Updated: Jul 5
House of Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts, October 2004
I found Lidia Wardell through her brother-in-law, Samuel Wardwell, the younger brother of her husband (don't be too concerned with the spelling differences now, I'll probably tackle that in another post). My daughter was studying the Salem Witch Trials in school, and I was helping her to connecting our own family history. My novel, The Rose and the Whip, is concerned exclusively with Lidia's strength, courage and faith in the face of troubling hypocrisy, greed, and cruelty; but it's worth pointing out that these qualities weren't exclusive to Lidia. In my book, I present a little of her father's background that came to play a part in her reaction to the Puritan's treatment of the Quakers in the mid-1660s Massachusetts Bay Colony, and I show how her relationship with Eliakim had a direct and positive impact on her own personal growth and her ability to weather her own storm with dignity and grace. But I've saved Eliakim's background, and the impact on his younger brother's life for another tale.
As part of her project, and what was rapidly becoming my project, I treated her to a long weekend in Salem, MA where we visited Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables. In his novel of the same name, Hawthorne modeled his characters and storyline after his own ancestors. In a nutshell (because I want you to read, or re-read the book, with this knowledge in hand), Colonel Pyncheon was responsible for the execution of Mathew Maule on the basis of witchcraft. Colonel Pyncheon was meant to represent Magistrate John Hathorne, son of Major William Hathorne, who presided over the conviction of Samuel Wardwell (represented by Mathew Maule) in 1692. Wardwell was one of the few men, and one of the last, to be executed there as a witch.
And, where does Major WIlliam Hathorne come into all this . . . while I can't say he had any specific involvement with Lidia, though I've given him a role in the book, he was heavily involved with the actions against her sisters in courage and he was likely present for some of the actions taken against Eliakim which finally served to push the Wardell's from their community.
I guess my point is there are strange and interesting connections between people, historical and fictional, and the people who have survived history are the ones we can either love or hate, on those extremes. But the stories behind other people can be just as compelling. Lidia Wardell survived history for a single act of outrageous and audacious behavior, but that one act really can't be understood without the context of her life. Samuel Wardwell has an equally interesting tale to tell.
For more on how I came to write The Rose and the Whip, see my interview for the American Historical Novels website starting on 17 May 2020 at https://www.facebook.com/groups/AmericanHistoricalFictionBookClub/?post_id=624976654759801 (with daily posts running through 22 May).