#20 Mary Ayer Parker

(52 Ancestors #20 – Black Sheep)

It was hard to think of an ancestor for this theme, so I decided to post about a 9th great-aunt who was executed as a witch in Salem on September 22, 1892. Her name was Mary Ayer, wife of Nathan Parker, and sister of my 9th great-grandfather Nathaniel Ayer.

Witchcraft in Salem Village
Witchcraft at Salem Village. Engraving from William A. Crafts’ Pioneers in the settlement of America: from Florida in 1510 to California in 1849. Published by Samuel Walker and Company, 1876.

Mary’s parents, John and Hannah Ayer, came to America from England in about 1635 along with the first 4 of their children. Mary and her brother Nathaniel and 3 more children were born in America. The family settled in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Mary married Nathan Parker in 1652 in Andover, Mass. Nathan died in 1685. On September 17, 1692, Mary was tried and convicted of witchcraft at Salem. Jacqueline Kelly in her paper titled “The Untold Story of Mary Ayer Parker: Gossip and Confusion in 1692” discussed Mary’s claim to the examiner: “I know nothing of it….There is another woman of the same name in Andover.” There were actually three Mary Parkers, including her sister-in-law, who was mentally unstable, and another who had had a child out of wedlock. So, Mary Ayer Parker may have been a victim of mistaken identity. She was definitely a victim of the hysteria and injustice of these trials. She was hanged on September 22, 1692 along with Martha Corey, Mary Eastey, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot Redd, Margaret Scott, and Samuel Wardwell.

Mary Parker’s engraved bench at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in downtown Salem

 

Proctor’s Ledge Memorial was dedicated in 2017 and is located at the site of the hangings. (Photo courtesy of TripAdvisor).

 

Proctor's Ledge
Far left: Mary Parker’s inscription on the wall of the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial (photo on Odd Things I’ve Seen blog by J. W. Ocker)

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