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Witches of Massachusetts - C-2

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Salem Village Meeting HouseSarah Towne Cloyce (1648-1703) - The sister of Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Easty. She was accused of witchcraft, but, never indicted by a grand jury in the Salem witch trials. Sarah Towne was born in Salem, Massachusetts and baptized on September 03, 1648. She grew up to marry Edmund Bridges in Topsfield, Massachusetts in about 1659. After he died in about 1682, she married Peter Cloyce. Sarah's sister, Rebecca Towne Nurse, was arrested on March 23, 1692 and examined the next day. The following Sunday, the Reverend Samuel Parris gave an explanatory sermon about the betrayer in Jesus' midst, and how close the devil had gotten to the heart of the church. Sarah Cloyce was so angry that she walked out of church and slammed the door.

 

Very soon, another complaint would be filed, this time, against Sarah. The complaint was filed by Jonathan Walcott and Nathaniel Ingersoll, accusing Sarah of having afflicted Abigail Williams, the niece of the Reverend Samuel Parris, as well as tormenting Mary Walcott.  On April 11, 1692, she was brought before an examiner and refused to confessed. She was then sent to jail in Salem, where her sister Rebecca Nurse was already being held. Both Sarah and her sister, Mary Easty were suspected of bewitching their niece, Rebecca Towne, daughter of their late dead brother Edmund Towne. On September 9, 1692, an indictment was made out against Sarah Cloyes, "for certain detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries, wickedly, maliciously and feloniously hath used practiced and exercised... in, upon and against one Rebecca Towne of Topsfield...and also for sundry other acts of witchcraft."

While Sarah waited in jail, her sisters, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty, were executed for witchcraft. However, by December, 1692, the indictments against Sarah were marked "ignoramus", literally meaning "we do not know." In January 3, 1693, the Superior Court of Judicature dismissed charges against Sarah and her husband, Peter, paid her fees for release. The couple eventually left Salem and settled in Sudbury, Massachusetts. She spent the last ten years of her life trying to clear her sister's names. She died in about 1703 at Framingham, Massachusetts.

Sarah Davis Cole (1651-??) - Sarah was born to George and Sarah Clark Davis on October 1, 1651 in Reading, Massachusetts. She went on to marry Abraham Cole, a tailor of Salem and the couple would have seven children. During the witch hysteria, a warrant was issued for Sarah's arrest, as well as Hannah Carroll,  on September 10, 1692. Both were accused of having afflicted torture and torment of William Brage, the son of Henry Brage. She was indicted and imprisoned. Her husband was able to bail her out on January 14, 1693 and on February 1, 1693, she was acquitted of all charges. She probably died in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

Sarah Aslett Cole (1662-1741) - Sarah Aslett was born on August 17, 1662 in Andover, Massachusetts and grew up to marry John Cole in 1686 in Lynn. Sarah was accused of witchcraft by Mary Browne of Reading in a complaint filed on October 1, 1692. A warrant for her arrest was issued two days later and she was examined.  Mary Browne would say that Sarah's specter appeared to her night and day, tormenting her and causing her pain. Sarah would be imprisoned, but, would not be indicted or tried for months. On January 31, 1693, she was indicted after several people, including Mary Eaton, Elizabeth Wellman, John Browne, Abraham Wellman, and Isaac Wellman testified against her. Later; however she was tried in Charlestown and acquitted. She would live until 1741.

 

Elizabeth Colson (1676?-??) - Granddaughter of accused witch Lydia Dustin, Elizabeth's widowed mother Mary Colson and Mary's sister Sarah Dustin were also arrested and examined for witchcraft. A warrant was issued for her arrest on May 14, 1692 for allegedly afflicting Mary Walcott, Susannah Sheldon, and  Mercy Lewis. About 17 years-old at the time the warrant was issued, she would later also be accused by Malden resident, Mary Swayne Marshall who would say that in April, Elizabeth's specter had tormented her by striking her deaf and dumb, beating her on the head, wringing her neck, and knocking her down. When Reading Constable John Parker went to look for her, Elizabeth Colson could not be found. He reported on May 16th that she had escaped and was likely in Boston preparing to leave the country. Two more warrants were issued, the last on September 10, 1692. Sources disagree as to whether she was ever captured. Nothing more is known of her.

 

 

Mary Dustin Colson (1650-??) - Accused of witchcraft, Mary Colson was the last in her family to be examined. Her mother, Lydia Dustin and sister, Sarah Dustin, were both sitting in jail awaiting trials. An arrest warrant had been issued for her daughter Elizabeth Colson, who had escaped. Mary was brought in and examined before the justices on September 5, 1692. She was accused of afflicting Mary Swayne Marshall, who would say that Mary Colson had afflicted her ever since her mother, Lydia Dustin had been imprisoned. She was also accused by Elizabeth Booth and Alice Booth and it was insinuated that she may have had a hand in the deaths of William Hooper and Ed Marshal. Mary Colson was one of the lucky ones. Though she was accused, she was not indicted and was later released. Nothing more is known of her.

 

Giles Corey was pressed to death for refusing to make a pleaGiles Corey (1611?-1692) - A prosperous farmer and full member of the church, Corey was pressed to death during the Salem witch trials for refusing to enter a plea. Corey was originally from England, where he is believed to have married his first wife, Margaret. Margaret was the mother of his daughters and he had no sons. Somewhere along the line, he made his way to America. He married his second wife, Mary Bright on  April 11, 1664, and after she died just a few months later, married a third wife referred to as "Lady Perkins". His final marriage was on April 27, 1690, to Martha Corey. He was not known to be a pleasant man and was once accused by John Proctor of setting fire to his house, though he couldn’t prove it. Despite his prosperity, Corey had a record that included stealing food and tobacco. He was also known to have a quick temper, to be argumentative and unfriendly, so it was not difficult for the people of the times to suspect him of witchcraft.

 

In April 1692, he was accused of witchcraft by Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, and Abigail Williams. Ann Putnam Jr. claimed that on April 13, the specter of Giles Corey visited her and asked her to write in the Devil's book. Later, Putnam also claimed that a ghost appeared before her to announce that it had been murdered by Corey. Other girls were to describe Corey as "a dreadful wizard" and recount stories of assaults by his specter. Giles Corey was arrested on April 18, 1692, along with Mary Warren, Abigail Hobbs, and Bridget Bishop. The following day, they were examined by the authorities, during which time, Abigail Hobbs confessed to Giles Corey being a warlock.

 

During his examination, Corey refused to plead guilty or not guilty, was committed to jail, and subsequently arraigned at the September sitting of the court. His wife Martha had already been accused, and his testimony did not help her in that he had told the court that he had seen his wife reading strange books. On September 9, 1692, his trial began, and he still refuse to plead. To avoid persons cheating justice, the legal remedy for refusing to plead was "peine forte et dure". In this process the prisoner is stripped naked, with a heavy board laid on their body. Then rocks or boulders are laid on the plank of wood. As a result of his refusal to plead, on September 17, Sheriff George Corwin led Corey to a pit in the open field beside the jail and, before the Court and witnesses, stripped Giles of his clothing, laid him on the ground in the pit, and placed boards on his chest. Six men then lifted heavy stones, placing them one by one, on his stomach and chest. But, Giles Corey did not cry out, let alone make a plea.

After two days, Giles was asked three times to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft. Each time he replied, "More weight." More and more rocks were piled on him, and the Sheriff, from time to time, would stand on the boulders staring down at Corey's bulging eyes. Robert Calef, who was a witness along with other townsfolk, later said, "In the pressing, Giles Corey's tongue was pressed out of his mouth; the Sheriff, with his cane, forced it in again." Three mouthfuls of bread and water were fed to the old man during his many hours of pain. Finally, Giles Corey cried out "More weight!" and died on September 19, 1692. Supposedly, just before his death, he cursed Sheriff Corwin and the entire town of Salem.

 

Giles and Martha Corey's graves sit near their original homestead by Crystal Lake in west Peabody. Martha Rich Corey (1628-1692) - The accusation of Martha Corey marked a turning point in the Salem witch trial crisis of 1692 in Massachusetts. Corey was a newly accepted member of the village church and the community was surprised to see her accused, as she was known for her piety and dedicated church attendance. Major contributing factors to the case being brought against her were an illegitimate son born to Corey in the 1670's, and her outspoken criticisms of the trials and the judges involved in the convictions. She did not believe witches existed and said that the accusers were lying. Upon hearing this, several young girls promptly accused her of witchcraft. As the girls testified against her during examination Corey asked the judge not to believe the rantings of hysterical children. The girls began mimicking her movements as if they were being controlled by her, which was evidence enough to persuade the jury of her guilt. Though her husband, Giles Corey, defended her against the allegations, his testimony did not help her in that he had told the court that he had seen his wife reading strange books.  Martha was hanged on September 22, 1692, just three days after her husband was pressed to death for refusing to make a plea on his own accusal. Giles and Martha Corey's graves sit near their original homestead by Crystal Lake in west Peabody.


Mary Cox - A Mary Cox from Malden, was imprisoned under suspicion of witchcraft. However, exactly who this was remains unknown. There was a Mary Mason Cox who was 45 years old at the time and married to George C. Cox. She also had an unmarried 20 year-old daughter by the same name. Other than the fact that she was imprisoned, nothing more is known of her.

 

 

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