Martha Carrier (executed for witchcraft, 1692)

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Martha Carrier (Allen)

Also Known As: "Martha Allin"
Birthplace: Andover, Essex, Massachusetts
Death: Died in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Cause of death: hanged
Place of Burial: Salem, Essex, MA, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Andrew Allen and Faith Allen (Ingalls)
Wife of Thomas Carrier alias Morgan
Mother of Richard Carrier, Salem Witch Trials; Andrew Carrier, Salem Witch Trials; Jane Carrier; Thomas Carrier, Jr., Salem Witch Trials; Sarah Carrier Chapman, Salem Witch Trials and 2 others
Sister of Mary Toothaker (Allen); Sarah Holt (Allen); Hannah Holt (Allen); Elizabeth Allen; Andrew Allen, Jr. and 1 other

Occupation: Convicted and hanged as a witch, 1692
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Martha Carrier (executed for witchcraft, 1692)

Martha Carrier - A Spiritual Giant, and Pioneer Puritan Feminist.

Martha Carrier, one of the alleged "witches" killed during the Salem Witch Trials. She boldly proclaimed her innocence as those around her confessed. Martha did something women in Puritan America rarely dared; stand up to male authority figures wielding not only physical power, but spiritual authority.

August 5, 1692 was a day of death in Puritan Salem, Massachusetts. Five accused witches, four men and one woman, were led to the gallows and, in front of a large crowd of witnesses, hung for the practice of witchcraft on spurious, seemingly irrational evidence. They were not the first executed, nor would they be the last, but this particular group of condemned included John Proctor (immortalized and dramatized in Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible") and an ordained minister named George Burroughs. The lone woman was an Andover housewife named Martha Carrier, whose story is a testament to the strength of human will in the face of insurmountable mental and physical pressure.

Background, Personality and Pre-Trial Behavior

Martha Carrier was born Martha Allen, a daughter of one of the original 23 settlers of Andover, Massachusetts. In 1674, only a teenager, she became pregnant with the child of an older Welsh servant, a man named Thomas Carrier, who she then married. The newlyweds relocated to neighboring Billerica and had five children leading up to the witch trials of 1692, three boys, Richard, Andrew and Thomas, and two girls, Sarah and an unknown youngest child.

The Carriers returned to Andover in 1688, in poverty and dependent on the family farm to supply them with a living, and two years later were accused of spreading an outbreak of smallpox through the town, a disease most likely introduced by new immigrants from England. Thirteen people perished during the epidemic and the Carriers were barred from entering public places, however, Martha was not accused of witchcraft and the family continued to live on the fringes of Puritan society.

The few accounts of Martha Carrier's personality give historians insight into a unique woman who was certainly better suited for life in the modern world than highly regimented Puritan Massachusetts. Her husband, although a fellow of good humor and cheerful disposition, was prone to laziness and indolence, so on top of the usual chores of a Puritan housewife, it seems Martha took on many of the husband's duties as well. Most notably, she insisted on arguing and bargaining with male neighbors, something unusual in the strictly stratified society of early colonial America.

Witchcraft Comes to Andover

Martha was accused of witchcraft in May of 1692 by the group of young women known as the Salem Girls, who traveled Essex County, Massachusetts rooting out suspected witches by engaging in an impressive theatrical display. Whether the clergymen, judges and magistrates actually believed this act is still open to debate, although Martha, when confronted by the girls, acted as any rational person would when faced with the girls' wild behavior. Accused of leading a 300 strong witch army, of using her occult powers to murder and afflict people with terrible diseases, and of being promised the dubious position of "Queen of Hell," Martha vehemently denied the charges and in turn charged her accusers with insanity.

Most accused persons during the trials learned it was better to confess and wait for an eventual end to the crisis than try to fight the system by maintaining innocence. Martha, however, refused to submit, even as her two oldest sons were tortured and accused of complicity in her plotting. Other Andover citizens used her as a scapegoat for their supposed wtichcraft, and she soon became the principal name mentioned whenever a new person was accused.

Trial and Conviction

A trial was held, and neighbors were summoned to air their grievances, all of which seemed petty and unimpressive (yet almost believable) compared to the original tales of rebellions and murder (one local witness complained that Martha’s craft caused him to lose a fistfight to her son Richard) and more about personal revenge with no consideration of the human life at stake. Finally, Martha's two young children, Sarah and Thomas, were forced to implicate their mother in witchcraft.

Refusal to Confess

Throughout all this, Martha remained defiant and, some would say, stubborn. Why did she not confess, like so many others around her, so she might save her life? There is a possibility she simply did not expect the outcome of the trials would lead to her execution, as she was one of the first Andover citizens accused and clearly believed the proceedings were a ridiculous invention of a group of adolescents. Others, seeing the punishment meted out to Martha, quickly confessed to outrageously trumped up charges, often naming Martha as a principal ringleader in return for clemency, and so it is possible Martha, above all, possessed a special kind of courage in refusing to falsely implicate other members of the community.

In refusing to submit to the wishes of the unanimously male judges, reverends and politicians who gave the hysteria legitimacy, Martha did something women in Puritan America rarely dared; stand up to male authority figures wielding not only physical power, but spiritual authority. The harsh sentence of death handed down to witches refusing to confess reflected the threat to the status quo evident in Martha’s act of protest. It could be argued, then, that Martha Carrier was not only an early feminist , but a martyr defending her rights and honor against false accusation and tyranny.

Copyright Jonathan Waisnor.

Sources for information on Martha Allen:

Google online book:

A genealogical register of the first settlers of New England: ... To which ... By John Farmer

Quote: Page 53:

CARRIER, THOMAS, Bellerica 1665, Andover 1692, died at Colchester, Conn.,16 May, 1735, [Allen, Biog. Dict.] He came from Wales, and married 7 May 1664, Martha Allen, who was one of the victims of the witchcraft infatuation at Salem-Village, 19 Aug. 1692. He had several children born in Billerica, where his name is sometimes connected by an alias to 'Morgan', in the town records.

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Salem Witch Trial Victim. Convicted of practicing witchcraft and hanged during the Salem Witch Trials. Twenty benches stand in a Memorial for the victims, one for each who were actively put to death (not counting those who died in prison).

She was born between 1643 & 1650 to Andrew & Faith (Ingalls) Allen of Andover MA. She married Thomas Carrier, aka Morgan, a recently arrived bondservant, 7 May 1664, when she was 7 months pregnant with her eldest child. She unsuccessfully nursed her father & brothers in the 1690 smalpox epedemic, and thereby became a land owner in her own right.

Some believe that she was accused of witchcraft in Salem in 1692 because she was a niece of the Rev. Francis Dane of Andover (Over one third of the Salem accused were related to him or his wife in some way). Martha's trial was fully transcribed at the direction of Cotton Mather, who believed this case to represent the strongest case for the use of spectral evidence. The evidence he found persuasive was the testimony of Martha's 16-year old-son, Richard, and her 12-year-old daughter, Sarah, that she made them become witches to "haunt" others at her direction. However, John Proctor (who was hung the same day as Martha) wrote the governor that he witnessed these children's torture in the jail where he was also imprisoned: they were reportedly tied neck to ankles (with a rope down their backs) and left that way until said what their interrogators wanted to hear. Salem erected a memorial in a downtown park for her and each other person hung (or, in one case, pressed to death) during the hysteria. The "witches" hung at Salem were dumped in a nearby ravine.

(bio written by: Linda Mac at

In a special session of the court of Oyer and Terminer, held on August 2, 1692, Martha Carrier stood in the Salem Village Meeting House, accused of being a witch. From the beginning, Martha vigorously maintained her innocence, but the Puritan magistrates had the visionary "Salem girls" on their side. These young girls were believed to have the ability to detect the presence of the devil and provide "spectral evidence" to the court. Martha's response to the girls, "It is false and a shame for you to mind what these say, that are out of their wits!" only seemed to reinforce the magistrates' opinion of her guilt. Martha, her two oldest sons, and her seven and a half year-old daughter had been arrested and kept in jail for almost three months before the trial. All of the old disputes between Martha and her neighbors were brought up and reviewed for suspicious activity. At least four of Martha's neighbors from Andover came to testify that she had used witchcraft against them, killing livestock and causing illnesses. Martha's two teenage sons had been hung by their heels "until the blood was ready to come out of their noses," before they confessed to being involved with witchcraft. The magistrates didn't use the sons' confessions, but they did bring Martha's young daughter, Sarah, to testify against her mother.

Sarah's confession came six days after Martha was already convicted and sentenced to death. "It was asked by the Magistrates or Justices, John Hathorne, Esq., and others: How long hast thou been a witch? A. Ever since I was six years old. Q. How old are you? A. Near eight years old, brother Richard says I shall be eight years old in November last. Q. Who made you a witch? A. My mother, she made me set my hand to a book. Q. How did you set your hand to it? A. I touched it with my fingers and the book was red and the paper of it was so white.... Q. What did they promise to give you? A. A black dog. Q. Did the dog ever come to you? A. No. Q. But you said you saw a cat once; what did it say to you? A. It said it would tear me to pieces, if I would not set my hand to the book. Q. How did you afflict folks? A. I pinched them.... mother carried her thither to afflict. Q. How did your mother carry you when she was in prison? A. She came like a black cat. Q. How did you know it was your mother?

A. The cat told me she was my mother. She said she afflicted Phelps child last Saturday and Elizabeth Johnson helped her do it. She had a wooden spear about as long as the finger of Elizabeth Johnson and she had it of the devil.... This is the substance. Attest: Simon Willard."

The trial prompted the well known Boston cleric, Dr. Cotton Mather, to report, "This rampant hag, Martha Carrier, was the person of whom the confession of the rest agreed that the devil had promised her, she should be the Queen of Hell."

On August 19, 1692, Martha was taken in the back of a cart to Gallows Hill in Salem. Jeering crowds lined the streets and gathered at the scaffold to witness the hanging of Martha and four men, also "convicted" witches. Screaming her innocence from the scaffold, Martha never gave up. A report from the time describes the treatment of Martha and two of the men, including a Mr. Burroughs: "When he was cut down, he was dragged by a halter to a hole or grave between the rocks about two feet deep; his shirt and breeches were pulled off and an old pair of trousers of one of the executed put on his lower parts; he was so put in together with Willard and Carrier that one of his hands and his chin and a foot of one of them was left uncovered."

In May 1693, Governor Phips of Massachusetts returned from the Indian Wars and revoked all death sentences and released all those still held. The Governor also revoked the acceptance of "spectral evidence" in court, effectively ending the witch trials. Martha Carrier's name appeared on a 1711 list of sufferers whose legal representatives received compensation for imprisonment and death of relatives. The Carrier family received seven pounds, six shillings.

Belief in witchcraft was universal in the 17th century and was considered a major problem for the leaders of the time. The devil was an active force, constantly on hand to recruit new helpers in his fight against good Christians everywhere. In western Europe, some estimates claim nearly two million men and women lost their lives under accusations of witchcraft. In the Salem area, over 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft. Within three months of Martha Carrier's arrest, in Andover alone, 40 warrants had been issued, naming members of some of the most prominent families in town. At one point every woman in Andover was blindfolded and led before the Salem girls to prove their innocence or guilt. When Magistrate Dudley Bradstreet threw down his pen and declared he would sign no more warrants, he himself was accused of being a witch. He and his family had to escape the town, fearing for their lives. In Salem, the 23 people who were hung, tortured or died in jail were the ones who maintained their innocence. A testament to her courage, Martha Carrier was the only person, of all those accused, that maintained her innocence to the end, "I would rather die than confess a falsehood so filthy."

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Martha Carrier (executed for witchcraft, 1692)'s Timeline

Andover, Essex, Massachusetts
July 19, 1674
Age 25
Andover, Essex, Massachusetts
May 7, 1677
Age 28
Billerica, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
July 23, 1680
Age 31
July 18, 1682
Age 33
Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts
November 17, 1684
Age 35
Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
July 12, 1689
Age 40
Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
August 19, 1692
Age 43
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts