New England's Witches and Wizards

The Salem Witch Trials Reader

The First New England Witch, continued

He travelled much; and one day in a sunny English year came to the town of his great-grandfather's nativity. There he chanced to meet Mary Morse. The beautiful girl fascinated him, but would not consent to be his wife until all of his "wild oats" were sown. Then she became Mrs. Cromwell, and was a happy wife, as well as a lady of eminence and wealth. Oliver and Mary Cromwell had a daughter Olivia, who married a Mr. Russell, and whose daughters are the present sole representatives of the Protectorate family.

As was said above, William, Anthony, and Robert Morse, brothers of Samuel, Jr., emigrated to America, and became the ancestors of nearly all of their name in this country. William and Anthony settled at Newbury, Massachusetts. The latter became a respected citizen, and among his descendants were such men as Rev. Dr. James Morse of Newburyport, Samuel Finley Breese Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, Rev. Sidney Edwards Morse, and others scarcely less notable.

Robert Morse, Anthony's brother, left England at about the time of the beginning of the civil war, and located in Boston as a tailor. He was a sterling old Puritan, prudent, enterprising and of strict morality. He speculated in real estate, and after a while removed to Elizabethtown, New Jersey, which place he helped to settle, and where he amassed much wealth. He had nine children. Among his descendants were some men of eminence, as Dr. Isaac Morse of Elizabethtown, Honorable Nathan Morse of New Orleans, Isaac E. Morse, long a member of Congress from Louisiana, Judge Morse of Ohio, and others.

None of these sons of Samuel, the mate of Cromwell, were great men themselves, but were notable in their descendants. Samuel's descendant came to represent a historical family; Anthony's greatest descendant invented the telegraph; and the descendants of Robert were noble Sonthrons. William alone of the five brothers had notoriety. Samuel, Jr., was more eminent, but William made a mark in Massachusetts' history. Settling in the town of Newbury, William Morse led an humble and monotonous life. When he had lived there more than forty years, and had come to be an old and infirm man, he was made to figure unhappily in the first legal investigation of New England witchcraft. This was in 1679-81, or more than ten years before the Salem witchcraft, and it constitutes a page of hitherto unpublished Massachusetts history. Mr. and Mrs. Morse resided in a plain, wooden house that still stands at the head of Market Street, in what is now Newburyport. William had been a farmer, but his sons had now taken the homestead, and he was supporting himself and wife by shoe-making. His age was almost three-score-years-and-ten, and he was a reputably worthy man, then just in the early years of his dotage. His wife, the "goody Elizabeth," was a Newbury woman, and apparently some few years her husband's senior.

I can easily imagine the worthy couple there in the old square room of a winter's night. On one side of the fire-place sits the old man in his hard arm-chair, his hands folded, and his spectacles awry, as he sonorously snores away the time. Opposite him sits the old lady, a little, toothless dame, with

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