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Who was Mary Ayer Parker?
Mary Ayer Parker is a little bit of an oddity. Most of the books about the Salem Witch crisis note how little is known about her.
However, a little research into her wealthy husband, Nathan Parker, and her wealthy father, John Ayer, and suddenly it's clear that there's a lot of information about Mary.
Here's what I found:
- She was married to Nathan Parker who was an original settler of Andover and a constable in 1674.
- Mary and Nathan had ten children.
- Nathan died in 1685 leaving Mary a wealthy widow.
- Her father was John Ayer, one of the original settlers of Massachusetts.
- John, Mary's oldest son, was a part of the Great Swamp Fight against the Narragansett in King Phillip's War in 1675.
- Mary's second son, James, was also in the Andover Militiamen. He was killed in Indian War at Black Point in 1677. (1)
- Mary's daughter Sarah was also accused as a witch.
- Mary was from Andover, where the majority of people charged with witchcraft lived.
- Unlike many of the people charged with witchcraft, Mary was not known to have trouble with any of her neighbors.
This story about Mary is reported in her examination on September 2,1692:
When accused of torturing the accusers, Mary responded: "I know nothing of it." Further, she wondered out loud if they had the correct Mary Parker, as there was one in town who had been in trouble a number of times. However, her step-great-niece, Martha Sprague, confirmed that she was in fact tortured by this Mary Parker. (2) (3)
It's worth noting that there were at least three other Mary Parkers in Andover at that time, including her sister-in-law who was said to be mentally ill.
Who was Mary Ayer Parker?
She was a mother of soldiers, wife to a wealthy man, and daughter of another powerful wealthy man. It's likely that she acquired wealth and land upon her husband's death. We've postulated that this was a reason for the witchcraft accusation of the other women in Andover.
While much is made about the possibility that Mary was mistaken for another Mary Parker. What if she wasn't? What if they charged the exact Mary Parker they'd wanted to charge?
They would have been consistent in hanging a wealthy widow. She was hanged on September 22, 1692.
In Suffer a Witch, Mary is a vibrant member of their community and serves as their real estate agent. Suffer a Witch continues in the Book Club.
(1) Abbott, Charlotte Helen. Early Records of the Parker Family of Andover (Memorial Hall Library: Andover) p.3.
(2) Norton, Mary Beth, In the Devil's Snare (New York: Adolf Knopf 2002) p. 160.
(3) Rosenthal, Bernard, ed. Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt (New York : Cambridge Press 2014) p. 578.
In the small town of Salem Village, Massachusetts in 1692, at least thirty-eight men and one-hundred and six woman where accused of the capital crime of witchcraft.
- Thirty-one people were tried by the Oyer and Terminer court, convened by Massachusetts governor, William Phipps.
- Fifty-four people confessed to the crime of witchcraft.
- Three women, one man, and several infants died as a result of their treatment while in custody.
- One four-year-old lost her mind after a year in custody.
- Two dogs were hanged as witches.
Despite extreme social pressure, physical torture, and what was perceived as overwhelming evidence, fourteen women and five men refused to confess to being witches. One man refused to acknowledge the Oyer and Terminer court and was pressed by stones to his death.
Suffer a Witch is about these twenty people.
Because the serial begins with so many characters, we've decided to, once a week, introduce you to the historic characters in the story. They will appear in their order of appearance in the story. You can find more information on the Suffer a Witch Wiki, where you can also participate in filling in the details from your own research or the story. (You must sign into Wikia to edit a page.)