Marietta's ties to the Salem Witchcraft Trials

How does a town founded in 1788 have any ties whatsoever to the Salem Witch Trials which caused such havoc in 1692? Take a walk back in time with me.

One girl, Ann Putnam, had the unfortunate claim to fame that she caused the highest number of deaths as a direct result

of her witchcraft accusations. Out of her 64 accusations, 17 were hanged. Ann Putnam, as in, Rufus Putnam, the morally upright and honorable Revolutionary War General who helped to build our dearly beloved Marietta?

That’s right. Two branches of the Putnam family settled in Marietta. Rufus Putnam and his cousin, Israel Putnam Jr., are direct descendants of the villagers involved in the Salem Witch Trials.

The Salem Witch Trials actually took place in a suburb of Salem Town, once called Salem Village. Salem Village was renamed as Danvers in 1752. The Witch Trials of such fame took place in 1692.

It was a time of severe hardship: famine, sickness, and Indian attack were everyday worries. In addition, many of the colonists living in Salem Village were extremely religious, and of Puritan faith. To a Puritan, the Devil was a constant fear, as real as the threat of starvation. So while their bodies were suffering physically, so too were their souls in constant torment from the Devil and his followers.

So what exactly happened? There are multiple theories and controversies on the topic of the Witch Trials. But here are some facts: 2 girls within the Parris family started having fits and seizures. These fits were labeled ‘ of supernatural origin’ and soon the girls started saying that the specters of local women were coming into their room to pinch, shake, suffocate and harm them. In 1692, superstition ran rampant throughout the colonies, and back home in merry old England as well. This was not the first place in the colonies to hold witch trials, nor was it the last. But this scare overtook the entire region, and hundreds were arrested, while 19 were executed.

After 2 women were arrested for witchcraft against Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, suddenly other girls and women in the community complained of attacks by specters of witches. The most prolific accusers were Ann Putnam, 12 years old, and her mother, Ann Putnam Sr.

Why would Ann and her mother accuse others of witchcraft? To answer this question, one must try to navigate the politics of colonial Salem Village. Ann Putnam Sr. was married to Thomas Putnam, a bitter man who was cut out of his father’s will, along with his brother, Edward. The money and business went to his half-brother, Joseph Putnam. Thomas and Edward therefore hated Joseph Putnam and his family. Ann Putnam Sr. suffered childbirth after childbirth, only to lose quite a few of those babies very soon after their birth. Her midwife was a wealthy land-owning woman, who had many healthy children: Rebecca Nurse.

Perhaps suffering from post-partum depression, and most definitely suffering from jealousy, Ann Putnam Sr. took no time to accuse Rebecca Nurse of witchcraft. Why else would Rebecca have so many healthy children, while Ann lost so many of her own? Thomas and Edward Putnam looked with greed at the Nurse Homestead and knew that if Rebecca was guilty of witchcraft, her land may be forfeit to the town. Indeed, it was Thomas who wrote out many of the accusations in the name of his wife and daughter, almost assuredly in a gamble to gain more land and money from the jailed and executed ‘witches’. Soon the entire town took sides, with neighbors accusing neighbors, husbands accusing wives, and everyone eager to settle a score against another.