The Testimony of Ann Putnam, Sr. against Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse (1692)
Reprinted in Major Problems in American Colonial History in 1993 Edited by Karen O. Kupperman
As the New England winter tightened its icy grip, February 1692 drew to a close in Salem, Massachusetts. Two more girls—Elizabeth Hubbard and Ann Putnam, Jr.—joined Elizabeth (Betty) Parris and Abigail Williams in having fits and seeing visions. At the time of her "bewitchment," Ann Putnam, Jr. was only twelve years old (see her biography and primary source entries). She was the daughter of Ann Putnam, Sr. and Thomas Putnam, a local farmer who had become quite prosperous. The Putnam family was one of the largest and most powerful in Salem Village, and Thomas's wealth made him an ally of the Reverend Samuel Parris. Suspicions that witchcraft had afflicted his daughter, and later his wife, made Thomas Putnam a strong force in the arrests of accused witches.
Unlike some of the other village girls who took part in the story-telling sessions at the Parris household that ultimately led to accusations of witchcraft, Ann Putnam, Jr. lived with both of her parents. While two-parent households are usually beneficial to children, there is evidence that the unstable behavior of Ann Putnam, Sr. had a devastating effect on the Putnam family—and, ultimately, the entire Salem community. The elder Ann was a disinherited daughter; her father had been
Much of the witchcraft trials, testimonies and depositions took place in the Salem Village meetinghouse. This is a sketch of the original meetinghouse. Reproduced by permission of the Corbis corporation (Bellevue).
wealthy, but when he died she got nothing. The money from his estate was divided between his wife and sons. Ann tried unsuccessfully to sue for her inheritance, and as the years passed she grew more embittered. She married Thomas Putnam after moving to Salem with her sister. When her sister's three children died in quick succession, followed shortly by the sister herself in 1688, Ann's mental stability was severely shaken and she went into a decline. By March 1692 she was suffering from violent fits and claiming to be haunted by specters.
Following is an excerpt from the deposition given by Ann Putnam, Sr. on May 31, 1692, in which she described the "tortures" inflicted upon her by "witches" Martha Corey (also spelled Cory) and Rebecca Nurse. They had also been accused by Ann Putnam, Jr. Both women were upstanding members of the community, yet they were also outspoken in their opposition to the witch-hunts. Corey, who was sixty-five years old, was the fourth person and the first church member to be named as a witch. Nurse was seventy-one, deaf, and bedridden. They were arrested and eventually executed on the basis of the Putnams' charges against them.
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