This page has extra information on Nehemia Abbott , Michael Wigglesworth or Abigail Dane Faulkner. The information is from books that I have and I have listed them as sources. If you find something of interest, and want more information, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you need and I will try to get it to you.
Abigail Faulkner's story, like that of most witches, comes to us largely from the records of her witchcraft trial. At first glance, her personal history would never lead us to suspect her for one of Satan's allies. Her age is unknown, but she probably married young, and she was still bearing children when she was accused. Between her marriage and her imprisonment seventeen years later, she had given birth to two sons (both of whom were still alive in 1692) and four daughters (one of who had died), and she was pregnant at the time of her incarceration. She also had brothers, and by all accounts the Dane and Faulkner families were unusual in both their prosperity and social status. No sexual misconduct or other witchlike behavior is discernible in her past--at least not before 1687. The same cannot be said for several of Abigail's female relatives. her sister, widow Elizabeth Johnson,* had many years before been prosecuted for fornication. Her sister-in-law, Deliverance Dane, was still married but had no surviving sones. Her stepmother, Hannah Dane, exerted almost full control of a L587 estate left to her by her first husband.
In 1687, Abigail herself began to resemble a witch. In that year, her father-in-law died and her husband came into the rest of his sizeable inheritance. More significantly, her husband became too ill to manage his own affiars. The exact nature of his illness is unclear, but he suffered from convulsions, and his memory and understanding were impaired. He was unable to do anything for himself. With no adult sons to assume responsibility, Abigail took charge of the family estate.
We can only speculate about the response of the men of Abigail's generation, most of whome were still waiting for the kind of privilege her husband had been accorded, when that privilege devloved to a woman. in 1692, in the midst of the Salem outbreak, Abigail Faulkner was "cried down" as a witch. Accused wither here were two of her daughters, her sister, her sister-in-law, and two neices and a newphw. Apparently even her father was suspected, though he was never formally accused.
the origin of the complaint against her is obscure, but it was evidently filed by one of several neighbors, all of whom had children who testified that she afflicted them. Abigail initially denied any witchcraft, but later she acknowledged that the Devil might have taken advantage of the malice in her heart. She owned that "she was angry at what folk said" when one of her neices was accused and at their laughter when they suggested that her sister would be next. She also admitted that in her anger she "did look with an evil eye on the afflicted persons and did consent that they should be afflicted, because they were caus of bringing her kindred out." To her judges, this may have been evidence enough, for they convicted her and sentenced her to die. Her pregnancy, however, delayed her execution--and ultimately saved her life.
In 1703, a decade after the end of the Salem outbreak, Abigail Faulkner submitted a petition to the Massachusetts magistrates that captures the full force of witchcraft beliefs in seventeenth-century New England and their relentless, awesome presence in women's lives. It was not the first petition Abigail and her family had filed since she was released from prison in 1693, but the others were concerned with the effect of her conviction on th eFaulkner estate. This one spoke more plaintively of its effect on her state of mind. In it, she asked the court for an official purging of the record and the full vindication of her name. "I am yet suffred to live," she said,
but his only as a Malefactor, Convict[ed] upon record of the most heinous Crimes that mankind Can be supposed to be guilty of, which besides its utter Ruining and Defacing my Reputation, will Certainly Expose my selfe to Iminent Danger by new accusations, whihc will thereby be the more redily believed, [and] will Remaine as a perpetuall brand of Infamy upon my family.....
Abigal could not know, of course, what only time would reveal: That the witchcraft prosecutions were at last over, that the accusations were virtually over, and that the image of woman as evil was even then passing into its more purely secular form, to be played out in the class and racial dynamics of a moder industrial economy.
*Elizabeth Johnson, in other books, is refered to as Abigail's cousin. At the present time, I don't know which is true, but I will do further research and clarify this point as soon as possible.
When Andover's Abigail Faulkner petitioned the Massachusetts authorities in 1703 to remove the stigma of witchcraft from her name, she spoke to the continuing anguish of living with a witch's reputation. Other women in the early eighteenth century no doublt shared her concerns and her plight, since at least some accusations and extralegal reprisals continued long after official support for witchcraft accusations came to an end. But after the Salem and Fairfield outbreaks, witchcraft beliefs and prosecutions were no longer sanctioned in the larger culture.
Source: The Devil in the Shape of a Woman by Carol F. Karlsen pgs. 218 - 221.
At her first examination, on August 11, she firmly denied that she had anything to do with the girls' afflictions. When she looked at them, they fell down in fits, and Hathorne asked her, "Do you not see?
Yes, she saw. But she had nothing to do with it. Yet she could not doubt that the girls were suffering, and saw no reason to doubt their word that it was her specter afflicting them. Therefore the Devil must be appearing in her form: "It is the Devil does it in my shape."
But by August 30, she was no longer so sure of her innocence. It was true, she said, that she had been angry at what people said when her cousin, Elizabeth Johnson, had been arrested. She had felt malice toward the afflicted persons the because they were the cause of her cousin's arrest. She had wished them ill, and "her spirit being raised she did pinch her hands together." Perhaps the Devil had taken advantage of that to pinch the girls, thus exploiting her malice.
Source: Witchcraft at Salem by Chadwick Hansen pg. 89.
The execution of Abigail Faulkner, daughter of Francis Dane, was postponed because of her pregnancy.
Petitions had been received for the release of various prisoners. Some were quite young, like Dorothy and Abigail Faulkner, who were ten and eight years old, respectively.
On June 13, 1700, Abigail Faulkner wrote to the General Court explaining that her pardon had spared her execution, but that she continued to live "as a malefactor convict upon record of the most heinous crimes that mankind can be supposed guilty of." She asked for "the defacing of the record" as a simple act of justice. The evidence used against her, she explained, was limited to the afflicted who "pretended" to see her "by their spectral sight, and not with their bodily eyes." Moreover, the jury that had convicted her, she continued, had since decided that such testimony was of no value. The House of Representatives voted to grant Faulkner's request, but for some undisclosed reason, the Council did not concur.
Source: The Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Bryan F. Le Beau pgs. 181, 207, 236.
Back to the Top.
With the seventh prisoner something unprecedented happened. The girls looked at him--he was Nehemia Abbott, nearly one hundred years old by his reckoning, a "hilly faced man" with strands of white hair falling over his eyes--and admitted that they had made a mistake. "It is not the man," said Mercy Lewis positively. The other girls were less sure. They asked that he be led to a window and there crowded about him, pawing over his scalp in search of a wen some of them distinctly remembered. There was no wen. The man was discharged. A wave of relieve went over the spectators in the courtroom. It was not that anyone cared much about old Nehemiah, but the painstaking care taken by girls and justices was very reasuring.
Source: The Devil in Massachusetts, by Marion L. Starkey pgs 110 - 111.
On April 21, 1692, the Salem magistrates issued warrants for the arrest of Nehemia Abbott Jr., and others.
Nehemia Abbott, an elderly weaver and church deacon, was brought to the bar. John Hathorne estimated Abbott's age to be nearly 100, buty he may have been younger. Larry Gragg has found evidence that he lived until 1701, which would have been remarkable if Abbot was 1090 in 1692. Whatever his exact age, Mary Walcott testified that she had seen his shape, and Ann Putnam spotted him on a beam of the meetinghouse. The magistrates urbged Abbott to confess, as his builg "was certainly proved," and to "find mercy of God." "I speak before god," he repliedc, however, "that I am clear from this accusation.....in all respects."
At that point, another curious turn of events occured. Ann Putnam remained resolute in her charges, but Walcott began to waiver. "He is like him, [but] I cannot say it is he," she allowed. Mercy Lewis testified that Abbott was not the person who had afflicted her, and the rest of the girls remained silent. The magistrates ordered the girls to examine him more closely, even moving them outside to take advantage of the daylight. But they still could not identify him, admitting only that "he was like that man, but [that] he had not a wen [cyst or blemish] they saw in his apparition." Putnam, perhaps sensing her isoloation and wishing to explain her mistaken identification, quickly shouted at Abbott, "Did you put a mist before my eyes?"
Nehemia Abbott was discharged, but what happened thereafter is unclear. Unlike Mary Easty, he may never have been charged again, but that is not certain.
Source: The story of the Salem Witch Trials by Bryan F. LeBeau, pgs. 115 - 116
Back to the Top.
(b. Oct. 18, 1631, Yorkshire?, Eng.--d. June 10, 1705, Malden, Mass. [U.S.]), British-American clergyman, physician, and author of rhymed treatises expounding Puritan doctrines.
Wigglesworth emigrated to America in 1638 with his family and settled in New Haven. In 1651 he graduated from Harvard College, where he was a tutor and a fellow from 1652 to 1654 and again from 1697 to 1705.
He preached at Charlestown, Mass., in 1653-54 and was pastor at Malden from 1656 until his death. In addition to his clerical duties, Wigglesworth practiced medicine and wrote numerous poems, including "A Short Discourse on Eternity," "Vanity of Vanities," and God's Controversy with New England (published 1871). The first two were appended to The Day of Doom: or a Poetical Description of the Great and Last Judgment (1662), a long poem in ballad measure using horrific imagery to describe the Last Judgment. Intended to edify Puritan readers, this work sold 1,800 copies within a year, an unusually high number in its time. Once the most widely read poet of early New England, Wigglesworth declined in popularity together with Puritanism and has since been considered a writer of doggerel verse. A modern edition of The Day of Doom prepared by Kenneth B. Murdock was published in 1929.
Source: "Wigglesworth, Michael" Britannica Online.
Back to the Top.