Martha Corliss was born in Haverhill in 1652. She and Samuel were married in 1674 and remained in Haverhill, Massachusetts, where they had ten children.
Samuel was a leader in the Haverhill militia company that fought in the Narragansett campaign in King Philip’s War (1675-76). Not long after he returned from King Philip’s War, Samuel found himself in controversy. He and Edward Baggott apparently were drinking together. Just after nightfall they went to the home of Francis Thurlow, went to the room of Francis Thurlow’s fourteen-year-old daughter, and told her to come with them. When her parents arose and tried to enter the room, Samuel jumped out the back window. Samuel was found guilty of a misdemeanor.
Ten years later Samuel was back in controversy, with a young woman named Elizabeth Emerson, who was from a somewhat troubled family. When she was only 11, her father Michael had been censured following charges of beating her excessively. Later, Elizabeth’s sister Mary had been whipped for “fornication” with her soon-to-be husband before their marriage.
In April 1686, 21-year-old Elizabeth, who was not married, had a baby daughter, Dorothy. After this, the Emerson house was marked as a “wicked” one. The neighbors’ suspicion was further aroused in the spring of 1691, when Elizabeth (still living with her parents) stopped leaving the house. On May 10, 1691, a committee of townspeople came to the house with a warrant based on the suspicion she once again was pregnant. Elizabeth was required to submit to a physical examination by the midwife, who attested she had recently given birth.
The men in the party discovered a fresh patch of dirt in the yard and dug up two dead infant boys, buried in a shallow grave. Elizabeth was immediately arrested. She confessed that she had given birth but that the babies were stillborn. According to Elizabeth’s statement, she had delivered without assistance and placed the dead babies in a trunk, then waited until her parents were gone to bury them. Her mother said she suspected pregnancy, but Elizabeth had always denied it.
Elizabeth was adamant throughout her trial and confinement that Samuel Ladd was her twins’ father and the father of her daughter Dorothy. She insisted Samuel Ladd was the only man she ever slept with. Her parents backed her story. Again, though, Samuel Ladd never was questioned in the matter. Interestingly, his wife Martha Corliss Ladd also was pregnant when Elizabeth gave birth to the twins.
Thus, Samuel Ladd had three more children with Elizabeth Emerson:
In September 1691, Elizabeth Emerson was found guilty. Some sources say the charge was murder; others say she was convicted of concealing the death of her "bastard children" (as opposed to actually killing them). Either was a capital crime and she was sentenced to hang. She first was in prison for two years, “ministered” by Cotton Mather. This was during the height of the Salem witch hysteria, and many suspected witches were in the same prison.
On June 8, 1693, before a large crowd assembled on Boston Common, Mather preached what he later called one of his “finest sermons,” using Elizabeth as a cautionary tale about lack of chastity.
Samuel Ladd went unmentioned and unpunished. About six weeks after Elizabeth’s execution, in fact, Samuel Ladd’s father Daniel died and he received a large inheritance.
Samuel and Joanna had one more child in 1697, and Samuel died less than a year later. He had gone out to gather some hay with his oldest son Daniel as well as Jonathan Haynes and his son Joseph. They were ambushed by Indians, who killed both Samuel Ladd and Jonathan Haynes with an ax. Some sources say both Daniel and Joseph were taken prisoner; another says Daniel escaped by horse, and was captured in another incident. Asked later why they killed Samuel Ladd, the Indians said because "he so sour."
Samuel died on February 22, 1698.
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