Northampton’s Mary Bliss Parsons slander and witch trial court documents

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(WWLP) – Prior to the height of the witch hunt in Salem, a member of Northampton’s founding Parsons family was rumored to practice witchcraft.

Mary Bliss Parsons was first accused of being a witch in the 1650s by Sarah Bridgeman. Mary’s husband Joseph Parsons eventually took Bridgeman to trial for slander. Ultimately, Mary was acquitted.

She was later accused again of being a witch and taken to trial in Boston.

Read the full story here: Before Salem: Northampton woman accused of witchcraft


Mary Bliss Parsons/Sarah Bridgeman slander trial court documents and transcripts

Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
June 1656: Testimony of Hanna Lancton and Sara Bridgman.
” June 20 [16]56

Hanna Lanton the wife of Gorg Lanton testifieth
that Sara Bridgman the wife of Joams
Bridgman tould her that her boy when his knee was
sore cried out of the wife of Joseph parsons
and said that she did hurt him and that
she would pull of his knee and also the said
Sara tould her that she had heard other
say them where Jealous that the wife of
Joseph parsons was not right and the said
Hanna saith that by reason thereof she had
some found of the wife of Joseph parson
but it hath pleased god to help her over
them & doth believe there was noo such
cause and is sorry she should have hard thought
of her uppon noe better grounds
testified uppon oth in the presence of us

William Houlton
Tho Bascum
Sara Bridgeman testifies about her son’s illness and talk against Mary Parsons

Sara Bridgman owned before us that she
tould Hanna Lanton that her boy cried out
of the wife of Joseph parsons & said she would
hurt him & that she would pull of his knee
and that she had heard others say that there
where Jealousies of Goody parsons that she was
not right

William Houlton
Tho Bascum”
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
11 August 1656: Testimony on behalf of Sarah Bridgeman by William Hannum’s wife. (Part 1)
“Testimonyes taken on the behalf of Sarah the wife of James Bridgman
the 11th Day ove August 1656
the wife of William Hannum of Northwottuck at Northampton
sayth that I have been warned by some of Windsor and some of Norwottuck
to beware how I had to doe with Mary the wife of Joseph Parsons : and she
herself also told me, when she lay in of her last child, and being ill in
a strange fitt, that the occasion of her illness was, that her mother
being lately there, had brought her news that she the said Mary
was suspected to be a witch: the said Goodwife Hannum also
sayth that this winter past I spun for the said Mary Parsons about 33
runn of yarn, & this Spring the said Mary desired me to lett her have
one of my daughters to dwell with her, and I considering wt rumores
went about of her I was loth to let her go there to dwell: but shee
havinge allured my daughter, as my daughter told me, I told my daughter
shee should not goe thither to dwell; if shee might have ten pound a yeare:
at this tyme the said Mary Parsons came to me & challenged me about
the yarne yt I spun for her, that it wanted of the tale of the threads
in the Knotts, uppon wch I went to her house & examined the yarn, and
all that I examined did want almost in every knott of the yarn, some
tymes there would be but 18 threads in a knott for 40 or 28 for 40
wch notwithstanding wn I spun it, I did my best endeavd to give a true
account of & it was not found fault with till this tyme : & for I spun
some more for her to recompence this defect & I spunn more
for her besides that, & still when the yarn came to her, it would never
hold out tale in the threads, though I did my best endeavr to deale
truly in ye thing, and I have spun for others & could have my yarn
hold out After this I spun oakum yarn for her, & sent for her
weights to weigh it & called whom I had about mee to see yt I made
weight & soe I sent it home to her & Presently shee sent me word it
wanted weight Shee the said Goodwife Hanum also saith
that my daughter though formerly healthy, yett this summer hath been
very sickly & unhelpful to mee, wch though I know it may be by
Gods owne immediate hand : yet it causeth some jealousies in me against
the said Mary, because it fell out with in 3 or 4 days after I had
given her a full denyal of my Daughters service
Testified on oath before me Elizur Holyoke
William Hannum [blott out?] testifyeth on oath that I have had
some jealousyes against this Mary Parsons, on these grounds:
First this Mary came to my house about the yarn that shee missed
and then wee had a falling out about it & some discontented words
passed on both sides: this was in an eveninge, & as I take it in
March last & that eveninge all my Cattell were well for ought
I could see by them, & the next morning One cow lay in my yard,
ready to dy as I thought: wch when I had considered I endeavored
to gett her up & at length gott her to stand: but shee languished away
& dyed about a fortnight after, though I took great care night &
day to save her, givinge her samp pease wholesome drinks eggs etc.
& this Cow beinge young was lusty before this very tyme
Secondly, the same week I remember I beinge at work at
John Webbs, I saw Joseph Parsons beatinge one of his little chil
dren, for loosinge its shoo; and to my apprehension he beat it unmer
cifully, & his wife comeinge to save it, because shee had beaten it
before”
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
11 August 1656: Testimony of William Hannum continued, and Testimony of Sarah Bridgeman

as shee said, he thrust her away: the next day I gooinge to work
agayne at John Webbs, there were some other neighbors there and
they were talkinge how Joseph Parsons had in a sort beaten his
wife : then I answered them that one of you beinge his next neighbors
must ride, wch manner of jestinge I doe not approove at all or allow of in
my selfe : the same day the said Mary Parsons hearing how I had
jested shee dealt with mee about it showinge her offense : & so it
fell out that the same evennige, I havinge a sow it had 4 young piggs
the sow was missing & we could not fynd her that night, the next
morninge very early I sought her a good while but I found her not,
but meeting a neighbor he asked mee wt I sought I said, my sow :
Says hee yonder in the swamp is a sow I think it is yors I went thi
ther & it was my sow : & there shee stood wth her nose to ye ground
looking steadily as if shee had seen something in the ground : Soe I
drove her home & before noon yt day shee dyed. Shee till now was
a lusty swine & well fleshed
Thirdly I haveinge two oxen I lent them to John Bliss who is thy
Mary Parsons brother & I was to have his oxen to work agayn for
them : & for my oxen & his & Goodman Lanctons I sett out to break
up some ground & they putt John Bliss his oxen in the Middle for
they were young and not very fitt to goe behind much less before : about wch
tyme Mary Parsons came to mee & did chide wth mee for abusing her
brothers oxen I told her I did not abuse them : shee said you putt them
in the middle where they are always under the whip, I told her they were
not any way wronged by us : & shee went away in anger : within 3
days after I was goinge to Windsor wth my oxen & cart : & about
4 mile from our town, as I was goinge whether my Ox hung out his
tongue or whether he went to eate for it fell out, that a wrattle
snake bitt him by the tongue : & there he dyed
These things doe somethinge run in my mind that I cannot have
my mind from this Woman that if shee be not right this way shee
may bee a cause of these things, though I desire to look at the over
rulinge hand of God in all
Testifyed on oath before mee Elizur Holyoke
Goodwife Bridgman testifyed on oath that last May was a
twelve month, I being brought to bed about 3 days after as I was
setting up, haveinge my child in my lap, there was something ye gave
a great blow on the door , and at very instant as I apprehended my
child changed : & I thought wth my self & told my girle I was a-
fraid my child would dy . & I sent out the girle to look who it
was at the doore, but shee could see noe body about the house :
Presently after the girl came in, I lookinge towards the doore
thorough a hole by the doore, I saw to my apprehension two women
pass by the doore wth white clothes on ye heads, then I concluded
my child would dy indeed : & I sent out the girle to see who they were
but shee could see nor body : this made mee think there is wickedness in
the place : Another tyme ——
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
11 August 1656: Testimony from Sarah Bridgeman, continued from previous document

Another tyme after this beinge the last summer my boy that is about
11 yeare old sayth as he was going to look our Cowes in a swamp there
came somethinge & gave him a great blow on the head, that it struck
off his hatt & beat him almost to ye ground : he thought it was a bird
but could see nothinge that did it & gonige a little further he came
to 2 loggs & stumbled at one & fell on the other & put his knee out
of joynt : & his knee after was sett as the man said ye sett it : but
he was in grevious torture while the man stayd wch was
2 days to ye mans admiration : For he was rather worse than before
& he was in grevious torture about a month : & before he was well
he cryed out one night it beinge about breake a day & wth his crying
out he awakend my husband : he cryed out that Goody Parsons
would pull off his knee, there shee sitts on the shelf : then I and my
husband labored to quiet him & could hardly hold him in the bed
for he was very feirce : we told him there was noe body : yea says
he there shee sitts on the shelfe : and after he said there shee is gone
& a black mouse followed her : and both I & my husband told him
in this extremity that there was noe body on ye shelfe yea says he there she is
doe you not see her there shee runs away & a black mouse foll
lowes her : & this he said many tymes & wth great violence : & about
sun risnige he was like to dy in our apprehension:
Testifyed on oath before me Elizur Holoyke
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
August 1656: Testimony of William Hannum

william hannum being asked what he did
with his cow when he had skined her he said
he lett her ly in the yard the first day the
next day in the morning he drew part of the
cow downe toward the swamp before his house

August 16 [16]–56 in the presence of us

william houlton
Tho Bascum
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
27 September 1656: John Mathews testifies before John Pynchon.

John Mathews testified yt about foure years agoe, being at Joseph
Parsons house making of barrells; uppon occasion of some diffe=
rence betwixt Joseph Parsons & his wife, he sd to his
wife yt shee was led by an evill spirit thereuppon shee sd
he was ye cause of it, by locking her into ye sellar
& leaving her : Joseph Parsons, sd further yt shee
went over ye water & Colton after her, & shee was
not wet only Goodm Colton was wet : shee sd also ytt when
her husband lockt her into ye sellar, ye sellar was full of
spirits, & shee threw ye bed stafe at ym & ye bed cloathes
& her pillow & yet they would not be gon ; & from
this tyme shee told one it was yt shee fell into her fits
some few days after, shee ye sd Mary Parsons told me,
ye spirits appeard to her like poppets as shee was
washing her cloathes at ye brooke, & then shee fell into
her fits : Mary Parsons ye wife of Joseph Parsons
further told me yt in her fits, shee hath gon from her
house in ye long meddow thorough ye grt swamp
in her shift, & when shee came to her self shee could
not tell how shee came thither:
Taken upon oath this 27th of September 1656 before mee

John Pynchon
 
Courtesy East Cambridge Archives via UMass.edu
June 20th, 1656: Margaret Bliss testifies against Sarah Bridgeman.

Margarett Bliss testifieth that Sara Bridgman
tould her that she did heare that her daughter
parsons was susspected to be a which and that she
had heard there was some discontent betweene
the blind man at Springfeild and her daughter
& that she had done him hurtte and that there
was some words between the blind man & her
daughter and then the child of the blind man had
asounding fitte

June 20 [16]56 testified uppon oth before us
William Houlton
Tho Bascum

Mary Bliss Parsons Witchcraft trial 1674-1675

Courtesy Hampshire County Court Registry of Probate, Northampton Massachusetts
Samll Bartlet of Northampton having lately lost his wife to his greate greife as he expresseth
and ye rather for ye he strongly suspects yt she dyed by some unusuall meanes, viz, by meanes
of some evell Instruemt he presented to this Corte diverse evedences to shew the grounds of
his feares & suspicioun Alsoe Goodman Bridgeman finding so ye Corte & Intreateing that
Diligent inquisition may be made concurring ye Death of ye sayd Woeman his Daughter
for yt he also Strongly suspects she come to her and by some unlawfull & unatureall means
& for ye Diverse of ye testemonyes doe reflect on Goodwife Parsones Sen of Northampton ye
Corte haveing read ye testemonyes doe thinks it meete yt ye case should be ffurther lookt into
& therefore doe refferr ye sayd case & all other things Concerning ye sayd Goodwife Parsons yt
have beene now Presented to ye ajournmt of this Corte which is to be kept at Northampton
ye 18th Day of November next, for further Disquition & doe order yt she be warned thereto
attend to answer wt shall be objected agst her & ye wittnesses are to be warned to appeare to
testify before her viva vere wt they have already given in upon oath concerning her
Courtesy Hampshire County Court Registry of Probate, Northampton Massachusetts
Mary Parsons appears in Court at Northampton

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