Ann Putnam, Jr. was born in Salem Village, Massachusetts, and grew up in a tense and troubled household. For over fifty years her father's family had carried on a boundary dispute with their neighbors, creating deep divisions within the community. As owners of large tracts of land, the Putnams wielded considerable political power and they were leading a campaign to keep rural Salem Village separate from the more urban Salem Town. Their main strategy was to establish a church that was independent from the Salem congregation. In 1688, after two other ministers had been forced to leave their posts, Thomas Putnam and his relatives pressured the Salem Village congregation to hire Samuel Parris (see biography entry) as the new preacher. They also took the unusual step of giving Parris a high salary and granting him the title to (legal ownership of) the parsonage (minister's home) and surrounding land.
By the time Parris arrived the following year the community had broken up into two factions, those who supported the Putnams and his decision to hire Parris, and others who opposed the appointment of Parris. Soon the anti-Parris group gained enough votes on the village committee (local governing body) to withhold taxes that paid the minister's salary. This situation had a direct impact on the Salem trials of 1692-93, and on Ann, Jr., who became one of the main accusers of suspected witches (see Chapters 3 and 4). Most of the accused people belonged to or were associated with the anti-Putnam faction, and Thomas Putnam actively encouraged Ann to make accusations throughout the trials
Not only was Ann, Jr. caught in the middle of the Putnams' political battles, she was also pulled into her mother's obsession with the occult. Ann Putnam, Sr. moved to Salem Village as a teenager with her older sister Mary, who had married James Bailey, the first minister of the village parish. Mary suffered several failed pregnancies, eventually dying in childbirth. Ann, Sr. and Mary were extremely close, and Ann strongly believed that Bailey and the people of Salem Village were responsible for her sister's death. She felt that, as outsiders, she and Mary had been treated with such hostility that her sister was physically and emotionally exhausted to the point of death. Apparently Bailey was an ineffective leader of the village parish and his political enemies went out of their way to torment the perpetually pregnant Mary. Ann thought many villagers were pleased when Mary died, and she would hold a grudge against these people for many years to come.
Ann, Sr. was married to Thomas at age sixteen and, like Mary, she had several babies who died at birth. Finally, Ann, Jr.
was born in 1680, but Ann, Sr. continued to be haunted by the feeling that townspeople had been responsible for her family's misfortunes. She became so obsessed that she tried to communicate with Mary through occult rituals and thus lived a secretive double life. She eventually involved Ann, Jr. in this secret life. A well-read and intelligent child, the younger Ann was pushed by her mother into a level of maturity well beyond her years. Together they often visited the graveyard where Mary was buried, avidly reading the Book of Revelations in the Bible in search of clues for contacting the dead. In 1691 Ann, Sr.'s obsession with the occult reportedly led Ann, Jr. to Tituba (see Chapters 3 and 4 and biography entry), the Carib slave in the Parris household.
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