Susannah Martin: Accused Witch from Salisbury

Susannah North Martin was one of a handful of accused witches during the Salem Witch Trials who did not actually live in Salem.

Born in 1621 in Buckinghamshire, England to Richard and Joan North, Susannah relocated with her father and stepmother to Salisbury, Massachusetts in 1639. The North family were some of the first settlers of Salisbury, which is located 40 miles north of Boston.

The family lived with the other settlers on plots along the “circular road,” now known as the triangle formation of Elm street, School street and Bridge road in Salisbury square. At the time, the area was inhabited by Penacook Native Americans, wolves and wild animals.

After Susannah grew up, she married a blacksmith from Salisbury named George Martin in 1646 and eventually gave birth to eight children. In 1654, George and Susannah moved to nearby Amesbury.

Susannah Martin, Memorial Marker, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem Mass, November 2015. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks

Susannah Martin, Memorial Marker, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem Mass, November 2015. Photo Credit: Rebecca Brooks

Much like the other accused witches, Susannah was also viewed by others as a troublemaker and her name appears numerous times in court records prior to the Salem Witch Trials.

Like Bridget Bishop, Susannah had also been accused of witchcraft twice before 1692.

During her first witchcraft case, she was accused by William Browne of tormenting his wife Elizabeth with her spirit. After her arrest, Susannah was released on bail and the charges were eventually dropped.

She was accused again in 1669, this time by William Sargent Jr, who also said he witnessed Susannah give birth to and kill an illegitimate baby. Susannah posted bail, promising to return to court for her trial but, again, the charges were dropped. Her husband, George, later sued Sargent for slander.

The court held Sargent libel for slander in accusing Susannah of fornication and infanticide but allowed the witchcraft accusations. The charges were later dismissed.

After several failed court battles to inherit the bulk of her father’s estate in 1671 and with the death of her husband in 1686, Susannah was left a poor, defenseless widow. When she was accused of witchcraft for the final time in 1692, she had no one to come to her rescue.

According to Susannah’s arrest warrant, she was accused by the afflicted Salem village girls: Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., and Mercy Lewis.

Since they lived in different villages, it is not known how these girls knew Susannah, but it is possible they heard about her bad reputation from others and made the decision to accuse her.

After her arrest in Amesbury on May 2, Susannah was brought to Salem Village where she was questioned by Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin and twice underwent a humiliating physical examination in an effort to find a witch’s teat that prosecutors believed witches used to feed their familiars.

No such mark was found but the examiner did make a note that “in the morning her nipples were found to be full as if the milk would come,” but later in the day “her breasts were slack, as if milk had already been given to someone or something.”

Although most of the court records from her trial were lost, Cotton Mather, a well known minister at the time, personally documented her trial:

“[Magistrate] (to the afflicted girls): Do you know this Woman?
[Abigail Williams]: It is Goody Martin she hath hurt me often.
Others by fits were hindered from speaking. Eliz: Hubbard said she hath not been hurt by her. John Indian said he hath not seen her Mercy Lewes pointed to her & fell into a little fit. Ann Putman threw her Glove in a fit at her. The examinant laught.
[Magistrate] (To Martin): What do you laugh at it?
[Martin]: Well I may at such folly.
[Magistrate]: Is this folly? The hurt of these persons.
[Martin]: I never hurt man woman or child.
[Mercy Lewes]: She hath hurt me a great many times, & pulls me down
Then Martin laughed again
[Mary Walcott]: This woman hath hurt me a great many times.
Susan Sheldon also accused her of afflicting her.
[Magistrate] (To Martin): What do you say to this?
[Martin]: I have no hand in Witchcraft.
[Magistrate]: What did you do? Did not you give your consent?
[Martin]: No, never in my life.
[Magistrate]: What ails this people?
[Martin]: I do not know.
[Magistrate]: But w’t do you think?
[Martin]: I do not desire to spend my judgm’t upon it.
[Magistrate]: Do not you think they are Bewitcht?
[Martin]: No. I do not think they are
[Magistrate]: Tell me your thoughts about them.
[Martin]:Why my thoughts are my own, when they are in, but when they are out they are anothers.”

Despite the lack of evidence against her, Susannah was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged at or near Gallows Hill on July 19 along with Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes.

She was buried in a shallow grave near the execution site with the other victims but because the exact location of the executions has never been found, it is not known where her body currently lies.

In 1857, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, who was a direct descendant of Susannah Martin, honored Susannah in a poem titled The Witch’s Daughter:

“Let Goody Martin rest in peace, I never knew her harm a fly,
And witch or not – God knows – not I?
I know who swore her life away;
And as God lives, I’d not condemn
An Indian dog on word of them.”

Residents of the town of Amesbury later placed a stone marker near Susannah and George Martin’s home that read:

“Here stood the house of Susannah Martin. An honest, hardworking Christian woman accused of being a witch and executed at Salem, July 19, 1692. She will be missed! A Martyr of Superstition. T.I.A. 1894”

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendants. Susannah Martin’s family did not wish to be named in the law and did not seek restitution.

In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but did not specifically mention any of the victims by name.

Finally, in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution officially exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.

Susannah Martin’s memorial marker is located at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Mass.

Susannah Martin Historical Sites:

Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Address: Liberty Street, Salem Mass
Admission Price: Free

Former Site of the Salem Courthouse
Address: Washington Street (about 100 feet south of Lynde Street), opposite the Masonic Temple, Salem, Mass. Memorial plaque located on Masonic Temple.

Site of the Salem Witch Trials Executions
Address: Proctor’s Ledge, wooded area between Proctor Street and Pope Street, Salem, Mass

Former Site of Susannah Martin’s house
Address: end of North Martin Road, Amesbury, Mass. A large boulder with a memorial plaque marks the spot of Martin’s house.

Sources:
New York Times; Massachusetts Clears 5 from Salem Witch Trials; November 2, 2001: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/02/us/massachusetts-clears-5-from-salem-witch-trials.html
University of Virginia: Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County; Volume IV: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft/Essex/vol4/images/essex129.html
University of Virginia; Salem Witch Trials; Susannah Martin: http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal2R?div_id=n92
Welcome to Salem, Massachusetts: Salem Witch Trials: Chronology of Events: http://www.salemweb.com/memorial/chronology.shtml
The Salem Witch Trials: a Reference Guide; K. David Goss; 2008

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the owner and operator of this website and all the articles are written and researched by her. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site's About page to find out more about Rebecca.

10 thoughts on “Susannah Martin: Accused Witch from Salisbury

  1. Dana Davis

    Interesting because I am also a direct descendant; also of Phoebe (Wildes) Day also accused, presented, and imprisoned, step-daughter of Sarah (Averill) Wildes.

    Reply
  2. angel worthen-shaneyfelt

    I am also a descendant of Susannah my grandpa did a 40yera old research of our family before internet visited places and gathered info till he created our family tree. I had some he sent some to my sister which had moved back home grandpa died few years back I started to get interested in family tree few years ago but he had died. His book and notes is all we have and given to us separate I think he did that on purpose for us to search and get interested. I found and read some of the things Susannah went through and looked her up this is one of the sights and pick up where he left. I’m a worthen though Susannah’s daughter Hannah martin

    Reply
  3. Bradley Mabb

    Through my nephew, who is working on an ongoing history of our family tree (and fact checking 100% as he does), I found Susannah Martin to be my great grandmother to the 9th degree (on my maternal grandmother’s side). That being said, I long before always found the Salem witch trials to be outlandish and a way of condemning anyone they didn’t like. To find my ancestor was one of the victims of these witch hunts saddens me. It saddens me further to find people different from ourselves today are still condemned by many. We have not yet learned from this mid-evil superstition. At least we don’t hang them, or burn them at the stake. “Each to his own way, I’ll go mine…” ( “We Used To Know”,Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull)

    Reply
  4. Lisa Mathis

    Let anyone know I am direct decent of Susannah North Martin. I went on ancestry.com few years ago and she is on my mother’s side , maternal. Susannah had some children , not surprised that her husband had been married before & had I believe 3 previous marriage. Susannah is my 9th GGM and her son John Martin- 8th GGF, He had a daughter Deborah Martin- 7th GGm she had a daughter Sarah Davis -6th GGM . She had a daughter Hannah Johnson – 5th GGM She had a daughter Nancy Ann Spencer -4th GGM. She had a daughter Cassan Dana Poer – 3rd GGM She had a daughter Dana Palestine McEver- 2nd GGm and then my great-grandmother Ora Edith Randolph and she had a a daughter Rachel surene Sullivan my biological grandmother who I never knew . She passed away in 1956.My mother Elizabeth Kirk Mathis passed in 2012. I’ll leave dates birth – death dates , John Martin, 1651-1693,Deborah Martin 1689-1732 Sarah Davis 1716- ? Hannah Johnson 1747-1831 NancyAnnSpencer 1784-1840 Cassan Dana Poer 1808-1888 Dana Palestine McEver 1850-1921 Ora Edith Randolph 1881-1973 Rachel Surene Sullivan 1910-1956. Just to know that Rachel ,Ora , Dana, Casssan, & Nancy Ann were born & raised in Bartow co. Georgia Lisa Mathis from Cobb co. Georgia who is direct decent & finding about Susannah was facinating yet sad what our ancestors ruled their lives with supertitions.

    Reply
  5. Cindy (Many) Dailey

    Suzanne Martin is my 8th great grandmother. Ancestry.com plus a comprehensive geneological search into my family’s roots by a prof geneologist verified.

    Reply
  6. Dorothy Tully

    I love history, especially the witch trials and New England history. I am a descendant of Winifred Benham, accused witch of CT. and Mary Hale, her mother, accused witch of Boston. Also, Wiiliam Hooke, David Atwater, Ezekiel Cravath, and many other ancestors are from New England. Thanks for sharing information. I am planning a trip this fall to walk in the footprints of those who passed down their DNA.

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