Thursday, February 16, 2012

Accused a Woman of Witchcraft - Samuel Bartlett

B. about 1639 in Hartford, Connecticut
M. (1) 1672 in Northampton, Massachusetts
Wife: Mary Bridgman
M. (2) 1676 in Northampton, Massachusetts
Wife: Sarah Baldwin
D. 26 Feb 1712 in Northampton, Massachusetts

Samuel Bartlett was part of one of the strangest events in the early history of Northampton, Massachusetts — he was the accuser in a witchcraft trial. Samuel was born in about 1639 in Hartford, Connecticut, where his parents Robert Bartlett and Ann Warriner had settled the year before. Samuel was the oldest of their four children. The family was among the original settlers of Northampton, Massachusetts in 1653.

Samuel married Mary Bridgman in 1672 and two years later, she died suddenly. Samuel came to believe that a woman named Mary Bliss Parsons had performed witchcraft which killed his wife. Samuel's in-laws had once been involved in another accusation of witchcraft against the same woman and joined Samuel in charging her again.

Mary Bliss Parsons was said to be the richest woman in Northampton; she was also said to be physically attractive and somewhat aloof. Perhaps this was why others pinned the charge of witchcraft on her. In 1656, Samuel's mother-in-law, Sarah Bridgman, had been telling people Mary Parsons was a witch, causing a libel suit against the Bridgmans. Samuel's own parents had testified at the trial; oddly enough, they defended her. The Bridgmans accused Mary Parsons of performing witchcraft causing the death of their infant son. Mary Parsons was found to be innocent.

When the 1674 witchcraft charge came up, Mary Parsons was thrust into the spotlight again. Samuel and his in-laws were convinced Mary Bridgman "came to her end by some unlawful and unnatural means, ... viz. by means of some evil instrument." Mary Parsons once again had to defend herself in court. The case dragged out over several hearings starting on September 28th and continuing on January 5th of the following year. At one point, a search was done on Mary Parsons, looking for "signs of witchcraft" on her body. Finally the magistrates ruled that the case had to be tried in Boston. Mary was indicted there by a grand jury and spent ten weeks in jail awaiting her trial. The indictment read, "Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons...being instigated by the Devil, hath...entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more." Once more, she defended herself in court and on May 13, 1675, a jury at last declared her to be innocent and Mary Parsons was released.

In the years after the trial, Samuel's father was killed by Indians in March of 1676. His mother died two months later and Samuel inherited a large portion of the estate. Also that year, he married Sarah Baldwin, and they had at least 11 children born between 1677 and 1696. Samuel "proposed to build a corn mill on Manhan River" in 1687 and was granted the right to do so. He eventually built it near the town of Easthampton and the site had a mill that was owned and operated by the Bartlett family for at least 175 years.

Sarah died January 17, 1717 in Northampton. On February 26, 1712, Samuel died in Northampton at the age of 77. Both are buried at the Bridge Street Cemetery in Northampton.

Children (all by Sarah Baldwin):
1. Samuel Bartlett – B. 26 Aug 1677

2. Sarah Bartlett – B. 13 Apr 1679, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 7 Aug 1703, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Samuel Clapp (1677-1761), 1697, Northampton, Massachusetts

3. Mindwell Bartlett – B. 30 Jan 1681, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 26 Jun 1741, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Waitstill Strong (~1677-1762), 7 Mar 1708, Northampton, Massachusetts

4. Joseph Bartlett – B. 29 Dec 1683, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 3 Aug 1755, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Mercy Dudley, Massachusetts

5. Ebenezer Bartlett – B. 29 Sep 1685, Northampton, Massachusetts

6. Elisabeth Bartlett – B. 27 Oct 1687, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 20 Aug 1767, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Roger Clapp (1684-1762), 28 Nov 1706, Northampton, Massachusetts

7. Preserved Bartlett – B. 17 Oct 1689, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 21 Feb 1762, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Elizabeth Alvord (1693-1768), 24 Jan 1712, Northampton, Massachusetts

8. Jonathan Bartlett – B. 24 Feb 1691, Northampton, Massachusetts

9. William Bartlett – B. 11 Sep 1693, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 3 Jan 1762, Northampton, Massachusetts; M. Abigail Lyman

10. David Bartlett – B. 25 May 1695, Northampton, Massachusetts; D. 1740

11. Benjamin Bartlett – B. 30 Dec 1696, Northampton, Massachusetts

History of Northampton, Massachusetts from its settlement in 1654, James Russell Trumbull, 1898
Genealogical and biographical sketches of the Bartlett family in England and America, Levi Bartlett, 1876
Bridge Street Cemetery, Northampton, Massachusetts
Passengers on the "Lion" From England to Boston, 1632, and five generations of their descendants, Sandra Sutphin Olney


  1. I just found your blog by googling witch Accusser in MA. I have an ancestor that seems to have accused someone but I can't find any info. Do you know where there is a list of accusers? I have searched and searched and can't seem to find anything with his name. He is George Alexander his wife, Susanna Sage and they lived in Northampton, MA. Any help would be great!

  2. I'm sorry, I don't know how to help you. I found the resources for this article from the Internet. Good luck with your searching.