Visitors whose ancestors were involved in the Salem witch trials often ask us to point their investigations in the right direction. There are online ancestry resources, document transcripts and historic narratives that can provide clues and details of their families’ lives.
Research uncovers so many captivating human stories. In this case Peter helps a descendent of Sarah Basset:
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By Peter Murphy
Sarah Hood Bassett was born in August of 1657 in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts to Richard Hood and Mary Newhall. In her eighteenth year, on October 25, 1675 she married William Bassett, Jr., who was the brother of Elizabeth Bassett Proctor, wife of John Proctor. Both John and Elizabeth Proctor were accused and tried for witchcraft; John was hanged on August 19th, 1692, whereas Elizabeth escaped persecution due to her pregnancy. Their daughter, Sarah Proctor, was also accused of witchcraft at age 16 on the same day as her aunt Sarah Bassett. Thomas Putnam and John Putnam, Jr. issued this complaint on May 21, 1692, exactly one month after the examination of Mary Warren (John and Elizabeth Proctor’s hired girl) who claimed Elizabeth Proctor administered an ointment to her which she received from “Mrs. Bassits of Linn.”
Only two days after the Putnam’s complaint against Sarah Basset she was brought to jail in Boston on May 23, 1692, where she remained until her release on December 3, 1692. One month after her release another indictment was issued for afflicting Mary Walcott, but was returned “ignoramus,” meaning the charges were ignored due to lack of evidence.
Not long after the ordeal was over, Sarah gave birth to a daughter whom she named Deliverance as an ode to her freedom. Sarah Bassett died at age 64 in 1721.
While no burial record exists, I have theorized that she may be buried in the Western Burial Ground in Lynn, Massachusetts. This was the only operational burial ground in the town at the time of her death with the exception of a Lynnfield burial ground opened in 1720, but where the oldest inscription dates only back to 1723. Further evidence that may lend itself to my hypothesis is the fact that Lynn’s Western Burial Ground contains 19th Century graves sporting Sarah’s married name – Bassett – and her mother’s maiden name – Newhall.
Ancestry.com Connection between Proctor and Nurse Families
New England Historic Genealogical Society Hunting for Salem “Witches” in Your Family Tree
Records of the Salem Witch Hunt , Bernard Rosenthal General Editor
The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, Marilynne K. Roach
We have the privilege of working closely with historian Marilynne Roach on many projects. She answers nuanced questions about the Salem witch trials, helping our staff interpret the underpinnings of the events, and is a perpetual inspiration in understanding what can be learned from Essex County’s 1692 experience.
If you don’t yet own a copy of The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, now is your chance to get one of 20 remaining signed copies of the book.
In our shop or online, while supplies last!
If you follow our blog you know how much we love local arts and artisans. We do our part to sustain North Shore crafters by providing marketing and financial support to the creative community and by carrying their work in our museum store. We proudly sponsor events like the Salem Film Fest, Mass Poetry Festival, and Salem Literary Fest just to name a few.
When visitors from distant places come to Salem, naturally they want to take a bit of their individual experience back home with them. Local art is not only a means for our neighbors to live creative, compassionate lives, but items traveling back to visitors’ homelands spreads our culture and shares the flavor of our area. So when an artisan like Marblehead resident Dorothy Arthur of Dot’s Pots infuses a beautiful piece of functional art with architectural essence – such as her lanterns of prominent windows – the connection between place and the visitor is steeped even stronger.
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From MAA newsletter :
The Marblehead Arts Association- Call for Works
Fine Art of Craft
March 16 – April 21
To see craft is to enter a world of wonderful things which can be challenging, beautiful, sometimes useful, tactile, artistic and extraordinary – and to understand and enjoy the care which has gone into their making. Contemporary craft is about making hand crafted objects of art and ensures the highest standard of workmanship exhibiting a working knowledge of tools and materials.
The Marblehead Arts Association (MAA) is presenting “Fine Art of Craft”, an exhibit from March 16-April 21. This juried exhibit invites both MAA and non-MAA artisans in the general categories of ceramics/pottery; fiber/textile; metalwork/silversmith; woodwork/furniture and glass and the creative overlap or blending of these mediums. Jurying is based on creativity of design, quality of materials and attention to detail in overall workmanship and presentation.
For information and submission: www.marbleheadarts.org
First let’s get a working definition.
US Legal.com :
“Spectral evidence refers to a witness testimony that the accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location. It was accepted in the courts during the Salem Witch Trials. The evidence was accepted on the basis that the devil and his minions were powerful enough to send their spirits, or specters, to pure, religious people in order to lead them astray.
In spectral evidence, the admission of victims’ conjectures is governed only by the limits of their fears and imaginations, whether or not objectively proven facts are forthcoming to justify them. [State v. Dustin, 122 N.H. 544, 551 (N.H. 1982)].”
We know that the Court of Oyer and Terminer, formed in June 1692 for the purpose of hearing cases awaiting in Boston’s jails backlogged while the Charter with England was being hammered out, recognized spectral evidence despite that it was not in keeping with generally accepted procedure of the time. In Law and People in Colonial America Peter Charles Hoffer offers this characterization (p. 41):
“The result of having laymen on the high-court benches might be…swift and sensible justice. Massachusetts superior Court justices, such as Samuel Sewall, were deeply moral men, concerned about the quality of their performance. Sewall was typical of the best lay judges – well traveled, well schooled, much respected, and experienced in colonial government and in hearing and deciding lawsuits, if not learned in the law. In the Salem witchcraft tirals of 1692 the judges, including Sewall, departed from current, learned, English practice, and did so with tragic consequences.
There were no trained lawyers on the bench, but all believed that there was a devil and that he contracted secretly with men and women to do his evil work in the colony. Thus, at least in theory, witches had the power to leave their bodies and in spectral form assault their victims.”
The following passage from another of Hoffer’s works the Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Legal History is further clarifying (page 78-79):
Mather fretted, “Our neighbors at Salem are blown up after a sort, with an infernal gunpowder, under the floor.” What could that mean? To us the reference may be obscure, but to his fellow Puritans the implication was obvious. In 1605 a band of Roman Catholics, driven to despair by King James’s persecution of their faith, tried to blow up the English houses of Parliament. The plan was discovered at the last minute, and the conspirators were executed, but the “gunpowder plot” became a symbol among Protestants of the danger Roman Catholicism posed to English Protestantism. In 1689 Parliament drove James II, a Roman Catholic, from the throne of England and replaced him with a Dutch Protestant, William of Orange, and James’s daughter, Mary, William’s wife. They were to rule jointly. A war followed in which Protestants battled Roman Catholics at home and abroad. This was the war that brought the Indians and their French Roman Catholic allies to the doorstep of Salem. Thus the Puritans saw Roman Catholicism as a continuing and powerful threat to Protestantism in England and the survival of Puritanism in New England. They also believed that Roman Catholic priests were in league with the Devil. Reports of priests and Indians worshiping the Devil before they attacked Massachusetts towns regularly made the rounds of the colony.
But the problem of spectral evidence remained, for the only ones who could see the witches in their spectral form, and thus say who it was that caused their pain, were the accusers themselves. Here Mather could find no answers in his library. He must leave it and enter the world of ordinary people. No abstract theory or abstruse theology could dictate commonly accepted contemporary notions of the truth of testimony.”
Even while most people had misgivings about the validity and use of supernatural proof, Cotton Mather cited a precedent from 1664 wherein Mathew Hale asserts that such evidence is suitable in cases of necessity. Mather interprets “in particular, the political crisis of the colony and the terrors of war. War against the Devil and war against the popish French and their Indian allies were the same in his mind.” (Ibid., p. 89)
Image, “The soul-killing witches that deform the body” shared from University of Virginia SWT Documentary Archive and Transcription Project.
Caption: “The soul-killing witches that deform the body,” Shaks.
Description: The image shows two witches stirring a steaming cauldron; it was published in a 1828 edition of Robert Calef’s More Wonders of the Invisible World. In the background a witch rides on a broomstick, brandishing a snake in her hand; to the left, spectral images fly out of the boiling cauldron; and a cat leaps into the scene from the right. References to cat familiars, flying witches, and spectral images are common features of the court records of the Salem witch trials.
Source: Frontispiece, The Wonders of the Invisible World Displayed, by Robert Calef. New Edition. Boston: T. Bedlington, 1828. Image by permission of the University of Virginia Library, Special Collections. © The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 2003.
After two relatively snow-free winters we were due for a doozy. And Nemo delivered.
State and city governments made the call early on Thursday to keep people off roads Friday and through the weekend while cleanup crews dealt with, not multiple inches but, multiple feet in some areas. Here at the Salem Witch Museum we opened for part of the day Friday, closing for the safety of our staff and visitors through to Sunday. Folks must have had cabin fever because we had a number more visitors than usual once we reopened. The bad news is that Salem’s So Sweet ice sculptures couldn’t be delivered as planned; the good news is that we’re essentially rescheduling the festivities to this upcoming weekend.
Driving through labyrinths of snowbanks makes travel still slow going, and finding parking can take even more time. For the next day or so it’s probably a good idea to give ourselves a head start if we need to be somewhere. Which is fine, because it’ll give us a chance to enjoy the beauty of the season.
Thanks to Salem Witch Wiles for this photo:
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Possessed.
Demos, John. Entertaining Satan.
Hall, David. Witch Hunting in 17th Century New England
Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft in Salem.
Hill, Frances. A Delusion of Satan.
Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader.
Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Salem Witch Trials, A Legal History.
Karlsen, Carol. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman.
Mappen, Marc. Witches and Historians.
Norton, Mary Beth. In The Devil’s Snare.
Richardson, Katherine. The Salem Witch Trials.
Roach, Marilynne. The Salem Witch Trials, A Day by Day Chronicle.
Robinson, Enders. The Devil Discovered.
Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story.
Starkey, Marion. The Devil in Massachusetts.
Rosenthal, Bernard, ed. Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt
Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen. Salem Village Witchcraft.
Trask, Richard, ed. The Devil Hath Been Raised.
Breslaw, Elaine. Tituba, Reluctant Witch of Salem.
Demos, John. The Enemy Within
Hill, Frances. Hunting for Witches, A Visitor’s Guide.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.
Tapley, Charles. Rebecca Nurse, Saint but Witch Victim.
Roach, Marilynne. Gallows and Graves.
Russell, Jeffrey. A History of Witchcraft.
Weisman, Richard. Witchcraft, Magic and Religion in
17th Century New England.
Aronson, Marc. Witch-Hunt (young adult)
Duble,Kathleen. The Sacrifice (grades 5-8)
Jackson, Shirley. The Witchcraft of Salem Village (grades 5-6)
Rinaldi, Ann. A Break with Charity. Fiction (grades 6-8)
Stern, Steven. Witchcraft in Salem . (grades 4-6)
Yolen, Jane. The Salem Witch Trials, An Unsolved Mystery
“A Map of Salem Village & Vicinity in 1692”
This map shows Salem Village, primary location of the Salem
witch trials history, as it looked in 1692. Sites of houses and public
buildings are noted. The map is drawn by Marilynne Roach, a
Salem witch trials expert.
“Three Sovereigns for Sarah”
A partly fictional account of the trials focusing on the three
Towne sisters, two of whom were hanged. The production
was filmed at locations connected with the trials. 2 1/2 hrs
“Days of Judgment: The Salem Witch Trials of 1692”
A film designed for school and home viewing that answers
many of the questions raised by the trials. 1 hour
The 1995 film version of Arthur Miller’s play. Screen play by the author.
Filmed on location in Essex County. 2 hours
We’re open year-round. But even we need to close the doors for a few days while we paint and clean carpets. Here’s a list of our January hours:
Tuesday 1/1/13 Closed – New Year’s Day
Wednesday 1/2/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Thursday 1/3/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Friday 1/4/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Saturday 1/5/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1/6/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Monday 1/7/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Tuesday 1/8/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Wednesday 1/9/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Thursday 1/10/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Friday 1/11/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Saturday 1/12/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1/13/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Monday 1/14/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Tuesday 1/15/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Wednesday 1/16/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Thursday 1/17/13 Closed for Annual Spruce-up
Friday 1/18/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Saturday 1/19/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1/20/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Monday 1/21/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Tuesday 1/22/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Wednesday 1/23/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Thursday 1/24/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Friday 1/25/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Saturday 1/26/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Sunday 1/27/13 Open 10am – 5pm
Open daily 10am – 5pm
During the last months of each year our visitation shifts from October crowds to January trickles. Our staff gladly take the quieter winters to catch up on pleasure reading, so we decided to host a book club or two this season.
The only rule for the book club was simply that we weren’t going to cover anything we’d “normally” read (i.e. Salem witch trials related.)
Our first selection for the Salem Witch Museum Breakfast (Book) Club comes from Floor Manager Jay Menice. A section of Gloucester, Massachusetts has been a fascination for him since Elyssa East published Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, a non-fiction examination of the mysterious history surrounding this some-say-enchanted place and a brutal crime set there.
Those of us who appreciate local authors have certainly encountered at least one title by Anita Diamant (the Red Tent, Good Harbor, et.al.), so we’re balancing the book club medley by including a work of historical fiction. The Last Days of Dogtown portrays life in this early American mythical community of witches, widows, orphans and spinsters.
In mid-January we’ll host a continental breakfast and book club discussion comparing and contrasting these two renditions of Dogtown. If you’d like to join us, please email Stacy at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
If you saw the Google Doodle today you know it’s the 200th anniversary of Brothers Grimm. In the fabric of our being we carry the lessons from Grimm’s fairy tales told to us since a young age. In our exhibit Witches: Evolving Perceptions we look at Hansel & Gretel’s hag archetype. Small wonder we’re afraid of witches, it’s said they eat children!
What is your favorite Grimm’s Fairy Tale?
Our hours for the remainder of 2012
Monday, December 24th – 10 am to 3 pm
Tuesday, December 25th – CLOSED
Monday, December 31st – 10 am to 3 pm
Tuesday, January 1st – CLOSED