Reverend George Burroughs: Ringleader of the Salem Witches?

George Burroughs was a minister who was accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

George Burroughs Childhood and Early Life:

Burroughs was born in Suffolk, England in 1652 and migrated to the settlement of Roxbury in the Massachusetts Bay Colony with his mother when he was a child, although some sources say he first lived in Virginia before moving to Roxbury.

According to the book Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, it is not known exactly who Burrough’s father was:

“He was thought by Farmer at one time to be the son of John Burroughs, of Salem; but at another, of Jeremiah Burroughs of Scituate. Savage says his father probably died in Virginia, and he can ‘feel no doubt that he was the son of that ‘Mrs. Rebecca Burrows, who came from Virginia that she might enjoy God in his ordinance in N.E.,’ & who joined the church in Roxbury 19, July 1657.’”

Yet other sources identify his father as Nathaniel Burroughs, a merchant in Maryland and Massachusetts and state that his grandfather was a prominent minister in England.

Burroughs graduated from Harvard University in 1670 and, in 1673, married his first wife Hannah Fisher.

In 1674, Burroughs moved to Falmouth, Maine where he served as the pastor at the Falmouth Congregational Church. He continued to serve as the pastor until the town was attacked and destroyed during a Wabanaki raid on August 11, 1676.

Burroughs and other survivors, including a young Mercy Lewis and her family, fled to an island in the Casco Bay where they foraged for food until they were rescued, according to a letter from Major Brian Pendleton to the Governor of Massachusetts:

“Honored Governor together with the Counsell,
I am sorry my pen must be the messenger of so great a tragedy. On the 11th of this instant we heard of many killed of our neighbors in falmouth or Casco-Bay: and on the 12th instant Mr. Joslin sent me a brief letter written from under the hands of Mr. Burras [sic] the minister. He gives an acct of 32 killed and carried away by the Indians: himself escaped to an Island, but I hope Black point men have fetched him of by this time. 10 men 6 women and 16 children. Anthony a[n]d Thomas B[r]a[c]ket and Mr. Munjoy his son only are named. I had not time to copy the letter, persons being to go post to Major Walden; but I hope he hath before this sent the original to you. How soon it will be our portion wee know not. The Lord in mercy fit us for death and direct the hearts and hands to act and doe what is most needful in such a time of distress as this. Thus in haste I commit you to Providence of our Lord God and desire Your prayers also for us. Yours in all humility to serve in
Winter Harbor at night } the Lord,
the 13 of August, 1676.”} BRIAN PENDLETON.”

Burroughs and other refugees relocated to the settlement of Salisbury, Massachusetts where Burroughs served as a minister until 1680 when he received an offer to serve as a minister for the Salem Village Church.

Burroughs accepted the offer and relocated to Salem Village. Since the Salem Village parsonage was in disrepair at the time of Burroughs arrival, the Burroughs family stayed with John Putnam, Sr, and his wife Rebecca.

When the parsonage was finally completed, the Burroughs family moved in and took on a young servant, Mercy Lewis, a fellow survivor of the Wabanaki raid of 1676.

At the time of Burroughs arrival, Salem was in a constant state of conflict and many of its residents were feuding. The previous minister, James Bayley, had gotten caught in the middle of the fighting and left after the parishioners failed to pay his salary.

Burroughs encountered the same problems as his predecessor as well as hostility from Bayley’s friends and supporters, according to the book Salem Witchcraft by Charles W. Upham:

“Immediately upon calling to the village to reside, he encountered the hostility of those persons who, as the special friends of Mr. Bayley, allowed their prejudices to be concentrated upon his innocent successor. The unhappy animosities arising from this source entirely demoralized the Society, and, besides making it otherwise very uncomfortable to a minister, led to a neglect and derangement of all financial affairs. In September, 1681, Mr. Burrough’s wife died, and he had to run in debt for her funeral expenses. Rates were not collected, and his salary was in arrears.”

Burroughs borrowed the money for Hannah’s funeral from John Putnam. Like most widowers with young children, he remarried shortly after, to a woman named Sarah Ruck Hathorne.

Burroughs remained in Salem Village for two years but when the parishioners stopped paying his salary all together, he decided to leave, according to Emerson W. Baker in his book A Storm of Witchcraft:

“Burroughs’s tenure was shorter and more turbulent than Bayley’s. In April 1682, merely a year and a half after coming to Salem, one of Burroughs’s parishioners wrote to him complaining that ‘brother is against brother and neighbors against neighbors, all quarreling and smiting one another.” By the spring of the following year the village committee stopped paying Burroughs so he left town. The resettlement of Falmouth was under way, and Burroughs was preparing to resume his old post there.”

On May 3, 1683, Burroughs visited Salem Village to meet with the village committee in order to settle his accounts. During the meeting, John Putnam suddenly had Burroughs arrested for failure to repay his debt to him for Hannah Burroughs’s funeral expenses. Nathaniel Ingersoll and five others paid a 15 pound bond to keep Burroughs out of prison and also collected depositions in his favor.

As Baker suggests, although the issue was quickly settled, the arrest may have left a bad impression on the Salem villagers and may have set Burroughs up for further trouble in the community.

At some point during this time period, Burroughs’s second wife, Sarah, died and Burroughs remarried again.

In 1690, Burroughs moved to Wells, Maine where he continued to preach. He remained there for the next two years until he was unexpectedly drawn into the witch hysteria of 1692.

George Burroughs and the Salem Witch Trials:

On April 30, 1692, Capt Jonathan Walcott and Thomas Putnam of Salem Village filed a complaint of witchcraft against George Burroughs, as well as five other people, on behalf of the afflicted girls Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr, Susannah Sheldon, and Elizabeth Hubbard.

It is not known why exactly Burroughs was accused but it may have been due to left over resentment from his time as the minister in Salem Village as well as his legal troubles with the Putnam family.

An arrest warrant was issued for Burroughs that day in Portsmouth, NH and was ordered to be carried out by Major Elisha Hutchinson and Field Marshal Jonathan Partridge.

The act of arresting Burroughs in the distant Wells, Maine required the acting lawmen to be discreet out of fear that Burroughs might be tipped off and escape, according to Upham:

“It was necessary to be at once cautious and rapid in their movements, to prevent the public from getting information which, by reaching the ears of Burroughs, might put him on his guard. It was no easy thing to secure him at the great distance of his place of residence. It he should become apprised of what was going on, his escape into remoter and inaccessible settlements would have baffled the whole scheme. Nothing therefore was done at the village, but the steps to arrest him originated at Boston. Elisha Hutchinson, a magistrate there, issued the proper order, addressed to John Partridge in Portsmouth, Field-marshal of the provinces of New Hampshire and Maine, dated April 30, 1692, to arrest George Burroughs, ‘preacher at Wells;’ he being ‘suspected of a confederacy with the devil’…When we consider the distance and the circumstances of travel at that time, it is evident that the officers charged with the service acted with the greatest promptitude, celerity, and energy. The tradition is, that they found Mr. Burroughs in his humble home, partaking of his frugal meal; that he was snatched from the table without a moment’s opportunity to provide for his family, or prepare himself for the journey, and hurried on his way roughly, and without the least explanation of what it all meant.”

George Burroughs was arrested in Wells, Maine on May 4 and the lawmen headed back to Salem Village with their prisoner.

According to the book The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, a terrible thunder storm struck while the lawmen and Burroughs were on the road to Salem and the thunder, wind and falling trees frightened both the horses and the men.

Burroughs and the Sheriffs, by illustration Alfred Rudolph Waud, published in A Popular History of the United States, circa 1878

When it was finally over and Burroughs still remained in their custody, the lawmen took it as a sign that the Devil had unsuccessfully tried to free Burroughs. When they finally arrived in Salem, Burroughs was brought to the jail in Salem town.

On May 9, Burroughs was brought to the Salem Village meetinghouse where he was examined by John Hathorne, William Stoughton and Jonathan Corwin, while Reverend Samuel Parris took notes. Stoughton didn’t usually sit in on the examinations but did so in the case due to the fact that Burroughs was a minister, which added more gravity to the situation.

During the examination, Burroughs was asked if it was true that his house in Casco Bay was haunted. He denied this but did confirm that it had toads, which many people believed at the time served as witches’ familiars.

The judges also asked Burroughs when he last took communion, which he couldn’t remember, and asked how many of his children were baptized, which he answered only the eldest was, and asked if it was true that he refused to let his second wife, Sarah Ruck Hathorne, write to her father without letting him see the letter first, which he denied.

For a puritan minister, the fact that he couldn’t remember the last time he took communion and that only some of his children were baptized did not reflect well on him. His secretive nature didn’t help either and made it seem like he was hiding something.

Burroughs’s secrecy and his other odd traits later became a theme during his trial and were discussed in great detail in the testimony of his accusers and former associates. It may explain why a minister such as himself would have been accused of the crime of witchcraft in the first place, according to Baker:

“George Burroughs was a Harvard-trained minister and a spiritual and community leader, so on the surface he appears to be an unlikely person to be accused. Yet, upon closer inspection, there were a multitude of factors that brought him under suspicion, and many of these surrounded his spirituality and commitment to Puritanism. While most ministers were public figures, open and engaged with their community, Burroughs was an intensely private individual and a man of mystery. Stories circulated about him, including many that described his tremendous strength – so great that some believed it could not be earthly. It was an odd trait indeed for a man in a profession that required many quiet hours dedicated to studying that Bible, preparing and giving sermons, and tending to the spiritual needs of his flock.”

After the examination, Burroughs was indicted on four charges of witchcraft and was brought back to the dungeon at the Salem jail.

On May 11, 1692, another accused witch, Margaret Jacobs, confessed to being a witch and said her grandfather, George Jacobs, Sr, and George Burroughs were witches as well.

Burroughs and George Jacobs underwent a physical examination for signs that they were witches but the jurors conducting the search found “nothing upon the body of the above said Burroughs but what is natural” although they did find some odd marks on Jacobs that they deemed unnatural.

The Trial of Reverend George Burroughs:

Burroughs’s trial was held on August 5, 1692. Due to Burroughs’s role as a religious leader, it was theorized that he was recruited by the Devil so he could use his influence to convince his parishioners to become witches.

The idea that the Devil may have infiltrated the church terrified the people of Salem and made Burroughs’s trial one of the most significant trials in the witch hysteria.

The Legend of Salem – The Rev. George Burroughs, Illustration published in Some Legends of the New England Coast, Part III, 1873

Due to the significance of Burroughs’s trial, a large crowd gathered at the courthouse to witness the event. Among those in the crowd was the colony’s most prominent minister Reverend Increase Mather.

Mather’s son, Reverend Cotton Mather, later wrote an account of Burroughs’s case for his book, The Wonders of the Invisible World. In the book, Mather said he preferred not to discuss the case at all but was required to include it by the government of Massachusetts Bay Colony. In fact, Mather was so disgusted by Burroughs he refused to call him by his full name:

“Glad should I have been, if I had never known the name of this man; or never had this occasion to mention so much as the first letters of his name. But the government requiring some account of his trial to be inserted in this book, it becomes me with all obedience to submit unto the order. This G. B. was indicted for witch-craft, and in the prosecution of the charge against him he was accused by five or six of the bewitched, as the author of their miseries; he was accused by eight of the confessing witches, as being an head actor at some of their hellish randevouzes, and one who had the promise of being a king in Satan’s kingdom, now going to be erected. He was accused by nine persons for extraordinary lifting, and such feats of strength as could not be done without a diabolical assistance. And for other such things he was accused, until about thirty testimonies were brought in against him; nor were these judg’d the half of what might have been considered for his conviction. However they were enough to fix the character of a witch upon him according to the rules of reasoning, by the judicious Gaule, in that case directed.”

The 30 people who testified against Burroughs at his trial were:

Sarah Bibber
Ezekiel Cheever
Richard Carrier
Thomas Evans
Thomas Greenlit
Hannah Harris
Elizabeth Hubbard
Benjamin Hutchinson
Abigail Hobbs
Elizar Keyser
Mary Lacey
Mary Lacey Jr
Mercy Lewis
Ann Putnam, Jr
Rebecca Putnam
Edward Putnam
Thomas Putnam
Peter Prescott
Robert Morrell
Thomas Ruck
Susannah Sheldon
Martha Tyler
Mary Warren
Elizabeth Wardwell
Mary Walcott
Samuel Webber
Mary Webber
Sarah Wilson
Simon Willard
William Wormall

One of the most common complaints these witnesses testified to was rumors of Burroughs’s super human strength. Several witnesses testified that they often heard Burroughs bragging about an incident where he lifted a heavy gun with one finger and other incidents where he claimed to have carried heavy barrels of cider by himself, although he always declined to recreate these events.

Other witnesses testified that Burroughs was secretive and had tried to censor what his previous wives told others about his behavior.

One such witness, Mary Webber, said that while living near Burroughs at Casco Bay several years ago she became acquainted with his then wife, Sarah Ruck Hathorne, who told her about a strange occurrence in the Burroughs’s home:

“Mary Webber wid aged about 53 years testifieth and sayth that she living at Casco Bay about six or seven years ago, when George Burroughs was Minister at said place, and living anner — Neighbour to said Burroughs, was well acquainted with his wife which was daughter to Mr. John Ruck of Salem she hath heard her tell much of her husband unkindness to her and that she dare not wright to her father to acquaint [him] how it was with her, and so desired me to wright to her father that he would be pleased to send for her and told me she had been much afrighted, and that something in the night made a noise in the chamber where she lay as if one went about the chamber, and she calling up the negro to come to her the negro not coming said that she could not come some thing stopped her, then her husband being called he came up. Some thing jumped down from between the chimney & the side of the house and run down the stairs and said Burroughs followed it down, and the negro then said it was something like a white calf: another time lying with her husband some thing came into the house and stood by her bed side and breathed on her, and she being much afrighted at it, would have awakened her husband but could not for a considerable time, but as soon as he did awake it went away, but this I heard her say. and know nothing of it myself otherwise except by common report of others also concerning such things.”

Another witness, Hannah Harris, testified that Burroughs had a strange ability to somehow know what his wife had said in private conversations when he was away and once scolded her for what she had said to Harris when he had been away from home.

Thomas Ruck, Burrough’s former brother-in-law, testified to this as well when he told a story about when he went strawberry picking with his sister, Sarah Ruck Hathorne, and Burroughs. During the trip, Burroughs wandered off and Ruck and his sister began talking as they walked home. When they ran into Burroughs again, he chided his wife for what she had said privately to her brother. Startled, Ruck stated that even the Devil himself didn’t know what she said, to which Burroughs replied “My God makes known your thoughts unto me.”

John Putnam and his wife Rebecca testified that when Burroughs stayed at their house, he was often harsh towards his first wife, Hannah, and Burroughs once told them that he required Hannah to sign a written agreement that she would never reveal his secrets.

The afflicted girls, Ann Putnam, Jr., Sarah Bibber, Mercy Lewis, Elizabeth Hubbard, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren, Susannah Sheldon, testified against Burroughs as well and accused him of murdering members of his family and other people in the community.

Sheldon said Burroughs’s spirit came to her and confessed that he had killed three children in “Eastward,” or Maine, and also killed his first two wives, smothering the first and choking the second, and killed two of his own children.

Lewis testified that on several nights in May, Burroughs appeared to her and tortured her and on the second night tried to persuade her to join him as a witch:

“the next night he tould me I should not see his Two wifes if he could help it because I should not witnes agast him this 9’th may mr Burroughs caried me up to an exceeding high mountain and shewed me all the kingdoms of the earth and tould me that he would give them all to me if I would writ in his book and if I would not he would thro me down and brake my neck: but I tould him they ware non of his to give and I would not writ if he throde me down on 100 pichforks.”

Putnam stated that Burroughs’s spirit had to come to her on April 20 and confessed to her that he had bewitched his first and second wife to death, as well as the wife and child of Reverend Deodat Lawson and several soldiers at Eastward.

Putnam testified again later on that the spirits of Burroughs’s wives also came to her on May 5 and told her that Burroughs had murdered them, his first wife said he had stabbed her at the parsonage in Salem Village and the second wife said he “killed her in the vessell as she was coming to see her friends because they would have one another.”

Putnam also said the spirits of Reverend Deodat Lawson’s wife and her child and the spirit of Goodman Fuller’s wife came to her that day as well and said Burroughs had murdered them.

What’s strange about the girl’s testimony is that several of the transcripts of their testimonies contain the same exact line:

Hubbard’s testimony reads:

“I beleve in my heart that Mr George Burroughs is a dreadfull wizzard and that he has often tormented me and also the above named parsons by his acts of witchcraft.”

Bibber’s testimony reads:

“I beleve in my heart that Mr George Burroughs is a dreadfull wizzard and that he has most greviously tormented me and the above mentioned parson by his acts of witchcraft.”

Warren’s testimony reads:

“I verily beleve in my heart that Mr. George Burroughs is a dreadfull wizzard and that he has severall times tormented me and the affore said persons by his acts of witchcraft.”

Walcott’s testimony reads:

“I beleve in my heart that Mr. George Burroughs is a dreadful wizzard and That he had often afflected and tormented me and the afore mentioned parsons by his acts of witchcraft.”

According to a recent handwriting analysis by Professor Peter Grund, from the University of Kansas, the afflicted girl’s testimonies were all written by Thomas Putnam. Coincidentally, Thomas Putnam also testified during the trial and used similar language to what was written in the girl’s testimony:

“The deposistion of Tho. putnam aged 40: years and Edward putnam agged 38 years who testifieth and saith. that we haveing ben conversant with severall of the afflected persons as maryWolcott mercy lewes Eliz: Hubburt and we have seen them most dreadfully tomented and we have seen dreadfull marks in their fleesh which they said Mr. Burroughs did make by hurting them: but on 9’th may 1692 : the day of the Examination of Mr. George Burroughs the aforesaid parsons were most dreadfully tormented during the time of his Examination as if they would have been torn all to peaces or all their bones putt out of joynt and with such tortors as no tounge can express also severall times sence we have seen the afforesaid afflected parsons most dreadfully tormented and greviously complaining of Mr. Burroughs for hurting them and we beleve that Mr. George Burroughs the prisoner at the bar has severall times afflected and tormented the afforesaid persons by acts of witchcraft.”

The similarity of Thomas Putnam’s testimony with the afflicted girl’s testimonies and the shared language and phrasing in several of the girl’s testimony suggests that the girls might not have said those specific things and Putnam may have added these words to the documents himself to strengthen the case against Burroughs.

Nevertheless, Burroughs’s trial reached its end shortly after and he was promptly found guilty and sentenced to hang later that month.

The Execution of Reverend George Burroughs:

On August 19, George Burroughs, George Jacobs, John Proctor, John Willard, and Martha Carrier, were brought by cart to the execution site at Proctor’s Ledge, near Gallows Hill, where a large crowd, which included Reverend Cotton Mather, had gathered to watch the event.

When it was Burroughs’ turn, he climbed the ladder and made an eloquent speech declaring his innocence and then recited the Lord’s prayer flawlessly, despite the common belief that witches couldn’t recite the prayer without making a mistake. This stirred the crowd and it is suggested that some of the spectators may have tried to stop the execution.

One eye witness to the execution, Robert Calef, described the event in his book More Wonders of the Invisible World:

“Mr. Burroughs was carried in a cart with the others, through the streets of Salem to execution. When he was upon the ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his innocency, with such solemn and serious expressions, as were to the admiration of all present: his prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord’s prayer) was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness, and such (at least seeming) fervency of spirit, as was very affecting, and drew tears from many, so that it seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accuser said the black man stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off, Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a horse, addressed himself to the people, partly to declare that he [Burroughs] was no ordained minister, and partly to possess the people of his guilt, saying that the devil has often been transformed into an angel of the light; and this somewhat appeased the people, and the executions went on.”

Because the executions took place during a heat wave, the bodies had to be buried immediately in a shallow grave at the execution site to prevent them from rotting.

When Burroughs was cut down from the gallows, his body was dragged to a rocky crevice bordering the execution site, his clothing was stripped off and he was dressed in a pair of trousers “of one executed” and was placed in the grave with Willard and Carrier. Because the grave was so shallow, Burroughs chin and one of his feet were left uncovered.

According to historian Sidney Perley, an old family story from the Buffum family states that from his house on nearby Boston street, Joshua Buffam could see Burroughs’s exposed hand and foot sticking out of the crevice, so just after night fall he went to cover them so they were no longer visible. What happened to Burroughs’s body after that day is unknown.

According to Mather’s account of the trial, in September, two witnesses came forward and offered testimony against Burroughs.

One of these witnesses stated that he was persuaded by others not to testify against Burroughs during the time of his trial but he said he later regretted this and decided to come forward after the fact.

One of the witnesses was Thomas Greenlit, who recounted a story about witnessing Burroughs place his finger in the muzzle of a heavy gun and then lifted it up and also placed two fingers in the bung of a full barrel of molasses, lifted it up and carried it around:

“That about the breaking Out of this last Indian Warr being at the house of Capt Scottow’s at black point he Saw Mr George Bur- roughs lift and hold Out a gunn of Six foot barrell or thereabouts putting the forefinger of his right hand into the Muzle of s’d gunn and So held it Out at Armes End Only with that finger and further this deponent Testifieth that at the Same time he Saw the Said Burroughs take up a full barrell of Malasses w’th but two fingers of one of his hands in the bung & Carry it from the Stage head to the Door at the End of the Stage Without letting it downe & that Liut Richard Hunniwell & John Greinslitt & Some other persons that are Since dead Were then present.”

George Burroughs, illustration published in The New England Magazine Volume 5, circa 1892

It’s not clear why Greenlit or the other witness felt compelled to testify against Burroughs long after he had already been tried and executed but it suggests that the community may have begun to doubt Burroughs’s guilt, particularly after the events of his execution, and Greenlit may have been pressured to testify to provide further proof of this alleged guilt.

Burroughs’ Family After the Salem Witch Trials:

Over the course of the following decade, the residents of Salem had come to the realization that the witch trials had been a mistake and that innocent people may have been executed.

Although they still believed in witches and believed witches may have invaded Salem, they had doubts that so many people could have been guilty of the crime.

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law to clear the names of the convicted witches and offered restitution to the survivors and their families if they came forward.

Burroughs’ eldest son, Charles Burroughs, filed a claim stating that his father’s estate was seized after his conviction, leaving the family with very little money, and asked for 50 pounds in damages:

“To the Honoured Comitte apoined by the Gennarll Court to Inquire into the Names of Such as may be Meet for takeing of the atta[nbar ]der for the Makeing Some Restitucon & these Humbly & Sorroufully Shew that our Dear & Honourd father Mr George Burrough was aprehened in apriel — 1692 at wells & Imprisoned Severall Months in Bostone & Salem Goales and at last Condemened & Executed for whichcraft which we have all the reason in the world to bleve he was innocent of by his carefull Chatecizing his Chilldren & upholding religion in his family and by his Solom & Savory written Instructions from prison we were Left a parsell of small Chilldren of us helpless & a mother in Law with one Small Child of her owne to take care of whereby she was not so Capable to take care of us by all which our fathers small Estate was most of it Lost & Expended and we Scattered we cannot tell Certanly what the lose may be but the Least we can Judge by best information was fifty poundes besides the damage that hath acrued to us many wayes thereby is Some hundreds of pounds wee Earnestly pray that the attainder may be taken of & if you please the fifty pounds may be restored.”

On October 17, 1711, the court cleared the name of George Burroughs and over 20 other convicted witches. On December 17, 1711, the Burroughs’ family was awarded 50 pounds in restitution.

Because most of Burroughs’ estate went solely to his surviving widow and her children, the children from Burrough’s previous marriages, Rebecca Fowle, Jeremiah Burroughs, Charles Burroughs, and Hannah Fox, filed a petition with the court asking for a portion of the restitution:

“Gentlemen We The Subscribers and Children of Mr Georg Burrough — Late of wells, who suffered at Salem — in the Trouble There Humbly offer for your Honours Consideration A few Lines Relateing our Case and Circumstances upon account of our mother-in-laws conduct and carriage towards us, after Our Father was Apprehended and Taken Away Our Mother in Law Laide hands upon all she Could secure (the Children were Generally unable to shift for Themselvs) and what she Could Lay hands on was her Own without Any Person but her own Daught’r to share with her, whom she Says Was to bring up but may it Please your Honour to Consider there was Seaven Children more besides That that were to bring up the Eldest of which was but Sixteen years old att That Time; but insteed of shareing in what our father Left and she had Secur’d were Turn’d to shift for Our Selves without Any Thing for So much as A Remembrance of Our father. Tho Som of us Can Remember of Considerable in the House, besides his Liberary which she Sold and Rec’d the money for; then Lett it out att Intrest and was afterward Rec’d by another Husband; and not one farthing bestowed upon any Child but her Own: This being matter of fact we Humbly Leave it with your Honours to Consider wheather of what The Honourable Generall Court allow’d &c she have not allredy Rec’d To much And the Children To Little. We Subscribe Our Selves your Honours Humble Ser’tts.”

In January of 1712, the court ordered that 6 of the 50 pounds was to be divided in equal shares among all of Burroughs’ children: Charles Burroughs, Jeremiah Burroughs, Rebecca Fowle, Hannah Fox, Elizabeth Thomas, and Mary Burroughs.

It appears from court records that Burroughs’s children soon began fighting over the money. A number of them began filing letters with the court asking their siblings to give them their share of the money and later filed letters asking to award their portion to their siblings due to a “desire to sit down in silence.”

In March, Mary Burroughs filed a letter asking her brother to send her portion of the restitution “which is my right and proper due from the general court I pray you to send it by my mother which will take some care about it..”

On April 3, 1712, Rebecca Fowle filed a letter asking the court to award any remaining restitution to her brother, George Burroughs “with out delay for every discourse on this malloncely [sic] subject doth but give a fresh wound to my bleeding heart-but i desire to sit down in silence.”

On April 8, 1712, Burroughs’s children filed another petition stating that they had only received four pounds each “which we think but a poor recompense,” and asked that whatever additional amount that the court would award them be delivered to their brother George Burroughs. It’s not clear from the records if the children were awarded any additional money.

George Burroughs memorial marker is located at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Mass.

George Burroughs, Memorial Marker, Salem Witch Trials Memorial, Salem Mass, November 2015. Photo Credit Rebecca Brooks

George Burroughs Historical Sites:

Salem Witch Trials Memorial
Address: Liberty Street, Salem Mass

Site of the Salem Witch Trials Executions
Address: Proctor’s Ledge, wooded area between Proctor Street and Pope Street, Salem, Mass

Former Site of the Salem Courthouse
Address: Washington Street (about 100 feet south of Lynde Street), opposite the Masonic Temple, Salem, Mass. Memorial plaque located on Masonic Temple.

Sources:
Salem Witchcraft by Charles W. Upham
The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-by-day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege by Marilynne K. Roach
New England Marriages Prior to 1700 By Clarence Almon Torrey
More Wonders of the Invisible World by Robert Calef
Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather
A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Witch Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker
Salem Witch Trials A Reference Guide by K. David Goss
Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, Volume 2
The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide by K. David Goss
The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts by David Webster Hoyt
University of Virginia: Reversal of Attainder and Restitution (1710 – 1750): salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal3R?term=&div_id=BoySal3-n3.173&chapter_id=n141&name=moumar
Oxford University Press; George Burroughs; Salem’s Perfect Witch; Emerson W. Baker: blog.oup.com/2014/08/george-burroughs-salems-perfect-witch/
University of Virginia: George Burroughs Case File: salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySal1R?div_id=n22

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the writer and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance writer and history lover who got her start in journalism working for small-town newspapers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire after she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a B.A. in journalism. Visit this site’s About page to find out more about Rebecca.

1 thought on “Reverend George Burroughs: Ringleader of the Salem Witches?

  1. Isabel D. Carrier Linstead

    This article was interesting to me since I am 7th generation from Martha Carrier.

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