History of Salem Village

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Salem Village was a farming community on the northern edge of Salem Town during the 17th century. It is famous for being the place where the Salem Witch Trials first began in 1692. The village is now a historic district within the town of Danvers, Massachusetts.

The area was originally inhabited by members of the Naumkeag band of the Pawtucket tribe. About 200 natives lived in the Salem Village area.

When an epidemic broke out in the Native-American villages in New England in 1616 – 1619, the native population in Salem area was reduced to about 50 people.

In 1632, John Endecott established a 300 acre orchard farm in the area that is now Salem Village, making him of one of the original settlers of Danvers.

In 1634, Reverend Samuel Shelton/Skelton was also awarded a land grant in what is now Salem Village.

In 1635, John Humphrey and Emmanuel Downing were also awarded land grants in the Salem Village area. Downing’s land grant was the largest at 500 to 700 acres, although part of that land was in modern day Peabody.

Between 1636 and 1638, Salem Town began allocating more land grants in the Salem Village area.

By 1638, Salem granted rights to several individuals to establish a village, which became known as Salem Village, while the area that now includes modern day Beverly and Reading was known as Salem Farms.

Houses were scattered throughout Salem Village with no real concentration to the settlement.

Old Salem Village, illustration published in A Short History of the Salem Village Witchcraft Trials, circa 1911
Old Salem Village, illustration published in A Short History of the Salem Village Witchcraft Trials, circa 1911

By 1640, about 100 people lived in Salem Village.

Several attempts were made to establish a separate parish in Salem Village but it wasn’t until 1670 that a petition to the town of Salem was acted upon and plans were put in place to establish the Salem Village Parish.

In 1670, the Benjamin Holten house was built on what is now Holten Street and, in 1671, the Joseph Houlton house was built on what is now Centre Street.

By 1672, the population of Salem Village was about 350 people.

Also in 1672, the first meetinghouse was built in Salem Village near what is now the corner of Hobart and Forest Streets on an acre of land donated by Joseph Hutchinson.

On October 8, 1672, Salem Village officially separated from Salem Town as a parish and was granted the authority to hire a minister, build a meetinghouse and collect taxes for public improvements.

In 1678, Francis Nurse purchased a plot of land from John Endecott, on what is now modern day Pine Street, and built a large Colonial saltbox house on the property, now known as the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.

Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Danvers, Mass, circa 2013.
Rebecca Nurse Homestead, Danvers, Mass, circa 2013.

In 1679, Joseph Houlton gave five and a half acres of land in the center of Salem Village for the construction of a parsonage.

Sometime between 1680 and 1700, the Putnam – Boardman House was built on Locust Street for Jonathan Putnam. It remained in the Putnam family until the early 19th century when it was sold Nathanial Boardman.

In 1681, the Salem Village Parsonage was built on the land Houlton donated in the center of Salem Village.

Also in 1681, the Thomas Haines house was built by Thomas Haines on what is now Centre Street. The Haines ran a tavern at the house until the Salem Witch Trials began in 1692, after which they moved out of Salem Village.

From 1681 to 1683, George Burroughs served as the minister at Salem Village. He left when the parishioners, who where heavily divided and constantly feuding, failed to pay his salary. A decade later, Burroughs was later accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

From 1684 to 1688, Deodat Lawson served as the minister at Salem Village. He eventually left Salem Village altogether when some of the feuding parishioners objected to him as their permanent minister.

In 1689, Samuel Parris was hired as the new minister at Salem Village and quickly found himself caught up in the feuds of the Salem Village parishioners.

Trouble began in January of 1692 when a group of girls from Salem Village began behaving strangely and suffering fits. Around the end of February, a local doctor declared that they have been bewitched.

In March of 1692, the Salem Witch Trials officially began in Salem Village when the young girls accused three women from Salem Village of afflicting them.

One of the women, Tituba, later confessed and stated that there were more witches in the village, which sparked a massive hunt for the others witches that spread to Salem town and later to other towns in the Massachusetts Bay Colony such as Andover, Salisbury and Gloucester.

Former minister Deodat Lawson briefly returned to Salem Village in March of 1692 to write a pamphlet about the events of the Salem Witch Trials, titled A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village which Happened from the Nineteenth of March, to the fifth of April, 1692.

By the time the trials ended in 1693, over 200 people had been arrested for witchcraft, 19 people had been hanged and one person was tortured to death.

In 1696, the Wadsworth Cemetery was established on Summer Street.

Also in 1696, Samuel Parris left his position as minister at Salem Village due to protests from some of the parishioners over his role in the Salem Witch Trials.

From 1698 to 1715, Joseph Green served as the minister at Salem Village. Green tried to unite the divided parishioners, who were still angry at each other about the events of the Salem Witch Trials, and he even helped afflicted girl Ann Putnam Jr write an official apology for her role in the trials in 1706.

In 1701/2, a new meetinghouse was built on the corner of Hobart and Centre Streets.

In 1708, the first school house was constructed in Salem Village.

From 1717 to 1768, Peter Clark served as the minister at Salem Village.

In 1727, the Clarke House, a Colonial Saltbox, was built by Peter Hobart for his son-in-law Reverend Peter Clark, on Hobart Street.

Sometime around 1745, the John Porter House, a Georgian-style house, was built by John Porter on Bell Street.

Also in 1745, the Porter – Putnam – Berry – Henderson House, a Georgian-style house that served as an inn, was built by John Porter on Elm Street. It remained in the Porter family until the late 1790s when it was acquired by the Putnam family. It later changed hands again when it was purchased by Ebenzer Berry and then Benajmin Henderson in the 19th century.

In 1748, the Kenney House, a Colonial Saltbox house, was built on Centre Street.

In 1752, Danvers was established as a separate district from Salem and was renamed Danvers, in honor of settler Danvers Osbourn.

In 1757, Danvers was incorporated as a town in the Province of Massachusetts Bay.

In 1909, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead opened as a historic house museum.

In 1970, the foundation to the Salem Village parsonage was discovered by local Danvers historian Richard Trask.

In 1975, Salem Village was listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. The Salem Village Historic District encompasses a collection of properties along Centre, Hobart Ingersoll and Collins Streets as well as Brentwood Circle and Mello Parkway.

The district includes a number of historic sites and properties such as the Rebecca Nurse Homestead, the Salem Village Parsonage and etc.

In 1988, the site of the Salem Village parsonage itself was named a historic landmark.

Sources:
“Danvers Massachusetts Historical Sites.” Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/Danvers.html
“Massachusetts Indigenous Community.” Salem Historical Society, salemhistorical.org/massachusetts-indigenous-community-resources

About Rebecca Beatrice Brooks

Rebecca Beatrice Brooks is the author and publisher of the History of Massachusetts Blog. Rebecca is a freelance journalist 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.

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