Remember...

Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

My Family & the Flu of 1918

[Stock photo]

It's October in America. Some of us have been living under restrictions and in isolation since March. I know people who have lost family members they did not get to see. In this country w
e have currently lost 208,000 deaths from COVID-19. There have been over 1 million deaths globally.

How can we find hope and strength while still in the midst of this pandemic?


The Flu of 1918
I looked to our history. And I looked to my history. This is not our first pandemic that has required masks and isolation. Some media call it the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 or the Influenza Pandemic. Most commonly it is known as the Spanish Flu. That is a misnomer (I'll explain that below). 

The Flu of 1918 first made its appearance in March of that same year in the case of an Army cook in Kansas. It spread through the Camp but was not seen to be deadlier than an average flu. Then the troops were deployed. America had joined World War I in April of 1917. Our troops brought the new flu to England with them and it spread through Europe, through the French and British troops in April and May.

So why do we know it as the Spanish Flu of 1918? None of the other countries were publishing any news that could be harmful to their troops and stories of illness among the soldiers counted. Spain was the only country putting out information about this new and deadly flu and they were the first country to write about it. 
[Stock photo]

The second wave of the 1918 Flu was far deadlier than the first. 
Just as the deaths seemed to ebb in August, the virus mutated and troops returned from England infected with a new strain. The most brutal months occurred in the fall of 1918, from September to November.

In the month of October 1918 alone, 195,000 Americans died of it. The new strain claimed the lives of the old and very young as well as previously healthy adults in their prime and their deaths were horrific to the medical community. Medical science didn't understand what viruses were let alone the cytokine explosion effect the pandemic had on it's victims. 

Life in Buffalo NY
All of my ancestors who were alive during the Flu of 1918 lived in Western New York, close to Lake Ontario. People stayed inside as much as possible. Schools and theatres and stores closed. Everything was shut down. People tried whatever remedies they could conceive, like wearing bags of camphor around their necks.

Everyone wore masks. The mayor of Buffalo restricted gatherings of more than 10 people. All restrictions were enforced, and many enforced within the community itself. But there were groups that tried to get special dispensation to gather and meet. Of course there were. There was even a large anti-mask group that rose up in San Francisco, claiming their Rights were being infringed upon.

During a global health crisis.

Towns along the railroads were particularly afflicted as it spread. So many medical people were overseas aiding the war effort that hospitals and casket makers were overwhelmed. There were just too many cases and too many dead.

It has happened before. It could happen again. Where can we find strength after such a long period of isolating when we know it s not over yet?

My Great-Great Grandparents' World
I wanted to know the names and faces of my ancestors who had lived to see such times before and I checked my family tree to see who was alive during the worst months of the pandemic.

My great-great-grandmother Theresa Tenney-Eaton, a widow, was 58. She lived in Somerset NY and was the head of house, living with her son, William Bennett, 38, and his wife, Lena, 40. Their five children were also living with Theresa. On September 12, during the worst months of virus, William registered his World War I draft card. All survived.

1x Grandparents Roy & Hattie & kids
Roy Eaton & Hattie Smith  & family
Theresa's other son and my great-grandpa Royal Eaton, 45, and his wife Hattie Eva Smith, 36, lived in Auburn NY with their three children, including my Grandpa Mark who was just three years old. Great-grandpa Roy also registered his WWI draft card on Sept 2, during the thick of the flu. All survived.


Emma Whitcher, Ruth Ruston, & Ruth Ireland
My 2x great-grandparents Charles Ruston, 64, and Ruth Ireland, 57, were living in Lockport NY with their daughters Maude, 36, and Ruth, 21. All survived.

Their son and my great-grandpa Frank Ruston, 29, and his wife Minnie Wicker, 27, had been married for five years. Their oldest child, my Grandma Ruth, was 2. Minnie's mother, my widowed 2x great-grandma Emma Whitcher-Wicker, was 70 years old and lived with them in Lockport NY, along with a schoolteacher boarder. All survived.

Katherine Pils & young grandchildren
My German great-great-grandparents George Art, 47, and Katherine Pils, 45, were servants working for the wealthy Kenan family. The couple were living with their youngest two children, Walter, 23, & Alice, 20. All survived.

Their eldest son, and my great-grandpa Robert Art, 25, and his wife Margaret Burke, 24. had been married and living in Lockport for five years. They had two small daughters, the youngest having been born just that same year. There had been a second daughter who died in 1916. All alive during the flu survived.

In Newfane NY my great-great-grandparents Lafayette Riddle, 48, and Frances Gillette, 43, still had four kids home on the farm and my great-grandpa Harold, 15, was one of them. All survived.

Even my great-great-great-grandparents Albert Durant, 76, and Rosella LaValley, 75, both of Quebec origins, survived, though Albert died two years later and Rosella the year after him.

Elsie Durant, far left in glasses, and other Durants
Their son, my great-great-grandpa George Durant, 39, and Emma Louise Burnah, 49, were newly living in Lockport, having moved from Piercefield NY. My great-grandma Elsie, 13, was the last of their children still at home.

The End of the Flu of 1918
At the time, PA state medical inspector W.E. Matthews said, "The most dangerous time of all is right now, when the disease is disappearing. There is always the possibility of people letting up in their precautions or not taking the precautions that are so necessary in checking the spread of the disease." 

[Stock photo]
He was right. There was a third wave of deaths, with as high a count as the second one. History believes the virus ebbed when the war ended because we stopped shipping and mobilizing troops around the world, cross-contaminating our countries.

The pandemic lasted from 1918-1919. It killed 2-5 million people globally. Over 675,000 Americans died of it over two years. We're at 208,000 after seven months.

And Now?
History teaches us that there will be an end to this version of pandemic. We know that we have medical knowledge and technology we didn't have then. There are reasons to be hopeful. But we have to do our part.

The second wave has not struck us yet. 

Wear your masks to protect other people from your germs. Wear your masks to protect you from other people's germs. Wash your hands regularly. Socially-distance for real. Isolate if you feel unwell. Invest in a thermometer.

May we all come through the other side of this. 



Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Labyrinth Walking & Apple Magic at the Equinox

It is the start of autumn, and the time of year when my Work takes me down into the internal labyrinth, seeking to know myself better.

What do I want to work on? What do I want to explore? Where do I need to go?

We all have versions of ourselves we have been that no longer are. There are versions of ourselves we thought we might be. And there are versions of ourselves that, whatever the circumstances, we can no longer be.

I hold this at the entrance. I focus on breath. I focus on walking, feet on the earth.

Today the world is dark and hard. The way ahead is uncertain. But I am here, breathing. Walking in and out of the labyrinth within me.

Who have we been? Who are we becoming? Who will we be tomorrow?

I stand at the first turn. What do I no longer need? What no longer serves me? What do I still hold onto that hurts me? I shed them, one by one, breath by breath, step by step, going deeper down into the labyrinth.

It’s been a hard year. This winter will not be easier. I carry this knowledge into the dark with me, making it an ally not a deterrent. I use a favorite fictional passage to stoke my courage to see the truth.

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” (Frank Herbert, Dune)


The Ritual

In preparation I make a rattle each year with apple seeds harvested from our local orchard and an empty medicine bottle. And for meditation purposes, and lack of yard, I use a finger labyrinth. I’ve walked enough labyrinths that I have body memory of that turning inward and outward but the visual movement is still helpful. 

The ritual I do is simple. As always, I encourage people to adapt it to what works for them. This is what works for me.


I rattle until I feel myself slipping into a calm awareness of everything but pulled by nothing. 

And then I walk the labyrinth, pausing as I make each turn. Each time I ask myself, what do I no longer need? What no longer serves me? What do I still hold onto that hurts me? I shed them, one by one, breath by breath, step by step, going deeper down into the labyrinth, deeper into myself.

What do I need to work on? Where do I need to go? Who am I becoming now?


The Labyrinth

I use a lap labyrinth made by my teacher and friend Tracy at One Path Labyrinth. The grooves are the perfect size for my finger. But you can also use a printed labyrinth of the internet or draw your own. Get creative. The more personal you make it, the better the experience it will be. And by all means, if you have access to an actual labyrinth, or have enough yard to create a temporary one, I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, August 19, 2020

My Family and the Ratification of the 19th Amendment

Great-grandma Minnie Ruston in the glasses, center.
On August 18, 1920 it was written into law that voting rights could not be denied based on sex. Suffragettes had been protesting for the right to vote for decades. An early Women’s Rights convention was held in Seneca Falls in 1848, seventy-two years before the amendment was ratified.

This photo is of an unknown group of women from around the 1920s. My 1x great-grandmother Minnie Ruston is facing the camera in the glasses in the center. She was the daughter of a prominent business owner, fire chief, and Mason, Hiram Wicker. I have not yet been able to identify these women. There are other photos of the white-haired woman in the back row with the black robes on, but I am uncertain who she is.

Suffragette white in 1917?
[It’s important to note, considering how long women had to fight for it, that many states responded by passing laws to limit the freedoms of black citizens, including voting rights. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that black women (and men) had the full and legal right to vote. That’s forty-five years after the Amendment.]

It made me wonder where my ancestors were in their lives in 1920. It was only 100 years ago and my female ancestors could not vote. I’ll never know what they thought about women’s rights to vote—I know that not all women were in support of it, though I have learned enough about some families to make some educated guesses. So I searched our archives for photos of my ancestors who were alive at the time, within a few years, and here they are:

My 1x great-grandparents Royal Levant Eaton and Hattie Eva Smith-Eaton were 47 and 38 years old with three children. My grandfather Mark Dutcher Eaton was 5 years old, the youngest in the second photograph. They were living in Auburn, NY where Roy was working as a prison guard.

Royal’s mother Theresa Cordelia Tenney-Eaton was 70 years old, living in Somerset, NY with her son Hubert and his family.

Hattie’s grandmother, my 3x great-grandmother Eliza Marsh Bird-Dutcher was 83 years old living in Somerset with her daughter Carrie and her family. Here she is, on the left, with her son-in-law's mother, Sophia Sears-Smith. Sophia died soon after this was taken, a decade before ratification.

Frank Ruston tucking his head. Either with his wife Minnie, or Minnie took the photo.

Minnie Wicker-Ruston and son Dickie and daughter Ruth, my grandma, around 1922.

Emma Whitcher-Wicker, front right, with sisters Ellen, Harriet, and Frances, l-r.
My grandmother Ruth Emma Ruston was 4 years old, living with my 1x great-grandparents Frank William Ruston and Minnie Estelle Wicker-Ruston in Lockport, NY. Frank and Minnie were 32 and 30 years old and he was employed as an accountant. Minnie’s mother Emma Angeline Whitcher-Wicker, 75, lived with them.

Frank’s parents Charles Evan Ruston and Ruth Ireland-Ruston, 73 and 59 years old, were both first generation immigrants living at their own home in Lockport.  He was still employed by the Harrison Manufacturing factory. (In my childhood it was the Harrison-Radiator factory.)

Robert George Art and Margaret Loretta Burke-Art were both 28 years old, living in Lockport, with two young daughters. He was working as a blacksmith.


Robert’s parents, my 2x great-grandparents, George Art and Katherine Pils-Art, 50 and 49 years old, were both employed by the wealthy Kenan family as their private gardener and housekeeper. Here Katherine is with other housekeepers, second one in from the right.

Margaret’s father, my 2x great-grandfather Frank Burke was 57, worked as the watchman for a city building in Lockport. He’s listed as married, not widowed, living with five of his children, though his wife Eliza Conners-Burke is not included on the census report. She would have been 54 at the time. I don't have any photos of them.

My 1x great-grandfather Harold Riddle, in the light suit, was 17 years old, living at home with my 2x great-grandparents Lafayette Riddle and Frances Ann Gillette-Riddle, 47 and 43 years old. With five of their six children in Newfane, NY.

Harold and Elsie in 1924 when they married.

My 1x great-grandmother Elsie Elizabeth Durant was 16, the last Durant child still at home. My 2x great-grandparents George Durant and Emma Louise Burnah-Durant, 51 and 53, lived in Lockport, NY where he worked at a Block Company. His father Albert died earlier that year in Vermont. His mother Rosella Lavalley-Durant, my 3x great-grandmother, 82 years old, was working as a housekeeper in Vermont.
Rosella Lavalley-Durant

I do not know what they thought but I know where they were and who their descendants became. I know my great-grandma Minnie was an avid photographer and these photos of this group of women survived all these decades later so they must have been important to her, and so they are important to me.
Same group of women with Minnie behind the camera.



Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Hamilton and Me… Well, How One of His Pals Shaped My Family

Daveed Diggs as Lafayette in Hamilton (left)

My background is in theatre and I love theatre of all kinds, including musicals. I’m sure by now most people have heard of the musical Hamilton if they haven’t seen it for themselves (or listened to the soundtrack on repeat). You don’t need to know the show but it’s a brilliant way of making history accessible and relevant to our current society.

Among the patriots fighting for freedom from English monarchy rule and taxes was a Frenchman named Marquis de Lafayette. He fought in the American Revolution on the side of the colonists. He was a celebrated hero of the war in America for decades afterwards.

A Bit of Bio

Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette was born to a wealthy family in France and commissioned as a sous-lieutenant with the musketeers at 13. He believed in the American war and after spending three weeks with high society in London and being presented to King George III, the young Marquis snuck away to America, defying his French King’s decree that no French soldiers were to fight for the Americans.

To get himself to America he used his wealth to buy his own ship, docking in North Carolina before continuing to Philadelphia. He was 19 when he fought alongside George Washington. Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette was known to his comrades as Lafayette.

After the Revolution, Lafayette returned to France and was a key figure in the French Revolution and the government that came after. In 1824, he was invited to be a guest by President James Monroe at a multi-state celebration of America’s 50th anniversary. He had initially only intended to visit the 13 original colonies but he was met with such fanfare that he visited all 24 states, meeting up with his old friends from the war. He collected soil from Bunker Hill, the site of an important battle, and took it home to France.

The real Marquis de Lafayette.
When he died May 20, 1834 his son George Washington scattered the soil from Bunker Hill over him. Lafayette was 76 years old. He was sometimes called “The Hero of the Two Worlds.” President Jackson gave him the same memorial honors that had been given to Lafayette’s friend George Washington. Congress urged Americans to follow similar mourning practices for the Marquis. You can tell how beloved he was by the places across America named for him, like Fayetteville, North Carolina.

Lafayette’s Legacy

One of the curious ways in which he was honored was by people naming the next generation of men after him, by his full title. My 3x great-grandfather, Marquis de Lafayette Riddle, was one of those babies. He was born the year after Lafayette’s American tour. I'm hazarding a guess that he went by Lafayette in his day-to-day since that's what he named his son, my 2x great-grandpa, Lafayette Riddle.

When I encountered that name my first thought was, Hey! A Marquis! But then I wondered why a Marquis would be farming in Batavia, NY. I thought there was a story there. I went onto Ancestry.com and plugged in the first name Marquis de Lafayette and left the last name blank.

This is a list of the names that came up on the first search page. I don’t know what are census takers’ misspellings and what are evolutions of the name but I left them as is:
M.D. Lafayette Furby b.1824, New Jersey
Marquis de Lafayette Riddle b.1825, New York
Marcus D.L. Norvell b.1836, Tennessee
Marquis de Lafayet Beall (alive in 1841), Mississippi
Marquis D.L. Branham b.1843, Tennessee
Mercus de L. Corter b.1844, Tennessee
Marquis de Lafaette Munro b.1844, New York
M.D.L. Paddock b.1846, Kansas
Markes D. L. Raynor b.1847, Ohio
Marcus D.L. Burriss b.1847, Kentucky
Margaris de Lafayette b.1849, Missouri
M.D. Laf Hill b.1849, Alabama
Margins D.L. Handley b.1850, Indiana
M.D.L. Dotson b.1850, Virginia
Marcus D.L. Batson b.1850, Michigan
Margais/Marques D.L. Beeson b.1853, Indiana
Margaris D.L.F. Harrington b.1856, Massachusetts
M. de L. Cash b.1857, Virginia
Marquis D.L. Williams b.1858, Missouri
Marquis D.L. Greer b.1859, North Carolina
La Fette D. Ginn b.1876, Georgia
Marquis D.L.F. Gorham (resides in 1889), Indiana

The names must have been passed down through the families over time, as this man was born 110 years after the original Lafayette’s death:
Marquis D.L. Rogers b.1944, California

Trivia fact: My 9x great-grandfather George Bunker owned the famed Hill that would later be part of the Revolutionary War battle (though he died the landowner a good 110 years beforehand), that Lafayette would take soil from for his own gravesite.


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Honoring Death When You Can’t Be There


We recently cleared the 30 day mark of lockdown in New York. This week ten of my friends lost family members to covid-19. Any funerals or memorial or wakes or celebrations of life will have to wait until it is safe to gather. And that’s okay. It has to be. This is how the world is right now and we want to keep the losses to a minimum.

That said, grieving alone is hard. And it sucks when you can’t gather with everyone else who will miss them, too.

*
In January of 2004 two of my best family friends passed within two weeks, both extremely unexpected and sorrowful. I remember my dad’s tearful phone call when he begged me not to try to come home for the funerals. I know it upset him to have to say those words to me but we were in the midst of some really horrid ice storms and I lived across the state. He said he couldn’t bear the thought of having to go to three funerals.

So I stayed home. It needed to be done.

I didn’t get to be there with my loved ones. No one else in my town knew the men I was grieving. I didn’t realize how much that mattered to me.

*
Part of the funeral or celebration of life is for the deceased, for seeing the sacred temple that housed their spirit to rest in whatever manner they wished. The other part of the event is to serve as another temple in its own right, for those who loved the dead and are sad to gather to share in that so that for an hour or two, no one has to be alone with it. It’s acceptable to be publicly sad.

Grief is given safe space. We become an island together in an ocean of sorrow. No one feels adrift in it.

And the funerals that cannot be held right now will come. That doesn’t mean that we can’t honor the dead on our own, from the sacred space of our homes, our hearths. We can honor who they were to us and wish their spirits peace.

We grieve because we loved them. So it is right that the answer to grief is also love.

*
This is the ritual I do. Use it as a template. Use it as a starting point. This is about creating ritual for yourself and for your heart. You are the only one who knows what you need.

[When you’re ready...]

Call your ancestors in. You don’t need to know their names. Ask them to stand with you. Invite all-who-mean-no-harm to join you. It is just as easy as imagining my front door opening and welcoming them in with a full heart. But I do like to open my actual front door for a moment and say, “Welcome Ancestors.”

[I like to work with candles so have one ready. It can be a simple tea light or something like a seven-day candle. Small children and animals can make candles dangerous but if you like the ambiance, use a battery-operated candle.]

Speak the name of the one who passed to your ancestors. Say who they were to you. Speak out loud. Clear a spot somewhere. Light the candle. (Or turn it on.)

[Candles are good magic. They also have an ending. It might be 4 hours. It might be 7 days. But when it ends it is not symbolic of anything other than its own life cycle is over. You can always start over with a new candle.]

Burn the candle in their honor. Leave out a glass of water, or a preferred libation of the deceased. 

Say what you need to say to them. And when you are done, wish them peace. Ask the ancestors to welcome them home.

You can add favorite music, favorite prayers; make it personal. It can even be as simple as a moment of focus and then release as the candle flickers. Let the candle burn as long as you are up and about in the space.

[If you use a long-burning candle you can dedicate it as a sacred object for you to burn whenever you are missing your loved one.]

*
If you are suffering the loss of a loved one during this time of physical isolation—whether they died because of the virus or not—my heart is with you. May you feel held in your grief. May you have means of connecting to living loved ones. May you find peace in each other. May you find outlets for your sorrow. 

May you remember love.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Call to Prayer in a Time of Change

It is time now, for those of us who commune with our ancestors, who petition them, who pray to them, or who simply pass their names over their lips… it is time for us all to reach out to them and pray for their strength and guidance. It is time to ask Spirit for aid.

Our world is in imbalance. We are being asked and required to hold down our home fronts and isolate ourselves from each other.

          May those without shelter be watched over and passed over from harm.

It is Spring Equinox here and today the world smells warm and dark and earthy. It smells like promise and hope. My lilies were poking out of the ground three days ago. Today their shoots are four inches tall! Change is happening rapidly and it is not all pleasant.

We will not see the end result until we are on the other side. Hold the Tower card up high. Change does not have to be bad. Ride it. Do not let it ride you. Get creative about problem solving.

Your ancestors have done it before you. They know the way out. They found a way out. You will, too.

          May those without resource know kindness from those who have more than needed. 
          May everyone eat. 
          May everyone have access to a clean and safe environment.

I am thinking of my friends who are losing work indefinitely and sometimes permanently because of our current global need to stay home, whose jobs do not allow a work from home option, whose jobs require crowds to come to them.

I am thinking of my friends in the essential industries that do not get to stay at home, but also, and I mean this, barely get to go home and in some instances are not getting paid for all of their time in because the money is not there. And they are all working with a lack of supplies to safeguard themselves.

And they are still working.

          May the hands of the elders guide them. 
          May the skill of the healers work through them. 
          May they be safe and as free from harm as possible.

And I was thinking about how hard my time in the hospital would have been if we had been in such times and my loved ones could not have come to see me. And I am thinking of those who now have to hold off on surgeries, who are preparing to need hospital care, and who are ending their lives in care.

Tonight I will light candles to my ancestors with specific intention.

          May those who are born during this time be safely seen into the world in good health. 
          May they be brought into life with love and joy and ease.

          May those who die during this time be surrounded by their chosen ancestors.
          May they be shepherded into death with compassion and care. 

          May it be so.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Robert Moulton and the Salem Witches

illustration by Freeland A. Carter

The first day of March of this year marks the 328th anniversary of the start of the Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Over the span of seven months in 1692 over 150 people, children included, were arrested on the charges of witchcraft. One man was killed during torture and 19 more people were tried, convicted, and hung as witches.

Witches who did not exist.

Two months of paranoia preceded the trials. Two generations of my maternal ancestors lived in Salem at the time, one of whom was involved. My 9x great-grandfather Robert Moulton was 48 years old during the witch hysteria. He and his wife Mary Cook had eight children. Their son Robert, my other ancestor, was 17.

I circled Moulton’s land plot, number 138, on the map in green. That his neighbor at plot 128 was Giles Corey, one of the victims of the trials, becomes relevant. Now, I am not a Salem scholar and I am not going to run through the whole of the history of the witch trials. While I am certain the trials affected every life in that village and town, I’m focusing on the moments the trial intersected Robert’s life.

By the time of the trials Corey was not a respected man. Sixteen years earlier he was charged with beating his farmhand, described as a “natural fool”, to death. In a letter from Thomas Putnam to Judge Samuel Sewall, he states that Corey paid for his freedom. Salem’s court records show that Corey was often charged with setting his cattle to graze on others’ lands. In my ancestor Robert’s own words Giles Corey was “a very quarrelsome and contentious bad neighbor.”

Two years after the murder, in 1678, my 33 year-old 9x great-grandfather Robert had a feud with Giles Corey that brought them to court. He testified that Giles had threatened his planting. Later twelve bushels of apples were stolen from Moulton following a clash with Corey. Moulton’s saw-mill was damaged after another clash and he suspected Giles of sabotage which led to Corey suing my ancestor in court for defamation. In November Giles Corey withdrew his suit against Robert Moulton.

Fourteen years later, Martha Corey (who did not believe in the proceedings) was accused of witchcraft on March 19, 1692 by Ann Putnam, age 12. The frenzy was so great that Giles Corey testified against his own wife. On April 19th Giles Corey was accused by Ann Putnam, Jr, Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard. He had no trial because he refused to state whether he was not guilty or guilty so the court could not proceed. He expressed regret over his testimony against Martha but to no avail. He was held for months.

The Putnams accused Rebecca Nurse on May 2nd. She was the mother of eight children, who all pleaded for her life. Another prominent Salem member who gave written testimony in her trial was my ancestor Robert Moulton.

In his own words, on Jun 29th, he wrote, “the testimony of Robart Moulton sener who testifith and saith that I waching with Susannah sheldon sence she was afflicted I heard her say that the witches halled her Upone her bely through the yeard like a snacke and halled her over the stone walle & presontly I heard her Controdict her former: disCource and said that she Came over the stone wall her selfe and I heard her say that she Rid Upone apoole to boston and she said the divel Caryed the poole.”

Basically he testified that he heard Susannah Sheldon say that witches dragged her across the yard on her belly and hauled her over the rock wall. She said that she had flown to Boston and that the Devil had carried the pole. He wrote his statement after hearing her testify that she climbed over the wall of her own accord and then ridden a pole to Boston. Her stories contradicted.

His testimony did not help Rebecca. She and five others were hanged June 19th. But at least with his testimony we have evidence that not every townsperson allowed themselves to be swept up in the frenzy.

In September Giles Corey was led to a field beside the jail to force a confession. He was pressed to death beneath a board with rocks piled upon it. His final words were "More weight, more weight." Giles died at the age of 77 two days before his wife. They were cleared of charges posthumously in 1711.

Robert Moulton died in Salem in 1975.

I am grateful for the discovery of my Moulton ancestors. I am more grateful to have been able to parcel bits of who they were from what history was documented. What I found was a man who, whether he believed in the tales of witchcraft or not, spoke his truth in a time of great fear and hysteria. He held to his light. Some of that strength lives in me. I hold that in my thoughts as I navigate our current world.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.