Sunday, 25 July 2010


The Hoydens are delighted to welcome Diana Foulds, author of DEATH IN SALEM, as a guest blogger this week.


My new book, Death in Salem, is something of a fluke. I had spent a decade researching 17th-century Massachusetts in an effort to make sense of the 1692 execution of my 10th-generation ancestor, Martha Carrier, for witchcraft. What had she done to provoke such a fate? Why had colonial authorities jailed four of her five children and tortured her two teenage sons, while placing no onus at all on her Welsh husband?

The answers to these questions led me back to Oliver Cromwell, the regicides, and King Philip’s War. Since few resources offered anything but the briefest biographical sketches of Martha and Thomas Carrier, I delved deeper, sifting through birth records, passenger lists, local histories, land titles, and marriage certificates. At last I had the broad outlines of their strange and dissonant lives, though nothing of their inner thoughts. For that, I realized, I would have to write a novel.

To get a sense of place, I traveled to East Anglia and explored the Massachusetts pastures the Carriers had farmed. By 2008, my manuscript was complete, if unwieldy. I wanted it to be as historically accurate as I could make it, since I knew that many American readers would recognize their own ancestors in the secondary characters. The trials themselves ended up playing a relatively minor role in the narrative, yet continually tripped me up. Despite reading numerous scholarly tomes on the infamous events, I couldn’t get it straight. Who was related to whom, exactly, and what set it off? I longed for a simple “who’s who” to the main players, from the afflicted girls to the Boston elite. Alas, nothing like that existed. Then it dawned on me: I had already done most of the research. Why not write it myself? Granted, it would distract me from the novel. But I was logjammed anyway. An exercise like this could pull me out. It might also spare other family historians years of research.

A few of the sixty-eight biographies came easy. Numerous books have been written about Cotton and Increase Mather, for example, and both left detailed diaries. For most, however, there was little to go by but sketchy trial testimony and family genealogies. Some, particularly the teenage accusers, posed a challenge. I found so few substantive references to Sarah Vibber, for instance, that it seemed wisest to just leave her out.

When the manuscript was nearing completion, a picture started to emerge. I realized that the majority of these New World settlers had suffered hardships every bit as traumatic as the witch hunt itself; no wonder they were haunted. Each of them had a story, and in a way, each was a microcosm of 17th-century Massachusetts, a fragment of the greater social mosaic. Viewed under a microscope, their response to the witchcraft accusations began to make sense. Suddenly the broader explanations -- the political, economic, and religious upheaval so often cited as contributing factors to the witchcraft frenzy – lost relevance. It wasn’t so much the legal paralysis or the religious indoctrination that caused the trouble, as it was the scythe that went missing from the barn, the milk that curdled, or the mysterious house burning.

More and more, I’m convinced that this human dimension might be the closest we can get to understanding how the participants themselves experienced this seminal event.

For a glimpse inside the book, search Death in Salem at

Diane Foulds, who lives in Vermont, has worked in Vienna as a UPI reporter, in Hamburg and Washington, D.C. as a correspondent for the German news agency DPA, and in Prague chronicling the Bohemian glass industry for a 1994 book. Death in Salem is her fourth. Work on her novel continues.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Scalping--Facts and Myths

In 1697, Colonial Hannah Dustin's baby was killed, and she was captured during an Indian raid. As a captive, she was handed over to a family in the traditional way of many eastern woodland tribes. Not only did Dustin (spelled Duston by some accounts) escape, but she slew ten of her captors, which included women and six children, as they slept. When she remembered their scalps were worth money, she returned for them to collect the bounty. Today, Dustin is often depicted as a heroine and has two statues in her memory. One, in New Hampshire, shows her with the scalps in her hand.

A colonial, regardless of gender, certainly isn't the Hollywood image of a scalper. I'll leave a more complete story of Dustin for a future blog, and try in this one to explain some of the facts about scalping that are rarely noted in the movies or books.

Being scalped by Indians was one of the biggest fears encountered among the first colonists. Over the past four hundred years much has been written about the topic. Some people argue the colonists brought scalping from Europe and introduced it to the indigenous populations. While it's true that some Europeans in the past had taken scalps, in 1607 at Jamestown the English were more in the habit of taking heads, rather than scalps. Several written records exist that suggest some of the Powhatan people did indeed scalp at the time of settlement. However, those records alone are inconclusive to the question of who invented the act.

Archaeological evidence indicates that some indigenous people did scalp in the pre-contact era. Also, the main European languages did not have a term for the action until arriving on North America's shores. When the Europeans first arrived in the sixteenth century, they noted that certain tribes scalped enemy warriors. What's often overlooked in the literature is that not all tribes scalped. In fact, some authorities claim the majority of tribes did not scalp.

Although the historical record seems to verify that Europeans did not originate the act of scalping, they quickly discovered it was much easier than beheading. During King Philip's War, in the 1670's, the colonists played Native tribes against each other. The colony of Rhode Island offered bounties to the Narragansetts for enemy "head skins," a term used for scalps during the 17th century. Connecticut and Massachusetts soon followed suit and offered bounties on their Wampanoag enemies. Authorities paid ten shillings to Indians and thirty shillings to their own men for every enemy scalp. At the end of the war, Metacom, often called King Philip, had his head taken and displayed on a pike for a year.

In 1688, the French Canadians became the first to encourage Native tribes to take white scalps. They paid ten beaver skins for every enemy scalp, Indian or Puritan, which is probably the source of the myth that the French taught Indians to scalp. As a result of bounties, the Europeans paved the way for Indians to take white scalps. In 1693, the English declared they would pay bounties for the scalps of Frenchman and their Indian allies, leading to Hannah Dustin's story.

For tribes that participated in scalping, the general idea behind the action was that a scalp lock became symbolic of a warrior's life force. Generally a scalp lock was regarded as more than a trophy of war. Not only did an enemy's scalp prove that a warrior was brave in taking casualties, but it was part of the soul or life force. To lose one's scalp to an enemy meant that a person became spiritually dead, even if biologically they were not. Furthermore, scalping didn't appear to be overly common until metal knives and firearms were introduced.

Unfortunately, media, novels, and Hollywood movies cling to the "savage" stereotype. Even though some indigenous people apparently scalped before the arrival of Europeans, it was not as widespread as the stereotype would suggest. English and French settlers adopted scalping as a retaliatory measure. Until then, Native people were not in the habit of taking white scalps. To overlook the European involvement in the equation only perpetuates the myths.

Kim Murphy

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Angel of Hadley

When Charles II returned to England and was restored to his throne in 1660, he was determined not to repeat the errors that had cost his father his head. He wished to heal his country after a bitter civil war, not sunder it further. In the spirit of reconciliation, he officially forgave all those who had fought against the royalist cause or had sympathised with Cromwell. Charles limited his vengeance to those who had a direct hand in his father's murder. The forty-one surviving regicides who had signed the death warrant of Charles I were to be arrested and tried, and many were hung. Those who had escaped punishment through death, like Cromwell himself, were exhumed from their graves and their bodies hung at Tyburn.

But at least two of these regicides managed to escape such a grim fate. Edward Whalley (1607?-1675?) and his son-in-law William Goffe (1605?-1679?) were both generals under Cromwell, and both, too, had signed the royal death warrant. Fearing the worst, the two did not wait for Charles's restoration, but fled to New England in the late spring of 1660, forever leaving behind their families and homes.

Boston was the largest city in the colony of Massachusetts, and remained a pious bastion of Puritan supporters. There the two regicides were welcomed almost as heroes, and embraced by the most powerful members of Boston society. The King soon learned of this, however, and by August a warrant for the arrest and execution of Goffe and Whalley was sent by a man-of-war to Boston. Friends of the pair were able to warn them, and with the help of the colony's governor (demonstrating his own divided loyalty!), Goffe and Whalley once again escaped.

From then the two men disappeared into exile, evading arrest and shifting from one town to the next throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut. They were sheltered and protected wherever they went, their secrecy so complete that historians today remain unsure of exactly when they died, or even where they are buried.

But William Goffe soon acquired a more lasting identity. In the 1670s, the English were fighting King Philip's War against the Native American Wampanoags and their allies, who were striving to drive the colonists from theirs lands. Hundreds of settlers were killed. The English on the western frontier were particularly at risk, with villages and farms burned and many settlers gruesomely killed and scalped. Located on the edge of the Massachusetts frontier, Hadley was one of the villages at risk, and the settlers grew increasingly terrified as the Wampanoag attacks drew closer. The Englishmen were farmers, not soldiers, with little idea of how to defend their families and homes.

One night, however, a white-bearded gentleman appeared from the forest. With calm authority, he directed the villagers in how to defend their town, and drilled the men for battle. He never revealed his name, though the desperate villagers guessed his identity. When the inevitable attack came, he led them fearlessly into battle, and with such brilliance that the Wampanoags were soundly defeated and Hadley saved. Yet as soon as the men began to celebrate their victory, their leader vanished. In the way of legends, the villagers were certain they'd been saved by General William Goffe himself, and called him the Angel of Hadley.

Modern historians can (and do) shoot factual musket holes through this story. There is no recorded attack on Hadley in 1675, and no 17th c. documents describe either a battle, or Goffe's providential appearance before one. The first written account of the legend doesn't appear until the late 18th c., more than a century after the supposed events took place.

But legends are tenacious, and the various versions of this one are often repeated as fact. Nineteenth century authors like Nathaniel Hawthorne embellished the tale further, and there are also several highly romanticized paintings like the one above right. (Here's another, with the solemn title The Angel of Hadley, or The Perils of Our Forefathers.) In some cases, the legend is even portrayed as a precursor to the American revolution in 1776, with Goffe portrayed as a brave man who dared to stand up to his tyrannical king.

Well, maybe not. But the modern town fathers of Hadley aren't about to surrender their savior. Last year marked the 350th anniversary of the little town, and the celebration was marked with the usual souvenirs, t-shirts, and refrigerator magnets. And, best of all, this commemorative shot glass, above left, in honor of the Angel of Hadley.