Friday, April 30, 2010

Physick Books and Family History

By the time I was 100 pages in to The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, it had brought to mind that I have an ancestress, Elizabeth Emerson, who was hung on Boston Common around the time of the Salem Witch hysteria. You know, one of those, "Oh, I should really learn more about her" ancestors. It wasn't until I paid a visit to the Haverhill Historic Society last summer that I even learned of Elizabeth's existence--it's her sister, Hannah Emerson Duston, who is relatively famous, and it was the legend of Hannah that brought us to Haverhill in the first place.
Tuesday night, I set down Deliverance Dane and picked up an old copy of the Emerson genealogy. I verified Elizabeth's name and entered it into Google--not really expecting anything at all, but thinking that was a starting point. Was I wrong! Elizabeth is infamous! She was hung in June 1693, three days after Cotton Mather delivered a sermon about her...Although she was not hung for witchcraft, she was presumably held with all those women from Salem who were. Elizabeth's crime was allegedly infanticide, and--a crime I was unaware even existed--whoredom.
The best summary I've been able to find of Elizabeth's life is here:
Tonight I finished the book. I also discovered that Elizabeth's first cousin, Joseph, was married to a woman who was tried and hung as a witch in the Salem-area hysteria of 1692. Rest in peace, Elizabeth and Martha Emerson. The rest of you--read this great book!

April 2010 Summary:
  1. The Hole We're In (Gabrielle Zevin)
  2. An Expert in Murder (Nicola Upson)
  3. Garden Spells (Sarah Addison Allen)
  4. Henry's Sisters (Cathy Lamb)
  5. Tales from Outer Suburbia (Shaun Tan)
  6. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (Katherine Howe)

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