Villages of the Salem Witch Trials

She was examined on August 19, 1692, along with Mary Lacey, Sr., of Andover, who testified that Rebecca Blake Eames had baptized her own son, Daniel Eames, as a witch. Confessing, Rebecca claimed that she had been bewitched by the Devil in the hollow through which Ipswich Road runs. She would also say that her son, Daniel Eames was also a witch. On September 17, 1692, she, along with nine others were condemned to die. She would be imprisoned until May 1693, when she was finally released. Her son, Daniel, was also imprisoned for a time, but, the results are unknown. Boxford’s only other case was when Hannah Post, the sister of Mary Post of Andover, who had been found guilty and condemned of witchcraft, was also examined and indicted. She was later found not guilty and released.

Boxford is now called home to about 8,000 people

Gloucester in later years

Gloucester in later years

Gloucester – Located on Cape Ann in Essex County, Gloucester was founded at Cape Ann by an expedition called the “Dorchester Company” of men from Dorchester, England chartered by King James I in 1623. It was one of the first English settlements in what would become the Massachusetts Bay Colony and predates both Salem and Boston. The first company of pioneers made landing at Half Moon Beach and settled nearby. However, life in this first settlement was harsh and short-lived. Around 1626, it was abandoned, and the people moved to Naumkeag, which was later called Salem. Even the meetinghouse was disassembled and relocated. However, over the years, the original location was slowly resettled and Gloucester was formally incorporated in 1642. It took its name from the city of Gloucester in southwest England.

When the infamous witch trials began in 1692, Gloucester was still an isolated farming community, not yet the thriving port and fishing town it would soon become. Like Salem Village, Gloucester had gone through a number of factional conflicts earlier in the century, but, by 1692, had mostly obtained the stable, harmonious environment that Puritans expected of their communities. However, this model Puritan community, produced 17 witchcraft accusations, more than most area villages, with the exception of Andover, Salem Village and Salem Towne.

Though most of the community’s problems had apparently resolved themselves, there were was obviously some remaining friction, as most of those accused were of high social and economic status, leading to the belief that there was clearly envy on the part of some villagers. The remaining accused were known to have reputations as trouble-makers or were related to other accused witches.

The first Gloucester residents accused of witchcraft were Margaret Skillings Prince and Elizabeth Dicer on September 3, 1692. They were accused by Ebenezer Babson after he had asked some of the afflicted Salem Village girls to visit his mother, Eleanor, who was complaining of spectral visions of Indians and French soldiers. Ironically, the previous summer, Ebenezer Babson had been involved in an odd hysteria over phantom Indians and French soldiers that had allegedly gripped Gloucester. Despite this strange history, after the “afflicted girls” pinpointed Margaret Skillings Prince and Elizabeth Dicer, a complaint was sworn out against the two women. Around the same time, four more women were accused including Mary Prince Rowe, Phoebe Day, Rachel  Vinson, and Joan Penney

Shortly afterward, James Stevens, a deacon of the local church and lieutenant in the militia, sent for the “afflicted girls” of Salem Village to name the witch he believed was afflicting his sister Mary Fitch, much like Joseph Ballard had done in Andover in September. When Mary Fitch, who was deathly ill, was visited by the “afflicted girls,” they named Rebecca Dike, Esther Elwell, and 15-year-old Abigail Rowe as the witches who had caused her illness.

Others accused of witchcraft in Gloucester included William Brown, Ann Higginson Dolliver, Joseph Emons, and Abigail Somes. Four more women who were accused successfully fought back by filing a legal action for slander against those who were spreading rumors about them. These women included Agnes Evans, Grace Dutch, Elizabeth Perkins, and Sarah Vinson. Fortunately for the accused, it appears that these cases never went to trial because the use of spectral evidence was banned in October 1692, giving prosecutors little evidence to go on, and the Court of Oyer and Terminer was disbanded. In November, public officials set up the Superior Court of Judicature to hear the remaining witchcraft cases. Between January and May of 1693, most of the accused were released due to a lack of evidence or tried and found not guilty.

Today, Gloucester is an important center of the fishing industry and a popular summer destination. It’s called home to a population of almost 29,000 people.

Haverhill, Massachusetts today

Haverhill, Massachusetts today

Haverhill – Located about 24 miles north of Salem, on the Merrimack River, Haverhill got its start as a farming community, founded in 1640 by settlers from Newbury. It was originally known as Pentucket, which is a Native American word for “place of the winding river.” It was later renamed for the town of Haverhill, England, in deference to the birthplace of the settlement’s first pastor, Reverend John Ward. Haverhill has played a role in nearly every era of American history, from the initial colonial settlement to the French and Indian Wars, and the American Revolution and Civil War. It also played a role in the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692.

When the hysteria first began, Haverhill resident, Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall, was chosen to preside over the Salem witch trials; however, he found the trials objectionable and recused himself. Some historians cite his reluctance to participate in the trials as one of the reasons that the witch hysteria did not take as deep a root in Haverhill as it did in the neighboring town of Andover, which had the most victims of the witch hunt. However, a number of women from Haverhill were accused of witchcraft, and a few were found “guilty” by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. In the old Pentucker Cemetery located at the intersection of Water and Mill Streets, lies the remains of Major Nathaniel Saltonstall, who objected to the witch trials.

Today, Haverhill is called home to almost 61,000 people.

Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1906

Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1906

Ipswich – A coastal town in Essex County, Ipswich was founded by John Winthrop the Younger, son of John Winthrop, one of the founders of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630 and its first governor, elected in England in 1629. When the colonists first arrived, they investigated the region of Salem, Massachusetts, and Cape Ann, including a place they called Agawam. However, they settled in Charlestown. In 1633, John the Younger decided to settle at Agawam. He and 12 men soon sailed into Ipswich harbor and took up residence there. The next year, the town was incorporated and called Ipswich after a town in Suffolk County, England. Nathaniel Ward, an assistant pastor in town from 1634 to 1636, wrote the first code of laws for Massachusetts. Early settlers became farmers, fishermen, shipbuilders, and traders.

Like other local villages, Ipswich would see some of its citizens arrested for witchcraft; but, the hysteria that took over other nearby settlements such as Salem Village and Andover, would not have the same impact in Ipswich. This is accredited to the ministers of the settlement who put themselves on record as not being in agreement with the delusion of the witch trials.

However, Rachel Clinton was arrested for witchcraft at the end of March 1692. She was indicted and imprisoned until 1693. Destitute, she would die just two years later. It probably came as no surprise to area residents that Mehittable Braybrook Downing, who had quite a questionable history and reputation for the time, was also arrested and imprisoned. Also accused were Thomas Dyer, Anna Edmunds, Margaret Read, and Thomas Wells. No one from Ipswich was executed. Sarah Buckley, the wife of William Buckley, who was a former a resident of Ipswich, was also accused, but, the Reverend William Hubbard, stepped up to save her.

Today, Ipswich is a residential community with vibrant tourism industry. It is called home to about 13,000 people.

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