October 20, 2011

Something a Little Witchy for the Season

Way back in my Ordway family tree rests Susannah North Martin, my tenth great-grandmother.  For me, it’s always fun to try to find connections in family history to happenings that we have all read about in the history books.  Imagine my surprise to find that I had a relative accused and found guilty of being a witch in seventeenth century Massachusetts during the period of the Salem witch trials and witch hysteria, in general. (O.k., former students might have suspected this all along, but it was news to me.)  Tracing back from Moses Ordway’s wife, Hannah Hadley, a line can be followed directly back to my tenth great grandmother, Susannah North Martin (1624 – 1692).

Susannah North, daughter of Richard and Joan North, was born in England in 1621. After her mother died, she and her father, a new stepmother and sister, moved to America.  Susannah married George Martin, a blacksmith, and together they had eight children.  Susannah is described as being short, slightly plump, active and  “of remarkable personal neatness,” but also she was thought to be defiant in the face of authority and too outspoken for her own good.

Susannah was charged with witchcraft not once, but twice.  First in 1669, in which case she was probably acquitted because again in 1692, she is brought into court again.  She was arrested on May 2, having been accused by a group of girls who “had fits” when they were in her presence.  She was put into jail and languished there for two months.  She pleaded not guilty at her trial, but was found guilty and sentenced to hanging. 

On July 19, 1692, Susannah Martin, aged 71 and a widow, and four other women were put into a cart and driven to Gallows Hill in Salem, hung and then thrown into a shallow grave. 

The interesting part was that to make amends, the court granted compensation in 1711 to those so falsely accused, but Susannah’s family didn’t apply.  

A folk song was written about her which you can hear sung on youtube.
The lyrics to the song "Susanna Martin" are:

"Susanna Martin was a witch who dwelt in Amesbury
With brilliant eye and saucy tongue she worked her sorcery
And when into the judges court the sheriffs brought her hither
The lilacs drooped as she passed by
Ane then were seen to wither

A witch she was, though trim and neat with comely head held high
It did not seem that one as she with Satan so would vie
And when in court when the afflicted ones proclaimed her evil ways
She laughed aloud and boldly then
Met Cotton Mathers gaze

"Who hath bewitched these maids," he asked, and strong was her reply
"If they be dealing in black arts, ye know as well as I"
And then the stricken ones made moan as she approached near
They saw her shaped upon the beam
So none could doubt 'twas there

The neighbors 'round swore to the truth of her Satanic powers
That she could fly o'er land and stream and come dry shod through
At night, twas said, she had appeared a cat of fearsome mien
"Avoid she-devil,"they had cried
To keep their spirits clean
The spectral evidence was weighed, then stern the parson spoke
"Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, tis written in the Book"
Susanna Martin so accused, spoke with flaming eyes
"I scorn these things for they are naught
But filthy gossips lies"
Now those bewitched, they cried her out, and loud their voice did ring
they saw a bird above her head, an evil yellow thing
And so, beneath a summer sky, Susanna Martin died
And still in scorn she faced the rope
Her comely head held high

Susanna Martin was a witch who lived in Amesbury With brilliant eye and saucy tongue she worked her sorcery
And when into the judges court the sheriffs brought her hither
The lilacs drooped as she passed by
And then were seen to wither."

A number of websites have information on Susannah Martin, including this blog and here on rootsweb. 

Read the actual transcripts of the trial here, along with the depositions taken from witnesses to her witchcraft:
and drawings and photos may be seen here:

I visited Salem long, long ago before I knew of this connection.  Now it’s obvious that I need to go back again!


  1. Wow, now that was an interesting story!!
    Yep, sounds like you need to make another trip to Salem. Take me with ya when ya go!! :-)

    LY, Connie

  2. Thank so much for posting this! I think it's interesting that her family didn't apply for the compensation. Maybe they thought she was a witch, too??

    Oh, and I would love to go to Salem, too! :)

  3. There is a short booklet called "Satan Comes to Salem" at chick.com that you can read online. It talks about the witch hunts and the girls that were accusing everyone. It was very interesting. They accused anyone they did not like. The description you gave about their moaning, etc. are in that book. And now I find it even more interesting in light of this post. Susanna is also my relative and I never knew she was accused of being a witch. Thank you for all your work. Jean Mankin