Mary Perkins Bradbury charged as a witch

Mary Perkins Bradbury, charged as a witch

Photo by Barbara Weichert at the Findagrave site (The tombstone is not authentic)

Mary Perkins was born in 1615 in Hillmorton, Warwickshire, England, the daughter of Sergeant John Perkins, Sr. and Judith Perkins, who arrived with her in Boston in 1631 and settled in Ipswich. She became the wife of Capt. Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury. In 1692 at 77 years of age, she was sentenced to death as a witch in 1692, but was not executed. He died at Salisbury, March 16, 1695.

The Family of John Perkins of Ipswich, Massachusetts

The will of Mary’s father John Perkins of Ipswich in 1654 included the following: “I do give to my daughter Mary Bradbury one cow and one heifer or a young steer to remain to her and to her children in their increase or profits as it shall please the Lord to bless them and to be equally divided to ye children. I doe also give unto my grandchild Thomas Bradbury one ewe to be sett apart for his use at ye next shearing time.”

Thomas Bradbury was a representative in 1651 and after. He was recorder of Norfolk Co., town clerk of Salisbury, and was captain of a military company. His varied acquirements caused him to be elected to fill many places of honor and trust. He was a man of no mean talents; some of the records of Salisbury are in his beautiful handwriting.

Mary (Perkins) Bradbury was one of those unfortunate people who, in the dark days of witchcraft delusion, was among the accused. She was also convicted, but by the efforts of her friends her execution was delayed, the horrid delusion passed away, and she was discharged. The papers connected with her trial, as well as those of the others, who were, some of them, more unfortunate, have been preserved, and are to be seen on the tiles in the Clerk of Courts Office in Salem, Mass.

Her defense in answer to the accusations of her persecutors, the testimony of her husband with that of Rev. James Allin and John Pike, her ministers, and the united testimonial of over one hundred of her neighbors and townspeople were all of no avail. These papers show her to have been a most estimable, pious and good woman, and should be recorded in her praise. We copy them from the original.

The answer of Mary Bradbury to the charge of witchcraft or familiarity with the Devil:

“I do plead not guilty. — I am wholly innocent of such wickedness through the goodness of God that hath kept me hitherto. I am the servant of Jesus Christ and have given myself up to him as my only Lord and Saviour, and to the diligent attendance upon him in all holy ordinances, in utter contempt and defiance of the Devil & all his works as horrid and detestable; and have endeavored accordingly to frame my life & conversation according to the rules of his holy word, and in that faith and practice resolve, by the help and assistance of God, to continue to my life’s end. For the truth of what I say as to matter of practice, I humbly refer myself to my brethren and neighbors that know me, and to the searcher of all hearts for the truth & uprightness of my heart therein, human frailties & unavoidable infirmities excepted, of which I bitterly complain every day. ” Mary Bradbury.

The testimony of Thomas Bradbury:

“Concerning my beloved wife, Mary Bradbury, this is what I have to say: We have been married fifty-five years, and she hath been a loving and faithful wife to me. Unto this day shee hath l^een wonderfuly laborious, diligent and industrious, in her place and employment about the bringing up of our family (which hath been eleven children of our own and four grandchildren) she was both prudent and provident, of a cheerful spirit, liberal and charitable. She being now very aged and grieved under her affliction, may not be able to speak much for herself, not being so free of speech as some others may be. I hope her life and conversation have been such among her neighbours as gives a better and more real testimony of her than can be expressed by words. Tho. Bradbury.”

The testimony of James Allin:

“Being desired to give my testimony concerning the life and conversation of Mrs. Bradbury of Salisbury among us with as follows, viz: I have lived nine years at Salisbury in the work of the ministry and now four years in the office of a pastor; to my best notice and observation of Mrs. Bradbury she hath lived according to the gospel among us, was a constant attender upon the ministry of ye word; and all the ordinances of the gospel, full of works of charity and mercy to the sick and poor, neither have I seen or heard anything of her unbecoming the profession of the gospel. James Allin.”

The testimony of John Pike:

“Having lived many years in Salisbury and been much conversant there, according to my best observation and notice of Mrs. Bradbury must needs affirm to what is above written, and give my oath to it if called thereto.”

The following statement was signed by 117 men and women of Salisbury:

“Concerning Mary Bradbury’s life and conversation. We the subscribers do testify that it was such as becometh ye gospel, she was a lover of ye ministry in all appearance and a diligent attender upon Gods holy ordinances being of a courteous and peaceable disposition and carriage, neither did any of us (some of whom have lived in ye town with her fifty years ever hear or know that she ever had any difference or falling out with any of her neighbors, man, woman, or child — but was always ready and willing to doe for them what lay in her power night and day, though what hazard to her health or other danger. — more might be spoken in her commendation but this for the present.”

Mary Perkins Bradbury was sentenced to hang on Sept. 22, 1692, but the sentence was never carried out. Some legends state that Thomas Bradbury broke her out of jail or bribed the jailor, and they fled to Maine, returning to Amesbury after the witchcraft craze calmed down. Mary Perkins Bradbury died in Amesbury in 1700, at the age of 85 years. The Children of Thos. and Mary (Perkins) Bradbury were:

  • Wymond Bradbury (1637-1669), married Sarah Pike, daughter of Major Robert Pike
  • Judith Bradbury (1638-1700), married Caleb MoodyThomas Bradbury (1640-1718)
  • Mary Bradbury (1642-1724), married John Stanyan
  • Jane Bradbury (1645-1729), married Henry True
  • Jacob Bradbury (1647-1669, Barbados
  • William Bradbury (1649-1678), married Rebecca Wheelwright
  • Elizabeth Bradbury (1651-unknown), married Rev. John Buss
  • John Bradbury (1654-1678)
  • Anne Bradbury (1656-1659)
  • Jabez Bradbury (1658-1677)

Further reading:

7 thoughts on “Mary Perkins Bradbury, charged as a witch”

  1. On 1692 “testimony of John Pike.” I also see above that Mary (Perkins) Bradbury’s son Wymond Bradbury (1637-1669), “married Sarah Pike, daughter of Major Robert Pike.” In 1661; Wymond and Sarah were each their parents’ eldest surviving children.

    Robert Pike (1616-1706) was well described by Parton: “The special glory of this man’s life was his steadfast and brave opposition to the witchcraft mania of 1692.”[1] This after asserting Pike actively opposed Quaker persecution at Salisbury, publicly denounced legally sanctioned Puritan hegemony in Sabbath practice.

    The Pike testifying on behalf of Mary was likely Robert’s son, born 13 May 1653, at Salisbury and who would be known as “Rev. John Pike.” Robert’s brother John Pike had died 1688/89 after helping establish Woodbridge, NJ. Thomas Bradbury had been clerk when Robert’s father John Pike’s estate entered probate at Salisbury in 1654.

    James Shepherd Pike accomplished two things: he established Thomas Bradbury and Robert Pike had long history; shared since at least 1652, when the pair were Commissioners appointed to establish Hampton, MA’s western boundary.[2] Bradbury had been a General Court functionary, gathering Salisbury testimony which resulted in fine to ‘Lieutenant Pike’ for audacity to petition the Royal Government and Council in 1653. Nevertheless, the author described Thomas and Mary Bradbury as “life-long friends” of Pike. “Their son, Wymond Bradbury, had married Sarah Pike, eldest daughter of Robert, thirty years before. The families were thus associated by ties of the most intimate character.”

    The author’s other notable contribution was to demonstrate Robert Pike’s involvement far superseded mere testimony. He devoted nine pages to Pike’s 9 Aug 1692 “rude though solemn thoughts,” intended to persuade Jonathan Corwin (1640-1718), influential magistrate overseeing Mary’s case. It’s fascinating argument, reliant on scripture and doctrinal messaging to agitate legal grounds for liberty. The above John Pike paragraph pales in comparison.

    “He has been called “the moral and fearless hero of New England,”” repeated Wells-Cushing of Robert Pike.[3] “The first and strongest representative of the right of petition,” and the “power which squelched the witchcraft delusion.”

    [1] ‘Captains of Industry, or Men of Business Who Did Something Besides Making Money’ by James Parton (1884), pp. 48-49. Mary Bradbury “was a neighbor of Major Pike’s and a life-long friend.”

    [2] ‘The New Puritan: New England Two Hundred Years Ago; Some Account of the Life of Robert Pike, the Puritan who Defended the Quakers, Resisted Clerical Domination, and Opposed the Witchcraft Prosecution’ by James Shepherd Pike (1879), pp. 147-148 & elsewhere.

    [3] ‘Genealogy of the Wells family and families related’ by Gertrude W. Wells-Cushing (1903), p. 133.

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