Ann Putnam along with Elizabeth Parris, Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, and Abigail Williams were the main accusers during the Salem Witch Trials. Their testimony led to the death of 19 innocent people on grounds of them being a witch. Born 1679 in Salem Village, Essex County, Massachusetts, she was the eldest child of Thomas and Ann Putnam.
Biography and Trials
Ann was born October 18, 1679, to Thomas Putnam (of the Putnam family) and Ann Putnam, who had twelve children in total. Ann was the eldest. Fellow accuser Mercy Lewis was a servant in the Putnam household, and Mary Walcott was, perhaps, Ann’s best friend. These three girls would become the first afflicted girls outside of the Parris household.
Ann and six other young girls had listened as Tituba, Samuel Parris‘s Indian slave, told tales of voodoo and other supernatural events in her native Barbados. The girls also engaged in fortune-telling–concerning, for example, matters such as what trade their sweethearts might have. During one fortune-telling episode, Ann reported seeing a specter in the likeness of a coffin.
After this incident, Ann, Betty Parris, and Abigail Williams (the niece and home resident of Parris) began to display strange symptoms. They complained of pain, would speak in gibberish, became contorted into strange positions, and would crawl under chairs and tables.
After Betty Parris was sent away, Ann and Abigail became the most active–as well as the youngest–of the accusers. Ann claimed to have been afflicted by sixty-two people. She testified against several in court and offered many affidavits.
Her father was the chief filer of complaints in the village and maintained complete control over the actions of the two afflicted girls living in his house. Most of the afflicted and the accusers were in some way related to the Putnam family.
Ann Putnam Sr., Ann’s mother, would also become afflicted at times, and was in court almost as much as her daughter and servant. The mother and daughter Ann were an exceptional pair of actors. People from miles around trooped into the courtroom to watch their performances.
Ann’s parents died close together and left the 19-year-old girl alone to care for her orphaned brothers and sisters. Ann inherited her parent’s estate and later in life she apologized to the Congregation in Salem for her part in the trials. She was the only one of the accusers to apologize for their actions.
She stood in front of the congregation and said:
I desire to be humbled before God for that sad and humbling providence that befell my father’s family in the year about ninety-two; that I, then being in my childhood, should, by such a providence of God, be made an instrument for the accusing of several people for grievous crimes, whereby their lives was taken away from them, whom, now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons; and that it was a great delusion of Satan that deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental, with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly, to bring upon myself and this land the guilt of innocent blood; though, what was said or done by me against any person, I can truly and uprightly say, before God and man, I did it not out of any anger, malice, or ill will to any person, for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly, being deluded by Satan.
And particularly, as I was a chief instrument of accusing Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters, I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humble for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families; for which cause I desire to lie in the dust, and earnestly beg forgiveness of God, and from all those unto whom I have given just cause of sorrow and offense, whose relations were taken away or accused.
Ann died in 1716 and was buried in an unmarked grave. Her four brothers inherited the land she left from her parents.