July 19th, 1692 – Tuesday

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Jul 19 2011

roach-witch-trials-book Quoted from

The Salem Witch Trials:  A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach, page 201-202

_ _ _ _ _ _

Salem Town

Between eight o’clock and noon, Sheriff George Corwin transported Rebecca Nurse, Susanna Martin, Elizabeth How, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes – all praying that God would prove their innocence – from prison by cart through the streets of Salem to be hanged.  Quiet housewives or turbulent scolds, well-to-do or in rags, all five women now faced a painful, public death.

It was customary for the dying to attempt facing death in a spirit of forgiveness lest their souls appear before Heavenly judgment seething hatred.  Sarah Good would have none of it.  At the gallows Reverend Nicholas Noyes urged her to confess what the courts had seemingly proven and at least not die a liar.  When she denied the guild, Noyes said she knew she was a witch.

“You are a liar,” she snapped.  “I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink.”  (The folk curse was loosely based on a verse in Revelation.  People later remembered it when Noyes, it was said, died bleeding at the mouth when a blood vessel burst in his head.)

Rumors hinted that the Devil might attempt a last-minute rescue of his followers, but all five hanged as scheduled on the ledge above the tidal pool.

Joseph Ballard probably witnessed the executions on his way from Andover.  Soon after, he entered a complaint in Salem before Magistrates Gedney, Corwin, Hathorne, and Higginson against Mary Lacy and her daughter Mary Jr. for tormenting his wife Elizabeth with “strange pains and pressures.”  He even put up a £100 bond “on condition to prosecute.”  (Plaintiffs customarily did this in civil suits, the sum forfeit if the plaintiff didn’t appear in court, but this is the first recorded bond in these witch cases where the accusations seem to have been treated as a public emergency.)  The magistrates issued a warrant for only Goody Lacy, however, and not for her daughter.

The bodies of the dead, meantime, were buried (if only temporarily) near the rocky execution site.  By family tradition the Nurses waited for darkness (sunset was about a quarter after seven) then rowed up the North River to the bend by the ledge and exhumed Rebecca’s body.  According to another tradition Caleb Buffum  (a distant relative) noticed this effort from his home nearby and helped carry the remains to the shore.  From there a small craft could slip downstream past town on the midnight’s high tide, then north up the estuary to Crane River and along its narrowing length to the Nurses’ land, where they buried her privately on the homeground.


Historian David Goss Lectures at Old Town Hall Thursday

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Feb 15 2011

David Goss We at the Salem Witch Museum have been privileged to know David Goss over the years.  Among other roles, he is a respected witch trial scholar having written books such as The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. 

Now we get to see another side of his expertise.  His lecture, Salem and the Civil War: 150th Anniversary is at Old Town Hall in Derby Square this Thursday evening, February 17th at 7:30pm.

We hope to see you there!

The Devil of Great Island: Witchcraft & Conflict in Early New England

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 18 2010

Devil of Great Island This past Thursday evening we enjoyed the second  fascinating lecture hosted by Gordon College at Old Town Hall.  Dr. Emerson “Tad” Baker discussed his book The Devil of Great Island:  Witchcraft & Conflict in Early New England, introducing the work as a unique look at New England witchcraft that does not focus on Salem.  Dr. Baker has been a historical archeologist as well as a museum director and is currently a public historian and professor at Salem State College.

Ten years before the Salem outbreak, in a place called Great Island (today New Castle) near Portsmouth, NH, there were reported incidents of “lithobolia.”  Though educated men of the day knew Greek and Latin and would have been familiar with the term, I needed translation:  stone-throwing of the Devil.  Hundreds of flying stones, some as heavy as eight pounds, beset the tavern owned by George and Alice Walton for several months, yet no one had ever seen anyone throwing them.  These occurrences, as many other inexplicable events at that time, were perceived as acts of witchcraft. 

When we look further into the details, the first to come into view are the relationships and territorial boundaries between the key individuals of the story.  I don’t want to give away the delicious unfolding of the narrative, so I’ll share only that the Waltons had been in land disputes with neighbor Hanna Jones, who was accused of being a witch.  There had also been infighting in the vicinity about the establishment of a separate meeting house in which to worship.  Although Dr. Emerson explores this history north of Mass Bay Colony, he does acknowledge that, “…when it comes to witchcraft in early New England, all roads eventually lead to Salem.”

In fact, it seems as though there are many common factors between Great Island and Salem.  Neighbors disagreeing over territorial margins were certainly a dynamic that set the stage for the Salem witchcraft accusations.  Uncannily, heated debates about an independent meeting house in Salem Village were significant to conditions that allowed the events to unfold as they did in 1692.

If you’re as interested in the environment and events leading to the Salem Witchcraft Trials as I am, next week’s post will be dedicated to the aspect of territorial disputes in Salem Village prior to the eruption of witchcraft accusations.  Stay tuned…

Salem Award Foundation Receives Coveted Annenberg Grant

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Dec 04 2010

You may have heard in recent news that the Salem Award Foundation has received a $25,000 grant from the Annenburg Foundation. 

Read the full story in the Salem Gazette.

charles-annenberg-weingarten “Charles Weingarten visited Salem last fall to research the history of the witch trials in preparation for a possible film.  He contacted Alison D’Amario, Patty MacLeod and Tina Jordan, of the Salem Witch Museum.  D’Amario and MacLeod were instrumental in establishing the Salem Witch Trials Memorial and the Salem Award Foundation.  During his exploration at historic sites with local experts, they told him about the Salem Award and its mission to educate the public through the lessons of the trials.”

The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice

Charles Annenberg Weingarten (pictured left).  Photo courtesy of the Annenberg Foundation.

View Mr. Weingarten’s Film – Salem Witch Hunt

The Salem Witch Museum is proud to be part of a community dedicated to contributing to the cause of human rights and social justice.

Judge Sewall’s Apology, Richard Francis

1 Comment | This entry was posted on Nov 20 2010

Richard Francis, Lecture THE LECTURE

The premier of the Old Town Hall Lecture Series on Thursday evening was a huge success!  The talk by Richard Francis, author of Judge Sewall’s Apology, gave an overview of a flesh-and-blood Samuel Sewall, the only one of nine judges presiding over the Salem witch trials to apologize for his part in the tragedy.   Read more »

Professor Benjamin C. Ray Lectures at the House of Seven Gables

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Nov 13 2010

Professor Benjamin Ray of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia lectured to a sold out room at the House of Seven Gables this week.  Professor Ray is the project director of Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project where everyone “from teachers to fourth graders” can now readily access 8,000 searchable pages from source documents online. Read more »

Judge Samuel Sewall

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Oct 13 2010

On November 18, the Gordon College Institute for Public History In Historic Salem inaugurates a series of lectures, Old Town Hall Lectures, in Salem’s historic Old Town Hall.

The inaugural lecture is being given by Richard Francis, on his book,
Judge Sewall’s Apology: The Salem Witch Trials and the Forming of a Conscience (London and New York: Fourth Estate, 2005) [Buy a copy on our online store]


Here’s a description from the website:

The Salem witch hunt has entered our vocabulary as the very essence of  injustice. Judge Samuel Sewall presided at these trials, passing harsh judgment on the condemned. But five years later, he publicly recanted his guilty verdicts and begged for forgiveness. This extraordinary act was a turning point not only for Sewall but also for America’s nascent values and mores.

We were curious to find out more about Judge Sewall. As it turns out, Google books has scanned in his published diaries and you can read them online. Search for “witchcraft” and this is the entry from August 19, 1692:

Clicking on the diary image above will send you to the Google Books site where you can read more.

Visit with Marilynne K. Roach

0 Comments | This entry was posted on Sep 22 2010

roach-witch-trials-book We were honored last month to host distinguished Salem witch trials scholar Marilynne Roach who has written, among other things, The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege.  After the crowds of summer visitors had left the museum for the evening, our staff gathered in the main auditorium for her lecture.  She described her years of extensive research in various document archives, writing several books, and answered our many questions. 

Ms. Roach first visited the Salem Witch Museum in 1973 and was inspired to launch her own investigation into the subject.  Combing over documents written in an antique dialect, she ascertained new details relevant to this well-studied period of Colonial New England history.  One of the more exciting moments of the research came , she told us, when she realized she’d discovered jailers invoices that had never before been acknowledged.  It’s now widely known that imprisoned accused-witches were billed for their stay! Read more »