Discovering who’s blood runs through my veins has become my latest obsession. By way of my creative poetry class this semester, I’ve been able to delve into and explore the world of the past, opening graves long-buried and taking a peek into the people that had until this point been lost. Overwhelmingly, I’ve discovered that many of the women of my past were located in the vicinity of Salem during the time of the witch trials in 1692.
No less than six of my female ancestors had to deal with ongoing persecution on a daily basis. I couldn’t ignore the odds of this, and picked my way through the rubble of the past in order to uncover just who these women were. But, I hadn’t quite looked back far enough. 17 years before the infamous trials, Mary Bliss Parsons found herself one of the first women in America to be accused of witchcraft.
Parsons is my 9th great grandmother on my mother’s side. She was repeatedly accused and tried for witchcraft by her neighbors, although each time eventually found innocent. From accusations ranging from the murder of an infant to the poisoning of farm animals, Mary was never far from the end of a pointed finger. This would eventually find her in the dank cell of a Boston prison while she awaited yet another sentence that would decide her fate.
Gossip finally turned to a trial for Mary Bliss, but even after she was found innocent of the charges, those rumors would circulate. In 1679 she was the subject of yet another inquiry, just three years before Salem would turn itself inside-out. However, before this could occur, she and her family left Northampton, fleeing the persecution that defined Mary’s life. Until the day she died, she would be accused. Hate and anger followed even her grandchildren.
A descendant of Mary Bliss has already written a book about her life. Karen Vorbeck Williams is a distant granddaughter like myself, and researched the story for over 20 years before finally writing My Enemy’s Tears: The Witch of Northampton. My hope is that the book will live up to the person I have come to know these last few weeks.