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March 9th, 1692

This entry was posted on Mar 09 2011

Greater Boston Map In 1692, as today, March 9th fell on a Wednesday.  According to Marilynne Roach’s the Salem Witch Trials:  A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege the infamous events continued to unfold as the afflicted girls maintained being harassed by the “vengeful specters” of Goodwives Good and Osborn.  Since Tituba’s confession, her spirit was no longer reported to be torturing the young girls. 

All three earthly women, however, were serving their third day in a Boston jail.  Since most capital trials were held in Boston, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba were transported there earlier that week from Salem town jail, a trip that would have taken all day.  John Arnold, prison keeper, took custody of the women on March 7th

The basic fee was two shillings, sixpence a week – about as much as a woman could hope to earn in a week – plus processing fees and fees for shackles.  Boston’s jail seemed to be an open common room bordered by smaller rooms where some of the prisoners were locked at night (and from which some escaped by removing the window bars).  Like the smaller Essex County jails, it was set inside a fenced yard that less dangerous prisoners could exercise in.  Wealthy prisoners could even rent a room in the prison keeper’s house and attend religious meetings under guard.  It is not clear if any of the rooms were underground, although there may have been windowless inner rooms.  References to “dungeons” may be metaphorical, synonymous with “close confinement” or “close prison,” a term an earlier prisoner used when confined full-time to a room with an exterior window.  Even then the jails, intended to hold prisoners only temporarily, were hot in summer and cold in winter, infested with lice, and stank at all times of dung and tobacco.  Prisons, as one visiting Englishman said a few years before, were “suburbs of Hell” (Roach 35).

Roach, Marilynne K.  Salem Witch Trials:  A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under SiegeCooper Square Press.  New York.  2002.

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