The story of how the the Tyler's were swept up with the hysteria of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692

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The Tyler Family and the Salem Witchcraft Trials

In 1692 the Tyler family of Andover found itself both victim and accuser in the witchcraft hysteria centered in Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts - not present day Salem). The web site, WITCHCRAFT IN SALEM VILLAGE, http://etext.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft contains on-line the accusations, confessions and other original documents related to the witchcraft trials. This account is taken from those documents.

The story of the witch trials is a lesson of misplaced faith with religious fervor overruling compassion and human decency. In Puritan Massachusetts the lack of secular laws to protect the rights of the accused cost the lives of innocent people and ruined those of their families. The old adage of learning from history or being damned to repeat it is never completely true because times and circumstances are always changing; however, it does give us valuable cautionary tales. In the case of the Salem Witch Trials the lessons show that religious beliefs and faith can often be turned to horrible disregard for basic human rights. The trails were partly the reason our founding fathers embedded the idea of the separation of religion and the powers of the state, in the case of the trials, the state being the authority of the local judiciary. These are lessons we should take note of even today.

In the Puritan colony of Massachusetts people believed that the invisible world and the real world were intertwined. To them the Devil was just as real as the people of their community. The Puritans would have had no problem believing that someone could in fact sign the "Devil's Book" pledging their allegiance to him and his dark power. It was such unquestioning belief in the supernatural that lead to the tragedy of innocent people put to death despite the victims please of innocence.

Two Tyler women were caught in the web of suspicion that swept out of Salem Village and into surrounding towns and villages, until more than 150 persons found themselves accused of witchcraft. The two Tyler women were Mary (Lovett) Tyler, wife of Hopestill Tyler, and Johanna (Hannah) Tyler, Hopestillís daughter. Hopestill Tyler was the son of immigrant ancestor Job Tyler.

During the Andover scare, Moses Tyler and Joseph Tyler, son and grandson of Job Tyler accused three men and two women of Andover of witchcraft. Not much else is known about their part in the witchcraft hysteria that came to Andover.

WITCHCRAFT IN SALEM VILLAGE gives the following brief account of the start of "The Witchcraft Delusion."

"In early 1692, Rev. [Samuel] Parrisís 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth, 12-year-old niece Abigail Williams, as well as other neighborhood girls began to fall into horrid fits. Their parents tried to discover what was causing their distress, and village doctor William Griggs gave his opinion that the girls were the victims of witchcraft. Put upon to tell who was causing their afflictions, the girls finally accused three village women, and warrants were sworn out for the arrest of Sarah Osburn, Sarah Good and Parrisís slave, Tituba.

"On March 1, 1692, magistrates John Hawthorne and Jonathan Corwin conducted an examination at the Meeting House. Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn were separately examined and as they answered the questions put to them, the "afflicted" girls went into horrific fits. To all present, the girls were obviously victims of these womenís witchcraft. Though the two protested their own innocence, Tituba unraveled a confession of meeting with the devil and stating there were still other witches in the neighborhood. This evidence was sufficient for the magistrates, and the three women were jailed. The girlsí afflictions did not abate, however, and still more villagers became "afflicted."

"Soon more accusations were made, and by the end of March Church members Martha Cory and Rebecca Nurse were also arrested, examined and jailed. No longer were just the lowly being accused, but people formerly in good standing in the community. By May, scores of "witches," both men and women, had been examined in Salem Village, and jails were being filled with up to 150 accused persons from many towns including Salem, Topsfield and Andover. Dozens of people under excruciating religious, civil and family pressures found themselves confessing to being witches.

"In May, Governor William Phipps called a special court to try the cases of those accused witches who had not confessed. Convening in Salem in June 1692, the court quickly condemned Bridget Bishop to death. During July, August and September 18 people, including Nurse, Good and Cory were hanged. In addition, one man, Giles Cory of Salem Farms, died under torture. At least 5 others including Sarah Osburn died in jail. By the new year the colony was becoming exhausted with the witchcraft frenzy, and learned persons were speaking against the validity of "spectral evidence" being used in court. When the trials resumed, this former evidence was disallowed and proof was insufficient to condemn any other accused. The witch horror was over. Of the 19 people who were executed during this tragic yet heroic period, 12 came from the Salem Village area, dying rather than confessing to what they had not done."

Witchcraft Comes to Andover

In the fall of 1692 the wife of Joseph Ballard of Andover fell sick. Ballard, as did many others, believed that a sick person could tell who or what was the cause of their illness. Ballard or his wife apparently accused several persons in Andover of causing her sickness by witchcraft. Ballard, either on his own or at the urging of others, brought two of the "afflicted" girls from Salem to Andover. The people accused of witchcraft were ordered to come together at the meeting house in Andover where the Salem girls were being kept. A strange test was conducted. It was believed that if the hand of a witch touched the body of the person whom they had bewitched, that person would immediately become well and could identify the witch.

Mr. Barnard (the local minister?) prayed and then blindfolded the accused. The afflicted girls fell into their fits when the accused person came into their presence. Then the hand of the accused was placed on each of the afflicted girls. The girls would immediately come out of their fit and identify the person touching them of being the one who afflicted them. This evidence was enough to cause the arrest of the accused as witches. The authorities immediately seized the men and women and sent them to Salem for trial. Among them were Mary Tyler (sometimes identified as Martha in the documents) and her daughter Johanna (Hannah).

Those arrested were dumbfounded, knowing, of course, that they were completely innocent of anything as hideous as witchcraft. They were respected members of the community and pious members of the church. How could they be even suspected of such a thing.

Events in Salem Village were not encouraging. People who refused to confess were being executed. Many of the relatives of the accused pleaded with their family members to confess in the hopes that their lives would be spared.

At first Mary Tyler was unafraid, convinced that nothing could cause her to confess against herself. When she was brought to Salem, her brother Bridges rode with her. All along the way from Andover to Salem, he kept telling her that she must be a witch, since the afflicted had accused her, and at her touch they were raised out of their fits. He urged her to confess to being a witch.

Mary constantly told Bridges that she was no witch, that she knew nothing of witchcraft, and begged him not to urge her to confess.

When they reached Salem, Mary was taken to a room, where her brother on one side, and Mr. John Emerson on the other side, told her that she was certainly a witch, and that she saw the Devil before her eyes at that time. Emerson would attempt to beat the devil way from her eyes with his hands. I assume that this means Emerson beat Mary about the face. Eventually, Mary was in such a state that she wished herself in any dungeon, rather than be so treated. Emerson told her, again and again, "Well, I see you will not confess! Well, I will now leave you; and then you are undone, body and soul, forever."

Maryís brother urged her to confess, and told her that, in so doing, she could not lie. Mary answered, "Good brother, do not say so; for I shall lie if I confess, and then who shall answer unto God for my lie?"

Bridges still asserted that she was a witch and said that God would not suffer so many good men to be in such an error about it, and that she would be hanged if she did not confess. He continued long and violently to urge Mary to confess.

Finally, Mary began to believe that her life would go from her, and she became so terrified in her mind that she confessed, at length, to almost anything that they propounded to her. At the same time, she felt she had wronged her conscience in doing so; that she was guilty of a great sin in belying herself, and desired to mourn for it for as long as she lived.

In the mean time, ten-year-old Dorothy Faulkner and eight-year-old Abigail Faulkner, children of Abigail Faulkner of Andover confessed to being witches and stated that their mother along with Mary Tyler, Johanna Tyler, Sarah Wilson and Joseph Draper had lead them into witchcraft. Knowing what poor Mary Tyler went through in her inquisition, one can imagine what these children were put through.

Mary confessed to making a covenant with the Devil and signed the Devilís book, promising to serve the Devil as long as she lived. She confessed to being baptized by the Devil and renouncing her former baptism and thus became a witch.

On about September 7, 1692, and other times practiced the "detestable Arts called witchcrafts, and sorceries" wickedly, maliciously, and feloniously used them in Andover. Mary confessed to using witchcraft against Hannah Foster, wife of Ephraim Foster of Andover, and Ralph Farnam, Sr. of Andover, who were "tortured, afflicted, pined wasted, consumed and tormented."

Johannaís Confession

Although we do not have the details of Hannah Tylerís interrogation, she probably suffered much the same indignities and abuse as her mother had. She confessed that at some time in the month of April 1692 in Andover she made a covenant with the Devil where she gave both her soul and body to the Devil. She signed the Devilís book and was baptized by the Devil, took the Devil to be her God and promised to honor and serve him forever. She renounced her Christian Baptism and God and Christ and became a witch.

Hannah confessed to using witchcraft against Rose Foster of Andover and Rose became "tortured, consumed, pined, wasted and tormented."

It is interesting that in August 1692, a month before the arrest of Mary and Hannah, Joseph Tyler and Ephraim Foster filed a complaint against John Jackson, Sr., his son John Jackson, Jr. and John Howard of Rowley of acts of witchcraft against Rose Foster and Martha Sprage of Andover. About the same time, Moses Tyler and Samuel Martin accused Elizabeth Johnson and Abigail Johnson of using witchcraft to afflict Martha Sprage and Abigail Martin, also of Andover.

After their confessions, the women were held in the jails in Salem awaiting their trials. In October 1692 nine men of Andover, including Hopestill Tyler, sent a petition to the General Court in Boston begging that their wives'ís and children, having confessed, be released from Salem jails back to their homes so their families could care for them until their trials. Condition in the overcrowded jails was appalling and the inmates were suffering from lack of proper food and clothing, and winter was fast approaching.

In December 1692 another petition was sent by the men of Andover, including Hopestill, to the Governor and Colonial Council sitting in Boston begging that their relatives be released to their families. The petition states that the families were sensitive to the extreme danger the prisoners were in of perishing if they were not speedily released. They begged the Governor and Council to consider the distress and suffering of their friends and family members in prison and grant them liberty to come home, under whatever terms as judged should be met by the petitioners. "If we might be allowed to plead their innocence, we think we have sufficient grounds to make such a plea for them, and hope their innocence will in time appear to the satisfaction of others, however they are at present under uncomfortable circumstances. So craving pardon for the trouble we have now given your Honors, and humbly requesting that something may be speedily done for the relief of our friends."

Finally, on January 13, (1693) Mary and Johanna were released to their family until their trial date. Hopestill and John Bridges posted the sum on one hundred pounds to guarantee their appearance at court. By then, Mary and Johanna had spent more than four months in prison in Salem.

Their trials apparently took place in February. Both women pleaded not guilty, recanting their confessions. The juries found both Mary and Johanna not guilty of all charges and their long, terrible ordeal was over.

 
Ronald N. Wall
Modified: 25 February 2018