October Birthdays

Well I’m a little late on October birthdays, but considering today is the first day a birthday lands on I think I’m “eh.ok”. Actually two people of my past would have celebrated today as their birthday. Mary Herrick & Elizabeth Spavold were born 185 years apart. Mary’s husband John Batchelder was a juror in the Salem Witch Trials. Until last month I did not know Elizabeth’s maiden name was Spavold. (How I LOVE the NS online archives!).

 Following the birthday list I will re-print last years post (from the de-funct blog) on John Batchelder and his signature on the declaration of regret. It was originally posted on the 31st of October 2006.

  • Mary Herrick: 10 October 1654
  • Elizabeth Spavold: 10 October 1849
  • William Sabin: 11 October 1609
  • Rev. John Maxon: 12 October 1666
  • Judith Clarke: 12 October 1667
  • Hepzibeth Doty: 18 October 1791
  • Richard Smith: 24 October 1802
  • Phoebe Beyea: 27 October 1802
  • William Brooks: 30 October 1612

“Witches” and the guilt of innocent blood.

Gentle readers… in honour of this spooky date I have a gruesome tale to tell……it involves witches, or the accusation of witchcraft, in that very famous town of Salem, MA. In just a few short months in 1692,  25 lives were snuffed out beneath a shadow of hysteria & religious fervour. Five people, including one infant, died in prision, one was crushed to death in torture, and 19 were found guilty by trial and hung on Gallows Hill.

One of those accused was Rebecca Nurse. See: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_BNUR.HTM. Rebecca was a 71 year old woman, strong in her faith, and determined to be true to herself and her God.

My Great9 Grandfather, Israel Porter and his wife Elizabeth (Hawthorne) were advocates for Rebecca Nurse. They started a petition to save her life, signed by 39 community members, and were witnesses at her trial, supporting her innocence.

It, sadly, did not help her. She was excommunicated, and hung on the 19th of July 1692, along with four other women  (Sarah Wildes, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Good).

While  Israel and Elizabeth’s brave actions (and it was brave, considering how quickly one could be accused), are worth bragging about, it is with humility that I mention the actions of my great9 Grandfather, John Bacheler.

John was on the jury of the infamous Salem witch trial. He was responsible for condemning Rebecca Nurse, and so many others, to death. It was a burden he lived with, but not without remorse. Later he, along with many others, signed a Declaration of Regret. It stated:

 “We whose names are under-written, being in the year 1692 called to serve as jurors in court at Salem, on trial of many who were by some suspected guilty of doing acts of witchcraft upon the bodies of sundry persons, we confess that we ourselves were not capable to understand, nor able to withstand, the mysterious delusions of the powers of darkness and Prince of the air, but were, for want of knowledge in ourselves and better information from others, prevailed with to take with such evidence against the accused, as, on further consideration and better information, we justly fear was insufficient for the touching the lives of any (Deut. xvii) whereby we fear we have been instrumental, with others though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon ourselves and this people of the Lord the guilt of innocent blood; which sin the Lord saith in Scripture he would not pardon (2 Kings xxiv. 4)–that is, we suppose, in regard to his temporal judgments. We do therefore hereby signify to all in general, and to the surviving sufferers in special, our deep sense of, and sorrow for, our errors in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person; and do hereby declare, that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken–for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds, and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness, first of God, for Christ’s sake, for this our error, and pray that God would impute the guilt of it to ourselves nor others, and we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers, as being then under a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with, and not experienced in, matters of that nature. We do hereby ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly offended, and do declare, according to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again, on such grounds, for the whole world–praying you to accept of this in way of satisfaction for our offense, and that you would bless the inheritance of the Lord, that he may be entreated for the land.Thomas Fisk, Foreman.
William Fisk
John Bacheler
Thomas Fisk
John Dane
Joseph Evelith
Thomas Pearly, Sr.
John Peabody
Thomas Perkins
Samuel Sayer
Andrew Eliot
Henry Herrick, Sr.”
John Bacheler’s granddaughter Lydia would eventually marry Israel & Elizabeth’s grandson, William Porter… but by that time (1733) the Salem Witch Trials were deemed unlawful by the General Court and monitary restitution had been made to the heirs of the condemned. The horror of Salem was becoming the history of Salem. In 1957, the State of Massachusett formally apologised for the events of 1692.

There is another ghost story… this is not the only chapter of my ancestor’s involvement in the New England witch trials… but i’ll have to tell that tale another time.

Published in: on 10 October 2007 at 12:16 am  Comments (1)