Martha Carrier was a woman from Andover who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.
Martha Ingalls Allen was born between 1643 and 1650 to Andrew Allen Sr and Faith Ingalls in Andover, Massachusetts.
On May 7, 1674, Martha Ingalls Allen married a Welsh indentured servant named Thomas Carrier and gave birth to their first child just two months later, meaning that they had conceived the child out of wedlock and had thereby committed the crime of fornication.
The couple went on to have at least six known children, possibly more, although the names and birthdates of only five children are documented because the others are believed to have died young:
Richard Carrier born July 19, 1674
Andrew Carrier born April 27, 1677
Jane Carrier born July 23, 1680 (died one month later)
Thomas Carrier born July 18, 1682
Sarah Carrier born November 17, 1684
Hannah Carrier born July 12, 1689
The family first lived in the south-east part of Billerica but later lived in the northern part of town on High Street next to John Rogers.
The family may have been banished from Billerica at some point since town records indicate that in 1676 they had been ordered to either pay a surety of 20 shillings per week or leave the town, according to an article in the Lowell Sun newspaper:
“In 1676, Thomas and Martha Carrier and family were told by selectmen to leave town forthwith or pay a surety of 20 shillings per week if they wanted to stay. Selectman Edward Hurd, who’s wife is a descendant from the family, said town records aren’t clear but he believes that ‘a member of the family had the smallpox virus’ and town officials didn’t want them to be a burden on their
According to Henry Allen Hazen in his book History of Billerica, Massachusetts, the Carrier family remained in Billerica for a while after because, in November of 1677, Thomas Carrier was assigned to clear brush in the south-east part of town, during the town’s annual brush-cutting project, and he then took the “oath of fidelity” on February 4, 1678 with 24 other Billerica residents.
The Carrier family eventually left Billerica and moved to Andover sometime between 1684 and 1690 and stayed in the house of Martha’s brother, Andrew Allen (Goss 87; Hazen 22).
In late 1690, a smallpox outbreak occurred in Andover and Martha and several of her children came down with the illness.
The Andover town selectmen suggested that the Carriers had brought the disease to Andover and notified Martha’s brother and brother-in-law that the town would not care for them, according to this extract from the town records in a book titled Historical Sketches of Andover:
“To Samuel Holt, Andrew Allen and John Allen, Neighbors and friends – We the subscribers of Andover have been informed that your sister Carrier and some of her children are smitten with that contagious disease the small-pox and some have been so inconsiderate as to think that the care of them belongs to the select men of Andover which does not, for they took care when first they came to town to warn them out again and have attended the law therein: and shall only take care that they do not spread the distemper with wicked carelessness which we are afraid they have already done: you had best take what care you can about them, nature and religion requiring of it. We hope we have done faithfully in this information and are your friends and servants. Dated 14th Oct. 1690” (Historical Sketches 202).
The selectmen later issued a warrant that essentially quarantined the family and required the constable to deliver whatever they may need during their confinement, according to the Historical Sketches of Andover:
“To Walter Wright Constable: Whereas it has pleased God to visit those of the widow Allen’s family which she hath taken into her house with that contagious disease the small-pox, it being as we think part of our duty to prevent the spreading of sd distemper we therefore require you in their majesties’ names to warn sd family not to go near any house so as to endanger them by sd infection nor to come to the public meeting till they may come with safety to others: but what they want let them acquaint you with: which provide for them out of their own estates. Dated the 4: 9: 1690” (Historical Sketches 202-203).
More than a dozen Andover residents died of smallpox that year, including six members of the Allen family.
Martha Carrier & the Salem Witch Trials:
On May 28, 1692, Joseph Houlton and John Walcott filed a complaint against Martha Carrier, Elizabeth Fosdick, Wilmot Redd, Sarah Rice, Elizabeth Howe, John Alden, William Proctor, John Flood, Arthur Abott and Martha Carrier’s sister, Mary Toothaker, and Mary’s daughter Martha Emerson.
Carrier was arrested that same day by Andover constable John Ballard and taken to jail.
During the examination, Abigail Williams, Elizabeth Hubbard, Susannah Sheldon, Mary Walcott, and Ann Putnam Jr, accused Carrier of hurting them and trying to force them to sign the Devil’s book, which Carrier denied, according to court records:
“[Judge:] Abigail Williams, who hurts you?
[Abigail Williams:] Goody Carrier of Andover.
[Judge:] Elizabeth Hubbard, who hurts you?
[Elizabeth Hubbard:] Goody Carrier
[Judge:] Susannah Sheldon, who hurts you?
[Susannah Sheldon:] Goody Carrier, she bites me, pinches me, & tells me she would cut my throat, if I did not sign her book.
Mary Walcot said she afflicted her & brought the book to her.
[Judge:] What do you say to this you are charged with?
[Martha Carrier:] I have not done it.” (SWP No. 24.3)
The afflicted girls then accused Martha Carrier of killing 13 people in Andover, which she responded to by telling the judges that “It is a shameful thing that you should mind these folks that are out of their wits” (SWP No. 24.3).
When the girls began to cry out that they could see the ghosts of her victims in the courtroom, Carrier responded “You lie, I am wronged” (SWP No. 24.3).
After afflicted girl Mercy Lewis fell into a violent fit, the judges ordered Martha Carrier’s feet and hands to be bound by a rope to prevent her from hurting them any further, after which the court transcriber, who many historians believe was Samuel Parris, wrote in the court record: “Note. As soon as she was well bound they all had strange & sudden ease” (SWP No. 24.3).
Many sources believe that the girl’s accusations of Carrier killing 13 people in Andover was a reference to the smallpox outbreak that had killed around a dozen people in Andover, which the town officials had blamed on the Carrier family.
After the examination was over, Martha Carrier was indicted on two charges of witchcraft, for afflicting Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard, and was brought back to jail.
On July 1, two of the afflicted girls, Elizabeth Hubbard and Mary Walcott, testified that they had been afflicted for a long time by a woman who told them her name was Carrier and that she lived in Andover.
Hubbard and Walcott both stated that she continued to afflict them on the day of Carrier’s examination by pinching, pricking and choking them and the others girls and they believe that if the judges had not bound Carrier she would have killed them.
No one else in Andover was accused of witchcraft until mid-July when constable John Ballard began to suspect that his ill wife had been bewitched and asked two of the afflicted girls to visit Andover and find the offending witch.
The two girls, who were not named but were mostly likely Mary Walcott and Elizabeth Hubbard, visited Ballard’s home where they said they saw the spectre of Ann Foster, a 72-year-old widow from Andover, afflicting Elizabeth Ballard.
On July 18, 1692, after Ann Foster had been arrested on charges of witchcraft and had confessed to the crime, she was examined for a third time and accused Martha Carrier of becoming a witch six years ago, stating that Carrier frequently brought her to witch meetings at Salem Village where she flew on a stick and had told her she had bewitched James Hobb’s child to death three or four years ago.
Foster’s confession and examinations were an important moment in the trials because they seem to have caused the Andover villagers to panic and begin accusing others in the same way Tituba’s confession did back in March of that year, according to Benjamin C. Ray in his book Satan and Salem:
“For the magistrates, Ann Foster’s several examinations were as pivotal as Tituba’s for Salem Village because Foster revealed the scope of Satan’s activity at the beginning of the extensive Andover phase of accusations, hence the magistrate’s multiple interrogations. Each time Foster added more detail, saying Martha Carrier had bewitched another child to death and that the devil would set up his kingdom in Salem Village. Her third examination conveyed the alarming revelation that there were ‘three hundred & five [witches] in the whole country, & that they would ruin that place ye village.’ She concluded by saying that the witches in Salem Village told her ‘they would afflict there to set up the Devil’s kingdom.’”
The day after this examination, Joseph Ballard accused Foster’s daughter, Mary Lacey Sr and her daughter Mary Lacey Jr, and arrested them.
Lacey Jr’s examination was held on July 21 during which she accused Martha Carrier of being a witch, stating that she had murdered several children by stabbing them in the heart with pins and knitting needles and also added that “Goody Carrier told me the Devil said to her she should be a queen in hell” (SWP No. 87.2).
Also on July 21, a warrant was issued for Martha’s teenage sons, Richard and Andrew Carrier, and they were arrested by constable John Ballard the same day and brought to Beadle’s tavern in Salem.
On July 22, Richard and Andrew Carrier were examined and were uncooperative at first, as the court records indicate when it states that the two teens “who unto many questions propounded returned negative answers to all” (SWP No. 25.2).
The court record later states that due to the afflicted girls’ torment in the courtroom, the Carrier boys were removed, had their hands and feet bound, and then after returning a short while later, Richard suddenly confessed to being a witch and admitted that the Devil told him to afflict the girls of Salem Village, Timothy Swan and John Ballard’s wife:
“The afflicted persons were grievously tormented that Richard and Andrew were carried out to another chamber and their feet & hands bound a little while after Richard was brought in again Q: Richard though you have been very obstinate yet tell us how long ago it is since you ware taken in this snare. A a year last May and no more unto many questions propounded he answered affirmatively…I was to do service about the children & afflicted persons he told me also of Timothy Swan & I must give him leave to afflict him he asked my consent also to afflict Ballards wife” (SWP No. 25.2).
Richard also accused his mother, his aunt Mary Toothaker, Reverend George Burroughs, Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey, Martha Corey, John Willard, John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Mary Lacey, Mary Bradbury and Elizabeth Howe of being witches and went on to tell an elaborate story about afflicting various people with spindles and poppets and about traveling to witch meetings at Salem village on flying sticks, horses and even on men.
It is not known why the Carrier boys suddenly confessed but the following day, on July 23, John Proctor sent a letter from jail to the Boston clergy in which he said torture was being used against the accused witches in order to force them to confess and specifically mentioned Richard and Andrew Carrier, according to the letter:
“Here are five persons who have lately confessed themselves to be witches, and do accuse some of us, of being along with them at a sacrament, since we were committed into close prison, which we know to be lies. Two of the 5 are (Carriers Sons) Youngmen, who would not confess any thing till they tied them neck and heels till the blood was ready to come out of their noses, and ’tis credibly believed and reported this was the occasion of making them confess that they never did, by reason they said one had been a witch a month, and another five weeks, and that their mother had made them so, who has been confined here this nine weeks” (SWP No. 107.19).
That same day, Martha Emerson was examined, during which she accused her aunt, Martha Carrier, of witchcraft and told the court that Carrier’s spectre was in front of her grabbing her throat in order to stop her from confessing, although she later recanted these statements.
During Mary Toothaker’s examination on July 30, she confessed to being a witch and also accused other people of witchcraft, including her sister Martha Carrier and Martha’s son Richard Carrier.
On July 30, summons were issued for witnesses to testify in Martha Carrier’s trial. The witnesses called to testify were:
Ralph Farnum Jr
Benjamin Abbot and his wife
Samuel Holt Sr
Samuel Preston Jr
The Trial of Martha Carrier:
On August 2, 1692, Martha Carrier’s trial began at Salem courthouse on what is now Washington Street in Salem. A number of people testified in the trial, including:
John Putnam Jr
On August 2, Martha Carrier’s neighbor, John Rogers, testified that seven years ago he had a disagreement with Martha Carrier after which she used threatening words against him “as she often used to do” (SWP No. 24.10).
Rogers explained that shortly after his two pigs went missing and then one of them was found dead, with its ears cut off, on Carrier’s property, while the other one was never found.
Rogers also said that his cow suddenly stopped producing milk that summer, all of which made him suspect that Carrier was a witch and had afflicted his livestock.
The remaining witnesses testified the following day on August 3. On that day, Benjamin Abbott testified that after a land dispute with Martha Carrier about a year prior she told him she would stick as close to him as the bark of a tree, that he would repent his behavior for seven years and threatened to hold his nose close to the grindstone.
Abbott went on to explain that shortly after, his foot started to swell and that he developed a pain in his side that later became a sore. When Dr. Prescott lanced the sore “several gallons of corruption did run out as was judged & so continued about six weeks very bad” (SWP: No. 24.8).
Abbott stated that after Carrier was arrested, his health improved and his sores began to heal, making him believe “that the said Carrier had a great hand in my sickness & misery” (SWP: No. 24.8).
Abbott’s wife, Sarah, also testified and confirmed Benjamin’s claims and also said that some of their cows had died mysteriously and their other cows would sometimes come out of the woods where they were grazing with their tongues hanging out of their mouths in a strange and frightening manner.
Twelve-year-old Phoebe Chandler testified that about two weeks before Martha Carrier was arrested she had grabbed Phoebe while in the meetinghouse and demanded to know where she lived, even though they were neighbors and Phoebe was sure Martha already knew who she was and where she lived.
Chandler went on to explain that later that day she was running an errand for her mother when she heard a disembodied voice in a nearby bush, which she said sounded like Martha Carrier, that demanded to know what she was doing. She said she ran from the spot but returned later and heard the voice tell her she would be poisoned within two to three days.
Chandler said she believed she was poisoned a few days later when she was visiting her sister’s farm and part of her hand and face began to swell and became painful. She also started to struggle with the feeling of a great weight on her chest and legs, all of which lasted for days.
Chandler said that after recovering, she went to meetinghouse where, after receiving a look from Richard Carrier, her hand began to hurt, she felt a burning feeling in her stomach and she was temporarily struck deaf until the congregation finished singing the Pslams.
Martha Carrier’s nephew, Allen Toothaker. testified that last March he had a physical altercation with his cousin Richard Carrier during which Martha Carrier’s spectre interfered and held Toothaker down until he yielded to his cousin and that after a disagreement with Martha Carrier during a separate incident, Toothaker said some of his farm animals mysteriously died.
Toothaker also said that Carrier told him a four-inch-deep wound that he received in the war would never heal, yet, after his aunt’s arrest, the wound was suddenly healed.
Samuel Preston testified that two years ago he had a quarrel with Martha Carrier and afterward his cow died in a mysterious manner. After another quarrel with Carrier, Preston said she told him that he had recently lost a cow and he should soon lose another and shortly after another one of his cows suddenly died.
Andrew Foster testified that he had heard that when Timothy Osgood and his brother Samuel went to Ingersoll’s Tavern in May and met one of the afflicted girls, she asked him why he brought the three women with him. When he asked her what women she was talking about, she answered it was Martha Carrier, Mary Toothaker and her daughter and said that Martha Carrier was sitting next to him on the table. He said she then fell into a fit and her neck twisted almost completely around.
Thomas Putnam and John Putnam also testified that they had witnessed Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard being afflicted, especially during Martha Carrier’s examination, and that if the judge had not ordered Carrier to be bound she probably would have killed them. They went on to say that the girls have been afflicted and “tormented as if all their bones would have been disjointed or bodies twisted all to pieces” several times since the examination (SWP No. 24. 17).
On August 5, 1692, the jury found Martha Carrier guilty and she was sentenced to death.
On August 10, 1692, Martha’s 10-year-old son, Thomas Carrier Jr, was arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Dudley Bradstreet.
During the examination, Thomas confessed to being a witch and stated that his mother taught him how to afflict the girls of Salem Village as well as others after she baptized him in a river and that he attended a witch meeting with various other people who flew on sticks to the meeting.
On August 11, 1692, Martha’s eight-year-old daughter, Sarah Carrier, was also arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge John Hathorne.
During the examination, Sarah confessed to being a witch since she was six years old and stated that her mother had forced her to sign a red book, baptized her in Andrew Foster’s pasture the day before Martha went to jail and taught her how to afflict people.
The Execution of Martha Carrier:
On Friday, August 19, 1692, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs Sr, Reverend George Burroughs, John Willard and John Proctor. were brought by cart to Proctor’s Ledge in Salem for the execution.
Martha Carrier and the others all declared their innocence before they were hanged, according to an entry in Judge Samuel Sewall’s diary that day:
“This day [in the margin, Dolefull! Witchcraft] George Burrough, John Willard, Jno Procter, Martha Carrier and George Jacobs were executed at Salem, a very great number of Spectators being present. Mr. Cotton Mather was there, Mr. Sims, Hale, Noyes, Chiever, &c. All of them said they were innocent, Carrier and all. Mr. Mather says they all died by a Righteous Sentence. Mr. Burrough by his Speech, Prayer, protestation of his Innocence, did much move unthinking persons, which occasions their speaking hardly concerning his being executed” (Sewall 363).
The bodies were cut down after they were hanged and temporarily placed in a nearby rocky crevice, according to Robert Calef in his book More Wonders of the Invisible World:
“When he [Burroughs] was cut down, he was dragged by the halter to a hole, or grave, between the rocks, about two feet deep, his shirt and breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of trowsers of one executed put on his lower parts; he was so put in, together with Willard and Carrier, that one of his hands and his chin, and a foot of one of them, were left uncovered” (Calef 213).
It is not known what happened to them after that since convicted witches weren’t allowed to be buried in a graveyard and there is no evidence they were buried nearby.
Carrier’s Family After the Salem Witch Trials:
In October of 1692, Cotton Mather published his book, Wonders of the Invisible World, in which he discussed Martha Carrier’s trial and summed up her case by reiterating Mary Lacey Jr’s confession and testimony against Carrier:
“Memorandum. This rampant hag, Martha Carrier, was the person, of whom the confessions of the witches, and of her own children among the rest, agreed, that the Devil had promised her, she should be Queen of Hell” (Mather 159).
When Robert Calef published his book, More Wonders of the Invisible World, in 1700 he criticized Mather for his harsh words against Carrier, stating that he seemed “pleased to call her a rampant hag,” and theorized that Mather used this type of language solely to please the government officials, who had appointed him to write the book in order to defend the Salem Witch Trials.
On September 13, 1710, Martha’s husband, Thomas Carrier, filed a petition asking for restitution for the death of his wife and asked that her name be cleared, according to the court records:
“To the Honorable committee sitting at Salem this 13 day of Sept. 1710 These are to inform your Honours that my wife Martha Carrier was condemned upon an accusation of witchcraft, and suffered death at Salem in the year 1692.
I paid to the Sheriff upon his demand fifty Shillings.
I paid the prison keeper upon his demand for prison fees, for my wife and four children four pounds sixteen shillings.
My humble request is that the attainder may be taken off; and that I may be considered as to the loss and damage I sustained in my estate
Total 7-6-0 – Thomas Carrier
I found my wife and children provision during their imprisonment” (SWP No. 173.10)
On October 17, 1711, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill clearing the names of many of the Salem Witch Trials victims, including Martha Carrier.
On December 17, 1711, Carrier’s family received 7 pounds and 6 shillings as compensation for her conviction and death.
In December of 1711, Thomas Carrier signed a letter, along with 33 other victims and relatives, asking that Stephen Sewall acquire a copy of the 1711 act and collect their restitution on their behalf since traveling to Boston would be very difficult for them.
A month later, on January 7, Thomas Carrier, as well as many other victims and relatives, filed an order asking that his restitution be collected by Joseph Parker of Andover.
Martha’s husband, Thomas Carrier, eventually moved to Colchester, Connecticut with his children sometime around the turn of the century and died there on May 16, 1736 at the age of 109 years old (Historical Sketches of Andover 123; Genealogical and Personal Memoirs 2687).
In 1992, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial was built in Salem, Mass and a marker was established for Martha Carrier.
In 1999, the Billerica Board of Selectmen voted to rescind the banishment of the Carrier family from Billerica, Mass.
In 2017, the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial was built in Salem, Mass and a marker was established for Martha Carrier.
Martha Carrier Historical Sites:
Former Site of Carrier Family Home
Address: High Street (2000 feet before Tewsbury border), Billerica, Mass.
Benjamin Abbott House
Address: 9 Andover Street, Andover, Mass.
Admission: Private home. No Admission. Home of Benjamin Abbott who accused Carrier of bewitching him.
Old North Parish Burial Ground
Address: Academy Road, North Andover
Admission: Free admission. Burial place of the afflicted Timothy Swan as well as Andover minister during the Salem Witch Trials, Rev. Thomas Barnard, and accused witches William Barker Sr and William Barker Jr.
Witch Trials Memorial
Address: Liberty Street, Salem Mass
Proctor’s Ledge Memorial
Address: 7 Pope St, Salem, Mass
Site of the Salem Witch Trials Executions
Address: Proctor’s Ledge, wooded area between Proctor Street and Pope Street, Salem, Mass
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.
Mather, Cotton. The Wonders of the Invisible World: Being an Account of the Tryals of Several Witches Lately Executed in New England. London: John Russell Smith, 1862.
Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World. Salem: Cushing and Appleton, 1823.
Goss, K. David. The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. Greenwood Press, 2008.
Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts. Edited by William Richard Cutter and William Frederick Adams, vol. 4, New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1910.
Sewall, Samuel. Diary of Samuel Sewall: 1674 – 1729. Vol 5, Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1878.
Hazen, Henry Allen. History of Billerica, Massachusetts. Boston: A. Williams and Co, 1883.
Bailey, Sarah Long. Historical Sketches of Andover. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1880.
Ray, Benjamin C. Satan and Salem: The Witch-Hunt Crisis of 1692. University of Virginia Press, 2015.
Comtois, Pierre. “Billerica family’s 323-year exile ends.” Lowell Sun, 16 March. 1999.
“Stories of Thomas Carrier.” Rootsweb, freepages.rootsweb.com/~carrier/genealogy/thomas.html
“Andover.” Witches of Massachusetts Bay, www.witchesmassbay.com/roadtrips/andover/
“SWP: No. 173: Reversal of Attainder and Restitution (1710 – 1750).” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n173.html
“SWP: No. 059: Ann Foster Died in Prison.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n59.html
“SWP: No. 107: John Proctor Executed August 19, 1692.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n107.html
“SWP: No. 026: Sarah Carrier.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n26.html
“SWP: No. 027: Thomas Carrier Jr.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n27.html
“SWP No. 087: Mary Lacey Jr.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n87.html
“SWP: No. 024: Martha Carrier Executed, August 19, 1692.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n24.html
“SWP: No. 025: Richard Carrier.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/n25.html