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Before The Knowing Time November 25, 2012

Posted by nrhatch in Magick & Mystery, Word Play, Writing & Writers.

Wikipedia ~ Salem Witch Trials (in Public Domain)

If you’d been in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, you might have met Susannah North Martin, one of 19 accused witches hung during those troubled times.

Susannah, a feisty widow with a sharp wit, is my great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandmother on my father’s side.

In the 19th century, poet John Greenleaf Whittier composed “The Witch’s Daughter” about her:

Let Goody Martin rest in peace, I never knew her harm a fly,
And witch or not – God knows – not I?
I know who swore her life away;
And as God lives, I’d not condemn
An Indian dog on word of them

Like many of the alleged witches in Salem, Susannah happened to be a female landowner with no male heirs. Once accused of witchcraft, she lost her land, but not her sense of self, or her sense of humor.  

I’ve read Susannah’s trial testimony. It’s testament to her acerbic wit and “devil may care” attitude.  When asked what she thought of her accusers, she laughed. When asked why she laughed, she replied, “Well, I may laugh at such folly!” 

BEFORE I knew that I had descended from Goody Martin . . .
BEFORE dad had done genealogy research tracing our roots back to her . . .
BEFORE I knew of any ties to the Salem Witch Trials . . .

I wrote a story about going back in time to Salem in 1692.   The story is raw (as most are when written by 13-year-olds), but I love that I wrote it BEFORE the knowing time.

* * * * *

Wikipedia ~ Salem Witch Trials (in Public Domain)

Aah . . . that’s better!

Written for PTC’s Weekend Theme ~ Genealogy.  PTC’s Filling In For Sidey.

Related posts:  Opening to Sight ~ The Shaman, The Witch, and The Ancestors (Bluegrass Notes) * A Magical Recipe Book ~ The Grimoire (Kate Shrewsday)


1. Lisa Wields Words - November 25, 2012

What an interesting story. How cool that you were able to trace back. Maybe you’re channeling a little Good Martin. You seem to have inherited her feisty attitude and sense of humor.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

I’m convinced of it . . . although I fear that I would not have been nearly as feisty back in 1692.

2. seeker57 - November 25, 2012

Good to KNOW. The Crucible still lives in this time. Thanks for sharing.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Long before dad’s genealogy research revealed the connection, I felt strong ties to the Salem Witch Trials ~ reading The Crucible, etc. I don’t recall having similar feelings of affinity to other historical events (e.g., the landing at Plymouth, the first Thanksgiving, etc.).

3. Don - November 25, 2012

What a woman she must have been; what shocking injustice and what a Life for you to have your roots in.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

We went to Salem Mass. a few years back . . . and saw the reconstructed jail where “witches” were housed. Shocking. Barely large enough to sit on the earthen floor without your head hitting the ceiling. Horrible place to spend your last few months.

Don - November 25, 2012

You know Nancy the shocking thing for me is, that here in some parts of Africa. a woman, in this day and age, can so easily be declared a witch and be killed by the community. Salem witch hunts in some places are still alive and well. Tragic, tragic and enough to make you boil and explode with anger.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

As bad as things still are in many areas of the world, we’ve come a long way. And in a fairly short time ~ three hundred years is just a drop in the bucket of time, after all.

But we still have miles to go before we “get it right.”

4. Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 25, 2012

Wow! I had read this story about your ancestry before, but I do not tire of it at all, and probably never! My own recent discovery of direct ties with Chief Redbird of the Cherokee nation inspires me beyond belief! His English name was Aaron Brock. My mother was a Brock. The Chief’s grandsons traveled the Trail of Tears and settled in what became Cherokee County, TX, where my mother’s father was from. Chief Redbird was a beloved man, but was murdered – in cold blood – while fishing at a river in Kentucky – a river which was named the Redbird after him. He was 100 years old at the time! The murderers killed him to cover up their crime of having robbed and murdered an impoverished man with whom the Chief had offered to share his house/hut until he was able to “get back his feet. The murderers realized that the Chief witnessed the crime from a distance, and were so-called “saving their own necks.” That is all I know of the story to date, because my parents were never interested in genealogy, consequently neither was I – until I saw the TV program
Who Do You Think You Are?” which each week traced the ancestry of some well-known personality.

Anyway – so glad that you participated this week. Hope that enough of Sidey’s regulars will join in! Encourage them, please! I’ll be posting this all on Sidey’s blog (in the comment section). Maybe it will give her some encouragement – to know how much she is missed!

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

2012 has been a horrid year for many of us . . . maybe Sidey finally had ENOUGH.

Can’t say that I blame her.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Sorry. My “Bah Humbug Funk” got in the way of digesting and commenting on your ancestry. How different the world would be if the Cherokee nation had not been decimated by those convinced of “white” supremacy. It’s grand that you carry a bit of Chief Redbird in your veins. Clearly the better man.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 25, 2012

No “Bah! Humbug” taken. You’re right. It’s just that I have a hard time letting go of people. . .and not always sure that I should – as long as I’m not too clingy! 😆

Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 25, 2012

Besides, you are right! 2012 has been a doozy of a year for many of us! No worries, though, it will all be over on 12/12/12!

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Sidey did comment on one of Kate’s posts in the last week or so . . . so she’s still alive, even if she’s not posting.

As for 12/12/12 . . . we shall see. I expect that it will be like Y2K, a big fat dud. 😉

5. jannatwrites - November 25, 2012

The Salem witch trials have always fascinated me (in a horrifying way.) Even as a child, I read books about it and never understood (still don’t) how humans can be so condemning of others – like we really know what’s in their hearts, and like evil can judge evil. That should be left to God alone.

How interesting that you discovered your relation to Goody Martin…and that you wrote the story before the knowledge.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Thanks, Janna. I had planned to share more of Susannah’s trial testimony with “this post” ~ it’s witty, acerbic, and bold. But when I saw that PTC was pinch hitting for Sidey, with a weekend theme of “Genealogy,” I decided not to wait to flesh out “this post” before posting.

Someday, when I’m feeling more like “myself” again, I’ll share more from a bulging file of excerpts.

6. ApplePieAndNapalm - November 25, 2012

Incredible story and I appreciate your sharing it. Fascinating story. Great job!

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Thanks, AP&N. I probably “jumped the gun” by posting this “as is” ~ there is so much more to share. But today wasn’t the day for me to cull the research. Soon, perhaps.

7. granny1947 - November 25, 2012

Well, she passed down some excellent genes.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Somedays I quite agree with at assessment. Not today, perhaps. But somedays. 😉

8. Adam S - November 25, 2012

This is awesome on so many levels. First off, this explains why you’re a damn heathen…

How did you trace your lineage back so far? I signed up for Ancenstry.com and it was fruitless. It was a trial, so maybe there were limitations to the searching — but I couldn’t look beyond what my family had stored in their memory banks (not very far).

I’m really intrigued by my mom’s side, because my Great Grandfather married a “Witherspoon”, who was tied into the Daughters of the American Revolution. Also, it was one of the original families that came over on the Mayflower. I desperately want to know more about it…

This is just so cool! I can’t get over it. It’s as if your decedent was speaking through your pen. And! An artist rendering of her — fit for a history book! This is seriously the coolest thing I’ve read in awhile Nancy — I’m not fluffing. Thanks for sharing!

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Thanks, Adam. I expect it is at least one of the reasons why I’d rather be a heathen than sign up with organized religion. 😉

My dad spent years on genealogy research ~ much of it in graveyards reviewing tombstones. He also reviewed church records, interviewed relatives, etc. Since his ancestors came over in the early 1600’s and settled in New England (where he grew up), the search was a bit easier and relatively localized. He worked backwards and just kept digging deeper.

Once I knew of the connection, I contacted the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem Massachusetts for information and also checked lots of history books out of the library to learn more about her life in Dansbury and Salem Village. It wasn’t until yesterday that I learned she has her own Wikipedia page. 😉

Good luck with your own quest. I expect that many of the families who arrived on the Mayflower have genealogy trails attached to their names . . . so you may be able to work forward and backward.

Adam S - November 25, 2012

Thanks! If I ever find anything out worth sharing, maybe I’ll right about it. Although, if what I’ve been told is true, that would definitely be worth writing about.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

If you write about what you already know . . . somebody else doing research on the Witherspoons might stumble upon your post and add some info to the mix.

9. Maggie - November 25, 2012

That’s cool! I wish I could trace my ancestry back that far, but before 1900 or so, my descendants didn’t even speak English. All the records are probably in Italy and Germany somewhere.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

That distance makes it much harder UNLESS you know of relatives over there who are also interested in searching back through time by visiting churches and graveyards.

My dad did a pretty good job with my mom’s side of the family ~ in Scotland until the 1920’s. But it’s because he had quite a bit of help from relatives on the other side of the pond.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

And it helps to have an unusual name. The more common the name, the harder it is to isolate the individual threads in the tapestry.

10. timkeen40 - November 25, 2012

A woman with land and no heirs, land that she utlimately lost. It is a sad comment on the human existance, but “follow the money” is an all too often true phrase. I doubt very seriously that any of the people bringing charges even believed in witchcraft, but the people who trusted them sure as hell did…and used it to their advantage.

I loved this post.


nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Thanks, Tim. Puritan society was so repressed that the witchcraft hysteria arose, in large measure, as a result of the kids (and adults) needing some drama in their lives.

Trials were a form of entertainment . . . especially witch trials.

11. seeker57 - November 25, 2012

Fascinating history and I love historical genealogy. Did you mention Scotland? I remembered in Edinburgh where witches thrown into the lake (now drained). Should they survived, they are free. Of course, they drowned and condemned. Did you read the book “I, Tituba”. That is just a great story of witches. I’ll will patiently wait for more of your stories.

As for my own lineage, I like the present presence. And I wait for others to tell me the story. Thank you again for sharing.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

As I understand it:

* If alleged witches floated . . . that proved they were witches. After they dried off, they were hung or burned at the stake.

* If they drowned . . . that proved their innocence. But they had to pay the ultimate price of dying in order to establish it.

I did read “I, Tituba” years ago . . . along with every other book I could get my hands on. A fascinating and disturbing period in our history.

seeker57 - November 25, 2012

yes, yes, yes, yes…the book leaves you hanging. Literally. Thanks for giving me more insight.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Many alleged witches, including Tituba, confessed to avoid the gallows. Only those who continued to profess their innocence swung by the neck until dead.

What a backwards time.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 25, 2012

No! No! No! You’re all wrong! Here’s how to tell if someone is a witch:

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

It’s Monty Python! Hip Hip Hooray!

12. sufilight - November 25, 2012

Wow, how cool to find out that Susannah is family and to catch a glimpse of her personality. I don’t think I would have had a sense of humor in her circumstances, so I admire her spunk.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

I shall have to share more of her story and testimony. Among other things, her testimony is responsible, in part, for banning the admission of spectral evidence.

She pointed out that, if the devil could take any shape, then he could certainly take hers. As such, spectral evidence that “her shape” tormented the girls should be inadmissible.

Once spectral evidence was abolished, the trials stopped because no actual evidence of witchcraft could be found.

13. Barbara Backer-Gray - November 25, 2012

Cool! How convenient that it was the landowning women who happened to be witches!

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

At first, fingers were pointed at folks who didn’t follow social mores or who were outright lunatics. But the circle expanded to include female landowners with no male heirs and other “undesirables.”

And then retribution for perceived slights and jealousy caused more finger pointing. The accusers got caught up in the power and prestige of being finger pointers.

The trials skidded to a halt when spectral evidence was no longer admissible as proof of guilt . . . and that happened with the Governor’s wife had claims made against her.

Barbara Backer-Gray - November 25, 2012

But of course!

14. diannegray - November 25, 2012

This is amazing! Susannah sounds like such an incredible woman and some of her still lives in you (which may be why the witch trials had intrigued you before you knew!) I read The Crucible many years ago and have always been horrified with the acts of cruelty against women over the ages. The entire thing was nothing more than mass murder and I wonder how richer our lives would have been if these women had not been murdered. I guess that’s religion for you! pfft – they can have it!

If you ever decide to pick up the story and publish it – let me know because I’ll be first in the buying line! 😀

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Thanks, Dianne! One of these days I do plan to share more of Susannah’s story . . . her bold disdain for the proceedings and those in power, even when her life was on the line, is inspiring.

15. Paula Tohline Calhoun - November 25, 2012

Hello to everybody who has commented on and/or read Nancy’s terrific post! Do your own “thing” on the weekend theme, “Genealogy.” Until Sidey (hopefully) returns, I’m doing a fill-in for her! Just post your link on RFACM: https://paulatohlinecalhoun1951.wordpress.com so we can all read them and i’ll share this with Sidey when she gets back to us.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

Here’s hoping that we get a few more folks to join in the theme, PTC . . . and that Sidey returns to the cyber-fold in due course. She’s been missed.

16. ericjbaker - November 25, 2012

Cool story, Hatch. We should all be glad how far we’ve come.

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

If we go back far enough . . . we’re all related, right?

17. Booksphotographsandartwork - November 25, 2012

I wonder how many of the so called witches had something like land that someone else wanted? And how many had no male family?

nrhatch - November 25, 2012

More than a few, Linda. The somewhat blatant motives for the accusations varied . . . a bone to pick, land disputes, bruised egos, fear, or just wanting someone out of the way because they didn’t buy into the witch hunt proceedings.

18. Three Well Beings - November 26, 2012

I know this story very well…I read something of it long ago, but I’ve had wonderful conversations with my boss…the great-great-great-great…not sure how many great-granddaughter of Susannah Martin! It’s made for some wonderful conversations! 🙂

nrhatch - November 26, 2012

She’s also related to Susannah? How cool! I wonder if your boss is in my dad’s genealogy records.

Three Well Beings - November 27, 2012

Her maiden name is Judy Mae Kemp (Not Judith). Her mother was a Martin, but I’d have to ask her mother’s name. She’s been deceased for a number of years. Interesting, though, isn’t it!

nrhatch - November 28, 2012

I’ve met several of her descendents in cyberspace. New Englanders had large families with lots of branches spreading out in many directions. And dad didn’t try to follow them all. But if he came across information about siblings, cousins, relatives of those in the “main line,” he included it. So I’ll take a look.

19. colonialist - November 26, 2012

I think there was more than coincidence in your interest. Another of those synchronistic happenings.

nrhatch - November 26, 2012

I focused on “all things witch” in the 7th and 8th grades. I had a “Book of Days” and “Spellbooks” . . . but no familiar. 😉

And my only cauldron was/is only 3 inches high ~ Strega Witches’ Brew.

In high school or college, when dad told me about Susannah, I recall an immediate sense of, “Well, that explains a lot.” It felt like something clicked into place. But it’s a vague recall.

I believe that a bit of Susannah flows through me. Like “Hidden Messages in Water,” her intelligence (or the collective consciousness of the “Central Spirit Agency”) whispered to me when we started covering the Salem Witch Trials, “Pay close attention to this.” So I did.

20. tori nelson - November 26, 2012

What a brave lady! It must be really neat to know you come from such a witty and strong woman.

nrhatch - November 26, 2012

Yes! So much better than finding out I’m related to the Kardashians . . . or Jackie Siegel, the Queen of Versailles. 😉

21. spilledinkguy - November 26, 2012

Incredible, Nancy! Susannah sounds like a remarkable woman!!!
I don’t know if anything this interesting happened anywhere in my families’ history, but I sure wish I knew more about it… fascinating!

nrhatch - November 26, 2012

Who knows? You could be a descendent of Renoir, Da Vinci, Monet . . . or all three! You certainly have your fair share of creativity.

22. kateshrewsday - November 26, 2012

I love that too, Nancy. I have no trouble at all seeing this forthright woman as an ancestor of yours. Plain speaking suits you both: you and Goody Martin.

nrhatch - November 26, 2012

Thanks, Kate. I do wonder if my “plain speak” traversed the years, traveling down the genealogy pike from Goody Martin to me.

23. Pocket Perspectives - November 27, 2012

What splendid heritage you have, Nancy…. 😀 …feisty, independent women! 😀

nrhatch - November 27, 2012

She, of course, was way ahead of the times! 😀

24. Joanne Sisco - October 10, 2017

ok – you win for the coolest ancestors 🙂

nrhatch - October 10, 2017

I’m fond of her myself!

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