Indians Attack

News of a brutal Indian attack in York, Maine has reached Boston and Salem, only 50 miles away. It has terrified the English settlers, but none more so than girls like Mercy Lewis, who had survived just such an attack only two years before (while losing both of her parents).

The Reverend Samuel Parris blogged about it:

A great and horrible tragedy has befallen us. Indians have brutally attacked the good people of York, slaying at least 50 men, women, and children and capturing nearly 100 more. Only one small mercy was offered: the oldest women and youngest children were freed, though one can hardly imagine their horror as they watched the village burn and the horses and cattle slain.

My Brother in Christ, the Reverend Shubael Dummer, was shot dead from his horse and shamed by nakedness and mutilation. The people of York have hardly been able to pay him even scant wages, and the place is exceeding dangerous. Many a time have I advised him to leave, and yet he refused.

Goodman Thomas Putnam reports that his maid Mercy Lewis is full of terror at the news, having been orphaned in just such an attack only two years ago.

The LORD hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me. - Isaiah 49:14

Thomas Putnam also wrote a short post describing the effect on his maid, Mercy Lewis.

News of a most terrible Indian attack in Maine has reached us. My maid Mercy Lewis has taken to her bed, and although it presents a difficulty to my family it is scarcely to be denied her.

Two years ago last September her mother and father were both killed in just such an attack on Falmouth. She was taken as a servant by the Reverend George Burroughs, a man known to be harsh to those in his household. Eight months later the Indians raided again and three more of her kinsmen died.

Understanding this, my good wife Ann is of a frail nature and will need Mercy to rise from her bed soon.

A Mysterious Illness

The Reverend Samuel Parris has been silent recently, shocked and bewildered by the mysterious illness that has befallen his daughter and niece. It’s clearly another attack from Satan, but this time striking closer to his heart. And what would his enemies say if they knew?

Today he blogs about it, choosing to treat the illness with prayer rather than medicine.

Meanwhile, the Village men continue to organize, meet, and strategize ways to gain their independence from the Town.

My long silence here belies my constant prayers and supplication, for evil has visited my family. I have long known that Satan and his assistants aim to tear down the Church and drive  me from this Village. But only the purest evil would choose vulnerable children as a tool for wickedness.

My daughter Betty has been ill for a fortnight. Our family prayers are interrupted by her tears and screams, and she flinches at every crackle of the fire. She eats but little and is pale with lack of sleep. My niece Abigail is much the same. Mrs. Parris and I have prayed with vigor for a release from their torment, but the girls only grow worse, crouching beneath the table with the dogs and gabbling nonsense. They are but 9 and 11.

I fear that the Lord has allowed this affliction to visit my family because of my own sin and complacency. And so we will continue to pray with ardor and meditate on this reading:

Turn away from evil and do good; so shall you dwell forever. For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever, but the children of the wicked shall be cut off. The righteous shall inherit the land and dwell upon it forever.
- Psalm 37, 27-29

Gossip, Fasting, and Magic

Girl Talk

A handful of girls from Salem have been talking about recent events. Like many teenagers, their talk is more casual and modern than that of the adults, and they’ve been using Twitter to talk amongst themselves:

Mercy Lewis ‏@MercyLewis1692
Anyone hear about Alice Parker? Lying face-down in the snow then jumping up laughing once they got her home?

Abigail Williams ‏@AbiWilliams1692
I know – crazy! She’s either doing the devil’s mischief, or mischief is being done to her. Dunno which.

Betty Hubbard ‏@Betty_Hub1692
My master Dr. Griggs says she’s been known to fall as if dead, several times. You can’t wake her.

Mercy Lewis ‏@MercyLewis1692
Well I wouldn’t touch her!

Mary Warren ‏@MaryWar1692
Maybe she was drunk. I know her husband goes to Beadle’s Tavern a lot. He’s been to our tavern, too, more than a few times.

Ann Putnam Jr. ‏@AnnPutnam1692
My father says she’s been scorned by God and is under an evil hand. I believe it – she’s so unpleasant.

Samuel Parris Ignores What’s Under His Nose

Meanwhile, today is “Lecture Day”* and a public fast, by order of the General Court. Puritan ministers throughout New England are worried that their flocks are growing complacent, in need of reformation and renewal of spirit. In Boston, the 28-year-old Cotton Mather preached today about the need to wake up and forsake sinful ways: “A sinful sleep is, indeed, a deadly sleep, it is a stupefying and a venomous bed of nightshade whereupon men lie when they sleep in sin.”

While the ministers worry about heaven and hell, a few of the girls in Salem have been passing the cold winter days together in Tituba’s warm kitchen, listening to her tales of the warm Caribbean and magic from the old country. The master of the house, the Reverend Samuel Parris, has scarcely noticed, for he is busy tending his larger flock and sorting those who are for the Lord (and him) from the “knaves and cheaters” who are against:

Today is Lecture Day and, by order of the General Court, a Public Fast. And so we have spent the day in prayer and contemplation.

Brother Thomas Putnam kindly brought me a load of firewood which has warmed our little cottage. The kitchen fire has also burned brightly, and Tituba is preparing a great feast with which to break our fast. Abigail and Betty have spent much time with her in the kitchen, learning housewifery with somber devotion, and laughter only rarely.

My own time and energy are spent in prayer, dividing wheat from chaff, and sheep from goats. Satan has raised up an army of knaves and cheaters who aim to drive me away from this Village and tear the Church down. But they shall not succeed, for the Lord’s army stands with me.

* Every Thursday in Colonial New England is Lecture Day, when people make their way to a meeting house or church for religious education and topical sermons. Fasts and prayer days are also part of Lecture Day, as is the occasional public shaming. Our modern American Thanksgiving occurs on Thursday because its origins are in Lecture Day celebrations.

A Birthday Amid the Gossip

Thomas Putnam blogged today about his 40th birthday prayers. He also relayed the gossip his wife had heard about Alice Parker.

Yesterday being my birthday,  my good wife and children prayed and sang their devotions last night with more fervency than usual. As it was my fortieth birthday, I am especially mindful of the days I have left in this life and pray that God finds me worthy.

My brother John’s wife, Hannah, called upon my good wife this morning and relayed the news of Alice Parker, laying senseless in the Town street as if she were dead. To think, after being carried home and laid in bed by near strangers, and then suddenly to  rise up shrieking and laughing like a child, frightening the good souls around her.

God does not look with favor upon this woman, who is nothing more than a common scold. It is well known that she hectors her husband at the tavern, denying him drink and companionship. She would do better minding her own work at the wheel.

Alice Parker Falls As If Dead

Elizabeth Proctor blogged today about a story that a stranger brought to her tavern.

Today a stranger stopping in the tavern told the most amazing story, which did make my ears tingle.

In the midst of Salem Town, lying in the mud and snow as if dead, was Alice Parker. She laid there for some time, the people being afraid to touch her. One of the goodwives assured the men that Goody Parker had fallen unconscious before; but it was sometime before one of them agreed to lift her from the road and carry her over his shoulder.

Even then she did not awake, not even when the goodman, quite by accident, slipped in the mud and dropped her on the stony ground. They fetched her up once more and at last reached her home, where the women took off her outer garments and laid her in bed. What an alarm she raised then as she suddenly sat up and began laughing.

I have never heard the like of it. Was she taken under an evil hand? Had her spirit left her body to do mischief?

Thomas Putnam Shows Support

Today, with the snow melting faster and the roads even muddier, farmer Thomas Putnam begins his blog. He urges his horse along the muddy roads to bring firewood to the shivering Reverend Parris. He laments the frail condition of his wife, Ann Sr., who is grieving the deaths of her mother and baby. He also notes the hard work of his precocious oldest child, Ann Jr., and their teenage maid Mercy Lewis.

The signature of Thomas Putnam

My good wife Ann remains distracted, having been so since the death of her mother eight months ago. She is of a delicate and frail constitution, such that I can lift her easily to place on my knee. She exhausts herself in raising up our six children. The oldest, Ann Jr., has recently reached the age of 12. She is of great intelligence and energy and is valuable to her mother, as is our maid Mercy Lewis.

The great snow has melted by half and the roads are turned to mud. The weather will surely turn cold again before spring; thus have I filled our wagon with wood and taken it to the Reverend Parris.

Today brings word from my kinsmen, John and Nathaniel, that our Village must remain bound to the Town. So says the Town, that the men we sent are not authorized to act on our behalf. Yet they were chosen by all the men in the Village. If that is not authority enough, by whose must they act? Perhaps it is less a matter of authority and more about the food the Town depends upon, which is raised on our farms.

Digging In

A sudden warm spell has turned the snow to slush and roads to mud. The horses are managing, but for the people of Salem Village who travel on foot, it’s difficult.

Yesterday afternoon the men of the Village chose a committee to ask Salem Town once again for independence. It’s a 20-year request that the Town largely ignores. The town depends on the Village farms for food, as well as the taxes they collect to fund Town activities.

It’s a three-hour walk from the Village to Town, so about two years earlier the Town yielded enough to let the Village have its own church. But the Village men have not given up on full independence and will attend the Salem Town Meeting in two days time.

Meanwhile, Samuel Parris posted his continuing frustrations with the Villagers who are trying to drive him out:

It has been two months and a few days since the Lord’s servants were removed from the Village Committee and replaced by those whose aim it is to pull down this church. Since that time, they have refused to collect support for the ministry in hopes that I will depart, as others have before me.

It is true that without firewood cooking is difficult, even for the resourceful Tituba, and heat is not possible. Without money I have been forced to hire out my Indian man John to help Nathaniel Ingersoll with his Ordinary. He is given enough in exchange to feed our small family. I thank the Lord for this hardship, which only strengthens me and purifies my resolve.

Today, five years ago, our Susannah was born, a delight to her mother and a blessing to me. Tonight our family prayers concluded with thanks for the Devoted Child she is and the Godly Woman she will become.