Since it is the time of year for witches and goblins and the celebration of Halloween, I figured it would be a good time to talk about witches, or supposed witches in our family trees. I get to claim Mary Bliss Parsons, who was the sister to Samuel Bliss, that I am descended from!
Probably one of the more famous women accused and acquitted of witchcraft was Mary Bliss Parsons, which actually happened in about 1654, many years prior to the famous Salem Witch Trials which started in 1692.
Mary Bliss, daughter of Thomas Bliss and Margaret , married Cornet Joseph Parsons in Hartford, CT in 1646. They lived in Springfield, Massachusetts for several years, where they had 3 children before moving to Northampton, in 1654. The Parsons had a total of 11 children. One of their sons, Ebenezer, was killed by Indians.
Joseph was a color-bearer in the Hampshire Troop of Horses, a prominent man in town of considerable wealth, working as a merchant and fur trader for the Pynchon family. He was also a selectman. He was licensed to keep an Ordinary, which today would be known as a tavern.
Supposedly a feud developed between the Parsons family and that of James and Sarah Bridgman who also migrated to Northampton the same year as the Parsons did. Rumors of witchcraft began to circulate shortly after their arrival, implying that the family’s success came at the expense of others and as the result of Mary’s dealings with the devil. Joseph Parsons, took the bull by the horns and initiated a slander case in 1656, in hopes of heading off these allegations. The record of this notable case will be found in Trumbull's History of Northampton, Vol.I, pp. 43-50; also on pages 228-234, copied from the original record now on file in Boston.
He won this case but 18 yrs later, Mary was officially accused of and tried for witchcraft in the year 1674/1675. Some records say that she was actually placed in jail in March of 1675 to await her trial but records from the actual trial did not survive. But on May 13, 1675 a jury found her not guilty. Even though she was eventually acquitted, some say that once again she was subject to another inquiry in 1679, but no records remain to prove this. Joseph and Mary packed up their family and left Northampton between 1679 -1680, amid lingering questions and gossip and they moved back to Springfield. Mary was a widow when she died in 1712, her husband preceded her in death by twenty-seven years.
The year before the famous Salem Witch trials, six Massachusetts women were hanged. and then twenty four innocent lives were taken during the Salem Witch Trials. The witch hunt began in Salem Village but spread to almost every town in Essex county. Before it was all said and done, 170 to 190 men, women and even children were accused. Many were held in jails in Ipswich, Salem, Boston, and Cambridge. Between the months of June and September 1692, nineteen people were hung, one was pressed to death and four died in prison awaiting trial. In 1693 the trials were ended.
There are now various theories as to what caused these bizarre accusations of witchcraft and being possessed by demons and casting of spells upon other people.
See http://ccbit.cs.umass.edu/parsons/hnmockup/witchcraft.html for related theories, and books, both factual and fictional regarding the witchcraft era.
Mary Bliss had the following siblings:
Ann who married Captain Robert Chapman
Thomas who married Elizabeth Birchard
Samuel who married Mary Leonard
Nathaniel who married Catherine Chapin
Lawrence who died in 1675
Sarah who first married John Scott, then Sam Terry and a Mr. Foot.
Elizabeth who married Miles Morgan (she was his 2nd wife)
Hannah who never married
Hester who married Ed Foster.
My descendant line:
Samuel Bliss who married Mary Leonard
Their son Thomas Bliss who married Hanna Cadwell
Their daughter Hannah Bliss who married Samuel Hubbard.
Even more information at this website
http://www.pcez.com/~bigshoe/shoegen.html many family lines at this website!