Barker Stone

Headstone of William Barker (Jr.) of Andover Accused of Witchcraft in 1692

Andover's First Witchcraft Case

Of Andover's forty-five accused witches, forty-two have known dates of accusation. Of these, only one occurred before July 1692; it occurred in May. Can its curious timing be explained?

Using the Accused Witches Data Set, we can identify the person accused in May by sorting the data by "Residence." Select all columns and choose "Filter" and "AutoFilter" from the Data menu. Click the autofilter icon on the "Residence Column" and select "Andover." All of the Andover accused appear, along with their month of accusation. Click the autofilter icon on the "Month of Accusation" column and select "Sort Ascending." The name of the person with the earliest known month of accusation (May) is Martha Carrier.

The data set cannot explain why Martha Carrier was accused so much earlier than other Andover witches, but historical sources provide clues. Carrier, in fact, had only recently settled in Andover, having moved from the town of Billerica, where her sister was married to Roger Toothaker. Toothaker was a physician and healer, who was alleged to have used counter-magical remedies to relieve suffering attributed to witchcraft. The legal complaint against Martha Carrier on May 28 also named her sister and sister's daughter, and it came only ten days after Roger Toothaker himself was accused of witchcraft. It seems evident that Carrier's arrest was connected to the arrest of Roger Toothaker, his wife, and his daughter in Billerica, not to events in Andover.

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