Tag: Witch

William Stoughton and the Salem Witch Trials

Portrait hangs in the State House in Boston, Mass Painted by Mary Brewster Hazelton (1924)

WILLIAM STOUGHTON 

 

Ok, let’s talk about this William Stoughton dude. He is probably the tightest relationship among those of the Salem Witch trials, coming in as a first cousin 13 times removed. You can’t pick your relatives …right? My relationship to him comes down through the Green line. Though distinguished as a notable across history…I think the guy stinks through and through. Let me know your opinion.  

 

William was born to the parents of Israel Stoughton and Elizabeth Knight Stoughton and was the grandson of Thomas and Katherine Stoughton (1557-1622) who would be our 12 th great grandparents through the GREEN line. The Stoughton’s were wealthy and large landowners but nothing compared to the land that William acquired.  Though his date of birth is unknown he was probably born in 1631 and probably born in England somewhere. There are no records to prove that theory or even when exactly they migrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony but by 1632 the Stoughton’s were in Dorchester, Massachusetts and among the early settlers. 

 

EDUCATIONS BEGINS

William was a Harvard graduate with a degree in theology, and it was his intention to become a Puritan minister, so he traveled to England where he attended the New College Oxford to continue his studies. In 1653 he received an MA in theology. 

He was a deeply religious man though in my opinion, he needed some lessons in tolerance,  and preached “The Lord’s Promises and expectations of great things”. He preached in Sussex until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 and the crackdown on religious dissenters began which caused him to lose his position.  The realization that he would not likely get another position in England, he decided to go back to Massachusetts in 1662. 

 

Portrait hanging in the Lucius Clapp Memorial in Stoughton, Mass.
Painted by Phylis Batchelder of Stoughton, Mass.

THE POLITICIAN 

 

He refused offers of other  ministerial positions and went into politics and land development, however, he did preach in Dorchester and Cambridge on occasion. . (that should have been the first clue!!! ) He served on the colony’s council of assistants almost every year from 1671 to 1684. He was among those who were labeled an enemy of the colony for his moderate position on colonial charter issues. When his friend and business partner, Joseph Dudley, wasn’t reelected to the council, and Stoughton, who was reelected by a small majority, he thought he’d “show them” by refusing to serve.  (Sorry, but I already don’t like this guy! ) 

 

He and this Peter Bulkley became agents representing the colonial interest in England. For 1,200 lbs they acquired land claims from the heirs of Sir Ferdinando Gorges and John Mason. This conflicted with some Massachusetts land claims in Maine. OHHH this pissed off Charles II because he wanted those claims for the Duke of York. They weren’t able to get broader claims made by Massachusetts against other territories of Maine and the province of New Hampshire due to their limited authority and this upset the Lords of Trade because they wanted to have the colonial laws modified to their policies. All this did for Stoughton and Bulkley is piss off the colonial officials in London because they wouldn’t give in. 

 

Now, Stoughton and Dudley worked closely together politically and in land development, and they were business partners as well. In partnership with Dudley in the 1680s, Stoughton acquired significant amounts of land from the Nipmuc tribe in today’s Worcester county. This partnership included a venture that established Oxford as a place to settle refugee Huguenots. 

Now, I don’t understand politics much, and I won’t begin to tell you that I understand land claims or the like…but it sounds to me like these two dudes  were just shady and ruthless. I could be reading more into it than what is because I’ve already made up my mind that I don’t like these guys! 

So Dudley and Stoughton basically used their political positions to make sure that the titles to lands they were interested in were judicially cleared which benefitted themselves, their friends, relatives, and other business partners. Crown agent Edward Randolph wrote that it was impossible to bring titles of land to trial  before them where his Majesty’s rights were concerned, the Judges also being parties.

Stoughton and Dudley ventured to obtain a million acres of land in the Merrimack River valley. Dudley’s council, which included Stoughton and other investors, cleared the land’s title in May of 1686.  

When Dudley was commissioned in 1686 to be the temporary head of the Dominion of New England, guess who he appointed to his council?? Of course, Stoughton, and then he was elected by council  to be the deputy president.  During the administration of Sir Edmund Andros he served as magistrate on the council. As a magistrate he was especially hard on the town leader of Ipswich who had organized a tax protest against the dominion government, based on a claim that dominion rule without representation violated the right of the Englishmen. 

In 1689 when Andros was arrested in an uprising inspired by the 1688 Glorious Revolution in England, guess who was one of the signatories to the declaration of the revolt’s ringleaders? Yep you guessed it. Stoughton. His association with Andros made him particularly unpopular and he was denied elective offices. He, of course, appealed to the political power of the Mather family with whom he still had a positive relationship. 

Increase (what a name) Mather and Sir William Phips arrived from England in 1692 carrying the charter for the new Province of Massachusetts Bay and a royal commission for Phips as governor, they also brought one for Stoughton as lieutenant governor.  

 

WITHCRAFT ACCUSATIONS BEGIN 

By now the rumors of witchcraft were starting to spread like wildfire…especially in Salem.. so Phips appoints Stoughton to be head of a tribunal to deal with those accused of witchcraft, and in June he was appointed chief justice of the colonial courts. He held this post for the rest of his life. 

Stoughton was both the chief judge and prosecutor. The terminator so to speak. I mean, this guy was ruthless. In the case of Rebecca Nurse…he sent the jury back from deliberating to reconsider the not guilty verdict they had agreed on. Well, what’s the jury to do…they came back with a guilty verdict and poor Rebecca Nurse was convicted. 

Stoughton permitted the use of spectral evidence. That is the idea that a demonic vision could only take the shape or appearance of someone who had made a pact with the devil or was engaged in witchcraft.  Oh Lordy! That left the door wide open! Cotton Mather argued that this was acceptable when making accusations but some judges did not feel it was acceptable in judicial proceedings. Stoughton was convinced of its acceptability and used his influence on the other judges to see it his way.  Now, understand this guy was a Puritan Preacher, and for the times he probably wasn’t really so out of line, but I’m having a hard time not judging him. 

 

Phipps oversaw a reorganization of the colony’s courts in November and December of 1692, to bring them into conformance with English practice. Stoughton was still sitting as chief justice and was to handle the witchcraft cases in 1693 but was given strict orders to disregard spectral evidence. With this thrown out, there were a significant number of cases that were dismissed due to lack of evidence. It makes me wonder what these accusations did to the accused reputations. Were people sued for slander in those days? I’ll have to look that one up. 

On January 3 1693 Stoughton ordered the execution of all suspected witches who had been exempted by pregnancy. Phips denied enforcement of the order. This totally pissed Stoughton off and he, once again, thought he would “show them” by leaving the bench for a brief time. 

Unlike many others, Stoughton never felt remorse or guilt for the part he played in the convictions of “witches” or the use of spectral evidence during the trials. 

Stoughton viewed himself as a caretaker, holding the government together until the crown appointed a new governor. As a consequence, he gave the provincial assembly a significant degree of autonomy, which, once established, complicated the relationship the assembly had with later governors. He also took relatively few active steps to implement colonial policies, and only did the minimum needed to follow instructions from London. A commentator in the colonial office observed that he was a “good scholar”, but that he was “not suited to enforce the Navigation Act”

Sounds to me like he was a my way or the highway sort of guy. It’s no wonder he died a bachelor. 

William Stoughton died at home in Dorchester in 1701, while serving as acting governor, and was buried in the cemetery now known as the  North Burying Ground. He was a bachelor, and willed a portion of his estate and his mansion to William Tailer, the son of his sister Rebeccah. Tailer, who was twice lieutenant governor and briefly served as acting governor. He was buried alongside Stoughton.

Stoughton, Massachusetts is named in honor of William, as is one of the Harvard College dormitories at Harvard Yard. Stoughton Hall was made possible by his gift of 1,000 pounds in 1698. 

Here you can see pictures of his grave. It’s as creepy as he is. https://www.oddthingsiveseen.com/2015/09/villains-end-grave-of-william-stoughton.html

It suits him as the above the ground tomb is engraved with skulls and overgrown with vines. 

 

Here is a break down of the life of William Stoughton. 

September 30, 1631: Born in England (or perhaps in Massachusetts), son of Israel and Elizabeth (Knight) Stoughton.

1650: Graduated Harvard University with a degree in theology.

June, 1653: Graduated New College in Oxford, England graduating with a M.A. in Theology.

1660: Served as a curate in Sussex, England.

1662: Returned to Massachusetts after the restoration of King Charles II of England to the throne after losing is position as a curate.

1662: Served as a clergyman in Dorchester, Massachusetts

April 29, 1668: Gave the election sermon  (New-Englands True Interest; Not to Lie…, 1670)

1670New-Englands True Interest; Not to Lie … is published

1671-1674: Selectmen in Dorchester

1676: Sent to England with Peter Bulkeley.

1684-1686: Served as Deputy President of the Colonies temporary 

1686: Appointed Deputy to Gov. Joseph Dudley

March 3, 1687: Appointed Judge Assistant by Gov. Joseph Dudley.

1690‘s : A chief Magistrate and the first Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

May 14, 1692: Appointed Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts.

May 27, 1692: Gov. William Phipps issued a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer which appoints as judges Lt. Gov. William Stoughton and others, including: John Hawthorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, and Samuel Sewall.

December 22, 1692: Appointed as the first Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

1694-1699, 1700-1791: Served as acting Governor.

1698-1699: Stoughton Hall built on the grounds of Harvard University.

July 7, 1701: Died at his home at the northeast corner of Pleasant Street and Savin Hill.

1726: The South Precinct of Dorchester in named in his honored after Stoughton.

1781: Original Stoughton Hall torn down.

1805: The present Stoughton Hall at Harvard University is built on a different site.

1828: His tomb is repaired by efforts from Harvard University.

1855: Stoughton School erected in Dorchester, Massachusetts.  

Online Sources:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what do you think of this guy? What’s your opinion? Am I making too much out of it? I mean there is a lot written about him but his involvement with the Witch Trials is probably what he is most remembered for.  Would anyone remember him if it hadn’t been for the part he played in the hysteria?   Let me know your thoughts in the comments and stay tuned as we explore the roles of some others!

Happy Hunting!!

The Pierce Family Historian!

SARAH AND DOROTHY GOOD and the Salem Witch Trials

HOW ARE WE CONNECTED TO THE SALEM WITCH TRIAL 

OK. Now for the fun stuff. How are we related to those of the Salem Witch Trials? Please take this all with a grain of salt as I have not researched it in it’s entirety and am only going from what relative finder has suggested. As we all know, the one family tree on Family Search is not at all reliable as some do no research and add without facts to the tree. However, relative finder is fun to play with and can offer up clues as to where to look for ancestors. None of the relationships mentioned here are set in stone for as I mentioned..I have not taken the time to research them (I’m too busy looking for the family of Daniel Johnson!!!!)

 

MY CONNECTIONS 

DOROTHY GOOD AND HER MOTHER SARAH

Because Sarah was among  the first to be accused of witchery I’m going to start with her and her little daughter Dorothy or Dorcas as some records state.  However, some of those on the list will also be mentioned.

Sarah Solart was born to prosperous Wenham innkeeper  John Solart and mother Elizabeth about 1653. Her life before tragedy must have been fairly normal and carefree for those days though I can’t imagine how they lived at that time.  Everything changed for poor Sarah when  her father committed suicide in May of 1672. Poor Sarah was barely 17 at the time.  “Report of a jury of inquest… appointed upon the sudden death of John Soolart of Wenham, found him accessory to his own death by drowning himself.

Her mother Elizabeth was left with 6 daughters Mary (Solart) Edwards, Elizabeth (Solart) Lovett, Sarah (Solart) Good, Martha (Solart) Killam, Abigail (Solart) Larkum and Bethia (Solart) Herrick . After paying his debts, Solarts estate was valued at 500 pounds. Though the inheritance was to go to his daughters, Elizabeth  quickly remarried a man by the name of Ezekiel Woodward. Her new husband got her share of the estate and refused to give the girls their share. (Ya think he was a gold digger?)

In 1682 Sarah married Daniel Poole who was an indentured servant. This would have made her about 29 when she married so perhaps she lived with her mother and step father up to that time.  Daniel died in 1686 just four years after their marriage. This was the start of a downward spiral that Sarah just never seemed to pull out of. He left her butt deep in debt.

There was little a woman could do in those days to help themselves and without a family she did the next best thing and married William Good. Due to the lawsuits and debt that had piled up because of her first husband, they could barely survive. William was a common laborer and the debt was more that he could afford. Soon they found themselves homeless and poverty stricken. They lost their home  in Salem to creditors and they went to begging to keep from starving. “Known as a pipe-smoking, muttering beggar, Sarah would go door-to-door with her 4-year-old daughter Dorothy in tow.” She was described as “a forlorn, friendless, and forsaken creature, broken down by wretchedness of conditions and ill-repute.”

It’s hard to imagine the helplessness she must have felt. She surely was ashamed of her conditions and if you have ever been there…you know the feeling of helplessness I’m talking about. My heart just goes out to this poor woman. Sarah had long been a melancholy and somewhat confrontational woman, but under the circumstances…wouldn’t you be too? So what do the good neighbors do? They accuse her of being a witch. I suppose she was an easy target due to her calamity, but good LORD! It’s just hard for me to believe that people were that easily swayed.

  It all started on March 1, 1692, when Sarah Good was charged with witchcraft, along with Sarah Osborne, and Tituba by the girls Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Parris . Sarah Good was an easy target for witchcraft. She was a beggar, almost at the very bottom of the social ladder. When Sarah Good was charged, she was a complete wreck. She was only 38 when she was accused but because of her conditions looked old beyond her years. To top it all off, she was pregnant, and also had a four and a half year old daughter, little impressionable Dorothy who also was coerced into testifying against her mother. She was a beggar, often muttered to herself, and cursed people who did not give her charity. During her trial, she said that she was muttering psalms to herself. Unfortunately, she could not come up with any of the psalms during her trial. Some think that was too much of a coincidence. She also never attended church. Even the most trusting Congregationalists would find that a bit odd. In court, Sarah said that she did not attend church because she did not have clothes good enough for church.

And let’s talk about that husband of hers. Instead of sticking up for her he just joined right in and accused her too. I suppose under the circumstances it was his way of lightening the load or perhaps taking the focus off himself. On 1 Mar 1692, Colonel John Hathorne and Captain Jonathan Corwin examined her at Salem. At this time, her husband bizarrely testified, “She is an enemy to all good” and she “was a witch or would be one very quickly.” After a second examination on 5 Mar 1692, where her husband again testified, “William Good saith that the night before his s’d wife was Examined he saw a wart or tett a little belowe her Right shoulder which he never saw before… They sent her to the jail in Boston on 7 Mar 1692. On 29 May 1692, the Boston jailer submitted his bill, “against the country,” for “chains for Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn, 14 shillings…

Poor Sarah was considered guilty before the trial ever began.  No one doubted that she and poor ole Sarah Osborne were witches. Sarah Osborne died in prison so she never made it to a hanging.

Sarah gave birth to her baby daughter Mercy Good while she was in locked up and not surprisingly the baby died shortly after birth probably due to malnourishment and prison conditions. Now things weren’t bad enough for this poor woman but to have her little girl also accused. Sarah’s daughter, Dorothy (the name Dorcas was also recorded erroneously) was only four and a half years old at the time. On March 24, she was taken custody, and was interrogated  by the local magistrates for two weeks. Hungry, cold and missing her mother, Dorcas broke down and told the inquisitors what they wanted to hear, that her mother was a witch, consorted with the devil, and also that her mother had given her a snake that bit her. She was delivered to the Boston jail, but as the jails overflowed with the accused, she and her mother were transferred to the Ipswich jail. Mary Walcott and Ann Putnam II claimed the child was deranged and repeatedly bit them as if she were an animal.

Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne were not “condemned … when they refused to confess” . The court used spectral evidence, the afflicted reactions to the accused, and the statements of others to convict. After testimony against her by “William Allen, John Hughes, Samuell Brabrooke, Mary Walkut, Mercy Lewis, Sarah Vibber’ Abig’ll Williams, Elizabeth Hubberd, Ann Putman, Tittube indian, Richard Patch,” and other Salem neighbors, she was indicted on 28 Jun 1692 for “afflicting Sarah Bibber, Elizabeth Hubbart, and Ann Puttnam.”

Sarah Good never confessed her guilt, even as her four year old daughter, Dorothy, was also accused and jailed….and she was hanged on 19 Jul 1692 at Proctor’s Ledge, Gallows Hill, Salem, Massachusetts Bay.

On the Gallow ladder Sarah’s last words were to Rev. Nicholas Noyes who urged her to confess:

“You are a liar. 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,”

(Warrant for the Apprehension of Dorothy Good )

[March 23,1692]

To The Marshall of Essex or his Dep’t. You are in theire Majests names hereby required to bring before us Dorcas Good the Daugter of W’m Good of Salem Village tomorrow morneing upon suspition of acts of Witchcraft by her committed according to Complaints made against her by Edw’d Putnam & Jonat putnam of Salem Village.and hereof faile not Dated Salem. March 23d 1691/2

Per us *John Hathorne ] Assists. *Jonathan. Corwin ] Assists.

March 23d. 1691/2. I doe apoint mr Sam’ll Bradbrook to bee my lawffull Deputy, to serve this summons and to make A true Returne per *George Herrick Marshall of Essex.

(Reverse) March 24. 1691/2 I have taken the body of Dorcas Good and brought her to the house of leut Nath: Ingersol and is in Costody #[there] *Sammuall brabrook Marshall’s Deputy.

( Essex County Court Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 1, no. 61 )

 

 

Dorothy, referred to as “Dorcas” on the warrant for her arrest, received a brief hearing in which the accusers repeatedly complained of bites on their arms. She was sent to jail, becoming at age five the youngest person to be jailed during the witch trials. Two days later, she was visited by Salem officials. She claimed she owned a snake given to her by her mother that talked to her and sucked blood from her finger.

Dorothy remained in jail from March 24, 1692, the day she was arrested, until 10 December, when she was released on bond. She was never indicted or tried.

The Deposition of Ann Putnam, 3th March 1691/92

“I saw the Apparition of Dorothy Good, Sarah Good’s daughter who did immediately almost choke me and tortured me most grievously: and so she hath several times since tortured me by biting and pinching and almost choking me, tempting me also to write in her book, and also on the day of her examination, the Apparition of Dorothy Good tortured me during the time of her Examination and several times since.”

 

During Sarah Good’s trial, Dorcas said that her mother had given her a snake. She showed the judge a red spot where she said that the snake bit her and sucked her blood. That was a big part of why Sarah was found guilty. Unfortunately for Dorcas, that snakebite also got her accused. The fact that her mother was an accused witch put and even bigger target on young Dorcas’ face.

Dorcas was “examined” by officials for two weeks. Finally, she broke down crying and confessed. It is said that she confessed because she wanted to be with her mother. Little did she know that her mother, Sarah Good was to be taken away to be executed soon. Then, Dorcas was really alone. She spent several months in prison, unable to walk, and seeing little to no sunlight. None of the prisoners or wardens cared for her. All she could do was play with a little piece of cloth. If she moved any body part except her fingers, she would feel pain. At first she shouted and sobbed, but eventually, her spirit died, and she would just be silent.

Dorcas was in jail for eight months from March 24, 1692 until December 10, 1692. She was never charged, but was kept in the cold Ipswich jail until her her poor father managed to gather up £50 for Dorothy’s bail and “board.” By that time, the child suffered from grave psychological damage that would destroy the rest of her life. By some historic accounts, she had become insane..  When she left jail, she was a sad five-year old girl who later grew up to be a mad woman who could not do anything.

Sadly, no one seems to care that Sarah died. Everyone seems to think that justice was served, and that Sarah Good was a witch. Even those who didn’t believe in witches were glad to get rid of her. It was Dorcas Good who got people to take a closer look. For starters, she was only four and a half years old. A four-year-old child got held in jail for over eight months. That poked at several people’s consciences. Fortunately, Dorcas has not gone mad in vain. She is remembered. Sarah’s husband received compensation money, and Dorcas’ madness and young age is one step closer to the ending of the witch-hunts. 

I still wonder if those people felt remorse for what they did. They had to didn’t they? I mean holy moley! It just hard to digest!

Examination of Dorothy Good, as Told by Deodat Lawson)

[March 24,1692]

The Magistrates and Ministers also did informe me, that they apprehended a child of Sarah G. and Examined it, being between 4 and 5 years of Age And as to matter of Fact, they did Unanimously affirm, that when this Child, did but cast its eye upon the afflicted persons, they were tormented, and they held her Head, and yet so many as her eye could fix upon were afflicted. Which they did several times make careful observation of: the afflicted complained, they had often been Bitten by this child, and produced the marks of a small set of teeth, accordingly, this was also committed to Salem Prison; the child looked hail, and well as other Children. I saw it at Lievt. Ingersols After the commitment of Goodw. N. Tho: Putmans wife was much better, and had no violent fits at all from that 24th of March to the 5th of April. Some others also said they had not seen her so frequently appear to them, to hurt them.

( Deodat Lawson. A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village Which happened from the Nineteenth of March to the Fifth of April 1692. Boston: Benjamin Harris, 1692, p. 9.)

(Mercy Lewis v. Dorothy Good )

[+ March 24, 1692]

The Deposistion of Mercy lewes aged about 19 years who testifieth and saith that on the 3d April 1692 the Apperishtion of Dorrithy good Sarah goods daughter came to me and did afflect me urging me to writ in hir book.

(Reverse) Mercy Lewis against Dorothy. Good .

( Essex County Court Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 1, no. 62 )

(Mary Walcott v. Dorothy Good )

[+ March 24,1692]

The deposition of mary walcott agged about 17 years who testifieth that about the 21: march 1691/92 I saw the Apperishtion of Dorothy good sarah goods daughter com to me and bit me and pinch me and so she contineued afflecting me by times tell 24 march being the day of hir examination and then she did torment and afflect me most greviously dureing the time of hir examination and also severall times sence the Apperishtion of Dorothy good has afflected me by biting pinching and almost choaking me urging me to writ in hir book.

(Reverse) Mary Walcott agst Dorothy. Good — Dorothy good

( Essex County Court Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 1, no. 64 )

(Ann Putnam, Jr. v. Dorothy Good )

[+ March 24,1692]

The Deposistion of Ann putnam who testifieth and saith that on the 3th March 1691/92 I saw the Apperishtion of Dorythy good Sarah good’s daughter who did immediatly almost choak me and tortored me most greviously: and so she hath severall times sence tortored me by biting and pinching and almost choaking me tempting me also to writ in hir book and also on the day of hir examination being the 24 March 1691/92 the Apperishtion of Dorithy good ly totor me dureing the time of hir Examination and severall times sence.

(Reverse) Ann puttnam ag’t Dorothy Good

( Essex County Court Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 1, no. 63 )

(Recognizance for Dorothy Good )

[December 10, 1692]

Memorandum

That on the Tenth day of December 1692 Samuel Ray of Salem. appeared before me Underwritten One of the Councill for their Maj:tis Province of the Massachusets Bay in New England and acknowledged himselfe Indebted unto Our Soveraign Lord & Lady the king & Queen the Sume of fifty pounds Currant Money of New: England on the Condition hereafter Named — Vid’t: That Dorothy Good Daughter of William Good of Salem Labourer being Imprisoned on Suspicion of her being Guilty of the Crime of Witchcraft & being Now Let to Bail. that if the Said Dorothy Good Shall appear at the Next assize & Gener’ll Goal Delivery to be holden at Salem & abide the Courts Judgment then the above Recognisance to be void Else to remain in force & vertue

(Reverse) Recog’ce not copied

( Essex County Court Archives, Salem — Witchcraft Vol. 2, no. 185 )

 

 

 

Stay tuned for more.

Happy Hunting

The Pierce Family Historian

 

 

Salem Massachuetts AND The Salem Witch Trials

SALEM MASSACHUSETTS

 

The saddest story in the history of the country is that of the witch craze at Salem, Massachusetts, brought about by a negro woman and company of girls. The negress, Tituba, was a slave, whom Rev Samuel Parris, one of the ministers of Salem, had purchased in Barbados. We may think of Tituba as seated in the old kitchen of Mr. Parris’s house during the long winter evening, telling witch stories to the minister’s niece, Elizabeth, who was nine years old. She draws a circle in the ashes on the hearth, burns a lock of hair, and mutters some gibberish. They are incantations to call up the devil and his imps. The girls of the village gather in the old kitchen to hear Tituba’s stories, and to mutter words that have no meanings. The girls were Abigail Williams, who was eleven, Anne Putnam who was twelve, Mary Walcot,and Mary Lewis who were seventeen, Elizabeth Hubbard, Elizabeth Booth, and Susannah Sheldon, eighteen, and two servant girls, Mary Warren and Sarah Churchill. Tituba taught them to bark like dogs, mew like cats,  grunt like hogs, and to creep through chairs and under tables on their hands and feet, and to pretend to have spasms. 

 

Mr. Parris had read the books and pamphlets published in England, how persons bewitched acted like animals, and went into spasms, and he came to the conclusion that they were bewitched. He sent for Doctor Griggs, who said that the girls were not sick, and without doubt were bewitched. 

 

THE TOWN WAS ON FIRE! 

People came to see the girls, who delighted with the success of their play, crept about all the more like cats and dogs, barking, mewing, and uttering piercing screams. 

Sunday came, and when the congregation had finished singing, Abigail Williams said to Mr. Parris, “Now stand up and name your text.” 

The minister and everybody else was amazed, but he read his text. 

“It is a long one,” said Abigail. 

The minister went on with his preaching. 

“There, we have had enough of that,” shouted another girl. 

“There is a yellow bird on the minister’s hat,” cried Anne Putnam. 

The parents of the girls stood aghast, and Mr. Parris, believing that they were assaulted by the devil, invited the ministers of the other parishes to come and hold a day of fasting and prayer. The ministers assembled, saw the girls go into fits, rolling their eyes, holding their breath, muttering gibberish, peeping like frogs, barking like dogs, and devoutly believed that they were bewitched. They prayed solemnly and fervently, recalling the saying of Jesus Christ, “This kind goeth not out except by fasting and prayer.” 

The news spread quickly, and the people came in crowds to see the girls. 

“Who bewitched you?’ they asked.

 

Sarah Good, Sarah Osburn, and Tituba,” the girls answered. 

 

Sarah Good was a poor old woman, who begged her bread from door to door. Sarah Osburn was old, wrinkled, and sickly. 

 

What a scene was around the meeting house, March 1st, 1692!

All of Salem was there, for the women who were accused of being witches were to be examined by the justices.

 

Sheriff and constable escorted the justices, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, from Thomas Beadle’s tavern to the meeting house and gave them seats in front of the pulpit. Rev. Parris prayed that God would direct them. The girls were there, and Sarah Good was brought in by the sheriff. 

 

“Have you made a contract with the devil?” asked Justice Hathorne.
“NO.”

“Children, is this the person who hurt you?”  

“Yes, she is sticking pins into me!” the girls screeched. 

“Why do you torment the children?” 

“I do not.” 

The girls went on with their screeching, and the justice and all the people were so deluded, and were such firm believers in witchcraft, that they accepted all that the girls said as truth, and the denials of the wrinkled old women as lies. 

 

“Sara Osburn, have you made a contract with the devil? Asked the justice. 

“I never saw the devil.”

“Why do you hurt the children?”

“I do not hurt them.”

“SHE DOES! She Does!” said the girls, and the people decided in their minds against her.

“Tituba, why do you hurt the children?”

“I do not.”

“Who is it, then?”

“The devil, for aught I know.”

“Did you see the devil?”

“Yes, he came to me and bid me serve him. Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn wanted me to hurt the children, but I would not.”

“How does the devil appear when he comes to you?”

“Sometimes like a hog, and sometimes like a great black dog.”

“What else have you seen?”

“Two cats, one red, and the other black. I saw them last night, and they said “Serve me, but I would not.” 

“What did they want you to do?”

“Hurt the children.” 

“Did you not pinch Elizabeth Hubbard?”

“Yes, they made me pinch her, and wanted me to kill her with a knife.”

“How do you ride when you go to meet the devil?”

“On a stick. I ride in front, and Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn behind me. We go up over trees, and in a short time are in Boston or anywhere else.”

Tituba had a great many other things to tell…that the devil sometimes wore a tall black hat, that one of his imps was about three feet high, hairy all over, and had a long nose, and that the imp came into Mr. Parris’s house and stood by the fire. 

 

The people believed her. Would she be likely to admit that she was a witch if she were not one? 

 

The girls accused her of pinching them and she acknowledged that she did so. Therefore, the girls were telling the truth and Sarah Osburn and Sarah Good, were liars. So the justice and the people reasoned, and the sheriff took them to Ipawich jail which was about 10 miles away, and the people went home to talk over the event. 

 

The ministers of Salem, Boston, and the surrounding towns met to consult over the situation. Among them was the learned Cotton Mather who accepted the terrible accounts as truth which had reached him from England. Few if any doubted that the girls were bewitched, and the girls were loving the attention so went on with their creeping, barking, mewing, and falling into convulsions, and crying that someone was sticking pins in them. They accused Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, two women who were kind to the poor, and very religious, but so credulous were Rev. Parris and Rev. Noyes and everyone else, that they were arrested. When they were examined before the justice, the girls all cried out that the women were tormenting them. “I am as innocent as a child unborn,” said Mrs. Nurse: but the people, the ministers, and the justices, all lost their heads, and the women were committed to prison

 

. Mrs. Good had a little girl, Dorcas who was five years old, and the girls said that Dorcas helped her mother in tormenting them. “She bites me!” they cried, and showed the prints of teeth on their arms. The sheriff arrested Dorcas and put her in prison, where she was chained with her mother. It was believed that unless the witches were chained they would fly out through the keyhole. Sara Cloyse and Elizabeth Proctor were the next accused. The judges met sometimes at Thomas Beadle’s tavern and sometimes in the meeting house.

 

The news spread quickly. No one doubted that the devil had come in great wrath to afflict the good people of Salem. Rev Lawson, Rev Parris, Rev Noyes, and other ministers preached sermons against witchcraft, making it clear that these manifestations were without a doubt produced by the devil. The whole colony was up in arms, and Lieutenant -Governor Danforth and his councillors, which consisted of six hundred men, went to Salem to sit in judgement at the trial of Sarah and Elizabeth. Abigail Williams brought a horrible accusation. 

 

“I saw a company of witches at the Rev Parris’s house,” she said; “there were forty of them. They had a sacrament, and Sarah Cloyse and Sarah Good were their deacons, and the witches drank blood.” 

Sarah Cloyse fainted at the terrible accusation, and the girls went into convulsions. John, a negro of Mr Parris, rolled and tumbled upon the floor, and all cried out that the witches were tormenting them. 

Governor Danforth and his councillors were amazed. The prisoners had no one to help them. There were few lawyers in America at that time. The governor and the judges asked them questions, having already made up his mind that they were witches, and poor women, friendless and alone, had nothing to say except “We are innocent.”  

No one believed them but took the word of the girls as the truth. The poor women were thrown into prison. 

Instead of there being fewer witches, there were more, and in a short time the jails were filled with men and women. Among those arrested was Rev. George Burroughs, who had once preached in Salem, but who was living in Maine. The sheriff made a long journey to arrest him. 

Not only the girls and Tituba, but others accused those arrested of being witches. If a man had anything against his neighbor, it was easy for him to take revenge by accusing him of exercising witchcraft. Samuel Shattuck who dyed clothes for a living, had trouble with Bridget Bishop. John the negro also had a grievance against her, and testified that she was a witch. “I saw her go through a hole no larger than my hand, “ said John. The judges believe him.  

 

Samuel Shattuck’s child had fits. “I believe it is the work of Bridget,” he said.

 

WHAT COULD THE JUDGES DO? 

 

They condemned them to be hung. The Bible commanded that witches should not live. For one hundred and fifty years the laws of England had been in force against witches. Thirty thousand had been executed in England. Parliament had appointed a witch finder. King James had written a book against them.  Archbishop Jewell had begged Queen Elizabeth to burn them. Rev Richard Baxter, whose name was reverenced all over, had written against the witches. In all lands they were seen as the enemies of God and man as they were conspiring with the Evil One against the livelihood of the community. The great and good Lord Chief justice of England, Mathew Hale had condemned those to death who were not near so diabolical as the accused, and had written a book referring from the Bible that witches were in cahoots with the devil! 

 

Besides the people of Salem, the friends and neighbors all believed that the accused were witches, and ought to be put to death. They were magistrates, appointed by God, as they believed, to administer the laws faithfully and impartially. They had seen the girls go into fits and convulsions, and heard them cry when the witches pinched them. With the rest of the world, the judges lost their minds, and condemned the poor people accused to death. 

 

TO THE HILL THEY GO! 

 

Gallows were erected on a hill overlooking the village. Through the streets of Salem rattled the cart that bore them to their place of execution. They climbed the ladder with the halter around their necks, men and women, the minister, and those who had listened to his preaching. 

People gazed in horror as their old friends and neighbors,  swang in the air struggling at the throes of death.  When life was gone from them, the bodies were thrown into holes, and piled with dirt. They trampled it down, and thought of them as suffering the torments of the devil. 

 

HOW HORRIBLE! 

If we were living in those days would we too have lost our judgement, reason, and common sense? 

The wisest and best of men in 1692 fell for it, under the terrible delusion, wild foundation, and lamentable ignorance of the period. 

Nineteen men and women were hung. 

Giles Corey, who would neither say “Guilty” or “Not Guilty, “ had rocks piled upon him til he was crushed to death. 

One hundred and fifty men and women were thrown into prison before the people came to their senses! 

The wife of Rev. Hale, of Beverly, was accused. There was not a woman in Massachusetts more beloved, honored and respected. The people were amazed. They could not believe that such a godly woman would join with the devil. They began to see, what they had not thought of before, was that perhaps the girls were lying about the witches tormenting them. The judges had not questioned the girls, …only the accused. The denials had been disregarded . Why would young girls lie? 

 

THE SPELL WAS BROKEN

 People saw that they had been under a delusion. Samuel Sewall,  one of the judges, humbly confessed on Sunday in the old South Church in Boston, with tears rolling down his cheeks, and ever after, so long as he lived, kept a day of fasting and repentance once a year to manifest his sorrow to the world. 

“Touching and sad a tale is told, 

Like a penitent hymn of the Psalmist old, 

Of the fast which the good man life long kept, 

With a haunting sorrow that never slept. 

As the circling years brought round the time

Of an error that left the sting of crime.” 

 

IT’S OVER NOW

SET THEM FREE 

The sheriff threw open the prison doors and the prisoners accused of being witches were released. The girls, having no one to believe their accusations, had no more stories to tell of being tormented. The great wave of superstition that had sent hundreds of thousands to an untimely grave in Europe, died out in the village of Salem. 

The girls…

Though fully and humbly confessing  for their actions found little happiness in life. Forever before their eyes were the swinging forms of those who had died upon the gibbet due to their childish pranks and the terrible tragedy they had mustered. 

I cannot begin to imagine the guilt they must have carried with them throughout their lives. 

I hope you enjoyed this episode for the Salem Witch Trials. Stay tuned for upcoming post as I will reveal to you how The Pierce Family has connections to some of those involved. If you liked this post please leave me a comment in the comment section and STAY tuned for the next post. My source of information here was mostly from the  book Old Times in the Colonies by Charles Carleton Coffin as well as most of the pictures. No copyright infringement was intended. 

 

Happy Hunting

The Pierce Family Historian

RSS
Follow by Email
YouTube
LinkedIn
Share
Instagram
The Pierce Family Historian