Monday, March 31, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 13 Accused witch Sarah Noyes Hale

Dear Grandmother Sarah,
Since 1980, Americans have noted Women's History Week and since 1987 National Women's History Month. The focus of the month is to honor the achievements of American women. For family historians, the emphasis is on telling the stories of female family members. Yours is one of the more interesting stories in our family tree.

The Noyes family from which we are descended comes from Cholderton, Wiltshire, England.
This map of Wiltshire, with its relative location in England
is from www.en.wikipedia.org
The family is found on a "1545 list of taxpayers for the benevolence of Cholderton in the county of Wilts." A very thorough history of the Noyes family can be found at www.noyesgenealogy.net. Your grandfather William was a graduate of University College at Oxford and became rector at the church in Cholderton in 1601.  William's ministry continued for twenty years until he was called to be Attorney General for the King.

Your father James, was the eldest son of his father's second marriage to Anne Parker born 22 October 1608. Born into an educated family, James was also sent to be educated. He matriculated at Brasenose College, Oxford, 22 August 1627. It must have been expected that James would follow his father's footsteps into the ministry but he left university when he was called to teach at Newbury, Berkshire, England. He married your mother Sarah Brown, daughter of Joseph Brown about 1633. I imagine you were named for her.

This was a turbulent time in English history and we do not know what was the spark that led James, Sarah, your Uncle Nicholas and cousin Thomas Parker to decide to immigrate to Massachusetts. We do know that 26 March 1634 they boarded the Mary and John at Southampton and the ship was detained until all took the oath of "Supremacy and Allegiance" to the King. First settling in Ipswich, the family had moved to Newbury by the time you were born 21 Mar 1655. Your father had also settled into his perhaps predestined occupation, minister.

I wrote 'the family had moved to Newbury" as if Newbury was just another town down the road. In fact, your father, Uncle Nicholas and cousin Thomas Parker were among the first settlers there. Your family helped to carve a new community out of the wilderness. Are you surprised that the house where you grew up still stands?
This photograph of the Rev. James Noyes House was taken for en.wikipedia.org in 2012.
The house was built about 1646 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Headstone for Rev. James Noyes who died 22 October 1656
Sarah did not have long to get to know her father.
In 1679, an event took place in Newbury that may have influenced your life. Elizabeth Morse was accused of practicing witchcraft. Three times she was condemned to die but each time she was reprieved. She was eventually allowed to return to her home where she lived out her days. Since witches were often hanged or crushed by stones, she probably considered herself fortunate. However, the rest of her life was not spent in freedom. According to an article published in the Newburyport News 28 October 2006, "She was forbidden to travel more than 16 rods (264 feet) from her property unless she was accompanied by a pastor or a deacon."

At 29, you became the second wife of widower Rev. John Hale 31 March 1684 and step-mother to his four children. The daughter of a minister, stepping into the role of minister's wife probably seemed very comfortable. We do not know if there had been earlier opportunities for marriage. Four boys were born in quick succession as you became an integral part of the Beverly, Massachusetts community and your husband's ministry.

Six years after your marriage, John was called to serve as a chaplain to the militia during Massachusetts' unsuccessful campaign to capture Montreal from the French. It was several months from the time of his departure until the battered and defeated force returned. Nearly 1,000 men had been lost. Waiting for word from your husband must have been nerve wracking.

In March of 1692, the minister of the church at nearby Salem, Samuel Parris, suggested that John help him observe the "strange behavior of a group of girls claiming to be tormented by evil spirits." Did John confide in you the horror he had felt as a child when he witnessed the hanging of convicted witch Margaret Jones in his hometown of Charlestown in 1636?

How shocked you both must have been on November 14, 1692, when 17 year old Mary Herrick accused you and the ghost of Mary Etsy of afflicting her. Many who have written about this time in Salem, believe that these accusations against you helped end the hysteria associated with the witch trials. Public opinion did not support the accusations and you were never arrested.

It is difficult for us today to understand how you felt about witches and their demonic powers and acts. Today most people do not believe in the existence of witches but there are also people who proudly declare themselves to be witches and participate in covens. Knowing that people were being put to death as witches would have made the accusations terrifying. It turns out that merely having been accused of witchcraft is sufficient to have your name included on the list of people from whose descent qualifies one for membership in the "Associated Daughters of Early American Witches." I expect that you would not be pleased that people think you were a witch.

Love,
Cecily Cone Kelly

For family members; Our descent from Sarah Noyes Hale is as follows:
Rev. John and Sarah Noyes Hale's son Rev. James Hale
Rev. James and Sarah Hatahway Hale's son James Hale, Jr.
James and Elizabeth Bicknell Hale's daughter Joanna Hale
Eleaszer and Joanna Hale Warner's son Thomas Warner
Thomas and Rhoda Hopkins Warner's daughter Joanna Warner
Naaman and Joanna Warner Cone's son William Warner Cone
William and Eliza Utley Cone's son Frederick Naaman Cone






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