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.

A Young Mary Bliss Parsons with Child

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.

A More Mature Mary Bliss, Clutching a Mysterious Book as if Inviting Others to Speculate over its Contents

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.

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22 thoughts on “The Witch of Northampton

  1. It’s an amazing thing to be able to go back in time and find out things pertaining to your family. I have to say that Mary Bliss Parsons is very intriguing to me, and I look forward to finding out more about her through the pages of this book. I know that she was a strong woman to have endured all the accusations that were thrown her way. I happen to love and respect strong women!

    1. I’ve never heard that -how interesting! Although I know my line doesn’t include John Wayne, it’s still cool to be connected to the same ancestor! I really got obsessed with genealogy, especially in regards to my connection with the Salem trials, a few months ago. It really gave me a deeper sense of sense to discover it all!

  2. I wish that I was related to some one like that. All I know is that in related to some one who got yelled at in person by king Henry the 5th.

  3. What did you search to find who you were all related to. I know that I’m only 14 but I fully want to know who I am related to.

    1. I actually signed up for a three month subscription to Ancestry.com. It was really worth it! The website made it very easy to simply put in what information I knew, and they would find additional! I would definitely recommend it if you’re thinking of tracking your heritage. Good luck!

  4. I do not understand the author’s note that ‘Hate and anger followed even her grandchildren.’
    I find thought completely false – I am a direct descendent of Mary Bliss Parson and Sarah Bridgman due to the grandchildren married. My Mother’s maiden name is Bridgman, born in North Hampton.

  5. I share with you a fascination with our shared ancestors. You might be interested to read Silencing the Women: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons. It is a recent release, as true to the legends, recorded history and the muse of the blood beating in our veins that we sustain. I think it will move you! : ) , the author, Kathy-Ann Becker at maryblissparsons@gmail.com and kabbecker.com
    Its at Broadside Books in Noho and at the Historic Northampton Museum gift shop, plus on line bookstores. Hope to hear from you, my relative!

    1. Kathy, this is fantastic! Thank you, thank you for commenting! I am working on my Thesis for grad school, and Mary Bliss is playing a major role. Your book will no doubt help quite a bit!

      1. Thought I would reconnect and see how your thesis for grad school is going. I do have a lot of material I used in my research of my “faction” historical novel (Silencing the Women: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons) about our shared ancestor, Mary Bliss Parsons. If you ever have a question that I might be able to answer, I would be more than happy to have a try.

  6. Hi! I’m responding to your post about our mutual ancestor, MBP. I’m wondering if you finished Karen’s book, My Enemy’s Tears? Did you ever find Silencing the Women: The Witch Trisls of Mary Bliss Parsons, my book? I’d like to hear where your interest has taken you.

  7. Mary Bliss Parsons was my 8x great aunt. Are these actual portraits of her and, if so, where did you find them

  8. This is all very fascinating, my sister and I are the 13th generation from her and her husband so she is my perhaps 11 times great grandmother. Our mother’s maiden name is Parsons and my family is very involved with the Parsons Association.

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