Salem will welcome more than 250 descendants of Tom and Martha Carrier for a Family Reunion this weekend. Martha Carrier was one of the condemned during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, and her daughter Sarah is the protagonist in Kathleen Kent's historical fiction, The Heretic's Daughter. Kent's second novel, The Wolves of Andover, a prequel to The Heretic's Daughter, comes out next week.
Destination Salem collaborated with Kathleen Kent and Little, Brown and Company to create a walking tour for the Carrier descendants to explore Salem. I hope you enjoy it, as well.
Walking tour of Salem
Carrier Family Reunion, November 5-6, 2010
A Note of Welcome from Kathleen Kent
When The Heretic’s Daughter was first published in 2008, I could never have imagined that so many Carrier family members, descendants of Thomas and Martha Carrier, would be gathering in Salem---some of them for the first time---where an important piece of American history took place. Salem is a remarkable city, a place of commerce and industry for 400 years and the site of world famous museums, as well as buildings dating back to the 1600’s. But it is perhaps the Salem Witch Trials that have given this city its most enduring mystique. Salem has also played a key role in the Carrier family legends, some of which have been passed down for generations. What is truly remarkable is the discovery that many of the present day Carriers, separated by time and distance, have heard similar tales of Thomas and Martha.
The Carrier family reunion is a celebration of our common ancestry, and the opportunity to share new stories with extended family. Through my own visits to Salem, I developed a stronger, more intimate connection with the past, and I hope the following suggested sites, some of which were written about in The Heretic’s Daughter, will serve to deepen the connection to that time and place.
Salem Heritage Trail
A red line painted on Salem’s sidewalks, the Heritage Trail connects many of Salem’s historic and otherwise significant sites. The Heritage Trail provides an opportunity for self-guided exploration of Salem, passing many of the most historic sites, structures, and markers.
All of the sites on this walking tour are located on the Heritage Trail. Beginning at the Salem Regional Visitor Center at 2 New Liberty Street is recommended. There is a parking garage across the street from the visitor center, and a surface lot one block west of the visitor center.
Places from The Heretic’s Daughter
Most of the nineteen people who were examined for witchcraft and sentenced to death in 1692 were tried in the town courthouse. The building stood in the middle of what is now Washington Street, near the intersection of Lynde Street. By the end of May of that year, the Court of Oyer and Terminer had consigned over 60 people to custody; about 150 people from all over New England were accused of witchcraft. The courthouse was active in judicial proceedings from 1677 to about 1718, and was finally torn down in 1760. There is a marker for this historic site at 70 Washington Street.
Martha Carrier was sentenced to death on August 5, 1692
She was hanged August 19, along with the Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor, John Willard, and George Jacobs Sr.
“’I saw no black man but your own presence.’” Martha Carrier to her accusers when asked if she had ever seen the Devil.**
Old Salem Gaol, 30 Federal Street
The Essex County jail in Salem loomed large in the novel. It was where Martha and four of her children were imprisoned; Richard, Andrew, Tom and Sarah. No doubt a stout wooden building, it originally stood on Prison Lane which is now St. Peter’s Street. The yard was big enough for a gallows, but not large enough to allow large attending crowds who came to watch the hangings. It is thought that Giles Corey was pressed to death somewhere near the prison, perhaps across the street from the present location of St. Peter’s Church.
Robert Calef, a man from Boston who witnessed some of the imprisoned being taken for execution, wrote, “Mr. Burroughs was carried in a cart with the others, through the streets of Salem to Execution.”
There is a plaque to show where the prison stood at 30 Federal Street.
“It only took a few hours for the vermin to find their way into my hair, and I woke in the night with my scalp on fire.” Sarah in Salem prison.**
The Corwin House (“The Witch House”), 310 Essex Street
Jonathan Corwin, a Salem merchant, purchased this house from Nathaniel Davenport of Boston in 1675 and was living here in 1692 when he presided over many of the witchcraft examinations. Corwin later served on the Court of Oyer and Terminer, and involved with Martha Carrier’s arrest and proceedings. In fact, Corwin signed Martha Carrier’s arrest warrant. The house is known locally as the “Witch House,” however no person accused of witchcraft either lived or was imprisoned here. This house is open to the public for tours. Admission is charged.
“I am wronged. It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits.” Martha to her judges.
The precise spot is in dispute. There are several possibilities. In 1692 the place called Gallows Hill was a part of some 3,000 town-owned acres. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that in 1835 the former pastures had been overgrown by wax wood---“witch’s blood” the locals called it---as though the very ground had been overrun by the shrubby plant. There is a water tower that stands at the top of the hill and it would be easy to imagine that such a place, which offered an unobstructed view to the citizens of Salem, would have been chosen.
Many believe Gallows Hill Park was the site of the hangings. Since today this is a residential neighborhood, visitors to Salem are encouraged to remember the condemned at the Witch Trial Memorial, rather than trying to find Gallows Hill Park.
“A ladder was set up against the trunk of the tree and the sheriff, well known to all, would have donned his mask of office, not to hide his face but because it was the proper English custom to hood the executioner.”**
History says that the accused witches were thrown after execution into open pits. Robert Calef, again writing from a first-hand account, said, “When he (George Burroughs) was cut down, he was dragged by the halter (noose) to a hole, or grave, between the rocks. . .” Legends have persisted from that time that the relatives of the hanged collected the bodies for burial in secret. Rebecca Nurse’s descendents from Salem Village, now Danvers, have a long tradition that her body was taken by boat from Gallows Hill to the Nurse farm and burying ground.
What became of Martha’s body, we may never know, but it is tempting to think that her family carried her remains to a suitable place of burial.
“We set late sprigs of rosemary around the cairn of rocks he had used to mark her grave. The morning was quiet with little wind, the leaves gently falling, their use spent except to blanket the ground for the coming cold.”**
Twenty stone benches inscribed with the names of the men and women sentenced to death---19 hanged and 1 man pressed to death--- were dedicated in a public park in Salem in 1992 to commemorate the tercentenary of the Trials. The park is located at 98 New Liberty Street, between Charter and Derby Streets, and is a lovely and sobering monument to the Puritans who went to their deaths rather than admit to being witches.
“Long into dark I sat on the wall, Mother and Father alive to me then, and felt the blood of them both thrumming through my veins.”**
Charter Street Cemetery (“The Old Burying Point”)
Dating back to 1637, this is the oldest burying ground in Salem. Magistrate John Hathorne, who served as an interrogator in most of the examinations and physician Bartholomew Gedney, who served as a member of the Court of Oyer and Terminer are both buried here. Martha Carrier’s examination was conducted by Hathorne, Gedney, and Jonathon Corwin.
**Quotes from The Heretic’s Daughter
Sites that interpret the Salem Witch Trials:
The following attractions, museums, and programs interpret the Salem Witch Trials of 1692:
Old Town Hall, Salem | (978) 867-4767
282 Derby Street, Salem | (978) 740-2929
19 ½ Washington Square North, Salem
16 Lynde Street, Salem| (978) 741-3570
197-201 Essex Street, Salem | (978) 741-7770
310 Essex Street, Salem | (978) 744-8815
For more information on visiting Salem, visit Salem.org.