Massachusetts

Susannah Martin’s Witchcraft Trials Lasted Nearly 25 Years

In 1692, the witch trials in Salem finally put an end to Susannah Martin's life. It was the culmination of a 25-year-long period during which her neighbors repeatedly accused her of being a witch.

While some of the accused in the famous Salem witch trials of 1692 were facing their first accusations, others, like Susannah, had been harassed repeatedly. Some historians suspect that the group of young girls in Salem who accused most of the witches chose some people that they knew personally and others simply because of their reputation.

The First Allegations

Susannah lived in Amesbury, Mass. - 30 miles north of Salem. Originally from England, she married Salisbury, Mass. widower George Martin in 1646. The couple moved to Amesbury and had eight children. The first allegations against Susannah came in 1669. William Sargent accused her of fornication, of killing her infant and witchcraft.

susannah martin

The Witch No. 1, lithograph, J.E. Baker.

George Martin took the matter to court, suing Sargent for libel. The court eventually cleared Susannah of all charges, but it took an appeal to get her cleared of witchcraft.

It wasn’t the only trouble the Martin’s had that wound up in court. Susannah and George went to court again to try to win part of her family's fortune. Susannah had been largely excluded from her step mother's will. They sued six times to attempt to overturn the will; they lost each time.

In 1686 George Martin died, leaving Susannah a poor widow. Her argumentative nature left her with few defenders. And in 1692, when the witchcraft hysteria blossomed in Salem, Susannah again found herself accused of being a witch. This time it was the small group of Salem girls who sparked the accusations against Susannah. They claimed she was causing them fits.

Susannah Martin Goes to Court

Susannah's behavior before the accusations worked against her. She was known to mutter to herself. Aware that some considered her a witch, she may have played up the idea from time to time herself to scare people.

Arrested in May of 1692, she was jailed in Salem and indicted. Susannah was hardly contrite. When she witnessed the Salem girls going into convulsions that they said were the work of the witches, she laughed. When the magistrate asked her why, she said, "Well, I may at such folly."

Susannah presented a vigorous defense. When asked to quote the Bible, something a witch was supposed to be unable to do, Susannah did quote it from memory. But there was a sizable group of witnesses against her. A full 24 people accused her of all manner of witchcraft.

They testified she had participated in Satanic rituals. One man said she had driven his wife insane. And one man recalled that years earlier she had been unhappy with a deal she and her husband made to swap some land for some cows. When the owner of the cows refused to give her the ones she wanted, she cursed the farmer's cows and they died. Others say she tormented them and gave them fits.

Susannah was argumentative to the end. She denied being a witch. Clung to her Bible. Perhaps, she suggested, her accusers were under the influence of Satan. “I desire to lead my self according to the word of God,” she declared. But on July 19, 1692, she and four others were hanged in Salem for witchcraft. They were among the 20 people hanged for witchcraft during the hysteria of 1692 and 1693.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Mary Bingham

    May 16, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    You will want to correct one fact in this otherwise wonderful article. Nineteen people were hanged. One was crushed to death.

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