Capt. James Purrington, a respected
citizen of Bowdoinham, moved his family to the Ballard neighborhood of
Augusta in August of 1805. The reason has been forgotten. Through the
following winter and spring, the family integrated into the neighborhood,
appearing now and then at the Ballard house.
In July of 1806, the neighborhood
was shocked by the murder of Mrs. Purrington and her six children. The
murderer was the husband and father, Capt. Purrington, who then killed
himself. One Purrington daughter, Martha, lingered with injuries for three
weeks before dying at Jonathan Ballard's house. One Purrington son, James,
escaped and survived with minor injuries.
Martha Ballard prepared the
bodies for burial and helped some with Martha Purrington's care. She and
the townspeople attended the funerals. Surviving Purrington family members
-- son James, brother Hezekiah -- boarded at the Ballard house after the
murders while they attended to the family's affairs.
What was the reason for the
murders -- a suicide gone bad? An abusive father? Religious confusion?
Personal anguish? No one knows for sure.
Both the film A Midwife's
Tale and chapter nine of the book A Midwife's Tale deal with
the Purrinton murders.