Engaging Methuen Readers

February 29th, an inauspicious day in Massachusetts History

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Leap Year Day, February 29th, was an inauspicious day in early Massachusetts history.

On this day, Feb. 29th,  in 1692, the first of the accused “witches” were arrested in Salem, Massachusetts. Several Salem girls exhibited strange behavior and attributed their ailments to the mysterious workings of three women: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba, a West Indian Slave.  This was the start of the witch hysteria and the resulting trials that Salem, MA will forever be known for.   When all was said and done, 19 people had been hanged, 5 had died in jail, 1 had been tortured to death, 2 dogs were executed, and more than 150 people had been imprisoned.*

To read up on this accursed history, try Pulitizer Prize winning author Stacy Schiff’s new book,  The witches : Salem, 1692 .   Schiff analyzes the Salem Witch Trials in order to offer key insights into the role of women in its events, while explaining how its tragedies became possible.

Or, try the modern classic, The Devil in Massachusetts: a modern enquiry into the Salem witch trials  by Marion L. Starkey that offers a psychological interpretation of the historic event.

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Twelve years, or three leap years, later, on February 29, 1704, the garrison at Deerfield, MA, was raided and burned by French and Native American forces.  47 persons were killed and 120 were taken captive and brought to Canada. Apparently, the object of the raid was to recover a bell that was supposed to have been for a Native American church in Canada.  The Deerfield congregation bought the bell not knowing of its intended destination, or that it was heisted off of a captured ship.*

For further reading on the subject, check out this amazing resource of first-hand accounts of the raid from varying points-of-view:

Captive Histories:  English, French and Native Narratives of the 1704 Deerfield Raid

For curious residents or history buffs, read all about the above topics and more in the storied history of the state:  It Happened in Massachusetts by Larry B. Pletcher, with contributions from Daniel Spinella.

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* From Chase’s Calendar of Events, 2016


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