Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I'm grateful to Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small for starting the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Taking part in it has helped me find things I hadn't known about some of my ancestors.
Take for example what I found out about my 9x great grandfather Thomas Barrett's granddaughter
Martha (Barrett) Sparks who was among those accused of witchcraft in the "Great Hysteria"     

William Waters tells the story of Martha Sparks in his History of Chelmsford:

There was in Chelmsford one notable instance of accusation of witchcraft. Probably it may be safe to assume that the person referred to by Cotton Mather (see page 69), was Martha Sparks. How much Cotton Mather really knew of the case, it is impossible to say.

Martha was born at Braintree, Sept. 16, 1656, the daughter of Thomas Barrett, son of Thomas. Her father moved to Chelmsford, sometime prior to March, 1660. The two Thomases bought a house and fifty-two acres of land on the south side of Robin's Hill, April 10, 1663. These deaths are recorded: Thomas Barrett, Sr., Oct. 6, 1668. Margreatt, wife of Thomas Barrett, July 8, 1681. Thomas Barrett, Dec. 8, 1702. Fransis, wife of Thomas Barit, May 27, 1694. These were her grand-parents and parents. On July 10, 1676, Martha was married to Henry Sparks of Exeter, N. H. In February of that year he is credited to Chelmsford in the return of a Middlesex Regiment of Militia. He was granted land in Chelmsford. The births of two of their children, Abiell, a daughter, in 1686, and Deliverance, a son, March 8, 1690, are recorded in Chelmsford, as is the death of another son, not named in the record, July 6, 1683.

Henry Sparks died July 16, 1694, and Martha died Feb. 28, 1697. She was confined in Boston Gaol, October 28, 1691, on suspicion of witchcraft. November 1, 1692, her father petitioned the Governor and Council for her release, and on December 6 gave a recognisance for her appearance in Court, and two days afterwards she was set free, no doubt owing to the influential interposition of the Rev. Mr. Clarke, then minister of Chelmsford; that is, assuming this to be the case mentioned by Mather. The case was probably never called in Court. At that time, after the dissolution of the first charter, the Court of Assistants was superseded by the Superior Court of Judicature, and there is no record of such a case being tried by either of these Courts. The Records of the Middlesex County Court for the period when this case might have been called in that Court were burned some time since in a fire in Concord, where they were then kept, but no papers relating to the case are to be found in the Court files of 1692 and 1693.

In the early part of 1693, Governor Phips, being about to leave the country, pardoned all the condemned, and the jails were delivered.

The History of Chelmsford,  printed for the town by Courier-Citizen Company, Lowell, Ma 1917

So I' ve discovered  another relative involved in the witch trials!

I'll post the text of Thomas Barrett's petitions next. 

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