Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ezekiel Worthen of Amesbury, Massachusetts

This is a continuation of the George Wathen (Worthen) Story.....
So, Ezekiel, George's son, is now a grown man, his apprenticeship to  blacksmith Thomas Avery is finished and he's ready to strike out on his own.  According to Joyce Pendery in her article on the Worthen Family, Ezekiel was friends with Samuel Foote, who married Hannah the daughter of Richard Currier. Ezekiel also married a Hannah, she was the daughter of George Martin and his first wife Hannah Unknown. They were married on 4 December 1661 in Salisbury.  Hannah's mother died when she was 2-3 years old.  She was raised by her step-mother Susanna North Martin. George Martin was also a blacksmith, it is not known when he came to the colony, but he was living is Salisbury by 1643.

Move to Amesbury
Memorial Plaque at the Amesbury Burial Grounds
The father-in-laws of the two young men had lived in Salisbury, Mass, but by that time the town had grown beyond its boundaries and a new town of Amesbury was underway.  In 1666  Amesbury was incorporated and all four men were listed as citizens of the new town. As with most men, Ezekiel became more active in the running of town as he grew older. By his forties he served on juries and took his turn as town constable. He took the Oath of Allegiance in 1677. Ezekiel bought and sold land for the remainder of his life. He also deeded land to his children. 

Members of the Amesbury Church
The Tithing Mans church stick
In 1667 Ezekiel was assigned his spot in the meeting house, next to his father in law, George Martin. During the church service the men sat on one side, the women on the other.  Everyone had an assigned spot based on social standing in the community. The Deacons of the church sat beneath the Minister and faced the congregation.  A "tithing man" walked around the building with a long stick, prodding people who appeared asleep.  Apparently George Martin objected to the seat assigned to his wife, Susanna, possibly he felt that she she was slighted and should have been assigned a better seat. This was the beginning of a long   series of skirmishes which would eventually end badly for Susanna Martin.

Susanna North
Susanna North Martin was born in Olney, Buckinghamhshire, England.  Her parents were Richard and Joan Bartram North.  Joan died when Susanna was young and her father remarried in England to Ursula Unknown.  The family immigrated by 1639 and lived in Salisbury, Massachusetts. Richard had the lot next to Abraham Morrill. Susanna married the widower George Martin on August 11, 1646.  ( George Martin is NOT the son of Christopher Martin, pilgrim on the Mayflower!)

memorial stone for Susanna Martin
Susanna was first accused of witchcraft in 1669 by William Sargent, Jr. and his brother Thomas Sargent (both ancestors). Her husband in turn sued them for slander. Both cases went to court.  Charges were dropped against Thomas Sargent, but William Jr. was found guilty and given a nominal penalty. Charges were also dropped against William Sargent Sr. but the court disagreed with this decision.  The proceedings and outcome of the case against Susanna is unknown, the court records are lost. 

In October of 1669 George was sued by Christopher Bartlett because Susanna had called him a liar and a thief.  Their son Richard Martin was also in court that year for assaulting and threatening his father, he was sentenced to be whipped. Obviously 1669 was not a good year for the Martins.  

Susanna's father Richard North died in 1668 and she and her sister Mary expected to have a large share in his estate. However his Widow Ursula produced what they considered a fake will which left almost all the estate to her. George, Susanna and Mary took Ursula to Court. Their lawsuit went back and forth several times but they finally lost in 1674, another blow for the family. Things seemed to settle down for a while. George, Susanna's husband, died in 1686, leaving his estate to her to manage. His death also left her to defend herself against any further charges, making her an easy target for unhappy neighbors.

Susanna and the Witch Trials
1692 is the year that the witch trials in New England reached their zenith.  The girls involved in the Salem Witch Trials spread their accusations to neighboring towns.  No one, irrespective of position, whether high or low, was safe from the accusers. Eventually the girls accused Susanna once again of being a witch, with her past history, it's not a surprise. Luckily for her daughters, none of them were accused unlike other families where the females were all under suspicion. 

On 30 April 1692 a warrant was issued for Susanna's arrest.  Her friend and neighbor Orlando Bagley, town constable, came to arrest her.  After a preliminary hearing she spent time in prison.  Her trial was held on June 26th, her neighbors came out in droves to spin wild stories of her guilt. Some of those neighbors are also ancestors.  She was a tough woman who stood her ground, she refused to plead guilty and possibly save her life as others had done. 
The Rev. Cotton Mather said about Susanna, "This woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked creatures of this world; and she did now throughout her whole trial discover herself to be such a one. Yet when she was asked what she had to say for herself, her chief plea was that she had led a most virtuous and holy life." Mr. Merrill, in his History of Amesbury described Susanna differently---------- "The idea of snatching this hardworking, honest woman from her home to be tried for her life by those who never knew her , and witnesses who were prejudiced against almost too much for belief. ...Allowed no counsel, she was her own lawyer, and her answers are remarkable for independence and clearness. She showed herself to be a woman of more than ordinary talent and resolution."    Bonnie Johnson Family Website
Having been found guilty, Susanna Martin and four others were taken to Gallows Hill and hung on July 19, 1692. Only after the Salem accusers pointed their fingers at the very top of society, including the family of the above Cotton Mather, did the trials stop. In 1696 Rev. Mather issued a statement that the trials were a travesty and that innocent people lost their lives.  In 1711 the General Court issued an apology and compensation for many of the survivors. 

Conversion to the Quakers
According to Samuel Copp Worthen in his history of the Worthen family, Ezekiel left his Congregational Church after the witch trials and joined the Quaker Church. On at least two occasions he had possessions or animals confiscated to pay his rate for the Congregational Minister.  Eventually the Quakers were allowed to opt out of the tax.
Despite their trials Ezekiel and Hannah lived long prosperous lives.  They had ten children, who all lived to adulthood.  

Ezekiel and Hannah had the following children:
1. Hannah, born April 21, 1663, married, December 5, 1684, Samuel Fowler.
2. John, born February 12, 1664, married, December 30, 1689, Mary Hadlock 
3. Thomas, born October 31, 1667, married Hannah Annis.
4. George, born December 15. 1669, 
5. Ezekiel, born May 18, 1672, married, December 26, 1704, Abigail Carter.
6. Margerite, born September 24, 1674, married George Weed. 
7. Samuel, married, November 17, 1701, Deliverance Heath. 
8. Dorothy, married, October 5, 1702, Joseph Hoyt.
9. Judith, married, February 19, 1707-08, Abraham Page. 
10. Deborah, born December 9, 1686, married, November 15, 1714, Eliezer Well


RIP Ezekiel wrote his will in 1715 and died the following year. Hannah, stayed in the family home for some years afterwards but eventually moved in with her daughter Hannah Fowler.  She died in 1730.


The English Background of George and Margery (Hayward) Wathen of Salem, Massachusetts by Clifford L. Stott, F.A.S.G. 1996, The Register
Descendants of George and Margery Wathen of Salem, Massachusetts, by Joyce s. Pendery, c.g. 2000, The Register
The Devil in the Shape of a Women, Carol F. Karlsen
The History of Amesbury, Joseph Merrill
Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Hoyt

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