Archive for the ‘The Accused’ Category:
The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach, page 201-202
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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.
On the 319th anniversary of the hanging of Bridget Bishop we approached learning more about her story in a few unique ways. We spoke with Jenney Dale, the actor who portrays the first executed Salem witch trial victim in the History Alive! theatrical production of Cry Innocent.
We asked Ms. Dale what most captivated her about playing Bridget Bishop. “She was stubborn. I could identify with her outspoken nature, not wanting to go along with others’ definitions of how a person should act.” In some ways we still experience that today, but we have it so much easier than they did in 1692.” Being an outspoken woman certainly made her all the more suspect of being a witch, having endured years of town talk about her independent spirit.
Cry Innocent calls their audience to sit on the Puritan jury, hearing the reenacted historical testimonies from the pre-trial examinations, cross-examining the witnesses, and finally passing judgment themselves. Ms. Dale admits that sometimes the verdict is surprising. “It’s hard to tell which way they’ll go. But, I really want people to see the events through the eyes of Puritans,” so they can understand why the proceedings went as they did.
For more information about Cry Innocent, please click here or call their box office at: 978-867-4767
BRIDGET BISHOP, “alias Bridget Oliver”; Salem; born Bridget Playfer; married Samuel Wasselby 1660, then Thomas Oliver, lastly Edward Bishop; long suspected of witchcraft; tried, found guilty; hanged 10 June 1692; sentence reversed 2001.
Over the weekend Ann Putnam, Jr. continued to report being tortured by the apparition of Martha Corey, who was Giles Corey’s third wife and a full member of the Salem Village church. Ann’s uncle Edward Putnam and neighbor Ezekiel Cheever set out to investigate by asking young Ann about the specter’s clothing. She claimed she could not see the Invisible World that day, but only felt the torment.
When Edward and Ezekiel traveled on to find Martha Corey on her farm, she seemed to already know the purpose of their visit; “…Does she tell you what clothes I have on?” They explained that Ann had been blinded so no comparison between the specter’s clothing and her own physical attire could be made. Goody Corey was not intimidated.
Meanwhile, in Salem town, Martha’s phantom was reportedly plaguing Mary Warren, John and Elizabeth Proctor’s twenty-one year old servant. John Proctor had his own treatment for this affliction. He kept Mary spinning at the wheel and threatened to beat her if she had any more outbreaks. This method seemed to work until he had to leave the home for a day, and without his presence, she deteriorated back into fits.
Later in the weekend, Ann Putnam, Jr. claimed to be afflicted by yet another ghost, that of an indistinguishable woman. Her mother, Ann Putnam, Sr., and their maid Mercy Lewis – a refugee from the wars in Maine – hoped to discover the identity by suggesting a few names to the ill young girl. She confirmed that of Rebecca Nurse who, though a member of the Salem town church, often attended Village meetings, which was closer to her family farm.
By Monday, Abigail Williams said the invisible forces of Martha Corey and Elizabeth Proctor were causing her convulsions. Giles Corey had reported that one of his oxen was unable to rise and work though it had walked moments before. Later the ox rose and stood as if nothing had been wrong. Then his cat seemed to become ill as if on the verge of death. Martha recommended hitting the creature on the head, but Giles refused and the cat recuperated as inexplicably as the ox.
Giles Corey had a checkered reputation himself: it had been evidenced that he’d stolen dry goods from Justice Corwin’s father and rumored that he’d beaten a handyman to death. Giles had a few run-ins with his neighbor Robert Moulton who called him “contentious” and “quarrelsome” and went as far as accusing him of stealing twelve bushels of apples. John Proctor had accused Corey of setting fire to his house, and the two sued each other until it was discovered that the true culprit had been one of Proctor’s own sons who confessed to the accident.
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 Siege. Cooper Square Press. New York. 2002.
You may have heard in recent news that the Salem Award Foundation has received a $25,000 grant from the Annenburg Foundation.
“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.”
Charles Annenberg Weingarten (pictured left). Photo courtesy of the Annenberg Foundation.
The Salem Witch Museum is proud to be part of a community dedicated to contributing to the cause of human rights and social justice.
From Marilynne K. Roach’s Chronology of the Salem Witch Trials
With opposition to the court’s methods growing, Governor Phips suspends the Court of Oyer and Terminer until England can advise on the witch problem. Some of the younger suspects are released on bail.
Image of Sir William Phips from University of Virginia website “Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project”:
Source: Cover illustration. The New England Knight: Sir William Phips, 1651-1695. By Emerson W. Baker and John G. Reid. University of Toronto Press, 1998. Photograph by Nicholas Dean, courtesy of the Gardiner family.
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PUT TO DEATH
June 10, 1692
July 19, 1692
August 19, 1692
September 19, 1692
Giles Cory, pressed to death
September 22, 1692