Ann Foster Witch Trial
From History of Andover, Massachusetts
by Sarah Loring Bailey, Boston, 1880
During the Salem witch hysteria, eight citizens of Andover were condemned. Three were hanged: Martha Carrier, samuel Wardwell and Mary Parker. Ann Foster was the only one who died in prison. The others, including Ann's daughter and granddaughter, were set free after the frenzy had died down. The following excerpts detail the ordeal Ann Foster suffered.
Several women of Andover who confessed accused Martha Carrier as the cause of their being led into witchcraft. Three of these were Ann Foster, her daughter Mary Lacey, and her granddaughter Mary Lacey, Jr. Ann Foster said she rode on a stick with Martha Carrier to Salem village, that the stick broke and she saved herself by clinging around Martha Carrier's neck. She said they met 300 witches at Salem village, among them the Rev. Mr. Burroughs and another minister with gray hair (Mr. Dane, of Andover, was supposed to be hinted at). This story was confirmed by the daughter and granddaughter. Besides these ridiculous charges there were others which had more foundation in truth. All the events of Martha Carrier's past life were gone over, and her rash speeches and revengeful words brought up, with some facts which looked greatly against herů
Another who was condemned was Ann Foster. She, however, was not hanged, having died in prison before the law could take its course. She was an aged woman, a widow, without friends of influence to give aid in her distress. She was evidentally weak in mind and body and was ready at the trial to confess almost anything, and believe everything which was suggested against herself. Indeed, some of these women had been so long used to contemplate their natural and acquired depravity in its most aggravated form, that some of the sensation and self-accusing were ready, even in their ordinary religious meditation, to regard themselves as guilty of almost all sin, believing literally that "he that offendeth in one point is guilty of all". The piety of Ann Foster is especially spoken of by her sons, and there can be little doubt that she was led to charges herself with the sin of witchcraft in all sincerity and contrition. A broken-down old woman in her decrepitude and weakness, torn from her quiet home, brought on a long journey to a prison and a court room, accused of blasphemy her God and forsaking her Savior--what wonder if she sand and died under such a weight of miseries. She was four times examined--July 15,16,18,21. It is pitiful to think of this poor, toddering, feeble creature, dragged again and again before her accusers and finally dismissed to the sheriff to be "taken care of" as guilty.
She overdid in confession, or she would, like the others have doubtless been saved. But the law must have victims, and here was one who proved herself to be deeply guilty. She confessed that she bewitched a hog of John Lovejoy's, caused the death of one of Andrew Allen's children, made another child sick, and "hurt" Timothy Swan. She said her manner of hurting was to make images of the persons with rags ("poppets" they are called in the records) and stick pins in them, or "tye knots in the rags" or burn them in the fire. The persons whom these images were supposed to represent would suffer whenever she pinched or burned, or picked the "poppet".
The deluded woman also described extraordinary apparitions which she had seen--birds, with great eyes, which first were white and became black when they flew away, by which she knew they were devils, also black men who were devils. She had been at the witch meetings and seen the Rev. George Burroughs and another minister with gray hair. Again and again she repeated and owned this confession. But on one point she was obstinate. She would accuse herself to any extent, but she would not accuse her daughter. For this her examiners lost patience with her. "You have already three times examined," they exclaimed, "and yet you do not confess", that is, she did not confess to making her daughter a witch; even though the daughter admitted that she was one and charged it upon her mother's influence and agency.
"Your daughter was with you and Goody Carrier when you did ride upon the stick?
I did not know it.
How long have you known your daughter to be engaged?
I cannot tell nor have I any knowledge of it at all.
Do you acknowledge that you did so?
No and I know no more of my daughter's being a witch than what day I shall die upon.
You cannot expect peace of conscience without a free confession.
If I knew anything more, I would speak of it to the utmost."
But in spite of this denial the daughter alleged that it was true that they were both witches and she cried out "Oh mother, we have left Christ and the devil hath got hold of us!" The distressed mother, moving her lips in prayer, was asked what she was doing and replied that she was "praying to the Lord". "What Lord?" said the examiners sternly. "What God to witches pray to?" Thus taunted and overborne, the harassed woman in confusion and distraction exclaimed "I cannot tell; the Lord help me!"
The granddaughter confirmed her mother's statements that they were both witches, made so by the prisoner. The story of Ann Foster is graphically told in a petition presented by her son. It was written by some abler pen than his, for he only made his mark:
The Honorable Committee Now Sitting At Salem
Whereas my mother Ann Foster of Andover, suffered imprisonment 21 weeks and upon her Tryall was condemned for supposed witchcraft upon such evidence as now is Generally thought Insufficient and died in prison, I being well persuaded of my mother's innocency of the crime for which she was condemned I humbly desire that the attainder by taken off. The charges and expenses for my mother during her imprisonment is as follows:
--The money which I was forced to pay the keeper before I could have the dead body of my mother to bury her was 1' 2. 10s
Money and provisions Expended while she was in prison: 4c
Total expenses: 10s [I know the money figures are off; couldn't read what was written]
This sum the petitioner received and also for his sister Mary Lacey 18 10s on petition by order of her husband Lawrence Lacey.