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Salem Witch Trials - 1692 : Interview Excerpts

Emerson Baker Interview Excerpts

Brief discussion of Salem Witchcraft Trials and their relation to the Frontier Wars in Maine

Phippís vision for the colony is now what we would consider Massachusetts Bay today, but to him the important place he knows from his childhood is the frontier up in Maine where you have the Native Americans, the fur trade, the fish and the lumber. And he has a very big, broad vision for the future of Maine that he tries to carry out. Unfortunately, heís governor during a terrible time when he takes office. The English settlements are being systematically abandoned by the English in the wake of French and Indian attack and he dies in 1695 before he can ever see his vision of Maine as the sort of economic engine of the region come to fruition. But heís, heís a fascinating character for his efforts, if not the least of which because heís also governor during the Salem witchcraft trials.

The current interpretation of history on the Salem witchcraft trials stresses that in large part the trials can be attributable to sort of war hysteria. You have to realize that, for example, the witchcraft outbreak really takes off within a few days of the attack on Candlemus in York in 1692, and as the whole sort of frontier collapses people in Massachusetts are afraid that theyíll be next.

It comes as no surprise that literally dozens of people involved in the Salem witchcraft trials -- afflicted girls, witnesses, most of the judges -- have ties to Maine and of course the governor of the colony is Sir William Phipps. And you see descriptions of some of the Indians.

In the trials, if you read the description of afflicted girls of the devil itís very interesting. You have one Marcy Short whoís taken captive on the Salmon Falls raid in 1690. Sheís from Maine and itís clear [from] her descriptions, [she's suffering from] what we would call post-traumatic stress today, [when] she is describing being taken captive by the Indians. She describes the devil as a black man. Well, actually a black man or a tawny man like an Indian.

So itís, in fact Phipps is very much and many Mainers are very much involved in the witchcraft trials. Many refugees from Maine have settled in Essex County in Salem. Most of the judges in the witchcraft trials are prominent Maine landowners. So Phipps and his wife are sort of symptomatic of that frontier involvement in the witchcraft trials.

In fact, Phipps likes to point out that heís spent most of the witchcraft trials in Maine building forts and trying to fight the combined forces of the French and the Indians. Those sort of, those two groups which seem to be sort of the ultimate league of Satan. You have what they considered to be heathen Indians in line with what they call the Pathist French. So you have the Pope and the Anti-Christ in league to drive the English from New England. Itís a very Puritan way of looking at things. But thatís very much the way the people in 1692 saw what was happening on the Maine frontier. This dark corner where they were being driven from and would Salem Village be next.

The afflicted girls are an interesting story. A lot of them sort of disappear from the records. But itís really clear that about one-third of the 50 girls had ties to Maine and were from here originally. Itís never quite clear how they ever got along with some of these people afterwards, after the trials. We do know though that eventually after the war there are a lot of these people from Essex County who end up resettling up in here. Some of the families like the Ingersalls and the Proctors who are resettle in Maine in the 18th century with no side effects that we know of as far as witchcraft. Well I should point out that there are accusations of witchcraft in Maine well into the 1700s, but that by be the same people.



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