Martha Corey, the third wife of Giles Corey, hung as a witch at Salem in 1692 is commonly said to be Martha Pennoyer, the daughter of Robert Pennoyer of Stamford, who married Henry Rich in 1680. But this identification breaks down quickly when the few available source records are consulted.
Giles Corey did have three wives; that much is certain.
In 1650 a birth for a daughter of Giles Corey and Margaret, his wife is recorded in Salem.
Deliverance Coree, d. Giles and Margaret, 5: 6 m: 1658 CT.R.
Also recorded is a marriage for Giles and his second wife, Mary Brite.
Giles Coree and Mary Brite, Apr. 11, 1664 CT.R.
Mary Brite died in 1684. Her death is recorded in Salem as well.
Mary, w. Giles, Aug. 27, 1684, a 63 y GR 1
There is no marriage on record for Martha Corey, the third wife of Giles Corey - but an entry in the Salem Village church records in 1690 mentions Martha Kory, taken into the church in that year.
"Sister Martha Kory taken into the Church. 27. April. 1690. was after Examination upon suspicion of Witchcraft. 21. March. 1691-2 committed to Prison for that Fact, & was condemned to the Gallows for the same yesterday :"
Giles Corey is said to have been 80 years old when he himself was pressed to death for witchcraft in Salem. This is probably about the right age, because in a court document in Salem in June 1672 his age is given as "about fifty-five years." This would actually make him about 75 years old in 1692. At any rate, he was an old man at his death.
We might now pause to consider whether a 28 year old woman such as Martha Pennoyer of Stamford would have been married to such an elderly man. Martha was born in Stamford, Ct. in 1664.
Martha Pennoyer, d. Robert, b. Sept. 26, 1664 (Stamford Registrations).
Martha Corey, third wife of Giles, is also said to be the widow of Henry Rich. This is based largely on court testimoney of her son, Thomas Rich, who in 1723 petitioned the court in Salem for damages resulting from the death of his mother in the witchcraft trials of 1692. In the document he is called "Thomas Rich of Salem, only surviving child of Martha Corey, alias Martha Rich, deceased." (see "Truro--Cape Cod, or, Land marks and sea marks" by
Shebnah Rich, 1883).
This Thomas Rich may be the Thomas Kory, son of a sister Corey, baptised in Salem in May 1690, just a few days after Martha Corey joined the Salem Village Church.
Kory, Thomas, s. "Sister", bp. May 4, 1690, C.R. 2
There is more disquieting information about Martha Corey in the Salem Court Records. Martha (Rich) Corey had a mulatto son (whether legitmate or not is unknown). According to the testimony of two neighbors, who said they had known him since he was one month old, he was "above 22 years old" in 1699, or born in about 1677.
The Essex Antiquarian
Essex Co. Registry of deeds,
Book 13, leaf 208
Giles Corey's Wife
George Hacker & Bethiah his wife both
of full age Testfie & Say that being near
neighbours to mr. John Clifford late of
Salem Deceased & having Oportunity
therefore to know Something relating to a
Malatto man named Benjamin or Benoni
doe Testifie that ye reputed Mother of said
Malatto was an English woman & afterwards
became ye wife of Giles Corey
Deced. & that ye said Mother lived a considerable
time with ye Said Clifford towards bringing up
ye said Malatto her Sonn & that he is now above Twenty Two
years of age & that they have knowne him from about a
George H. Hacker (his mark)
Att a generall Sessions of ye peace holden at
Salem December ye 26th 1699 George Hacker & Bethiah Hacker made oath to ye above writen and oe Ezplaine thier meaning as to ye Swearing she was an Englishwoman that is that she was a white woman & Spake English well & was accounted an English woman by her neighbours & married as such as above sd:
Sworne in Court as abovesd.
attest Steph Sewall
At this point any possible identification of Martha Corey with Martha Pennoyer of Stamford begins breaking down completely, because in 1677 Martha Pennoyer would have been 13 years old; and according to the testimony of her neighbors, must have been living in Salem at the time of the birth of her mulatto child. Martha apparently had been living with the John Clifford family of Salem at the time, which is how the deponents came to know her.
There are also some questions about Martha Corey's supposed marriage to a Henry Rich. No such marriage is recorded in Salem, although a Henry Rich does appear in the Salem court records from 1575-1677. In one record his age is given as "about 22 years" (20 Apr. 1677) or born about 1675. After 1677 Henry Rich disappears from the Salem records and no mention of him may be found in later documents.
If we now turn to Stamford records, we find that the first record of a Henry Rich in that location occurs in 1680 with his marriage to Martha Pennoyer. Was he the same Henry Rich previously in Salem? Interestingly Martha Pennoyer's legal guardians objected to this marriage, no doubt because Martha was only 16 years old at the time. They eventually relented and the marriage took place in Stamford. But now we must try and reconcile the birth of a mulatto child in Salem in about 1677 to Martha (Rich) Corey with the initial refusal of Martha Pennoyer's legal guardians to allow her to marry Henry Rich in Stamford in 1680. This is frankly quite impossible.
To believe that Martha Pennoyer was Martha Corey, we would have to assume she left her family in Stamford by the age of 13 and moved to Salem (presumably by herself) where she had a mulatto child (probably illegitimate), then a few years later moved back to Stamford, where she married Henry Rich, in opposition to the wishes of her legal guardians. The fact that she even had legal guardians (her father and mother being deceased) who objected to a marriage at a very young age would seem proof enough Martha Pennoyer did not bear a mulatto child prior to this marriage to Henry Rich in Salem.
History of Stamford, Connecticut
Rev. E.B. Huntington, A.M.
Rich, Henry, purchases of Caleb Webb land 1681, and of Samuel Webb his home lot on the west sie of Mill river, in the "Ox pasture pasture so called." In '80, on publishing his
intention of marrige with Marhta Penoyer, a minor, her guardian objected. They, however, drew up articles of agreement themsleves and the parties to be married, on signing which "with witnesses, legally, then ye overseers do so for consent yt ye partys may proceed in marriage; ye 20th of December, 1680." Both "Nennery" and Martha, sign the bond with their marks. In '85, this Henry Rich mortgages his land and house lot on Horseneck, to secure Thomas Penoyer of Stamford, having sold his real estate in Stamford in '84.
In addition there are records in Greenwich which indicate Henry Rich lived until at least 1708, if not longer.
RITCH, HENRY, May 19, 1686, granted three acres of land..
A history of the town of Greenwich,
Fairfield County, Conn. : with many
New York: Baker & Godwin, Printers,
Greenwich town list 1694-1695
RICH, Henry 39 10 0
HAIGHT, JOHN, 1707, bought land of Henry RICH.
Mar. 18, 1708
[list of inhabitants of Greenwich opposed to granting
mill rights to a Mr. Morgan]
If Henry Rich was still living in 1707 then obviously Martha Corey of Stamford could not have been his widow in 1692 when she was hung for witchcraft in Salem.
There are no estate records for this Henry Rich in Fairfield Co., CT., so we do not know exactly when he died. And he may have had a son named Henry Rich (who appears in estate records in 1776), which complicates the identification of possible Henry Riches in Greenwich records. But all of the above records of a Henry Rich in Greenwich, CT. appear to belong to the Henry Rich who married Martha Pennoyer of Stamford.
There is also a curious estate record in Fairfield Co.
Rich, Martha, late Martha Pennoyer of Greenwich, Feb. 16, 1774, letters of administration on her estate granted to Samuel Pennoyer of Stamford, page 88.
If this is the Martha Pennoyer who married Henry Rich at Stamford in 1680 then she must have been a very old woman when she died in 1774 (110 years old?). If it is not our Martha Pennoyer, then I do not know who it could be; there aren't any other Martha Pennoyers who married a man named Rich on record in Greenwich, CT.
Be this as it may, this estate record really isn't needed to conclude that Martha Pennoyer of Stamford, the daughter of Robert Pennoyer, was not Martha (Rich) Corey of Salem, MA., hung for witchcraft in 1692. There is plenty of other evidence to establish this fact.
Who was the Henry Rich that Martha Pennoyer married in Stamford? Was he the same Henry Rich appearing earlier in Salem court records? Were there two Henry Riches, one who married Martha Pennoyer, and another who married Martha, third wife of Giles Corey of Salem? Was the Martha in Salem really a Pennoyer at all?
Shebnah Rich, in his "Truro--Cape Cod, or, Land marks and sea marks", 1883, had the following to say about Martha Corey.
"My first knowledge of the name in America occurs in the
following Salem notice: "Obadiah Rich married Bethiah
Williams, 1667." In 1668 he was a signer of the petition
against imports as an inhabitant of Salem. In Judge Sewell's
interleaved almanac diary, March 31, 1675, occurs: "No lecture, because Mr. Rich from home." Perhaps the sa Obadiah In 1678, his widow Bethiah administrated on a large
estate. In 1684, Henry Rich m. Martha Panon. This is the
celebrated Martha Corey, alias Martha Rich imortalized by
This same story about a Martha Panon is repeated in two later Rich family histories by a George Rich of Ohio. Panon is an obscure and unusual family name and Shebnah unfortunately neglected to inform us of his source for this statement. But it is immediately obvious he did not get his information from the marriage record of Martha Pennoyer and Henry Rich in the Stamford Registrations. The year is completely wrong (1684).
This entry from Shebnah Rich's history probably gives us a clue as to how Martha Pennoyer became wrongly associated with Martha Corey of the Salem witchcraft trials. Some researcher probably knew of the entry for Martha Pennoyer and Henry Rich in the Stamford Registrations and was also aware of this statement about a Henry Rich and Martha Panon by Shebnah Rich in his Cape Cod history. The researcher probably then deduced that Panon was a mistake for Pennoyer or Penoir - and the deed was done. Poor Martha Pennoyer is now linked in the public imagination with the somewhat disreputable Martha (Rich) Corey of Salem witchcraft fame. If she's not rolling over in her grave then she should be - this was shoddy work - guesswork genealogy at its worse. Perhaps it's time to set the record straight.