Most of our ancestors were common people just like most of us are common people. The stories that get handed down from generation to generation are important within the scope of our family histories, but are usually only anecdotal in the scope of world or American history. Stories about our grandparents struggling through the Great Depression and stories of religious persecution and political oppression often find their way into family lore. I find it interesting that most of us have stories that only go back to our grandparents or maybe our great grandparents.
What if we had an ancestor who not only lived through a truly remarkable time in history, but who also played in integral role in this event? What if this ancestor crossed the Delaware with Washington? Or sailed with Columbus? What if we had an ancestor who fought alongside Charlemagne? Would these stories find their way through the filter of multiple generations, and if so, how would they change over time?
What if on the other hand, this ancestor played a role in a much darker event in history?
Like the Salem Witch Trials.
I can’t do justice to this story, but there’s an incredible account of it here. This is an 18 page account written by Bruce M. Tyler and is definitely worth taking the time to read. There is also an excellent website here with a ton of great information. I’ll do my best though to provide the very short version here.
Job Tyler, b. 1619 is my wife’s 11th Great Grandfather. Job was the first Tyler, at least of this branch, to come to America, settling in or near Andover, Massachusetts. By my interpretation, Job was a salty kind of guy who always felt he was getting the short end of the stick and wasn’t afraid to use the court system, or other means, to try to get his due. Job and his wife Mary had 6 children. Job himself used the accusation of witchcraft to try to settle a score with his lifelong nemesis, John Godfrey.
But it was Job’s son Moses who really started stirring the pot in May of 1692. Most people associate the witch hunt and subsequent trials with Salem Massachusetts, but there was quite a bit of activity going on in Andover, about a 35 minute drive by car today. For whatever reason, Moses turned on several of his own family members, and is thought to have been the primary conspirator (one of twelve) in Andover. It’s impossible to say how a family member could turn on several other family members, knowing the punishment of a conviction is death.
In all, 11 family members were accused. Here is the list:
July 28 Mary Tyler Post Bridges, 48; Job’s daughter, Moses’ sister
August 2 Mary Post, 28; Mary’s daughter
August 25 Susannah Post, 31; Mary’s stepdaughter
August 25 Hannah Post, 26;Mary’s daughter
August 25 Sarah Bridges, 17; Mary’s stepdaughter
August 25 Mary Bridges, Jr., 13; Mary’s daughter
August 31 Mary Parker, 55; John Tyler’s (Job’s son) mother-in-law
September 7 Mary Lovett Tyler, 40; Hopestill Tyler’s (Job’s son) wife
September 7 Hannah Tyler, 14; Mary and Hopestill’s daughter
September 7 Joanna Tyler, 11; Mary and Hopestill’s daughter
September 7 Martha Tyler, 11; Mary and Hopestill’s daughter
On September 22, 1692, 4 witches from Andover were executed. It was shortly after this that this hysteria began to create not only societal issues, but also a financial burden. Part of the legal system then mandated the suspected witches were responsible financially for their charges whether they were found guilty or not. The effect was that entire families were being put into financial ruins.
It’s at this point, in January of 1693 that Hopestill Tyler posted bond for his family members. Of the eleven family members imprisoned, one, Mary Parker was hanged.
I wonder what Thanksgiving dinner was like for the Tyler family in 1693.
Moses, would you please pass the stuffing?