As we head into fall weather, what better time to poke around the fevered swamps of New Hampshire looking for Pearson forebears? Especially when – count them – FOUR of our Pearson ancestors were murdered in said swamps within three years and six miles of each other.
In June 1689, Isabella Craddock Holdridge was murdered by “Negro Jack” in the Mast Swamp of Exeter, New Hampshire. Negro Jack was hanged in Boston the following year. There is no explanation put forward for her murder, but Mrs. Holdridge seems to have been less than charming. In 1659, in Salem, she was the principal witness in the first witchcraft trial against John Godfrey of Andover, Massachusetts, who endured three trials in all. It seemed she owed Godfrey money. Two days after Godfrey appeared at their house demanding payment, she testified that she was tormented with shape-changing animals: a bumblebee, a bear, a great horse, a black ox, and a black cat three times as big as an ordinary cat. Clearly he was practicing sorcery. (Godfrey was acquitted.) The Mast Swamp no longer appears on maps, but it was said to lie where “Exeter, Stratham, and Hampton come together.” In a deed of 25 Aug 1710, James Sinkler sold to James Dudley a piece of land in Exeter “nigh a way that formerly went into the Mast Swamp nigh where Goodwife Holdrig was killed.” Isabella Holdridge was our 9G grandmother. [...]