Town officials step in

Martha never remarried after Richard's death. One by one the daughters married and started their own homes. As Martha's mental health slowly deteriorated, Rachel took over management of the estate with the full permission of her mother. Nevertheless, this arrangement was overlooked by local magistrates (legal officials) who felt a need to take matters into their own hands. In 1666 they decided to hold a court session to discuss what should be done about the widow Haffield's declining mental health and, more precisely, who should be in charge of her money. The officials granted partial power of attorney (right to handle financial and legal affairs) to Thomas White, husband of Rachel's half-sister Ruth, with the agreement that he would use part of the money from the estate to pay for the care of Martha. Initially he was given only the power to collect rents from properties owned by the Haffields. Several months later, however, White was given sole authority over Martha's affairs. According to John Putnam Demos in Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, his role was "to be as a guardian to her . . . and to receive and recover her estates." Two months after taking over full power of attorney, White brought a court case against Ipswich landowner Robert Cross.

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