Abigail (Dane) Faulkner

Convicted in the Salem Witch Trials

Salem Witch Trial
Salem Witch Trial - Disorder in the Court. Douglas Grundy / Three Lions / Getty Images

Abigail Dane Faulkner Facts

Known for: convicted and sentenced but never executed in the 1692 Salem witch trials; her pregnancy led to her sentence being suspended
Occupation: “goodwife” - homemaker
Age at time of Salem witch trials: 
Dates: October 13, 1652 – February 5, 1730
Also known as: Abigail Faulkner Sr., Abigail Faulkner, Dane was also spelled Dean or Deane, Faulkner was also spelled Forknor or Falkner

Family, Background:

Mother: Elizabeth Ingalls

Father: Rev. Francis Dane (1651 – 1732), son of Edmund Faulkner and Dorothy Raymond

Husband: Francis Faulkner (Lieutenant), from another prominent Andover family, married October 12, 1675

Siblings: Hannah Dane (1636 – 1642), Albert Dane (1636 – 1642), Mary Clark Dane Chandler (1638 – 1679, 7 children, 5 alive in 1692), Elizabeth Dane Johnson (1641 – 1722), Francis Dane (1642 – before 1656), Nathaniel Dane (1645 – 1725, married to Deliverance Dane), Albert Dane (1645 - ?), Hannah Dane Goodhue (1648 – 1712), Phebe Dane Robinson (1650 – 1726)

Children:

  • Elizabeth, 1676 - 1678
  • Elizabeth, 1678 - 1735, married John Burtrick
  • Paul, 1680 – 1749, married Sarah Lamson and Hannah Sheffield
  • Dorothy, 1680 - 1740, married Samuel Nurse
  • Abigail, 1683 - 1746, married Thomas Lamson
  • Frances, 1686 - 1736, married Daniel Faulkner
  • Edmund, 1688 - 1731, married Elizabeth Marston, then Dorcas Buckston, then Dorothy Robinson
  • Ammi Ruhamah (“my people have obtained mercy”), March 20, 1693 - 1756, married Hannah Ingalls

Her grandson Francis Faulkner fought in the Battle of Concord during the American Revolution, and was in charge of the regiment guarding prisoner of war General John Burgoyne.

Abigail Dane Faulkner Before the Salem Witch Trials

Francis Faulkner’s father in 1675 bequeathed his estate to his eldest son, Francis, the same year that Francis and Abigail married, when Abigail was 23 years old.

The father died in 1687, and Francis inherited most of the rest of the estate, with only a small portion given to his sisters and brothers.  Thus Francis and Abigail were quite wealthy while young, and possibly envied by neighbors.

Soon after his father died in 1687, Francis became very ill. He was afflicted with convulsions and mental symptoms affecting memory, leaving him often confused.  Abigail, then in her mid-30s, was therefore in control of the land, property and operation of the family farm.

Abigail’s father had been the Andover minister for over 40 years when the trials began.  He had spoken against the likelihood of another charge of witchcraft in 1658. In the 1680s, he had successfully sued Andover residents in a salary dispute.

Abigail Dane Faulkner and the Salem Witch Trials

Rev. Dane is said to have criticized the witch accusations early in the proceedings in 1692.  This may have put his family members at risk.

On August 10, Abigail Faulkner’s niece, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., was arrested and confessed. In her confession the next day, she mentioned using a poppet to afflict others.  

Abigail was then arrested on August 11 and taken to Salem. She was examined by Jonathan Corwin, John Hathorne and Captain John Higginson.

She was accused by Ann Putnam, Mary Warren and others. William Barker Sr. also accused Abigail and her sister, Elizabeth Johnson Sr., of enticing him to sign the devil’s book; he had named George Burroughs as the ringleader. George Burroughs was among those hanged on August 19.  Abigail refused to confess, saying the devil must be afflicting the girls, who reacted with fits when she was examined.

On August 29, an arrest warrant was issued for Elizabeth Johnson Sr., Abigail’s sister, and Elizabeth’s daughter Abigail Johnson, eleven. Elizabeth’s son Stephen (14) may also have been arrested at that time.

On August 30, Abigail Faulkner Sr. was examined in prison. She admitted to having had ill will towards the crowd of neighbors who taunted her niece, Elizabeth Johnson Jr., when she was arrested.

The next day her sister Elizabeth was examined. She asserted that Abigail, who was also in court, would tear her to pieces if she confessed.  Elizabeth Sr. accused several others as witches as well, including saying that she was afraid that her son Stephen was also a witch.

On August 31, both sisters, Abigail Faulkner and Elizabeth Johnson, confessed, including to have inflicted Martha Sprague. Abigail and her son both described a gathering where they were baptized by the devil.  Rebecca Eames was also examined, a second time, and implicated Abigail Faulkner among others.

Abigail’s nephew Stephen was examined on September 1; he confessed.

Somewhere around September 8, two of the afflicted girls were called to Andover to determine the cause of an illness afflicting Joseph Ballard and his wife.  Neighbors were tested by blindfolding them and placing their hands on the afflicted persons; Deliverance Dane, a sister-in-law of Abigail Faulkner married to her brother Nathaniel Dane, was among those arrested and taken to Salem, where they confessed under pressure, still in shock at their arrest.  When they tried to recant, they were reminded that Samuel Wardwell had renounced his confession of September 1 and was later in September convicted and condemned to be executed.  A fragment of a record about Deliverance Dane’s confession is all the record that can be found of this; that confession under examination was on September 8.

On September 16, Abigail Dane Faulkner’s daughter, Abigail Faulkner Jr., age nine, was accused. She and her sister Dorothy, twelve, were examined and confessed.  They stated that their mother had brought them to witchcraft, and named others: “thire mother apared and mayd them witches and also marth [a] Tyler Johanah Tyler: and Sarih Willson and Joseph draper all acknowlidge that they ware lead into that dradfull sin of witchcrift by hir meanse.”

The next day, September 17, the court convicted Abigail Dane Faulkner, along with Rebecca Eames, Ann Foster, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Lacey, Mary Parker, Wilmott Redd, Margaret Scott and Samuel Wardwell, and they were condemned to be executed.

On September 18, Ann Putnam testified to being afflicted by Abigail Faulkner Sr. on August 9.  A jury found Abigail guilty of afflicting Martha Sprague and Sarah Phelps, and condemned her to execution.  Abigail was pregnant, so the sentence was delayed.

Martha CoreyMary Easty, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmott Redd, Margaret Scott and Samuel Wardwell were hanged for witchcraft on September 22. It was the last hanging in the Salem witch trials. The Court of Oyer and Terminer stopped meeting.

Abigail Faulkner Sr. After the Trials

Dorothy Faulkner and Abigail Faulkner Jr. were released on recognizance on October 6 to the care of John Osgood Sr. and Nathaniel Dane, Abigail Dane Faulkner’s brother.  On the same date, Stephen Johnson, Abigail Johnson and Sarah Carrier were released.  Each release cost 500 pounds.

On October 18, 25 citizens, including Rev. Francis Dane, wrote a letter condemning the trials, addressed to the governor and the General Court.

Abigail Dane Faulkner petitioned the governor for clemency in October.  He had her released her from prison.  She claimed that her husband’s illness and gotten worse and that no one could watch their children.

In early January, Abigail’s father, the Rev. Francis Dane, wrote to fellow ministers that, knowing the people of Andover where he served as senior minister, "I believe many innocent persons have been accused and imprisoned." He denounced the use of spectral evidence.

A similar missive signed by 41 men and 12 women of Andover was sent to the Salem court. Several of Rev. Dane's family had been accused and imprisoned, including two daughters, a daughter-in-law and several grandchildren. Two of his family members, his daughter Abigail Faulkner and his granddaughter Elizabeth Johnson, Jr., had been sentenced to death.

Another undated petition to the Salem court of Assize, probably from January, is on record from more than 50 Andover “neighbors” on behalf of Mary Osgood, Eunice Fry, Deliverance Dane, Sarah Wilson Sr. and Abigail Barker, asserting their innocence, good character and piety, and protesting the pressure placed on them to confess.

A petition dated March 18 was submitted by residents of Andover, Salem Village and Topsfield on behalf of Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easty, Abigail Faulkner, Mary Parker, John and Elizabeth Proctor, Elizabeth How and Samuel and Sarah Wardwell – all but Abigail Faulkner, Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Wardwell had been executed – asking the court to exonerate them for the sake of their relatives and descendants.  Among those who signed were Francis and Abigail Faulkner and Nathaniel and Francis Dane (see timeline for the complete list of signers).

On March 20, 1693, Abigail gave birth to her last child, and named him Ammi Ruhamah, meaning “my people have obtained mercy,” in honor of her release from her conviction and escape from execution.

In 1700, Abigail’s daughter, Abigail Faulkner Jr., asked the Massachusetts General Court to reverse her conviction.  In March of 1703 (then called 1702), residents of Andover, Salem Village and Topsfield petitioned on behalf of Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easty, Abigail Faulkner, Mary Parker, John and Elizabeth Proctor, Elizabeth How and Samuel and Sarah Wardwell – all but Abigail Faulkner, Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Wardwell had been executed – asking the court to exonerate them for the sake of their relatives and descendants.

In June of 1703, Abigail Faulkner petitioned the court in Massachusetts to exonerate her of the charge of witchcraft. The court agreed, ruling that spectral evidence could no longer be considered, and ruled that a bill of attainder be drawn up to reverse her conviction.  In May of 1709, Francis Faulkner joined with Philip English and others to submit yet another petition on behalf of themselves and their relatives, to the Governor and the General Assembly of Massachusetts Bay Province, asking for reconsideration and remuneration.  (Given Francis’ illness, it is possible that Abigail Faulkner actually arranged his participation.)

1711: The legislature of the Province of Massachusetts Bay restored all rights to those who had been accused in the 1692 witch trials. Included were Abigail Faulkner, George Burroughs, John Proctor, George Jacob, John Willard, Giles and Martha CoreyRebecca NurseSarah Good, Elizabeth How, Mary Easty, Sarah Wilds, Abigail Hobbs, Samuel Wardell, Mary Parker, Martha Carrier, Anne Foster, Rebecca Eames, Mary Post, Mary Lacey, Mary Bradbury and Dorcas Hoar.

Motives

Motives for accusing Abigail Faulkner could include her position of wealth and the fact that, as a woman, she had unusual control over property and wealth.  Motives could also include her father’s known critical attitude towards the trials; in all, he had two daughters, a daughter-in-law and five grandchildren caught up in the accusations and trails.

Abigail Dane Faulkner in The Crucible

Abigail and the rest of the Andover Dane extended family are not characters in Arthur Miller’s play about the Salem witch trials, The Crucible.

Abigail Dane Faulkner in Salem, 2014 series

Abigail and the rest of the Andover Dane extended family are not characters in the Salem TV series.