Susannah North, although not directly an ancestor, has me completely intrigued – Not only with her life, but also with a period in history when emotions ran high, superstitions ran wild, and accusations ran rampant. She is not directly an ancestor, as she was the second wife of my 9th great-grandfather, George Martin, however, through many 2nd marriages in my family, I have come to accept these alternate ancestors as my own. Susannah was my 9th great-grandmother, who lost her life during the insanity of the witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts.
I stumbled upon this knowledge purely out of curiosity one day. Like many other family historians, I would often ponder the possibility of what “famous” ancestors might be hiding in my family tree. Knowing that I have a deep history in early Massachusetts, I immediately considered Salem and it’s surrounding area, and it didn’t take long to locate in my local library a copy of the “Associated Daughters of Early American Witches Roll of Ancestors”.
**note: Being raised with an ultra-conservative religious upbringing, I must admit to having a moment in the library when I just sat at the table and stared at the cover of the book in front of me, wondering if I might be unleashing some completely new realm of crazy upon opening the cover to this book…
And then the moment passed and the need for knowledge took over.
Once I had convinced myself that demons were not going to fly off of the inside pages of the book, and that this was a book of those who were ACCUSED of witchcraft, I proceeded on to the list of names. To be fair, I actually located a total of five ancestors that had been accused of witchcraft. Susannah was the only one of “my” five to actually hang for the accusations against her, as the other four individuals eventually had the charges against them dropped.
She was born in England, the daughter of Richard and Joan North, and baptized in 1621 in Buckinghamshire, England. When she was just a young girl, her mother died, and her father, his 2nd wife, and Susannah came to the Massachusetts colony in 1639, settling in Salisbury. She married widower, George Martin, in 1646, and together they had eight children.
Fellow great-granddaughter and blogger, Verena Elizabeth, shared the following about Susannah in her own words:
For years, rumors had swirled around Susannah, implying that she was a witch. It seemed like whenever a neighbor took sick or livestock died, there were whispers that Susannah was to blame. She, herself, did little to squelch the rumors. On some occasions she even seemed to encourage them, by muttering curses under her breath, or unapologetically voicing her opinions for anyone to hear.
Susannah had even been charged with witchcraft, more than twenty years before, but the courts had ruled in her favor. Later, her husband, George, had sued her accuser for slander. The courts had found in George’s favor, but had awarded him less than a penny in damages. Apparently, they didn’t think the accusations could have done much damage to Susannah’s already difficult reputation.
But now, George was gone and her children were grown. Darkness and fear had overtaken the community. Indian attacks were on the rise and danger was in the air. There was fear that God was displeased, and that the Devil walked among them. It was in this atmosphere that Susannah was taken into custody, and escorted to the courts in Salem.
It appears that throughout her life, Susannah’s main trouble was that she was an intelligent and outspoken woman who did not like to be taken advantage of. She spoke her mind when she felt she had been cheated or abused. She did not suffer fools lightly, and would make a joke or sarcastic remark if she thought those around her were being silly. She had been in court numerous times, as a defendant and as a plaintiff. In addition to fighting charges that had been made against her, she had spent years fighting to prove that her father’s will had been falsified. Despite five appeals, she had lost, and her step-mother had succeeded in stealing her inheritance. So the Susannah who was dragged to the courthouse in Salem was not a woman who was easily intimidated.
Despite a lack of evidence against her, Susannah was found guilty and she was hanged with four other women in July, 1692. Their bodies were buried in what used to be an unmarked and until recently, an unknown area.
In 2016, an area known as “Proctor’s Ledge” was confirmed to be the site of the hangings of these 5 women, and the area is now marked by a semi-circle of stones dedicated with the names of the women who were hanged in that location – including that of Susannah Martin.
Amen. Amen. A false tongue will never make a guilty person. – Susannah Martin