Sarah Good

Sarah Good was the daughter of a prosperous Wenham innkeeper, John Solart. Solart took his own life in 1672 when Sarah was 17, leaving an estate of 500 pounds after debt. After testimony of an oral will, the estate was divided between his widow and her two eldest sons, with a portion to be paid to each of the seven daughters when they came of age. However, Mrs. Solart quickly remarried, her new husband came into possession of her share and the unpaid shares of the daughters, and as a result, most of the daughters never received a portion of the Solart estate.

Sarah married a former indentured servant, Daniel Poole. Poole died sometime after 1682, leaving Sarah only debts, which some sources credit her with creating for Poole. Regardless of the cause of the debt, Sarah and her second husband, William Good, were held responsible for paying it. A portion of their land was seized and sold to satisfy their creditors, and shortly thereafter they sold the rest of their land, apparently out of dire necessity. By the time of the trials, Sarah and her husband were homeless, destitute and she was reduced to begging for work, food, and shelter from her neighbors.

Good was one of the first three women to be brought in at Salem on the charge of witchcraft, after having been identified as a witch by Tituba. She fit the prevailing stereotype of the malefic witch quite well. Good's habit of scolding and cursing neighbors who were unresponsive to her requests for charity generated a wealth of testimony at her trials. At least seven people testified as to her angry muttering and general turbulence after the refusal of charity. Particularly damaging to her case, was her accusation by her daughter. Four- year-old Dorcas Good (Sarah's only child) was arrested on March 23, gave a confession, and in so doing implicated her mother as a witch. At the time of her trial, Good was described as "a forlorn, friendless, and forsaken creature, broken down by wretchedness of condition and ill-repute." She has been called "an object for compassion rather than punishment."

The proceedings against Good were described as "cruel, and shameful to the highest degree." This remark must have been due in part to the fact that some of the spectral evidence against Good was known to be false at the time of her examination. During the trial, one of the afflicted girls cried out that she was being stabbed with a knife by the apparition of Good. Upon examination, a broken knife was found on the girl. However, as soon as it was shown to the court, a young man came forward with the other part of the knife, stated that he had broken it yesterday and had discarded it in the presence of the afflicted girls. Although the girl was reprimanded and warned not to lie again, the known falsehood had no effect on Good's trial. She was presumed guilty from the start. It has been said that "there was no one in the country around against whom popular suspicion could have been more readily directed, or in whose favor and defense less interest could be awakened."

Good was executed on July 19. She failed to yield to judicial pressure to confess, and showed no remorse at her execution. In fact, in response to an attempt by Minister Nicholas Noyes to elicit a confession, Good called out from the scaffolding, "You are a liar. I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink." Her curse seems to have come true. Noyes died of internal hemorrhage, bleeding profusely at the mouth. Despite the seemingly effectiveness of her curse, it likely just further convinced the crowds of her guilt.

Although he clearly deserved nothing, since he was an adverse witness against his wife and did what he could to stir up the prosecution against her, William Good was given one of the larger sums of compensation from the government in 1711. He did not swear she was a witch, but what he did say tended to prejudice the magistrates and public against her. The reason for his large settlement was his connections with the Putnam family. Although Good's daughter was released from prison after the trials, William Good claimed she was permanently damaged from her stay in chains in the prison, and that she was never useful for anything. --KS