• amanda@amandamcetas.com

The Trial of Mary Bradbury

Updated: Jul 3

Last month, I talked about the mystery of the Lost Dutchman's mine. If you missed it, you may find the newsletter here. This month I will tell you a story of witches and prison escapes, but first I am happy to report that I have finished the first draft of At the Mercy of the Sea, book three in the series, A Country for Castoffs! I am now into the editing process! I don’t have a release date yet but will hopefully have a better idea by the end of summer.


In addition to editing, I am taking a short break from Etienne’s story and am starting work on a separate project. Don’t worry, I will not totally abandon Etienne though, as there are two more planned books in that series, which I am committed to finishing also. More updates on those projects later.


With summer here, I will be going down to Puerto Peñasco one more time early this month before making my annual trek to (hopefully) cooler temperatures in Oregon for the rest of the summer months. I will be good to spend some time with my youngest son, who lives there, and to enjoy the river and the change of scenery.


As I have been researching background information in trying to determine my next project, I was reminded about an interesting event that, while little known, had a tremendous impact on the judicial system of the United States today.



The conviction of Mary Bradbury was one of the last during the Salem witch hysteria that plagued Massachusetts Bay Colony from February 1692 until May 1693.


Mary (Perkins) Bradbury and her husband, Thomas Bradbury, were upstanding members of Salisbury, which lies north of Salem. Thomas was a schoolteacher, town representative, associate judge, and captain of a military company, while Mary ran a successful butter business from her home.


The trial of Mary Bradbury began in early May 1692 when she was accused of witchcraft by other women who had already confessed and had then been pressured into naming other witches. It quickly escalated due to a feud between her and the Carr family, which was led by Ann (Carr) Putnam, who was one of the instigators of the witch hunts.


Witnesses claimed that Mary had tormented Timothy Swan, a man from Andover. She was arrested and brought before a grand jury on June 2nd (Jeannie Roberts, “Mary Perkins Bradbury,” The Family Connection, October 30, 2011). During the examination several other charges were brought including, the tormenting of Ann Putnam, Jr. and other afflicted girls, and selling a batch of “voodoo” butter to Captain Smith that made the Carr boys and Samuel Endicott sick on a voyage with Captain Smith. Additionally, they asserted that Mary unleashed a storm that “lost our main mast and rigging and fifteen horses.” (Melissa Berry, “Witch hunts almost claim Salisbury victim,” Newbury Press, May 27, 2013) They claimed that her specter haunted them. Additionally, accused her of killing their brother, John Carr, by “dethroning his reason” and leaving him “weakened by disease, with disordered fancies,” and who had coincidentally been slighted in love by Mary’s daughter, Jane True. Then the Carrs went so far as to claim that Mary was responsible for the death of their father, George Carr, twenty years prior, by startling his horse by appearing as a blue boar (Berry, May 27, 2013).


In her own defense, Mary said, “I do plead, ‘Not Guilty.’ I am wholly innocent of any such wickedness, through the goodness of God that have kept me hitherto. I am a servant of Jesus Christ, and have given myself up to him as my only Lord and Saviour … For the truth of what I say, as to the matter of practice I humbly refer to my brethren and neighbors that know me, and unto the Searcher of all hearts, for the truth and uprightness of my heart therein ….” (The Answer of Mary Bradbury to the Charge of Witchcraft, or Familiarity with the Devil).


Mary’s husband and the Reverend James Allen testified on her behalf along with 118 of her neighbors and townsfolk who signed a petition testifying to her good character. Robert Pike, who over the course of his long career had been a magistrate (trial justice), associate judge of the Courts of Norfolk County, and member of the General Court and Governor’s Council, wrote an eloquent defense of Mary in which he also argued for the use of stronger evidence in convictions.


I further humbly present to consideration the doubtfulness and unsafety of admitting spectre testimony against the life of any that are of blameless conversation, and plead innocent, from the uncertaninty of them; for, as for diabolical visions, apparitions or representations, they are more commonly false and delusive than real, and cannot be known when they are real and when feigned, but by the devil’s report, and then not to be believed, because he is the father of lies (Robert Pike, Letter from “R. P.” to Jonathan Corwin, Salisbury, August 9th, 1692).


Pike then wrote a lengthy dissertation supporting his argument and though in the end Mary Bradbury was still convicted of witchcraft and was sentenced to hang with four others on September 9th, 1692, his arguments ultimately contributed to the reformation of the judicial system in Massachusetts after the witch hysteria was finally coming to an end. Though several others would be accused and brought to trial, the four convicted with Mary would be the last to be executed. Mary mysteriously escaped from her imprisonment and did not die until December 20, 1700.


There are various stories that try to explain Mary’s disappearance from prison. Some claim that either Mary or her husband bribed the jailor. In Ancestry Magazine, Catherine Moore, suggested that Thomas Bradbury mustered the men of Salisbury and confronted the jailor for the release of his wife. Coincidentally, Samuel Endicott, one of Mary’s accusers, was found missing at the same time Mary disappeared from prison. It is unknown whether or not there is a connection between these two events, but it certainly added more intrigue to the story.


Witnesses claimed that Mary had tormented Timothy Swan, a man from Andover. She was arrested and brought before a grand jury on June 2nd (Jeannie Roberts, “Mary Perkins Bradbury,” The Family Connection, October 30, 2011). During the examination several other charges were brought including, the tormenting of Ann Putnam, Jr. and other afflicted girls, and selling a batch of “voodoo” butter to Captain Smith that made the Carr boys and Samuel Endicott sick on a voyage with Captain Smith. Additionally, they asserted that Mary unleashed a storm that “lost our main mast and rigging and fifteen horses.” (Melissa Berry, “Witch hunts almost claim Salisbury victim,” Newbury Press, May 27, 2013) They claimed that her specter haunted them. Additionally, accused her of killing their brother, John Carr, by “dethroning his reason” and leaving him “weakened by disease, with disordered fancies,” and who had coincidentally been slighted in love by Mary’s daughter, Jane True. Then the Carrs went so far as to claim that Mary was responsible for the death of their father, George Carr, twenty years prior, by startling his horse by appearing as a blue boar (Berry, May 27, 2013).


In her own defense, Mary said, “I do plead, ‘Not Guilty.’ I am wholly innocent of any such wickedness, through the goodness of God that have kept me hitherto. I am a servant of Jesus Christ, and have given myself up to him as my only Lord and Saviour … For the truth of what I say, as to the matter of practice I humbly refer to my brethren and neighbors that know me, and unto the Searcher of all hearts, for the truth and uprightness of my heart therein ….” (The Answer of Mary Bradbury to the Charge of Witchcraft, or Familiarity with the Devil).


Mary’s husband and the Reverend James Allen testified on her behalf along with 118 of her neighbors and townsfolk who signed a petition testifying to her good character. Robert Pike, who over the course of his long career had been a magistrate (trial justice), associate judge of the Courts of Norfolk County, and member of the General Court and Governor’s Council, wrote an eloquent defense of Mary in which he also argued for the use of stronger evidence in convictions.


I further humbly present to consideration the doubtfulness and unsafety of admitting spectre testimony against the life of any that are of blameless conversation, and plead innocent, from the uncertaninty of them; for, as for diabolical visions, apparitions or representations, they are more commonly false and delusive than real, and cannot be known when they are real and when feigned, but by the devil’s report, and then not to be believed, because he is the father of lies (Robert Pike, Letter from “R. P.” to Jonathan Corwin, Salisbury, August 9th, 1692).


Pike then wrote a lengthy dissertation supporting his argument and though in the end Mary Bradbury was still convicted of witchcraft and was sentenced to hang with four others on September 9th, 1692, his arguments ultimately contributed to the reformation of the judicial system in Massachusetts after the witch hysteria was finally coming to an end. Though several others would be accused and brought to trial, the four convicted with Mary would be the last to be executed. Mary mysteriously escaped from her imprisonment and did not die until December 20, 1700.


There are various stories that try to explain Mary’s disappearance from prison. Some claim that either Mary or her husband bribed the jailor. In Ancestry Magazine, Catherine Moore, suggested that Thomas Bradbury mustered the men of Salisbury and confronted the jailor for the release of his wife. Coincidentally, Samuel Endicott, one of Mary’s accusers, was found missing at the same time Mary disappeared from prison. It is unknown whether or not there is a connection between these two events, but it certainly added more intrigue to the story.


When the accusers continued to lay claims of witchcraft against the wives of the most prominent men in the colony, the judges finally began to rethink the whole process. Fourteen years later, Anne Putnam Jr. confessed of lying about the accusations in front of the church assembly.


In November of 2001 the Massachusetts legislature passed an act exonerating all those convicted of witchcraft, except for one woman, Elizabeth Johnson. That oversight was resolved on May 26, 2022 when the Massachusetts Senate reversed her conviction.


Next month I will explore a historical tragedy and mystery that has intrigued great numbers of people worldwide for over a century. If you have any comments on the Salem Witch Trials or have other interesting stories you would like to share, please reply to this email. If you have any historical mysteries, events, or people that you would like to know more about, please let me know.


Take care, keep cool, stay hydrated, and I’ll connect with you again in July!


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