By Anne Knowles – August, 2013
Kathleen Kent is a tenth generation descendent of Martha Carrier. What does this mean to Andover today? Well, going back to the early settlers of Andover and Essex County, Martha, a citizen of Andover was hanged as a witch; a result of the craze that swept this area in 1692.
Martha’s story is told in Ms. Kent’s novel, The Wolves of Andover. It is a very revealing, and historically true book about early Colonial life in Massachusetts. She traces the adventures of Martha and her family through the mid 1600’s to early 1700’s.
Martha, born in Andover in 1643, first became known to “the powers that be”, because of smallpox, a terrible scourge to the early settlers. She married Thomas Carrier in 1664 and they settled in Billerica. The young family was exiled from Billerica due to the fear of the town fathers that members of her family were carriers of smallpox. The family members moved back to Andover, to live in her mother’s home
Ms. Kent’s story of Martha and her family is based on both historical records which can be studied at many local archives, and her family records.
The main story of The Wolves of Andover deals with Martha, and how it happened that no less a historic figure than Rev. Cotton Mather, described her as an “arrant hag” and “queen of hell”. Martha was a woman of strong values and sharp tongue. She had a keen sense of justice and a strong, clear mind. She was accused of being a witch and along with her sons and young daughter, was confined in Salem for trial.
There is something quite interesting in studying historical events through the contemporary writings of people who were actually present at the time. The examination of her seven year old daughter by the judges at her trial is quite chilling. Excerpts from Martha’s trial, which took place on August 11,1692, is available on line for those interested. She was hanged on August 19, 1692; quick and final judgement.
Thomas Carrier is no less interesting. He arrived in the Boston area in 1655, as is reported, as an indentured servant. He was noted for his height, well over seven feet tall.
According to records, he was a strong man who lived to be 109 years of age. He was reported to be the executioner of Charles I, of England. Accused of regicide, he escaped from England and made a life for himself and his family, first in Andover and then in Connecticut, where he died in 1736.
Author Kathleen Kent has written two books: The Heretic’s Daughter, and the prequel, The Wolves of Andover. Both of which are truly interesting and well-researched books of early New England.
The culture of this era is exposed for this current generation to examine and ponder.
We can try to understand how that period of history fell for abuse, against their friends and neighbors. It would do all of us to carefully listen and read what is said and written by those who want to denigrate a group or individual, holding ideas we fail to understand.
Remember, “those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana.