieth thatt Some time in the Spring of the year about Eighteen years Since Susanna Martin came unto our house att Newbury from Amsbury in an Extraordinary dirty Season, w'n She came into our house I asked whether she came from Amsbury a fot She Sayd She did I asked how She could come in this time a foott and bid my children make way for her to come to the fire to dry her selfe She replyed She was as dry as I was and turn'd her Coats on Side, and I could nott pceive thatt the Soule of her Shows were wett I was startled att itt that she should come soe dry and told her thatt I should have been wett up to my knees if I Should have come So farr on foott she replyed thatt She scorn'd to have a drabled tayle."
  • John Kimball, a former neighbor, dredged up an old story dating back to her first trial, 23 years earlier. He remembered how Susannah had insisted that he live up to his part of the bargain whereby he would pay cash or goods in return for land owned by her husband, George Martin. When Kimball offered the Martins three cows, but not two others which he particularly wanted to keep, "Martin himself was satisfied, but not the wife who threatened that if they would not part with one of the two cows, "she will never do you any more good". And sure enough, one month later that very cow lay dead in the yard, though careful examination revealed no reason. A little while after, another cow died, and then an ox, and then other cattle to the value of 30 pounds sterling that spring.

Susanna Martin was subjected to the indignity of a physical examination on 2 June 1692. Such examinations were intended to discover whether the accused had any physical abnormalities, especially anything that could be used to suckle a familiar or even the devil himself. Susanna was examined twice during the same day; at neither examination was any abnormality discovered, but at the first her breasts appeared to be full and at the second slack.

Susanna pled not guilty at her trial, but was convicted and hanged at Gallows Hill on 19 July 1692, with four others tried at the same time. Cotton Mather commented that Susanna "was one of the most Impudent, Scurrilous, wicked creatures in the world; and she did now throughout her whole Trial discover herself to be such an one. Yet when she was asked, what she had to say for her self? her Cheef Plea was, That she had Led a most virtuous and Holy Life!"

Aftermath

In 1711, the General Court granted compensation to many of the victims or their heirs, but Susanna's children made no application to the authorities and they received nothing. Susanna was not among those whose attainder was lifted.

Lone Tree Hill, a famous historical site, bore a tablet on its westerly side marking the site of George and Susannah's home. The boulder which marked their homestead has been moved to make room for a highway, and it can be found on the map where the highway crosses Martin Road. The marker lies nearby. George was one of the largest landowners in Amesbury. The inscription on the marker reads: "Here stood the house of Susannah Martin. An honest, hardworking Christian woman accused of being a witch and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. She will be missed! A Martyr of Superstition. T.I.A. 1894"

Not until 2001 was Susannah exonerated, along with four other convicted witches, by the signing of a bill by Acting Massachusetts Governor Jane Swift on 31 Oct 2001. A memorial service for the group of five was held in Salem on 9 June 2002.

Legacy

  • In the 19th century, poet John Greenleaf Whittier composed "The Witch's Daughter" about Martin.
  • Susanna Martin's daughter Jane is the great-great-great-great grandmother of President Chester A. Arthur

Sources

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Susannah Martin's Timeline

1621
September 30, 1621
Olney, Buckinghamshire , England
September 30, 1621
Olney, Buckinghamshire, England
1640
1640
Age 18
Emigrated with father from Romsey, Eng
1646
August 11, 1646
Age 24
Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts
1647
June 29, 1647
Age 25
September 29, 1647
Age 25
Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts, United States
1648
October 21, 1648
Age 27
Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
1650
January 26, 1650
Age 28
Amesbury, Essex, Massachusetts
1653
April 7, 1653
Age 31
Salisbury, Essex County, Massachusetts
1656
November 2, 1656
Age 35
Salisbury, Essex, Massachusetts, United States