Elizabeth Proctor: The Salem Witch Trials Widow

Elizabeth Proctor, wife of Salem Village farmer John Proctor, was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

The Proctors were a wealthy family who lived on a large rented farm on the outskirts of Salem Village, in what is now modern day Peabody. Elizabeth, Proctor’s third wife, married Proctor in April of 1674, two years after the death of his second wife, Elizabeth Thorndike.

Elizabeth Proctor, whose maiden name was Bassett, was also the granddaughter of Goody Burt, a folk healer from Lynn who had been tried, but acquitted, on charges of witchcraft over 30 years earlier.

In the spring of 1692, after some of the afflicted girls began having fits and claimed that invisible forces were tormenting them, the Proctor’s servant, Mary Warren, began showing the same symptoms. John Proctor, who believed the afflicted girls were just pretending to be afflicted, accused Warren of faking her symptoms and threatened to beat her if she continued.

Warren’s fits quickly stopped but as soon as John Proctor left on business a few days later, her symptoms returned and she joined the ongoing witch trials as a witness.

Illustration of the Meetinghouse of the First Church in Salem Village, published in the New England Magazine, Volume 5, in 1892

The meetinghouse of the first church in Salem Village, illustration published in the New England Magazine, Volume 5, in 1892

In late March, two of the afflicted girls, Mercy Lewis and Abigail Williams, claimed Elizabeth Proctor visited them at night in spirit form and tormented them. On April 4th, John Walcott and Nathaniel Ingersoll filed an official complaint against Elizabeth Proctor, on behalf of Abigail Williams, John Indian, Mary Walcott, Ann Putnam and Mercy Lewis, and a warrant was issued for her arrest. After she was apprehended, Elizabeth Proctor was brought to the Salem Village meetinghouse on April 11th and examined by Judge Thomas Danforth, according to court records:

Q. Elizabeth Proctor! you understand whereof you are charged, viz. to be guilty of sundry acts of witchcraft; what say you to it? Speak the truth, and so you that are afflicted, you must speak the truth, as you will answer it before God another day. Mary Walcott! doth this woman hurt you?
A. I never saw her so as to be hurt by her.
Q. Mary Lewis! does she hurt you? — Her mouth was stopped.
Q. Ann Putnam, does she hurt you? — She could not speak.
Q. Abigail Williams! does she hurt you? — Her hand was thrust in her own mouth.
Q. John! does she hurt you?
A. This is the woman that came in her shift and choked me.
Q. did she ever bring the book?
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. What to do?
A. to write.
Q. What, this woman?
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. Are you sure of it?
A. Yes, Sir. — Again, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam were spoke to by the court, but neither of them could make any answer, by reason of dumbness or other fits.
Q. What do you say Goody Proctor to these things?
A. I take God in heaven to be my witness, that I know nothing of it, no more than the child unborn.

As the examination continued, Elizabeth Proctor’s accusers began to shift their attention to Elizabeth’s servant, Mary Warren, and her husband, John Proctor:

Q. Abigail Williams! does this woman hurt you?
A. Yes, Sir, often.
Q. Does she bring the book to you?
A. Yes.
Q. What would she have you do with it?
A. To write in it and I shall be well. — Did not you, said Abigail, tell me, that your maid had written?
A.(Proctor) Dear Child, it is not so. There is another judgement, dear child.
Then Abigail and Ann had fits. By and by they cried out, look you there is Goody Proctor upon the beam. By and by, both of them cried out of Goodman Proctor himself, and said he was a wizard. Immediately, many, if not all of the bewitched, had grievous fits.
Q. Ann Putnam! who hurt you?
A. Goodman Proctor and his wife too. — Afterwards some of the afflicted cried, there is Proctor going to take up Mrs. Pope’s feet. — And her feet were immediately taken up.
Q. What do you say Goodman Proctor to these things?
A. I know not, I am innocent.
Abigail Williams cried out, there is Goodman Proctor going to Mrs. Pope , and immediately, said Pope fell into a fit. — You see the devil will deceive you; the children could see what you was going to do before the woman was hurt. I would advise you to repentance, for the devil is bringing you out. Abigail Williams cried out again, there is Goodman Proctor going to hurt Goody Bibber; and immediately Goody Bibber fell into a fit. There was the like of Mary Walcott , and divers others. Benjamin Gould gave in his testimony, that he had seen Goodman Corey and his wife, Proctor and his wife, Goody Cloyce, Goody Nurse, and Goody Griggs in his chamber last Thursday night. Elizabeth Hubbard was in a trance during the whole examination. During the examination of Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam, both made offer to strike at said Proctor; but when Abigail’s hand came near, it opened, whereas it was made up into a fist before, and came done exceeding lightly, as it drew near to said Proctor, and at length with open and extended fingers, touched Proctor’s hood very lightly. Immediately Abigail cried out, her fingers, her fingers, burned, and Ann Putnam took on most greviously, of her head, and sunk down.

It is not known exactly why the afflicted girls targeted Elizabeth Proctor, but in the 1953 play, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, Abigail Williams is depicted as having an affair with John Proctor and becomes jealous of Elizabeth Proctor, prompting her to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft. The age difference between Abigail, 11, and John, 60, makes this unlikely and there’s no proof that Abigail Williams even knew Elizabeth or John Proctor before the witch hysteria. Yet, Miller wrote in an essay in the New Yorker in 1996 that it was a moment during Elizabeth Proctor’s examination, when Abigail raises her hand to strike Elizabeth, that convinced him that John and Abigail had an affair:

“In this remarkably observed gesture of a troubled young girl, I believed, a play became possible. Elizabeth Proctor had been the orphaned Abigail’s mistress, and they had lived together in the same small house until Elizabeth fired the girl. By this time, I was sure, John Proctor had bedded Abigail, who had to be dismissed most likely to appease Elizabeth. There was bad blood between the two women now. That Abigail started, in effect, to condemn Elizabeth to death with her touch, then stopped her hand, then went through with it, was quite suddenly the human center of all this turmoil.”

Not only were John Proctor and Mary Warren accused, the following month, three of the Proctor’s children, William, Benjamin and Sarah were also accused and arrested, as was Elizabeth Proctor’s sister, Mary Bassett DeRich, and her sister-in-law Sarah Bassett. Sarah Proctor and Sarah Bassett were both accused on May 21st by John and Thomas Putnam, on behalf of Abigail Williams, Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis and Ann Putnam, and arrested shortly after. Benjamin Proctor was accused a few days later on May 23rd, by Nathaniel Ingersoll and Thomas Rayment, on behalf of Mary Warren, Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Hubbard, and arrested by Marshal Deputy John Putnam. William Proctor was accused on May 28th by Mary Walcott and Susannah Sheldon and arrested by constable John Putnam.

Although Mary Warren wasn’t one of Elizabeth’s original accusers, she testified against both Elizabeth and John Proctor during their trials, claiming that their spirits beat, pinched and choked her at night, according to court records:

“The Deposition of Mary Warren aged about 20 years do testefieth and saith I have often seen the apparition of Elizabeth Procter the wife of John proctor among the witches and she hath often tortured me most greviously by biting me and choking me and pinching me and pressing my stomach tell the blood came out of my mouth and also upon the day of her examination I saw her torture Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Ann Putnam, Elizabeth Hubbard, Abigail Williams and she hath ever since at times tortured me most greviously Mary Warren owned this here testimony to be the truth before the Jurors of Inquest this 30 of June 1692.”

After their arrests, many of the Proctor’s friends banded together and signed a petition declaring them innocent and asked for their release:

“We whose names are under written having several years known John Proctor and his wife do testify that we never heard or understood that they were ever suspected to be guilty of the crime now charged upon them and several of us being their near neighbours do testify that to our apprehension they lived christian life in their family and were ever ready to help such as stood in need of their help
Nathaniel Felton sen: and mary his wife
Samuel Marsh and Prescilla his wife
James Houlton and Ruth his wife
John Felton
Nathaniel Felton jun
Samuell Frayll and an his wife
Zachriah Marsh and mary his wife
Samuel Endecott and hanah his wife
Samuell Stone
George Locker
Samuel Gaskil & provided his wife
George Smith
Ed Edward: Gaskile”

Neither the petition, nor the letter John Proctor sent to the Boston clergy in July pleading that the trials be moved to Boston, helped their situation. On August 5th, both Elizabeth and John Proctor were found guilty and sentenced to death. Since Elizabeth was pregnant at the time of her conviction, her execution was postponed until after she gave birth. John Proctor pleaded for more time as well, claiming he was too ill for the execution, but was hanged on August 19th.

On January 27, 1693, Elizabeth Proctor gave birth to a boy and named him John Proctor III, after his father. Although she had given birth, Elizabeth was not immediately executed, for reasons unknown.

In May of that same year, after the witch hysteria had died down and most of the prisoners had been released due to a lack of evidence, Governor Phipps released the remaining prisoners, which included Elizabeth Proctor.

Although she was free from jail, as a convicted witch Elizabeth was still guilty in the eyes of the law and therefore had no legal rights. To make matters worse, John Proctor’s will made no mention of Elizabeth, most likely because he expected she would be executed along with him. As a result, she was penniless, according to the book “The Salem Witch Trials: A Day By Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege”:

“Elizabeth Proctor, condemned but freed with her newborn (if he survived), found her late husband’s farm picked clean. John Proctor’s will made no mention of his widow, so Elizabeth had not a penny from it, neither her widow’s third nor the dowry that she had brought to the marriage. When she protested, her stepchildren ignored even her prenuptial contract and replied that she could not inherit, for, being condemned to hang, she was dead in the law.”

Even if Elizabeth were able to inherit John’s estate, there wasn’t much left of it since most of it had been confiscated while John and Elizabeth were in prison, according to Robert Calef in his book “More Wonders of the Invisible World”:

“John Procter and his wife being in prison, the sheriff came to his house and seized all the goods, provisions, and cattle that he could come at, and sold some of the cattle at half price, and killed others, and put them up for the West-Indies; threw out the beer out of a barrel, and carried away the barrel; emptied a pot of broth, and took away the pot, and left nothing in the house for the support of the children: No part of the said goods are known to be returned.”

Elizabeth’s luck finally began to improve in March of 1694-5, when court records indicate that the will of John Proctor was admitted to probate in the Probate Court of Essex County under the complaint of Thomas and Elizabeth Very (John Proctor’s eldest daughter from his marriage to Elizabeth Thorndike). On April 15, 1695, the committee reported a division of the estate according to the will. There is no record confirming it, but it can only be assumed by this event that John Proctor’s legal rights, which had been stripped when he was convicted, had at some point been restored and therefore his family finally had access to what was left of his estate.

It was shortly after this event, in May of 1696, when Elizabeth Proctor petitioned the General Court to restore her own legal rights. In doing so, she asked for the rights to her husband’s estate or at the very least, the dowry she brought to the marriage:

“To the Honourable General Court Assembled at Boston May twenty
seventh 1696

the Humble petition of Elizabeth Proctor widow and relict of John Proctor of Salem deceased humbly sheweth that in the year of our Lord 1692 when many persons in Salem and in other towns there about were accused by some evil disposed or strangely influenced persons as being witches or for being guilty of acting witch-craft my sd husband John Proctor and myself were accused as such and we both: my sd husband and myself were so far proceeded against that we were condemned but in that sad time of darkness before my said husband was executed it is evident somebody had contrived a will and brought it to him to sign where in his whole estate is disposed of not having regard to a contract in writing made with me before marriage with him; but so it pleased god to order by his providence that although the sentence was executed on my dear husband yet through gods great goodness to your petitioner I am yet alive; since my husbands death the said will is proved and approved by the Judge of probate and by that kind of disposal the whole estate is disposed of; and although god hath Granted my life yet those that claim my said husbands estate by that which they call a will will not suffer me to have one penny of the estate neither upon the account of my husbands contract with me before marriage nor yet upon the account of the dowry which as I humbly conceive doth belong or ought to belong to me by the law for they say that I am dead in the law and therefore my humble request and petition to this honoured General Court is that by an act of this honoured court as god hath content renewed my life and through gods goodness without fear of being put to death upon that sentence you would be pleased to put me into a capacity to make use of the law to recover that which of right by law I ought to have for my necessary suple and support that as I your petitioner am one of his majesties subjects I may have the benefit of his laws so humbly praying that god would direct your honours in all things to do that which may be most pleasing to him I subscribe

your honours humble petitioner

Elizabeth Proctor
Read. 10 th June. 1696. in Council”

According to the court records, on April 19, 1697, the court restored Elizabeth’s legal rights and returned her dowry to her.

Not much is known about Elizabeth Proctor after this time period except that on September 22, 1699, Elizabeth married her second husband, Daniel Richards, in Lynn, Massachusetts.

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a bill restoring some of the names of the accused and awarded the Proctor family £150 in restitution for their imprisonments and John Proctor’s death.

There are no death records for Elizabeth, nor records of her youngest children, in Lynn, indicating that the family may have moved to another town. Her death date and location of her grave are unknown.


“More Wonders of the Invisible World”, Robert Calef, 1700

“Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692″; Bernard Rosenthal; 1993

“History of Salem, Massachusetts”; Sidney Perley; 1924

“The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide”; K. David Goss; 2007

“The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-day Chronicle Of A Community Under Siege”; Marilynne K. Roach; 2004

Why I Wrote the Crucible; Arthur Miller; The New Yorker Magazine; October 21 1996

“December Meeting, 1884. ‘Instructions’ of Malden, 1776; The Rev. Peter Thacher, D.D.; Manuscripts Relating to Witchcraft; Letter from Governor Phips; Petition of Elizabeth Proctor; Petition of the Parkers; Answers concerning Witchcraft; Questions concerning Witchcraft; Answers concerning Witchcraft; Trumbull Papers” is an article from Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 1: http://archive.org/stream/jstor-25079627/25079627_djvu.txt

University of Virginia; Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project; Case File for Elizabeth Proctor: http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal2R?div_id=n106


William Dawes: The Forgotten Midnight Rider

William Dawes was a Boston tanner and one of the riders sent by Dr. Joseph Warren to alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the approaching British army on the night of April 18th, 1775.

Dawes was born in Boston on April 6, 1745. He was the second of twelve children born to William Dawes and Lydia Boone. He married twice, first to Mehitable May, who died in October of 1793, and then to Lydia Gendall.

On October 28, 1767, Dawes was one of 650 Boston citizens who signed a “nonimportation agreement,” promising not to buy goods imported from Britain, which included furniture, clothes, nails, anchors, gauze, shoe leather, malt liquors, loaf sugar, starch and glue. To further support this cause, the Boston Gazette states that Dawes also wore a suite made entirely in America on his wedding day.

In April of 1768, Dawes joined the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, a private training organization for militia officers, and was also promoted to second major of the regiment of the Boston militia. Dawes was also a member of the patriotic group the Sons of Liberty and was a Freemason, although it is not clear which Boston lodge he belonged to.

William Dawes oil painting by John Johnston circa 1785-95 - 300 x 362

William Dawes, oil painting by John Johnston, circa 1785-95

According to the book “History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts,” as an ardent patriot, Dawes often rode throughout the colony trying to find recruits for the colonial cause:

“He scoured the country, organizing and aiding in the birth of the Revolution. His granddaughter wrote: ‘During these rides, he sometimes borrowed a friendly miller’s hat and clothes and sometimes he borrowed a dress of a farmer, and had a bag of meal behind his back on the horse. At one such time a British soldier tried to take away his meal, but grandfather presented arms and rushed on. The meal was for his family. But in trying to stir up recruits, he was often in danger.’”

In October of 1774, Dawes planned and led a daring break-in at the gun house on Boston Common. While the guards were at roll call, Dawes and several members of his artillery company stole two small brass cannons, sneaking them out the back window, and hid them in a large box under the desk in a nearby school house. When a British sergeant later discovered the cannons were missing, he exclaimed: “They are gone. These fellows will steal the teeth out of your head while you are keeping guard.” The guards searched the yard, gun-house and school house but never found the hidden cannons. The cannons remained there for two weeks until Dawes had them removed one night in a wheelbarrow and hid them under a pile of coal in a blacksmith shop. On January 5, 1775, the Committee of Safety voted to move the stolen cannons to Waltham. The cannons remained in active service throughout the revolutionary war.

Dawes also injured his arm during the break-in and was attended to by fellow patriot Dr. Joseph Warren but, due to the illegal nature of the event, Dawes thought it best not to tell Warren how the injury happened.

It was Warren who later sent both Dawes and Paul Revere on their famous midnight ride on April 18th,  according to the book “History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts:

“For some days before the 19th of April, 1775, it had been known the British were preparing to move. It was suspected that the destination of the troops would be Concord, where stores of war material were gathered, and in the vicinity of which were Hancock, Adams and other Revolutionary leaders. On the afternoon of the day before the attack, Gen. Warren learned that the British were about to start. He waited until they had begun to move their boats, and then sent out William Dawes, Jr, by the land route, over the [Boston] neck, and across the river at the Brighton Bridge to Cambridge and Lexington; and directly after, ‘about ten o’clock,’ he ‘sent in great haste’ for Paul Revere, and sent him by the water route through Charlestown to Lexington to arouse the country, and warn Hancock and Adams.”

Revere and Dawes took different routes during their rides. Revere crossed the Charles river by boat and rode from Charlestown through Somerville, Medford, Arlington and Lexington. Dawes traveled a longer distance than Revere, going south across Boston neck to Roxbury, then west and north through Brookline, Brighton, Cambridge and Lexington, covering a total of 17 miles in three hours. Dawes’ route also required passing through a guarded gate at Boston neck, which was on high alert at the time, according to the History Channel website:

“Dawes set off around 9 p.m., about an hour before Warren dispatched Revere on his mission. Within minutes, he was at the British guardhouse on Boston Neck, which was on high alert. According to some accounts, Dawes eluded the guards by slipping through with some British soldiers or attaching himself to another party. Other accounts say he pretended to be a bumbling drunken farmer. The simplest explanation is that he was already friendly with the sentries, who let him pass. However Dawes did it, he made it in the nick of time. Shortly after he passed through the guardhouse, the British halted all travel out of Boston.”

Unlike Revere, Dawes didn’t stop to alert colonial minutemen during his ride and instead rode straight on to Lexington. It’s not clear why Dawes did this but it is possible that he believed his mission was only to alert John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the approaching British army. As a result, the militia took longer to respond to the British army’s approach on Dawes route than on Revere’s.

Dawes finally met up with Revere at the Hancock-Clarke house in Lexington, where Hancock and Adams were staying, around 12:30 am. After warning Hancock and Adams of the approaching army, Revere and Dawes mounted their horses again and set off for Concord, running into Dr. Samuel Prescott along the way.

Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington in May of 2014

Hancock-Clarke House in Lexington in May of 2014

Prescott decided to join them on their trip but the three riders soon encountered a British patrol around 3 am. According to Revere’s account of the ride, Dawes and Prescott managed to get away but Revere was captured:

“After I had been there [at the Hancock-Clarke house] about half an hour, Mr. Dawes came; after we refreshed our selves, we and set off for Concord, to secure the stores, &c. there. We were overtaken by a young Doctor Prescott, whom we found to be a high Son of Liberty. I told them of the ten officers that Mr. Devens met, and that it was probable we might be stopped before we got to Concord; for I supposed that after night, they divided them selves, and that two of them had fixed themselves in such passages as were most likely to stop any intelligence going to Concord. I likewise mentioned, that we had better alarm all the inhabitants till we got to Concord; the young Doctor much approved of it, and said, he would stop with either of us, for the people between that & Concord knew him, & would give the more credit to what we said. We had got nearly half way. Mr Dawes & the Doctor stopped to alarm the people of a house: I was about one hundred rod a head, when I saw two men, in nearly the same situation as those officer were, near Charlestown. I called for the Doctor & Dawes to come up; – were two & we would have them in an Instant I was surrounded by four; – they had placed themselves in a straight road, that inclined each way; they had taken down a pair of bars on the North side of the road, & two of them were under a tree in the pasture. The Doctor being foremost, he came up;and we tried to get past them; but they being armed with pistols & swords, they forced us in to the pasture; – the Doctor jumped his horse over a low stone wall, and got to Concord.”

Dawes, tried to outrun the patrol but knowing his horse was too tired, he scared off the two soldiers chasing him by riding up to a nearby farm house and shouting “Halloo, boys, I’ve got two of ‘em!” The soldiers feared it was an ambush and rode away. Unfortunately, Dawes had halted his horse so suddenly that he was bucked off it. His whereabouts for the rest of the night are unknown.

Dawes reportedly later joined the Continental army in Cambridge and some sources state he fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June, 1775. He also moved his family to Worcester, sometime during the ongoing Siege of Boston, where he was later appointed commissary.

According to the book “History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts” when a group of captured British and Hessian soldiers that had been looting Worcester along their march were brought to Dawes for their daily rations, Dawes deliberately shortchanged them out of revenge:

“The Germans stole and robbed houses, as they came along, of clothing and everything on which they could lay their hands to a large amount. When at Worcester, indeed, they themselves were robbed, though in another way. One Dawes, the issuing commissary, upon the first company coming to draw their rations, balanced the scales by putting into that which contained the weight of a large stone. When that company was gone (unobserved by the Germans, but not by all present), the stone was taken away before the next came: and all the other companies except the first had short allowance.”

Paul Revere Illustration published in Paul Revere's Ride 1905 - 300 x 212

Illustration of Paul Revere’s ride published in “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Longfellow circa 1905

Despite the fact that Dawes played a pivotal role in the midnight ride of April 18th, 1775, he has been almost entirely forgotten by historians and completely overshadowed by Paul Revere. One reason is because Revere wrote a personal account of his ride, which has been widely circulated, yet very few records exist of Dawes’ participation in the ride. Another reason is because of the publication of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” in 1861, which wrote Dawes and Prescott out of the event entirely.

In an attempt to remedy this, Century Magazine published a parody of the poem, titled “The Midnight Ride of William Dawes” by Helen F. Moore, in 1896:

I am a wandering, bitter shade,
Never of me was a hero made;
Poets have never sung my praise,
Nobody crowned my brow with bays;
And if you ask me the fatal cause,
I answer only, “My name was Dawes”
‘Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear —
My name was Dawes and his Revere.
When the lights from the old North Church flashed out,
Paul Revere was waiting about,
But I was already on my way.
The shadows of night fell cold and gray
As I rode, with never a break or a pause;
But what was the use, when my name was Dawes!
History rings with his silvery name;
Closed to me are the portals of fame.
Had he been Dawes and I Revere,
No one had heard of him, I fear.
No one has heard of me because
He was Revere and I was Dawes.

Sadly, not only have historians forgotten about Dawes but even some of his own peers forgot his name, according to the History Channel website:

“Contemporaries couldn’t even recall his [Dawes] name. William Munroe, who had stood guard at the Hancock-Clarke House, later reported that Revere arrived along with a ‘Mr. Lincoln.’ In a centennial commemoration, Harper’s Magazine called Dawes ‘Ebenezer Dorr.’”

Dawes died on February 25, 1799. Even the real location of his grave has been forgotten. For years it was believed that Dawes was buried in King’s Chapel Burying ground, where he has a headstone. Yet, in 2007, it was discovered that Dawes might be buried in his wife’s family plot in Forest Hills Cemetery instead.


“William Dawes and His Ride with Paul Revere”; Henry Ware Holland; 1878

“Legend of the Third Horseman”; Charles J. Caes; 2009

“Paul Revere’s Ride”; David Hackett Fischer; 1995

“History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts, Now Called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, Volume 2″; Oliver Ayer Roberts; 1895

Harvard Gazette; Revolutionary Discover; July 16 2013: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/07/revolutionary-discovery/

PBS: William Dawes: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/patriotsday/peopleevents/p_dawes.html

History Channel: The Midnight Ride of William Dawes: http://www.history.com/news/the-midnight-ride-of-william-dawes

John Hathorne: The Salem Witch Judge

John Hathorne was a judge during the Salem Witch Trials and the great-great grandfather of author Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Hathorne was born in Salem on August 5, 1641 to William Hathorne and Anne Smith. He was the fifth of nine children. His father was a local judge who came to the New World on the “Arabella,” one of John Winthrop’s eleven ships that brought over 800 puritans to the colony in the summer of 1630. William was known for being a “bitter persecutor” of Quakers and was responsible for ordering the public whipping of Ann Coleman in Salem in 1662. William was also in the military, serving as a captain of the Salem military company in 1646, during King Phillip’s War, and was promoted to major in 1656.

A savvy businessman, William used land grants to secure an extensive property, which he turned into farmland, and owned much of Salem Village, which is now Danvers, including the hill upon which the Danvers State Hospital was later built in 1874.

After John Hathorne came of age, he worked as a book keeper and was granted a small share of the family estate, a small portion of Mill Pond Farm along the edge of Salem town, according to the book “Death in Salem”:

“John launched his career keeping books for Salem’s merchants, but he soon recognized the rewards of land speculation. By the age of twenty-one, he had become a propertied man and eligible bachelor, yet he wouldn’t wed until thirty-three, and then to Ruth Gardner, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a Quaker couple who had fled to Hartford, Connecticut, leaving her in the care of her uncle.”

Soon after marrying in 1675, Hathorne acquired a ship, a wharf and a liquor license and earned enough money in the shipping trade to build a mansion at 114 Washington Street. In 1681, he was granted a tract of land along the wharf to build a warehouse on. Hathorne and his wife had six children together, including five sons who all later became sea captains.

Oh Give Me Leave to Pray illustration of John Hathorne and Cotton Mather examining Marth Corey circa 1902 350 x 277

“Oh Give Me Leave to Pray” illustration by Samuel S. Kilburn and John W. Ehninger of John Hathorne and Cotton Mather examining Martha Corey with Mary Walcott seated next to her. Published in “The Poetical Works of Longfellow” circa 1902

Although he was involved in the shipping trade, Hathorne himself didn’t go to sea often, except for his occasional voyages as supercargo, during which he would travel on board the ship to manage the selling and buying of the cargo himself at various ports.

In 1687, Hathorne was asked, as an appointed member of the colony’s council of assistants, to mediate a dispute over whether Salem Village should break away from Salem town. Hathorne and the other two judges involved simply advised the villagers to “act as God shall direct you.”

The next time Hathorne returned to Salem Village, it was in 1692 as the chief examiner of the Salem Witch Trials, a position he may have used to his advantage, according to the book “Death in Salem”:

“Hathorne’s haste in convicting the detainees, and his refusal to reconsider a verdict even after major witnesses had recanted their testimony, has left some historians wondering if he wasn’t profiting materially from his victims’ demise. The belongings of convicted witches were routinely seized, ostensibly to pay for their jail expense. They were also served attainders, which stripped them of their rights, including their right to own and bequeath land. After Samuel Wardwell was executed and his wife sentenced to death, the couple’s property in Lynn, Massachusetts was confiscated an assigned to court officials, including John Hathorne. That case would have personal implications, as Sarah Wardwell had been married to Hathorne’s younger brother, William. Even if the judge did not personally benefit from the witchcraft convictions, his calm in the presence of Satan’s minions seemed somewhat odd, as he was a devout man who professed belief in satanic power.”

Hathorne’s first examination took place on March 1st when he questioned Sarah Osbourne, Tituba and Sarah Good at the Salem Village meetinghouse, according to court records:

“[Hathorne]: Sarah Good what evil spirit have you familiarity with?
[Good]: None
[Hathorne]: Have you made no contract with the devil?
Good answered ‘no’
[Hathorne]: Why do you hurt these children?
[Good]: I do not hurt them. I scorn it.
[Hathorne]: Who do you imploy then to do it?
[Good]: I imploy no body.
[Hathorne]: What creature do you imploy then?
[Good]: No creature but I am falsely accused.
[Hathorne]: Why did you go away muttering from Mr Parris his house?
[Good]: I did not mutter but I thanked him for what he gave my child.
[Hathorne]: Have you made no contract with the devil?
[Good]: No.
Hathorne desired the children all of them to look upon her, and see, if this were the person that had hurt them and so they all did look upon her and said this was one of the persons that did torment them — presently they were all tormented.
[Hathorne]; Sarah good do you not see now what you have done why do you not tell us the truth, why do you thus torment these poor children?
[Good]: I do not torment them.
[Hathorne]: Who do you imploy then?
[Good]: I imploy nobody I scorn it.
[Hathorne]: How came they thus tormented?
[Good]: What do I know you bring others here and now you charge me with it.
[Hathorne]: Why who was it?
[Good]: I do not know but it was some you brought into the meeting house with you.
[Hathorne]: We brought you into the meeting house.
[Good]: But you brought in two more.
[Hathorne]: Who was it then that tormented the children?
[Good]: It was osburn.
[Hathorne]: What is it that you say when you go muttering away from persons houses?
[Good]: If I must tell I will tell
[Hathorne]: Do tell us then.
[Good]: If I must tell I will tell, it is the commandments I may say my commandments I hope.
[Hathorne]: What commandment is it?
[Good]: If I must tell you I will tell, it is a psalm.
[Hathorne]: What psalm?
After a long time she muttered over some part of a psalm
[Hathorne]: Who do you serve?
[Good]: I serve god.
Hathorne]: What god do you serve?
The god that made heaven and earth though she was not willing to mention the word God her answers were in a very wicked, spiteful manner reflecting and retorting against the authority with base and abusive words and many lies she was taken in. It was here said that her husband had said that he was afraid that she either was a witch or would be one very quickly the worsh Mr Hathorne asked him his reason why he said so of her whether he had ever seen any thing by her he answered no not in this nature but it was her bad carriage to him and indeed said he I may say with tears that she is an enemy to all good.”

John Hathorne Grave 11-21-10 300 x 400

John Hathorne’s grave in the Old Burying Point Cemetery. The headstone reads: “Here lyes interred ye body of Co John Hathorne Esq, Aged 76 years, Who Died May ye 10 1717″

In his book “Salem Witchcraft,” historian Charles Wentworth Upham points out Hathorne’s accusational style of questioning during Good’s examination:

“It will be noticed that the examination was conducted in the form of questions put by the magistrate, Hathorne, based upon a forgone conclusion of the prisoner’s guilt, an expressive of a conviction, all along on his part, that the evidence of ‘the afflicted’ against her amounted to, and was, absolute demonstration.”

Although most historians agree that Hathorne was cruel at times, some feel he has been overly criticized for his role in the witch trials, according to the book “The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne”:

“He [Hathorne] was appointed a magistrate of the court oyer and terminer by Governor William Phips. The chief questioner of the presumed witches, he always seemed to suppose them guilty. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sister, Elizabeth, quoted cousin Ann Savage as saying that Charles W. Upham had ‘purposely and maliciously belittled’ John Hathorne in his two-volume study, Salem Witchcraft. Hathorne’s task was to query the victims about serious accusations in a time when virtually all Christians believed in witchcraft. That he was sometimes cruel in his questioning is true. When he and Justice Corwin were examining Elizabeth Cary of Charlestown, she asked to be seated. He said that she had ‘strength enough’ and left her standing. Captain Nicholas Cary thought Hathorne and others were cruel to his wife and declared that he was ‘extremely troubled at their inhumane dealings,’ and hoped ‘[T]hat God would take vengeance on them.’ This curse as well as Sarah Good’s threat to Nicholas Noyes may have been in Hathorne’s mind when he wrote in The House of Seven Gables of Matthew Maule’s prophecy that Colonel Pyncheon, who had ‘hunted [him] to death for his spoil’ would be given ‘blood to drink’ by God in retribution. Chadwick Hanson believes that Hathorne was ‘never more brutal nor more intolerant than in the examination of Martha Corey,’ another accused and subsequently hanged witch.”

The New England Magazine ran an article in 1892, titled “Stories of Salem Witchcraft,” in which it referred to Hathorne’s examination of Martha Corey as “a sample of cross-examination and brow-beating on the part of the magistrates, which finds parallel only in the conduct of some ungentlemenly shyster lawyer of a type happily now rare. It was quite extended, but confined mainly to an effort to make the prisoner confess.”

During the examination, Hathorne repeatedly badgered Corey and outright accused her of lying, according to court records:

“[Hathorne]: Tell us who hurts these children?
[Corey]: I do not know.
[Hathorne]: If you be guilty of this fact do you think you can hide it?
[Corey]: The Lord knows.
[Hathorne]: Well tell us what you know of this matter.
[Corey]: Why I am a Gospel woman, and do you think I can have to do with witchcraft too?
[Hathorne]: How could you tell that when the child was bid to observe what cloths you wore when someone came to speak with you?
Cheevers interrupted her and bid her not to begin with a lie and so Edward Putnam declared the matter.
[Hathorne]: Who told you that?
[Corey]: He said the child said
Cheever: You speak falsely
Then Edward Putnam read again.
[Hathorne]: Why did you ask if the child told what cloths you wore?
[Corey]: My husband told me the others told
[Hathorne]: Who told you about the cloths? Why did you ask
that question?
[Corey]: Because I heard the children told what cloths the
other wore
[Hathorne]: Goodman Corey did you tell her?
The old man denied that he told her so.
[Hathorne]: Did you not say your husband told you so?
[Hathorne]: Who hurts these children now look upon them?
[Corey]: I cannot help it.
[Hathorne]: Did you not say you would tell the truth? Why you asked that question: how come you to the knowledge?
[Corey]: I did but ask.
[Hathorne]: You dare thus to lie in all this assembly. You are now before authority. I expect the truth, you promised it, Speak now & tell [what cloths] who told you what cloths?”

After the Salem Witch Trials ended, even though many participants in the trials regretted their actions and made public apologies, Hathorne showed no remorse.

Hathorne kept his seat on Boston’s Governing Council and later followed in his father’s military footsteps as the commander-in-chief in the failed Siege of Fort Nashwaak in Nova Scotia in 1696.  According to the book “Nova Scotia’s Massachusetts,” it was Hathorne’s military inexperience that led to the failure of the King William’s War battle:

“While returning to Boston, [Colonel Benjamin] Church was amazed to meet three Massachusetts vessels carrying 100 men under the command of Colonel John Hathorne of Salem, a member of the Massachusetts Council. Hathorne had been appointed the new commander-in-chief of the expedition and had orders to attack Fort Nashwaak and to capture ‘the ordnance, artillery, and other warlike stores, and provisions lately supplied to them from France.’ Church was, as he put it ‘not a little mortified’ at what he considered to be the inexperienced Hathorne’s effrontery in shouldering aside the famous Indian fighter. Church argued that his troops had had enough of Nova Scotia, and ‘having their faces towards home, were loath to turn back’ – but turn back they did, at least as far as the mouth of the St. John River. Hathorne’s October assault on Nashawaak was a failure; he should have remained in Salem where his military skill might have been of some value. After a desultory thirty-six hour siege, his force meekly withdrew to the mouth of the river where it joined the rest of the volunteers and hurried back to Boston…The Hathorne-Church fiasco disgusted many members of the Massachusetts General Court and the general populace. It seemed to be convincing proof that Massachusetts lacked even the necessary military resources to deal effectively with the tiny French force in Nova Scotia. The fiasco appeared to drain away whatever might have remained of Massachusetts’ expansionist independence.” 

In 1702, Hathorne was appointed to the Superior Court. He held this position for 10 years before he finally resigned from the bench in 1712 and died on May 10th, 1717 at the age of 76. Hathorne is buried at the Old Burying Point Cemetery on Charter Street in Salem.

Nathaniel Hawthorne photographed by Mathew Brady circa 1855-1865

Nathaniel Hawthorne photographed by Mathew Brady circa 1855-1865

Even though Hathorne never expressed regret for what he had done during the Salem Witch Trials, his descendants were ashamed of their connection to him, particularly Nathaniel Hawthorne, who is rumored to have changed the spelling of his last name to distance himself from the witch trial judge.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was haunted by the figures of his ancestors, both John and William Hathorne, and wrote numerous novels and short stories, many of which were about overbearing Puritan rulers, with them in mind. Hawthorne feared that John and William’s persecution of Quakers and alleged witches brought a curse upon his family. Although the Hathorne family had been wealthy during the 17th century, the succeeding generations continued to lose the family’s land and money until they had almost nothing left, prompting the rumor about a family curse. In an autobiographical sketch for the introduction of the “Scarlett Letter,” titled “The Custom-House,” Nathaniel wrote a scathing criticism of John and William Hathorne, during which he apologized for their actions and asked for the curse to be lifted:

“But the sentiment has likewise its moral quality. The figure of that first ancestor, invested by family tradition with a dim and dusky grandeur, was present to my boyish imagination, as far back as I can remember. It still haunts me, and induces a sort of home-feeling with the past, which I scarcely claim in reference to the present phase of the town. I seem to have a stronger claim to a residence here on account of this grave, bearded, sable-cloaked and steeple-crowned progenitor,—who came so early, with his Bible and his sword, and trode the unworn street with such a stately port, and made so large a figure, as a man of war and peace,—a stronger claim than for myself, whose name is seldom heard and my face hardly known. He was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the Church; he had all the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor, as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds, although these were many. His son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so conspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him. So deep a stain, indeed, that his old dry bones, in the Charter Street burial-ground, must still retain it, if they have not crumbled utterly to dust! I know not whether these ancestors of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are now groaning under the heavy consequences of them, in another state of being. At all events, I, the present writer, as their representative, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them—as I have heard, and as the dreary and unprosperous condition of the race, for many a long year back, would argue to exist—may be now and henceforth removed.”

In a strange twist, a number of John Hathorne’s descendants married descendants of the accused witches Mary and Philip English and John Proctor. Two of Mary and Philip’s grandaughters, Mary and Susannah Touzel, married two of Hathorne’s grandsons, Captain William Hathorne and Daniel Hathorne (great-uncles to Nathaniel Hawthorne). Proctor’s great-great-great grandson, Thorndike Proctor, married John Hathorne’s great-great grandaughter Elizabeth Hathorne (cousin to Nathaniel Hawthorne).

In 1953, John Hathorne appeared as a major character in Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible.” In the play, Hathorne is depicted as a biased and vindictive judge who acted more like a prosecutor than an impartial judge.


“Death in Salem: The Private Lives Behind the 1692 Witch Hunt”; Diane E. Foulds; 2013

“The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca”; Rosemary Guiley; 2008

“The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide”; K. David Goss; 2008

“The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne”; Margaret B. Moore; 2001

“Salem Witchcraft”; Charles Wentworth Upham; 1867

“Historic Homes and Institutions and Genealogical and Personal Memoirs of Worcester County”; Ellery Bicknell Crane; 1907

“Nova Scotia’s Massachusetts”; George A. Rawlyk; 1973

The Literary Traveler: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Struggle and Romance with Salem: http://www.literarytraveler.com/articles/hawthorne_salem_ma/

Scarlett Letter; Nathaniel Hawthorne; 1878 http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25344/25344-h/25344-h.htm

Hawthorne in Salem: The Paternal Ancestors of Nathaniel Hawthorne: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/Life&Times/Family/Paternal/Introduction.html

Mercy Lewis: Orphan and Afflicted Girl

Mercy Lewis was one of the afflicted girls of the Salem Witch Trials and a servant in Thomas Putnam’s home.

Lewis, the daughter of Phillip Lewis, was born in Falmouth, Maine in 1675. On August 11, 1676, three-year-old Mercy Lewis and her parents barely escaped an attack by the nearby Wabanaki Indians that resulted in the death of her grandparents, cousins and many other members of the community.

Seeking refuge, the Lewis family fled to an island in Casco Bay along with the other surviving members of the community, including Reverend George Burroughs. After the attack, the Lewis family moved briefly to Salem, Ma where Lewis’ uncle, Thomas Skilling, died a few months later, possibly from a wound he suffered during the attack. Mercy Lewis and her family then moved back to Casco Bay in 1683.

The Witch, No. 2 lithograph by Joseph E. Baker published by Geo. H. Walker & Co circa 1892

“The Witch, No. 2″ lithograph by Joseph E. Baker published by Geo. H. Walker & Co circa 1892

In the summer or fall of 1689, the Wabanaki attacked again, this time killing both of Mercy Lewis’ parents. After their deaths, Lewis was briefly sent to work as a servant in Reverend George Burroughs home. She later moved to Salem village, where her married sister lived, and became a servant for Thomas Putnam, who is considered to be one of the ringleaders of the witchcraft accusations.

It was in Thomas Putnam’s home that the nineteen-year-old Lewis befriended Ann Putnam, Jr. When Putnam began behaving strangely in the winter of 1692, suffering fits and seizures, Lewis quickly followed suit. By the end of February, a local doctor determined the girls were bewitched. A few days later, Putnam and her cousin, Abigail Williams, began naming women they believed were bewitching them.

Lewis didn’t immediately join the afflicted girls in naming witches. She didn’t officially accuse anyone of witchcraft until she named Elizabeth Proctor on March 26. Proctor wasn’t arrested until the first week of April after Elizabeth Hubbard accused her as well.

Mercy Lewis and the other afflicted girls also turned on one of their own, Mary Warren, on April 18th after she hinted that the girls may have been lying about their afflictions. During Elizabeth Proctor’s trial, the girls accused Warren of helping Proctor’s spirit torment them and Warren soon found herself in jail.

Shortly after, Lewis almost suffered the same fate during Deliverance Hobbs examination on April 22, when Hobbs claimed the spirits of Sarah Wilds and Mercy Lewis tormented her:

“[Magistrate]: It is said you were afflicted, how came that about?
[Hobbs]: I have seen sundry sights.
[Magistrate]: What sights?
[Hobbs]: Last Lords day in this meeting house & out of the door, I saw a great many birds cats & dogs, & heard a voice say come away.
[Magistrate]: What have you seen since?
[Hobbs]: The shapes of several persons.
[Magistrate]: What did they say?
[Hobbs]: Nothing.
[Magistrate]: What neither the birds, nor persons?
[Hobbs]: No.
[Magistrate]: What persons did you see?
[Hobbs]: Goody Wilds and the shape of Mercy Lewis.
[Magistrate]: What is that? Did either of them hurt you?
[Hobbs]: None but Goody Wilds, who tore me almost to pieces.
[Magistrate]: Where was you then?
[Hobbs]: In bed.”

Fortunately for Lewis, the examination continued without any further mention of her and she was never accused.

According to court records, Lewis accused a total of nine people of witchcraft and officially testified in 16 cases during the course of the Salem Witch Trials (she was also indirectly involved in other cases, such as the trials of Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty):

John Alden Jr
Bridget Bishop
George Burroughs
Giles Corey
Martha Corey
Elizabeth Colson
Elizabeth Cary
Lydia Dustin
Sarah Dustin
Phillip English
Mary English
Thomas Farrer
Dorcas Good
Abigail Hobbs
Elizabeth Hart
George Jacobs Sr
Elizabeth Johnson
Mary Lacey Sr
Susannah Martin
Sarah Osborne
Elizabeth Proctor
John Willard
Mary Warren

Lewis was particularly instrumental in the accusations of several people she knew from Falmouth, Maine, such as Reverend George Burroughs, Captain John Alden, Jr., and Abigail Hobbs. Since she was one of the only people in Salem who knew anything about their backgrounds, she was the main source of information about them.

Although it is not clear why Lewis accused and testified against Reverend George Burroughs, it was most likely an attempt to get revenge against a former employer. In Lewis’ testimony against Burroughs, she told stories about her time living with him in Maine:

“The deposition of Mercy Lewes who testifieth and saith that one the 7’th of may 1692 at evening I saw the apparition of Mr. George Burroughs whom i very well knew which did greviously torture me and urged me to write in his book and then he brought to me a new fashion book which he did not use to bring and told me I might write in that book: for that was a book that was in his study when I lived with them: but I told him I did not believe him for I had been often in his study but I never saw that book their: but he told me that he had several books in his study which I never saw in his study and he could raise the devil: and now had bewitched Mr. Sheppard’s daughter and I asked him how he could go to be witch here now he was kept at Salem: and he told me that the devil was his servant and he sent him in his shape to do it then he again tortured me most dreadfully and threatened to kill me for he said I should not witness against him also he told me that he had made Abigail Hobbs: a witch and several more then again he did most dreadfully torture me as if he would have racked me all to peaces and urged me to write in his book or else he would kill me but I told him I hoped my life was not in the power of his hand and that I would not write tho he did kill me: the next night he told me I should not see his two wives if he could help it because I should not witness against him this 9’th may Mr Burroughs carried me up to an exceeding high mountain and showed me all the kingdoms of the earth and told me that he would give them all to me if I would write in his book and if I would not he would throw me down and brake my neck: but I told him they were non of his to give and I would not write if he threw me down on 100 pichforks: also on the 9’th may being the time of his examination Mr. George Bur-roughs did most dreadfully torment me: and also several times since. Mercy Lewis upon her oath did own this here testimony to be the truth before the jurers for In quest: august 3: 92.”

Many historians believe that Lewis’ accusation against Captain Alden, Jr., was payback for his alleged sales of powder and ammunition to the Native-Americans in Maine, which may have indirectly resulted in the death of Lewis’ parents. This theory is further supported by the fact that in Alden’s own account of his examination, he writes of one of the girls outright accusing him of selling supplies to the Native-Americans as well as fathering illegitimate children with Indian women:

“Then all were ordered to go down into the street, where a ring was made; and the same accuser cried out, ‘there stands Aldin , a bold fellow with his hat on before the judges, he sells powder and shot to the Indians and French, and lies with the Indian squaes, and has Indian papooses.’”

Alden’s trial abruptly ended when, with the help of some friends, he escaped from jail after 10 weeks of imprisonment and fled to New York to wait for the hysteria to die down. He later returned to Salem and was cleared of all charges.

Yet, there were some people Lewis knew personally that she didn’t accuse of witchcraft, most likely because she was related to them. One such person was Sarah Cloyce. Despite the fact that Lewis was involved in the cases against both of Sarah’s sisters, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty, she spared Sarah, according to the book “In The Devil’s Snare”:

“Thomas Cloyce’s wife Susanna was the sister of Phillip Lewis, Mercy’s father. In other words, Sarah Cloyce and Mercy Lewis were closely related by marriage: Sarah was the sister-in-law of Mercy’s paternal aunt. Probably for that reason, Mercy Lewis did not take an active role in accusing Sarah Cloyce, although she did participate in the prosecution of Rebecca Nurse and a third Towne sister, Mary Easty, who was accused later in April. Testimony about Sarah Cloyce having afflicted Mercy came not from her but from Ann Jr. Indeed, on the once occasion Mercy evidently named Sarah Cloyce, she quickly recanted. Ephraim Sheldon attested on April 10 that he had earlier witnessed one of Lewis’s fits at Ingersoll’s tavern. ‘I heard her cry out of Goodwife Cloyce and when she came to herself she was asked who she saw, she answered she saw no body they demanded of her whether or noe she did not see Goodwife Nurse or Goodwife Cloyce or Goodwife Gory [sic]. She answered she saw no body.’”

Of the numerous people Lewis accused and testified against, six were executed, one was tortured to death, one died in jail, three escaped from jail, and the rest were either pardoned, found not guilty or were never indicted.

Not much is known about Lewis’ life after the Salem Witch Trials. She gave birth to an illegitimate child and in 1701, at the age of 28, she married a man named Allen from her hometown of Falmouth. Lewis later moved to Boston with her husband and child. Her date and place of death is unknown.

Mercy Lewis later appeared as a character in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible.” In the play, Lewis is depicted as Abigail Williams’ closest friend and the two run away together at the end of the play.


“The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England”; Carol F. Karlsen; 1998

“In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692″; Mary Beth Norton; 2003

“The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide”; K. David Goss; 2007


HBO Producing a New Drama About the Salem Witch Trials

Jenji Kohan, the creator of the shows “Weeds” and “Orange is the New Black,” is currently developing a new drama about the Salem Witch Trials for HBO, according to an article on the Hollywood Reporter website:

“The untitled Salem period drama explores the circumstances surrounding one of the most compelling chapters in American history, when intolerance and repression set neighbor against neighbor and led a town to mass hysteria.

Kohan will pen the script with Bruce Miller (Alphas, Eureka) and Tracy Miller. Kohan and Bruce Miller will also executive produce, while Tracy Miller will receive a supervising producer credit. The drama hails from Lionsgate TV, where Kohan is under an overall deal.”

The new show does not have a title yet and it is not known if it will film in Salem, Massachusetts.

The HBO drama is one of two new shows about the Salem Witch Trials currently in development. WGN is producing a similar show titled “Salem” which is set to air in the spring of 2014. “Salem” is a fictionalized account of John Alden Jr.’s role in the witchcraft hysteria. Shane West has been cast to play Alden, who is portrayed as a war veteran who returns to Salem to find it in the middle of the witchcraft hysteria. The cast also includes Janet Montgomery, as sorceress Mary Sibley, Seth Gabel as Cotton Mather,  Ashley Madekwe as Sibley’s cohort and Tamzin Merchant as Anne Hale, an artist who finds herself attracted to Alden.


Hollywood Reporter; Jenji Kohan Prepping Provocative Period Drama at HBO; Dec 4 2013: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/jenji-kohan-prepping-provocative-period-662120

Boston Globe; HBO Inks Deal for Salem Witch Trials Drama; Dec 6 2013: http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/names/2013/12/06/hbo-inks-deal-for-salem-witch-trials-drama/af7t9X21eKU7gw85jIveKM/story.html

TV Line; Nikita’s Shane West Joins WGN America’s Witchy Original Drama Salem as Male Lead; Nov 1 2013: http://tvline.com/2013/11/01/shane-west-salem-tv-series-wgn-america/

The Siege of Boston

The Siege of Boston was the beginning phase of the Revolutionary War, during which American militiamen surrounded and trapped the British army inside Boston.

The siege began on April 19, 1775, when British troops retreated to Boston after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and ended on March 17, 1776 when the British finally fled Boston by sea.

The siege began when American militiamen blocked off Boston neck and Charlestown neck, the thin strips of land connecting the Boston and Charlestown peninsulas to the mainland, to prevent the British from conducting anymore attacks on the surrounding countryside. Since the rebels lacked a navy, the British army still retained control of Boston harbor, yet supplies in the town quickly dwindled as they awaited the arrival of supply ships.

During the first few days of the 11-month long siege, any movement in or out of the city, whether it be military or civilian, was completely cut off. On April 22, British General Thomas Gage met with town officials to work out a deal that would allow civilians to leave or enter Boston, according to the book “After the Siege: A Social History of Boston 1775-1800”:

Percys rescue at Lexington by Amos Doolittle (engraver) and Ralph Earl (artist) Published 1775 300 x 230

“Percy’s Rescue at Lexington” by Amos Doolittle (engraver) and Ralph Earl (artist). Published in 1775

“Believing himself best rid of troublemakers who had ‘hostile intentions against his Majesty’s troops,’ General Gage at first moved to accelerate the evacuation of the city. In a meeting on April 22 between Gage and town officials, both sides agreed that ‘the women and children, with all their effects, shall have safe conduct without the garrison’ and that male inhabitants ‘upon condition…that they will not take up arms against the King’s troops’ would also be permitted to leave…All possessions except plate and firearms could be taken from the town. General Gage assured those civilians desiring to stay that they would receive his protection. At a town meeting the following day the inhabitants agreed to the terms…Between late April and early June a mass exodus occurred. Within eight weeks approximately ten thousand inhabitants fled Boston. Confused, terrified, uncertain as to the state of events, inhabitants gathered what possessions they could. Now refugees, they fled along the crowded roads throughout the surrounding countryside seeking places of refuge…As thousands of terrified Bostonians fled the town, Loyalist refugees from throughout Massachusetts, clinging to entry passes from the Provincial Congress, poured into Boston seeking refuge in an otherwise hostile world. Many left behind pillaged homes, the remnants of months of persecution from their Whig neighbors…Across the narrow neck of the Boston peninsula, in the shadow of the town gallows and the fort that British soldiers were busily erecting, both Whig and Tory sympathizers passed. One might only imagine the mixture of anger, resentment, fear, and melancholy that each of them faced as they looked at the thousands around them pulling carts and carrying in their arms and on their backs the few possessions with which they were allowed to depart. ‘You can have no conception of the distresses [of] the people,’ wrote one observer. ‘You’ll see parents that are lucky enough to procure papers, with bundles in one hand and a string of children in the other…wandering out of the town…not knowing whither they’ll go…’ The previous day he informed a friend, ‘If I can escape with the skin of my teeth, [I] shall be glad, as I don’t expect to be able to take more than a change of apparell with me.’ Lives were turned upside down: some would never see their homes again.”

During the siege, General Thomas Gage decided to fortify Boston’s hills and defensible positions. Gage ordered a line of 10 twenty-pound guns at Roxbury neck and fortified four of the nearby hills, yet decided to abandon Charlestown and Dorchester heights.

In June, after months of idleness, the arrival of reinforcements prompted the British army to make plans to reclaim Dorchester and Charlestown in an attempt to break the siege.

On June 15th, the Committee of Safety learned of the British army’s plans in Charlestown and issued an order for troops to immediately fortify Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights, according to the book “Battle of Bunker Hill”:

“Whereas, it appears of importance to the safety of this colony that possession of the hill called Bunker’s Hill, in Charlestown, be securely kept and defended; and, also, some one hill or hills on Dorchester neck be likewise secured: therefore, resolved, unanimously, that it be recommended to the Council of War that the above-mentioned Bunker’s Hill be maintained, by sufficient forces being posted there; and as the particular situation of Dorchester Neck is unknown to this committee, they advise that the Council of War take and pursue such steps respecting the same as to them shall appear to be for the security of this colony.” 

Although the original order was to fortify Bunker Hill, the American troops quickly decided to fortify nearby Breed’s hill instead, most likely due to its close position to the harbor, over the course of the night on June 16th.

As the sun rose on June 17th, the British troops saw the fortifications on the hill and fired upon it from their ships, as well as with their battery of guns and howitzers on nearby Copp’s hill. By the afternoon, British troops arrived in Charlestown and moved in to attack. Although the American troops successfully repelled the British army’s first two attempts to take the hill, they were defeated on the third attempt and were forced to retreat into Cambridge.

The_death_of_general_warren_at_the_battle_of_bunker_hill 1786 Trumball 300 x 200

“The Death of General Warren at the battle of Bunker hill” oil painting by John Trumball circa 1786

Although the Battle of Bunker Hill was a technical victory for the British, they suffered heavy casualties, with nearly 268 dead and 828 wounded, which bolstered the American’s confidence. To make matters worse for the British, the victory did very little to weaken the rebel posts around the city.

Yet, the colonists suffered their own losses at Bunker hill, particularly when the British army burned Charlestown to the ground in an attempt to control sniper fire coming from the town and when noted patriot Dr. Joseph Warren was killed by a bullet during the retreat. Warren quickly became a martyr for the cause.

After the Battle of Bunker Hill, the siege essentially became a stalemate with very little activity besides a few skirmishes and raids. On July 10th, after British troops made an advance across Boston neck into Roxbury, American troops responded by attacking British troops staying at nearby Brown’s tavern and set the building on fire. On August 2, British troops killed and hanged the body of an American rifleman, prompting the Americans to retaliate with gun fire, according to the book “1776”:

“His comrades, seeing this, were much enraged and immediately asked leave of the Gen[eral] to go down and do as they pleased. The riflemen marched immediately and began operations. The regulars fired at them from all parts with cannon and swivels, but the rifleman skulked about, and kept up their sharpshooting all day. Many of the regulars fell, but the riflemen only lost one man.”

On August 30, British troops raided Roxbury. While one group of American troops defended Roxbury, another  300 American soldiers launched an attack on Lighthouse Island, during which they killed several British soldiers and took 23 soldiers prisoner.

Lord Howe evacuating Boston engraving by J Godfrey circa 1861 300 x 194

“Lord Howe Evacuating Boston” engraving by J. Godfrey circa 1861

The British began making plans to abandon Boston and move onto New York, which they believed would make a better base for their military operations, before winter set it but communication problems and a lack of transport large enough to move their troops and accompanying loyalists delayed these plans. Both sides decided to hunker down for the winter and waited for spring to arrive. That winter was long and cold with many desertions on both sides of the siege. Although the American troops were used to the frigid New England winters, many of the British troops had never experienced weather that cold and found it difficult to bear.

The siege finally came to an end in March, after General Washington ordered Henry Knox to bring numerous cannons captured at Fort Ticonderoga to Boston in an attempt to force the British to finally leave the city. Knox positioned the cannons on Dorchester Heights, aiming them directly at Boston harbor and the British navy. The British first planned to retaliate by attacking Dorchester Heights but then realized they were outnumbered, outgunned and could no longer hold the city, prompting British Commander William Howe to evacuate Boston.

After pillaging the city of everything they could steal, the British army had to wait several days for favorable winds but finally left Boston on March 17th, which is now known as Evacuation Day, and sailed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, according to the book “After the Siege”:

“Finally, on March 17 the British departed with more than nine hundred loyalists, a number of them Bostonians. They included a wide variety of individuals traveling in families and alone. Just as royal officials, merchants, doctors, lawyers, and clergymen fled, so did artisans, shopkeepers, widows, and laborers. A few later returned, such as John Gore, father of the future Massachusetts governor and senator, after spending nine years in exile. Most were not welcome. To this end Massachusetts passed a Banishment Act in 1778, ‘to prevent the return to this state of certain persons.’ Confiscation of loyalist property left little for most to return to in any event. How many knew that cold, blustery winter’s day in March as they sailed away from Boston harbor that they were saying good-bye to homes, friends and sometimes family forever?”


“Battle of Bunker Hill”; Richard Frothingham; 1890

“Decisive Day: The Battle for Bunker Hill”; Richard M. Ketchum; 1999

“After the Siege: A Social History of Boston 1775-1800″; Jacqueline Barbara Carr; 2005

“The Siege of Boston”; Allen French; 1911

“1776”; David McCullough; 2005

“Chronicles of the Revolutionary War”; Geoffrey Todd; 2006

History.com: Siege of Boston: http://www.history.com/topics/siege-of-boston

Massachusetts Historical Society: Siege of Boston: http://www.masshist.org/online/siege/index.php

Thomas Putnam: Ringleader of the Salem Witch Hunt?

Thomas Putnam was the father of afflicted girl Ann Putnam, Jr., and many historians consider him to be a major influence in the Salem Witch Trials.

Putnam himself accused and testified against 43 people while his daughter testified against 62 people. Many historians believe the Putnam family used the witchcraft hysteria in Salem as a way to get revenge against their neighboring rivals and enemies.

Thomas Putnam was born on January 12, 1652, into a wealthy, third-generation Salem family that owned a substantial amount of land in Salem Village and Essex County. Putnam was a sergeant in the local militia and had previously fought in King Phillip’s war. In 1678 he married Ann Carr, of Salisbury, who also came from a wealthy family. They had 10 children together, including their eldest child, Ann Putnam, Jr., who was born in 1679.

In January of 1692, Ann Putnam, Jr., and the other “afflicted girls” began displaying strange symptoms: barking like a dog, suffering seizures and complaining of being pinched by invisible spirits. By the end of February, a local doctor declared them bewitched and the girls named three women responsible for tormenting them: Tituba, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good. Since the girls were too young to do so themselves, Thomas Putnam and three other men, Edward Putnam, Thomas Preston and Joseph Hutchinson, filed complaints against the women on the girl’s behalf on February 29th. The women were arrested the following day and examined before a judge. During Tituba’s examination, she confessed to being a witch and claimed there were many others like her in Salem, thus sparking a massive manhunt for witches in Salem.

House of Thomas Putnam and daughter Ann Putnam Jr in Danvers Ma circa 1891

House of Thomas Putnam & family in Danvers circa 1891

After the witch trials began, Thomas Putnam and Ann Putnam, Jr., quickly became the center of the trials, according to the book “The Salem Witch Trials Guide”:

“Following the removal of Betty Parris from Salem Village [she was sent to Salem town by her father Samuel Parris to avoid any further involvement in the trials], Ann and Abigail became the most active and aggressive of the so-called afflicted children. Ann Jr. ‘cried out against’ sixty-two people during the course of the trials. Ann’s father, Thomas Putnam, was one of the primary instigators of complaints against alleged witches in Salem Village. For this reason he has been identified by several key historians (including Paul Boyer and Stephen Nisenbaum) as a chief agitator and manipulator of the testimonies of both his daughter and his wife, Ann Putnam, Sr. Evidence indicates that many of those who were afflicted or gave testimony against the accused were connected to the Putnam family either by ties of kinship or faction.”

As if he wasn’t involved in the trials enough, in April, Putnam also wrote a letter to two of the witch trial judges, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, thanking them for their participation in the trials and offering to assist them in any way:

“Salem Village , this 21’st of April, 1692

Much honored:
After most humble and hearty thanks presented to your Honors for the great care and pains you have already taken for us, for which we are never able to make you recompense (and we believe you do not expect it of us; therefore a full reward will be given you of the Lord God of Israel, whose cause and interest you have espoused, and we trust this shall add to your crown of glory in the day of the Lord Jesus); and we, beholding continually the tremendous works of divine providence — not only every day but every hour — thought it our duty to inform your Honors of what we conceive you have not heard, which are high and dreadful: of a wheel within a wheel, at which our ears do tingle. Humbly craving continually your prayers and help in this dis-tressed case, so praying almighty God continually to prepare you, that you may be a terror to evil-doers and a praise to them that do well, we remain yours to serve in what we are able.  Thomas Putnam”

That same month, Putnam wrote a second letter to Judge Samuel Sewall complaining that Giles Corey was also bewitching his daughter. In the letter, Putnam carefully reminded Sewall that Corey had beaten one of his farmhands to death years before and suggested Corey should be pressed to death:

“The Last Night my Daughter Ann was grievously Tormented by Witches, Threatning that she should be Pressed to Death, before Giles Cory . But thro’ the Goodness of a Gracious God, she had at last a little Respite. Whereupon there appeared unto her (she said) a man in a Winding Sheet; who told her that Giles Cory had Murdered him, by Pressing him to Death with his Feet; but that the Devil there appeared unto him, and Covenented with him, and promised him, He should not be Hanged. The Apparition said, God Hardened his Heart, that he should not hearken to the Advice of the Court, and so Dy an easy Death; because as it said, ‘It must be done to him as he has done to me.’ The Apparition also said, That Giles Cory was Carry’d to the Court for this, and that the Jury had found the Murder, and that her Father knew the man, and the thing was done before she was born. Now Sir, This is not a little strange to us; that no body should Remember these things, all the while that Giles Cory was in Prison, and so often before the Court. For all people now Remember very well, (and the Records of the Court also men-tion it,) That about Seventeen Years ago, Giles Cory kept a man in his House, that was almost a Natural Fool: which Man Dy’d suddenly. A Jury was Impannel’d upon him, among whom was Dr. Zorobbabel Endicot ; who found the man bruised to Death, and having clodders of Blood about his Heart. The Jury, whereof sev-eral are yet alive, brought in the man Murdered; but as if some Enchantment had hindred the Prosecution of the Matter, the Court Proceeded not against Giles Cory , tho’ it cost him a great deal of Mony to get off.”

Corey was indeed pressed to death in September when he was tortured by Sheriff Corwin for three days in a field near Howard Street in an attempt to force him to enter a plea for his trial. This type of torture, although common in England, had never been used in the colonies before and it appears the idea may have possibly originated from Putnam’s letter.

Court Trial of Witches illustrator unknown published in Witchcraft illustrated by Henrietta D Kimball circa 1892

“Court Trial of Witches” illustration by unknown artist published in “Witchcraft Illustrated” by Henrietta D Kimball circa 1892

A recent handwriting analysis conducted by Professor Peter Grund from the University of Kansas has determined that over 100 of the Salem witch trial documents, including the depositions of the afflicted girls, were written by Thomas Putnam himself. Since many of these depositions share similar language and phrases, it suggests that these phrases may have actually been Putnam’s own words, not those of the afflicted girls. For example, many of the depositions speak of how the afflicted girls were “grievously afflicted” or “grievously tormented” and they describe how the girls “believe in my heart” that the accused is a witch. These same depositions also frequently refer to the accused as “dreadful witches” and “dreadful wizards.” These depositions, combined with Putnam’s letters to the witch trial judges, suggests Putnam may have had a stronger influence on the trials then previously thought.

According to the book “The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide,” in recent years a larger conspiracy theory has emerged concerning Putnam’s participation in the Salem Witch Trials:

“In 1991, Enders A. Robinson published The Devil Discovered: Salem Witchcraft, 1692, which introduces to the Salem episode a conspiracy theory on a far grander scale than previously suggested by an scholar. According to Robinson, Thomas Putnam and Samuel Parris formed a circle of local men who decided to take advantage of the testimony of the afflicted children and eliminate the opposing faction in the Salem Village Church. Among the leaders of this conspiracy who were responsible for instigating the witchcraft accusations he listed Reverend Samuel Parris, Sergeant Thomas Putnam, Dr. William Griggs, Deacon Edward Putnam, Captain Jonathan Walcott, Constable Jonathan Putnam, and Lieutenant Nathaniel Ingersoll. These ringleaders were assisted by an outer circle of co-conspirators including Thomas Putnam’s two uncles, John Putnam, Sr., and Nathaniel Putnam, his cousin Edward Putnam, Joseph Houlton, Thomas Preston, and Joseph Hutchinson. These men were less involved yet helpful when accusations and testimony were needed. Robinson alleged that what tied these conspirators together were bonds of kinship and friendship. Their goal was merely to reassert power over the families and forces that had gradually assumed control of Salem Village, seeking vengeance against those suspected of wrongdoing or what they deemed to be undesirable elements. In this task, they were ably assisted by their female children, servants, and relatives, including Mary Walcott, Sarah Churchill, Ann Putnam, Jr., Ann Putnam, Sr., Mary Warren, Susannah Sheldon, and Elizabeth Booth – in short, the majority of the ‘afflicted girls.’”

Thomas Putnam himself personally filed complaints and testified against 43 people during the trials. Of these 43 people, 12 were executed, 3 were found guilty but pardoned, 6 were found not guilty, 13 were never indicted and 2 died in jail. The rest either evaded arrest or escaped from prison:

Nehemiah Abbott jr – never indicted
Daniel Andrew – evaded arrest
Sarah Bassett –  never indicted
George Burroughs – found guilty and executed
Sarah Buckley – found not guilty
Edward Bishop jr – escaped prison
Sarah Bishop – escaped prison
Mary Black – never indicted
Martha Carrier – found guilty and executed
Martha Corey – found guilty and executed
Sarah Cloyce – never indicted
Elizabeth Colson – evaded arrest
Bethia Carter, Sr – never indicted
Bethia Carter, Jr – never indicted
Lydia Dustin – found not guilty – died in jail after trial
Sarah Dustin – found not guilty
Mary Easty – found guilty and executed
Mary English – escaped prison
Phillip English – escaped prison
Thomas Farrer – never indicted
Sarah Good – found guilty and executed
Dorcas Hoar – found guilty and pardoned
William Hobbs – never indicted
Deliverance Hobbs – plead guilty
Elizabeth Hart – found guilty and pardoned
Margaret Hawkes and her slave Candy – never indicted
George Jacobs, Sr – found guilty and executed
George Jacobs, Jr – evaded arrest
Rebecca Jacobs – found not guilty
Alice Parker – executed
Sarah Proctor – never indicted
John Proctor – found guilty and executed
Elizabeth Proctor – found guilty and pardoned
Susannah Martin – found guilty and executed
Sarah Morey – found not guilty
Rebecca Nurse – found guilty and executed
Sarah Osborne – died in jail
Susannah Roots – never indicted
Ann Sears – never indicted
Tituba – never indicted
John Willard – found guilty and executed
Mary Witheridge – found not guilty
Sarah Wilds – found guilty and executed

The Salem Witch Trials eventually came to an end in 1693 and Thomas Putnam died six years later on May 24th in 1699. Putnam’s wife, Ann, passed away a few weeks later on June 8th, leaving young Ann Putnam, Jr., to raise her nine siblings alone. She never married and in 1706, no longer under the influence of her parents, Ann Putnam, Jr., became the only afflicted girl to publicly apologize for her role in the Salem Witch Trials.

Thomas Putnam later appeared as a major character in Arthur Miller’s 1953 play “The Crucible.” Miller portrays Putnam as a greedy, vindictive landowner who accuses his neighbors of witchcraft so he can purchase their land after they are hanged, as can be seen in the line spoken by Giles Corey’s character:

“If Jacobs hangs for a witch he forfeit up his property – that’s law! And there is none but Putnam with the coin to buy so great a piece. This man is killing his neighbours for his land!”


University of Kansas: Peter Grund: http://idrh.ku.edu/profile/peter-grund

Checkley: An Open Sourced Handwriting Description Database: http://checkley.org/

University of Virginia: The Salem Witchcraft Papers: http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/salemSearch.htm?q=Thomas%20Putnam&rows=10&start=0

“Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706″; edited by George Lincoln Burr; 1914

“Salem Witchcraft”; Charles Upham; 1867

“The Salem Witch Trials Guide: a Reference Guide”; K. David Goss; 2008

Captain John Smith Describes Early Massachusetts

Captain John Smith was an English explorer known for his role in establishing the first English settlement, Jamestown, in North America. In 1614, a few years after he was forced to leave Jamestown due to his unpopularity with the other colonists, Smith set his sights on an area he called “Northern Virginia” and embarked on his one and only trip to New England.

Smith explored the coastline with a plan to catch whales and search for gold on behalf of the Plymouth Company, but also used his time scouting out potential locations for a future colony. He recorded his observations about the region, including Massachusetts, in a text later published under the title “A Description of New England”:

“The part we call New England is betwixt the degrees of 41 and 45; but that part this discourse speaks of, stretches but from Penobscot to Cape Cod, some 75 leagues by a right line distant each from other: within which bounds I have seen at least 40 several habitations [Native-American settlements] upon the sea coast, and found about 25 excellent good harbours; in many which whereof there is anchorage for 500 sail of ships of any burden; in some of them for 5000; And more than 200 iles overgrown with good timber, of diverse forts of wood, which do make so many harbours as requires a longer time then I had, to be well discovered. The principal habitation Northward we were at, was Pennobscot…The next I can remember by name are Mattahunts; two pleasants iles of groves, gardens and corn fields a league in the sea from Maine. Then Totant, Massachuset, Pocapawmet, Quonahassit, Sagoquas, Nahapassumkeck, Topeent, Seccasaw, Totheet, Nasnocomacak, Accomack, Chawum; Then Cape Cod by which Pawmet and the ile Nawset of the language, and alliance of them of Chawum: The others are called Massachusets; of another language, humor and condition: For their trade and marchandize; to each of their habitations they have diverse towns and people belonging; and by their relations and descriptions, more than 20 several habitations and rivers that stretch themselves far up into the country, even to the borders of diverse great lakes, where they kill and take most of their beavers and otters….Betwixt Sagadahock and Sowocatuck there is but two or three sandy bays, but betwixt that and Cape Cod very many; especially the coast of the Massachusets is so indifferently mixed with high clay or sandy cliffs in one place, and then tracts of large long ledges of diverse forts, and quarries of stones in other places so strangely divided with trinctured veins of diverse colors: as, free stone for building, slate for tiling, smooth stone to make furnaces and forges for glass or iron, and iron ore sufficient, conveniently to melt in them; but the most part so resembles the coast of Devonshire…And surely by reason of those sandy cliffs and cliffs of rocks, both which we saw so planted with gardens and corn fields, and so well inhabited with a goodly, strong and well-proportioned people, besides the greatness of the timber growing on them, the greatness of the fish and moderate temper of the air (for of twenty-five, not any was sick, but two that were many years diseased before they went notwithstanding our bad lodging and accidental diet) who can but approve this a most excellent place, both for health and fertility? And of all of the four parts of the world that I have yet seen not inhabited, could I have but means to transport a colony, I would rather live here than anywhere: and if it did not maintain itself, were we but once indifferently well fitted, let us starve.”

Captain John Smith from Map of New England 1616

Image of Captain John Smith from his map of New England circa 1616

Not only did Smith and his crew gather goods, supplies and information during their trip, one of Smith’s lieutenants, Captain Thomas Hunt, also managed to capture a number of Native-Americans, without Smith’s knowledge or approval, and took them back to Europe to sell as slaves. One of these Native-Americans turned out to be Squanto, who was freed a few years later and returned to New England to find his village had been completely wiped out by disease while he was gone.  He settled down to live with the Wampanoag at Nemasket and was on hand to famously greet the Mayflower pilgrims when they landed in nearby Plymouth.

Back in England, Smith attempted to return to New England to set up a permanent colony in March of 1615, but was deterred when a storm dismasted and heavily damaged his two ships. He made another attempt later that year but was captured by French pirates off the coast of Azores. After a few months of captivity, he made his escape by sneaking off in a small boat during a storm and washed up, half-dead, in a marsh some 12 hours later. Smith then returned to England where he published his account of his New England trip, under the title “A Description of New England.” With the success of his manuscript, Smith attempted to raise funds again to return to New England and establish his colony but couldn’t persuade any of his former investors to back him.

New England was colonized a few years later by the Mayflower pilgrims in 1621 and by a crew funded by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, one of Smith’s friends and former investors, in 1622.

Smith not only never returned to New England or Virginia but never left England again and died on June 21, 1631 in London.

Smith himself was responsible for giving many of the New England states, towns and rivers the names they have today when he published them in “A Description of New England.” Most of the names he gave were inspired by the Native-Americans living in the area at the time, such as the area now known as Massachusetts, which he named after one of the local tribes: the Massachusetts tribe. Yet, Prince Charles later swapped many of the strange or more primitive names for traditional English ones. For instance, Cape Anne was originally named Cape Tragabigzanda, after Smith’s friend, a Turkish princess named Charatza Tragabigzanda, but Charles renamed it after his mother Queen Anne. The prince also changed the Massachusetts river to the Charles river, after himself, and changed the name of the Native-American settlement of Accomack to Plymouth. Of the 29 names the prince changed, only those three remain.

Description of New England by John Smith Title page

Title page of “Description of New England” by John Smith circa 1616


Portsmouth Herald; Why John Smith Never Returned: http://www.seacoastnh.com/Famous-People/John-Smith/Why-John-Smith-Never-Returned/

National Park Service: Captain John Smith: http://www.nps.gov/jame/historyculture/life-of-john-smith.htm

“Captain John Smith”; Arthur Granville Brady; 1905

“A Description of New England, Or, Observations and Discoveries in the North”; John Smith; 1616

“A Discourse Before the Massachusetts Historical Society”; John Davis; 1838

“Lives of Alexander Wilson and Captain John Smith”; William Bourn Oliver Peabody, George Stillman Hillard; 1834

Archaeological Dig Underway in Deerfield

A group of amateur archeologists have recently unearthed a large number of artifacts during an archeological dig in Deerfield.

The group have been working in the area for two weeks and have so far uncovered primitive weapons, such as spear tips, dating back 13,000 years.

According to an article on wggb.com, these items are believed to be some of the oldest materials in existence in the area:

“’In this region, that would constitute the earliest material you would find in this part of Massachusetts, there are no earlier cultures,’ Gramly said.
In meticulous and careful fashion, the team digs and sifts through the soil looking to uncover their next treasure.
‘There’s a complete spear point of the larger size compared to the littler size, making two different sizes.’ he said.
The people at that time in this place were hunters.
Using primitive instruments like spears and knives they hunted caribou for food and their clothing.
The environment cold and challenging.
And what they found here is nothing short of amazing.
‘This site is the largest encampment of this era I would say anywhere east of the Mississippi River,’ Gramly said, ‘It’s really a treasure this site.’”

The dig is being conducted by members of the American Society of Amateur Archeology and all of the items uncovered will be cataloged and made available to students, historians and the general public for further study.


WGGB: Dig Uncovers Deerfield’s Rich History; Sept 20 2013: http://www.wggb.com/2013/09/20/dig-uncovers-deerfields-rich-history/

American Society of Amateur Archeology: http://asaa-persimmonpress.com/


New Books on the Salem Witch Trials Published

Two new books on the Salem Witch Trials recently hit the shelves. The first is a historical fiction novel, titled “Abigail Accused: A Story of the Salem Witch Hunt,” based on accused Andover witch Abigail Dane Faulkner.

The second is a non-fiction book, titled “Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials,” which examines the lives of six women involved in the Salem Witch Trials.

Published in May of 2013, “Abigail Accused” was written by Juliet Moffard, the former director of education and research at the Andover Historical Society. In a recent interview with the Andover Townsmen newspaper, Moffard explained that although the book is fiction, it is based on the actual events of the witch hunt: “What makes my book unique … is this historical novel explains what became of those who survived the witch trials and their treatment when they were finally released and returned home,” Moffard said.

Abigail Accused

Abigail Accused: A Story of the Salem Witch Hunt by Juliet Moffard

Moffard, who has been working on the book since 1995, has also published other texts about the witch hunt, including a young adult novel titled “Cry Witch,” as well as a nonfiction book titled “The Devil Made Me Do It: Crime and Punishment in Early New England” and is the author of 12 books in total, two of which have received awards from the American Association For State and Local History.

Published in September of 2013, “Six Women of Salem” was also written by an accomplished author. Marilynne K. Roach is already well-known for her book “The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege” and numerous other books about the trials. In her new book, Roach chronicles the lives of six women involved in the Salem Witch Trials in an attempt to examine the trials through the eyes of the people who lived through it.

Six Women of Salem

Six Women of Salem by Marilynne K. Roach

The book shines a spotlight on accused witches Rebecca Nurse, Bridget Bishop, Mary English and Tituba as well as accusers Ann Putnam Sr and Mary Warren (who has a unique role as an afflicted girl later accused of witchcraft herself.)

The Salem Witch Museum will be hosting a meet & greet and book signing with Roach on October 3 at 6pm.


Salem Witch Museum; Meet the Author & Book Signing – Marilynne K. Roach http://www.salemwitchmuseum.com/blog/

The Andover Townsman; Bewitching Times; New Book Chronicles Andover’s Place During Infamous Trials; Judy Wakefield; August 15 2013 http://www.andovertownsman.com/townspeople/x1084954507/Bewitching-times-New-book-chronicles-Andovers-place-during-infamous-trials