Salem, Mass is an old fishing and farming settlement originally named Naumkeag, meaning “fishing place,” by the Native Americans who lived there.
In 1692, Salem residents were overcome by a hysteria which caused them to seek out and persecute “witches” they believed were working for the Devil. This later came to be known as the Salem Witch Trials.
The following is a timeline of the Salem Witch Trials:
♠ Parliament passes the Witchcraft Act of 1542 which is England’s first witchcraft law and makes the crime punishable by death.
♠ Parliament repeals the Witchcraft Act of 1547.
♠ Parliament passes a new Witchcraft Act of 1562.
♠ Parliament passes the Witchcraft At of 1604. The Witchcraft Acts of 1562 and 1604 transfer the trial of witches from the Church to the ordinary courts.
♠ Naumkeag is settled by a group of settlers led by Roger Conant, after they abandoned their original settlement in Gloucester. Conant serves as the settlement’s governor.
♠ John Endecott and a group of settlers from the New England Company arrive with a patent from England that gives them legal rights to Naumkeag. Conant peacefully surrenders control of Naumkeag to Endecott.
♠ Naumkeag is renamed Salem in honor of the peaceful agreement between Endecott and Conant.
♠ A small group of colonists settle an area just outside of Salem town which becomes Salem Village.
♠ In 1641, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony drafts the Body of Liberties which is modeled on the Witchcraft Law of 1604 and makes witchcraft, among several other crimes, a capital offense punishable by death.
♠ In 1662, Sir Matthew Hale solidifies the legal credibility of spectral evidence in witchcraft cases by allowing it in the Bury St. Edmund case in England, thus setting a precedent to be used at Salem in 1692.
♠ On October 8, 1672, Salem Village officially separates from Salem Town and is authorized by a General Court order to tax for public improvements, to build a meetinghouse for worship and to hire its first minister, James Bayley.
♠ In the spring of 1673, the Salem Village meetinghouse is raised.
♠ In June of 1673, the Salem villagers vote to retain Bayley and to build a parsonage.
♠ By 1679, a number of Salem villagers turn against Bayley, accusing him of neglecting his church duties.
♠ In early 1680, the anti-Bayley faction in Salem Village gains the majority of seats on the Salem Village committee and forces Bayley to step down.
♠ In April of 1680, Nathaniel Putnam leads a committee to search for Bayley’s replacement.
♠ In November of 1680, the Salem villagers hire George Burroughs to serve as the Salem Village minister.
♠ In April of 1682, a parishioner writes to Burroughs complaining of widespread factionalism in the village, stating “brother is against brother and neighbors against neighbors, all quarreling and smiting one another.”
♠ In the spring of 1683, George Burroughs resigns his position as minister due to tension and factionalism within the congregation.
♠ On May 3, 1683, when George Burroughs temporarily returns to Salem Village to meet with the village committee and square his accounts, Captain John Putnam has him arrested for debt for failing to pay back advances on his salary (which he failed to do because the villagers stopped paying his salary all together.) The issue was eventually settled out of court.
♠ On October 23, 1684, the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter is revoked by King James II. In doing so, a number of laws that make it more difficult to accuse someone of a high crime, such as witchcraft, are nullified.
♠ In February of 1684, the Salem villagers hire Deodat Lawson to serve as the new Salem Village minister.
♠ In January of 1687, Job Swinnerton, Joseph Hutchinson, Daniel Andrew and Joseph Porter file a petition expressing grievances over the possible ordination of Lawson.
♠ In February of 1687, arbitrators from Salem Town side with the opponents of Deodat Lawson and encourage them to “desist at present the ordination of the Reverend Lawson till your spirits are better quieted and composed.”
♠ In 1688, Deodat Lawson resigns his positions as minister due to tension and factionalism within the congregation.
♠ In 1688, Mary “Goody” Glover is convicted of witchcraft for afflicting the children of John Goodwin in Boston. The symptoms that the Goodwin children experienced are well documented in a book by Cotton Mather, titled Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions, and are later seen in the afflicted girls of Salem Village.
♠ In November of 1688, the Glorious Revolution of 1688 takes place in England and King William and Queen Mary become the new rulers of England in January.
♠ In 1689, Increase Mather and Sir William Phips petition William and Mary to restore the charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
♠ In April of 1689, Reverend Samuel Parris is named the new minister at Salem Village.
♠ On November 19, 1689, Reverend Samuel Parris is ordained as the new minister at Salem Village.
♠ On October 16, 1691, at a town meeting, some residents of Salem Village begin to turn on Reverend Samuel Parris and vow to stop paying his salary.
♠ On October 16, 1691, in England, a new charter issued by King William and Queen Mary is approved which replaces the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter with one that establishes the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Sir William Phips is appointed the new royal Governor. The new charter places many restrictions on the colony, causing more tension amongst the colonists.
♠ On January 15-19, 1692, Betty Parris and Abigail Williams begin to have fits and exhibit strange behavior. Soon Ann Putnam, Jr, and other Salem village girls begin displaying similar behavior.
♠ On February 25, 1692, Samuel and Elizabeth Parris leave their children in the care of a neighbor, Mary Sibley, while they visit a nearby village to attend Thursday lecture, a religious sermon where they hope to seek answers about what is afflicting their daughter.
♠ On February 25, 1692, Mary Sibley instructs Samuel Parris’s slave, Tituba, and her husband John to make a witch cake to try and identify who is afflicting the girls.
♠ On February 25, 1692, two others girls in Salem Village, Ann Putnam Jr and Elizabeth Hubbard, also begin to show signs of affliction.
♠ On February 27, 1692, while walking through Salem Village on an errand, Elizabeth Hubbard claims to be stalked by a large wolf that she believes was either a witch in disguise or was sent by a witch.
♠ In late February of 1692, Dr. William Griggs reportedly examines the girls but is unable to determine the cause of the strange behavior and suggests they are under the influence of Satan.
♠ On February 29, 1692, the girls accuse three women, Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, of witchcraft. Arrest warrants are issued for the women.
♠ On March 1, 1692, Judge John Hathorne and Judge Jonathan Corwin examine Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, at the Salem Village Meetinghouse. During the examination, Tituba confesses to being a witch and tells the court there are many witches in Salem.
♠ On March 7, 1692, Increase Mather and his son Samuel leave London, England with the new Massachusetts governor, William Phips, for their long journey to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
♠ On March 12, 1692, Martha Corey is accused of witchcraft.
♠ On March 19, 1692, Rebecca Nurse is accused of witchcraft.
♠ On March 21, 1692, Martha Corey is examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
♠ On March 23, 1692, Four-year-old Dorcas Good, daughter of Sarah Good, is accused of witchcraft and is arrested.
♠ On March 24, 1692, Rebecca Nurse is arrested and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
♠ On April 3, 1692, Rebecca Nurse’s sister, Sarah Cloyce, is accused of witchcraft after defending her sister.
♠ On April 4, 1692, Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft.
♠ On April 11, 1692, Elizabeth Proctor is examined by Judge Thomas Danforth at the Salem Village meetinghouse.
♠ On April 18, 1692, Bridget Bishop, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren and Giles Corey are accused of witchcraft.
♠ On April 19, 1692, Bridget Bishop, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren and Giles Corey are arrested and examined.
♠ On April 22, 1692, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Easty, Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Mary Black, Mary English and Sarah Wildes are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
♠ On May 2, 1692, Dorcas Hoar, Lydia Dustin, Sarah Morey and Susannah Martin are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
♠ On May 4, 1692, George Burroughs is accused of witchcraft and is arrested in Wells, Maine.
♠ On May 9, 1692, George Burroughs is examined by Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin, Judge Sewall, and Judge William Stoughton. Sarah Churchill, one of the afflicted girls, is also examined.
♠ On May 10, 1692, George Jacobs, Sr, and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs are arrested on charges of witchcraft and examined by Judge Hathorne and Judge Corwin.
♠ On May 20, 1692, Sarah Osborne dies in prison.
♠ On May 14, 1692, Increase Mather returns from England with the new charter and new governor, Sir William Phips.
♠ On May 18, 1692, Mary Easty is released from prison but is arrested a second time after her accusers protest her release.
♠ On May 18, 1692, Roger Toothaker is accused of witchcraft and is arrested.
♠ On May 25, 1692, Governor Phips sets up a special Court of Oyer and Terminer to hear the witchcraft cases.
♠ On May 27, 1692, seven judges are appointed to the Court of Oyer and Terminer: Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Waitstill Winthrop, John Richards and John Hathorne. Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton is named the Chief Justice.
♠ On May 31, 1692, John Alden, Jr, Martha Carrier, Elizabeth Howe, Wilmot Redd and Phillip English are examined by Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin and Judge Gedney.
♠ On June 2, 1692, Bridget Bishop is pronounced guilty of witchcraft and condemned to death. After Bridget Bishop’s trial, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Judge Corwin.
♠ On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop is hanged at Proctor’s Ledge in Salem. Her hanging is the first official execution of the Salem witch trials.
♠ On June 16, 1692, Roger Toothaker dies in prison.
♠ On June 29-30, 1692, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe and Sarah Wildes are tried for witchcraft, found guilty and condemned.
♠ On July 19, 1692, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Proctor’s Ledge in Salem.
♠ On July 22, 1692, Martha Emerson, daughter of Roger Toothaker, is accused of witchcraft.
♠ On July 23, 1692, John Proctor writes a letter to the Boston clergy describing the torture used against the accused and asks for the trials to be moved to Boston.
♠ On July 23, 1692, Martha Emerson, daughter of Mary and Roger Toothaker is arrested and examined by Judge Gedney.
♠ On July 30, 1692, Mary Toothaker is arrested and examined by Judge Gedney, Judge Hathorne, Judge Corwin and Judge Higginson.
♠ On August 2-6, 1692, George Burroughs, George Jacobs Sr, Martha Carrier, John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor, and John Willard are tried for witchcraft, found guilty and condemned.
♠ On August 9, 1692, Robert Pike, the Massachusetts Bay councilor and Salisbury magistrate, writes a personal letter to Judge Corwin expressing his concerns with the admission of spectral evidence in the trials.
♠ On August 19, 1692, John Proctor, George Jacobs Sr, George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, and John Willard are hanged at Proctor’s Ledge.
♠ On August 20, 1692, Margaret Jacobs recants her testimony against her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and George Burroughs.
♠ On September 1, 1692, Samuel Wardwell, Sarah Wardwell, Mercy Wardwell and Sarah Hawkes, Jr, are accused of witchcraft and arrested.
♠ On September 3, 1692, Margaret Prince and Elizabeth Dicer of Gloucester are accused of witchcraft by the Salem village girls and are arrested.
♠ On September 6-12, 1692, Mary Easty, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeator, Alice Parker, Mary Bradbury and Dorcas Hoar are tried and condemned.
♠ On September 11, 1692, Martha Corey is excommunicated from the Salem Village church.
♠ On September 13, 1692, Joan Penney of Gloucester is accused of witchcraft by Zebulon Hill.
♠ On September 14, 1692, Reverend Samuel Parris, Lieutenant Nathaniel Putnam and two deacons visit Martha Corey in prison and inform her she has been excommunicated.
♠ On September 13-17, 1692, Wilmot Redd, Mary Parker, Margaret Scott, Samuel Wardwell, Rebecca Eames, Abigail Faulkner, Mary Lacy, Abigail Hobbs and Ann Foster are tried and condemned.
♠ On September 19, 1692, Giles Corey is pressed to death after refusing to continue with his trial.
♠ On September 21, 1692, Dorcas Hoar confesses. Her execution is delayed.
♠ On September 22, 1692, Martha Corey, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott, Ann Pudeator, Mary Easty, Samuel Wardwell, Wilmot Redd and Mary Parker are hanged at Proctor’s Ledge. These are the last hangings to take place during the Salem Witch Trials.
♠ On October 8, 1692, Boston merchant Thomas Brattle writes a letter to an unnamed English clergyman in which he criticizes the Salem Witch Trials and its use of spectral evidence. The letter circulates widely in the colony.
♠ On October 12, 1692, Governor Phips puts an end to any new witchcraft cases in Salem and bans any new publications about the trials. Several texts about the trials are published in October including Some Miscellany Observations on Our Present Debates Regarding Witchcraft by Samuel Willard and The Wonders of the Invisible World by Cotton Mather.
♠ On October 29, 1692, Governor Phips dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
♠ On November 3, 1692, Rebecca Dike, Esther Elwell and Mary Rowe of Gloucester are accused of witchcraft and arrested.
♠ On November 14, 1692, Sarah Noyes Hale, wife of Reverend John Hale, is named as a witch but is never formally charged or arrested.
♠ On November 25, 1692, the General Court creates the Superior Court to try the remaining witchcraft cases.
♠ On December 14, 1692, the Great and General Court of Massachusetts passes a new law allowing the widow of a condemned witch to keep her dowry and inheritance, which normally would be confiscated by the court. The law also allows for a condemned witch to be given a proper Christian burial and provides alternative punishments to death for lesser witchcraft-related crimes.
♠ In January of 1693, a new Superior Court, presided over by Deputy Governor Stoughton, meets in Salem. Stoughton prohibits the use of spectral evidence, which makes the testimony of the afflicted girls inadmissible.
♠ In January-February of 1693, 52 of the remaining accused are tried and Stoughton finds three of them guilty and adds them to the list of the other five witches awaiting execution. Governor Phips grants a stay of execution for the prisoners, upon advice from the attorney general to the King and Queen, which angers Stoughton.
♠ On February 16, 1693, several dissenters in the Salem Village congregation file a complaint against Reverend Samuel Parris stating they refuse to attend church while Reverend Parris is still minister due to his role in the trials. Parris spends the next few years embroiled in legal battles with the parishioners.
♠ On February 21, 1693, Governor Phips writes to the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State for King William and Queen Mary, explaining why he put a stop to any new witchcraft cases in Salem, disbanded the court of Oyer and Terminer and set up a new court to hear the remaining cases.
♠ On April 15, 1693, Queen Mary issues a royal letter, drafted by the Earl of Nottingham, to Governor Phip ordering that he stop all witchcraft trials.
♠ In May of 1693, Governor Phips receives instructions from England to end the trials and all proceedings. Phips issues a proclamation stopping all further court proceedings against accused witches and pardons the remaining accused in jail.
♠ On July 27 or 30, 1693, Governor Phips receives the letter from Queen Mary which confirms his decision to end the Salem Witch Trials.
♠ On July 31, 1693, Phips hosts a meeting of the General Council at his house and reads the letter from the Queen.
♠ Governor Phips is recalled to England to answer charges against him of misappropriation of government funds. He dies in 1695.
♠ In October of 1696, Samuel Parris is dismissed as minister of Salem Village.
♠ On June 10, 1696, Elizabeth Proctor becomes the first victim to petition the court to clear her name. The petition was ignored by the court.
♠ On December 17, 1696, out of concern that God is angry at the colony for putting innocent people to death, Acting Governor William Stoughton issues a proclamation for a day of fasting and prayer in the colony.
♠ On January 14, 1697, the General Court orders a day of fasting and prayer in honor of the victims of the Salem Witch Trials. The day of fasting takes place the following day. Judge Samuel Sewall publicly apologizes for his role in the Salem Witch Trials.
♠ In late 1697, Reverend Samuel Parris is replaced by Joseph Green.
♠ On June 13, 1700, Abigail Faulkner becomes the second victim to petition the court to clear her name. The petition was not granted.
♠ The General Court declares the 1692 trials illegal.
♠ In 1703, Abigail Faulkner and her husband file another petition to the court asking to clear her name as well as the names of Samuel and Sarah Wardwell, Rebecca Nurse, Mary Easty, Mary Parker, John and Elizabeth Proctor, and Elizabeth Howe.
♠ In July of 1703, the General Court grants the petition and clears the names of Abigail Faulkner, Sarah Wardwell and Elizabeth Proctor.
♠ In 1704, in a letter to Increase Mather, Reverend Michael Wigglesworth of Malden states that he fears God has placed a curse on New England for “what was done in the time of the witchcraft. I fear that innocent blood hath been shed, and that many have had their hands defiled therewith” and calls for a public acknowledgement of wrongdoing, a day of humiliation and restitution to the victims and their families.
♠ Ann Putnam, Jr, publicly apologizes for her role in the Salem Witch Trials.
♠ In 1709, twenty-two of the accused and/or their relatives filed a petition with the General Court to clear their names or the names of their loved ones.
♠ In the fall of 1709, Cotton Mather gives an election sermon to the General Court during which he urges the court to undertake reparations to make up for “the errors of our dark time, some years ago.”
♠ In 1710, prompted by the recent petitions and from pressure by Cotton Mather, the Massachusetts legislature appoints a committee to go to Salem and find out what more could be done for the victims of the trials and their families.
♠ In September of 1701, the committee makes a six-day visit to Salem during which it receives 45 petitions for redress with requests for restitution totaling 796 pounds.
♠ On October 17, 1711, the General Court passes a bill restoring the rights and good names of the accused. Some of the victim’s families do not wish to be named in the bill and do not seek restitution.
♠ On December 17, 1711, the General Court grants £578 in restitution to the victim’s heirs.
♠ On March 2, 1712, the Salem Town Church votes in favor of rescinding the excommunication of Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey.
♠ The Witchcraft Act of 1735 is passed in England which makes it a crime for a person to claim that any human being had magical powers or was guilty of practicing witchcraft.
♠ In 1813, the old Salem jail at 4 Federal Street, where many of the accused witches were imprisoned, is abandoned and a new jail is built nearby on St. Peter Street.
♠ In 1863, Abner Cheney Goodell purchases the old Salem jail, including the dungeon underneath, and remodels it into a home.
♠ In 1867, historian Charles W. Upham’s book Salem Witchcraft is published. In the book, Upham incorrectly identifies Gallows Hill as the site of the Salem Witch Trials executions.
♠ In January of 1921, historian Sidney Perley writes an article, titled “Where the Salem Witches Were Hanged,” in the Historical Collections of the Essex Institute periodical in which he identifies Proctor’s Ledge as the site of the Salem Witch Trials executions.
♠ In 1935, historian Alfred Putnam Goodell, son of Abner Cheney Goodell, and his wife begin running the Old Witch Goal, in their home at 4 Federal Street in Salem, as a tourist attraction. Visitors tour the old dungeon, read an original unpaid bill for one of the accused witch’s upkeep, listen to lectures by guides, and see other exhibits.
♠ In 1945, Historic Salem, Inc. moves the Jonathan Corwin house about 35 feet to its current location, after it is threatened with demolition when North Street is widened, and begins restoring it to its seventeenth century appearance.
♠ On Memorial Day weekend in 1947, the Jonathan Corwin house opens to the public as a historical house museum, called the Witch House, on Essex Street in Salem.
♠ On January 22, 1953, Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible debuts on Broadway. The play is a dramatized and partially fictionalized account of the Salem Witch Trials, which serve as an allegory for the McCarthy hearings. The play is a success and sparks public interest in the Salem Witch Trails.
♠ In 1956, the New England Telephone Company demolishes the house at 4 Federal Street in order to construct their new headquarters there. The old dungeon is discovered and two beams from the structure are donated to the Peabody Essex Museum.
♠ On August 28, 1957, the Massachusetts legislature apologizes for the events of 1692 and clears the name of “One Ann Pudeator and certain other persons.”
♠ In the fall of 1970, popular television show, Bewitched, airs several episodes about the Salem Witch Trials which were filmed in Salem, Mass. In the episodes, Samantha time travels back to 1692 and tells the Salem judges “The people that you persecuted were guiltless. They were mortals, just like yourselves. You are the guilty,” The episodes cause a surge in public interest in the trials and Salem soon becomes a popular tourist destination.
♠ In 1972, the Salem Witch Museum opens to the public in a former church at Washington Square in Salem.
♠ In November of 1991, town officials announce the winning design, by James Cutler, for a new Salem Witch Trials memorial. Playwright Arthur Miller gives a speech at the announcement ceremony and reads from the last act of “The Crucible.”
♠ In August of 1992, on the 300th anniversary of the Salem Witch Trials, the Salem Witch Trials Memorial is dedicated by Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel.
♠ On October 31, 2001, the Massachusetts legislature amends the 1957 apology and officially exonerates five victims not named in the 1711 bill or the 1957 apology: Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.
♠ In January of 2016, the Gallows Hill Project confirms that Proctor’s Ledge is the site of the Salem Witch Trials executions.
♠ On July 19, 2017, the Proctor’s Ledge Memorial is dedicated on the 325th anniversary of the hangings of Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wildes.
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Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Harvard University Press, 1974.
Perley, Sidney. “Where the Salem Witches Were Hanged.” Essex Institute Historical Collections, Vol. 57, No. 1, Jan. 1921, pp. 1-18
Roach, Marilynne K. Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege. Taylor Trade Publishing, 2002.
Gaskill, Malcolm. Between Two Worlds: How the English Became Americans. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Goss, K. David. The Salem Witch Trials Reference Guide. Greenwood Press, 2008.
Upham, Charles W. Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Spirits. Wiggin and Lunt, 1867. 2 vols.
“Resolves 1957.” Mass.gov, www.mass.gov/files/documents/2016/08/sb/res1957-145.pdf
“Chapter 122.” The 191st General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2001/Chapter122
“Witchcraft.” UK Parliament, www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/private-lives/religion/overview/witchcraft/
“Witchcraft Law up the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.” Mass.gov, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, blog.mass.gov/masslawlib/civil-procedure/witchcraft-law-up-to-the-salem-witchraft-trials-of-1692/
Latner, Richard. “‘Here Are No Newters’: Witchcraft and Religious Discord in Salem Village and Andover.” The New England Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 1, 2006, pp. 92–122. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20474413.