Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another lesson in Hallowed History

.Salem Witch Trials.

Salem Witches

When the year of 1692 began for the village of Salem, things were a mess of turmoil. The English court was seeking clarification of the colony's government, the French were waging war, Indians were on the war path, taxes were becoming intolerable, pirates were attacking commerce and small pox was raging. Not to mention the internal issues, half of the people were farmers who stood by Reverend Parris who was attempting to break away from Salem Town to form their own district township and the other half wanted to remain a part of Salem Town, retaining merchant ties and refused to contribute to the maintenance of Parris and his family. There were also disputes regarding the ownership of land and what its boundaries were all across the small village. The atmosphere was primed and ready for the mass religious hysteria to break out, afterall it was a long standing Puritan belief that Man was inherently evil so it was easy to blame community problems on people who were just the slightest bit different.

Just what was the spark that set the flame?

Tituba, the slave of Rev. Parris, would tell tales of West Indian lore to a group of unmarried yound women. Stories so graphic that Parris' daughter, Elizabeth (aged 9), and her cousin, Abigail Williams (11), were so emotionally excited that they went into fits of sobbing and convulsions. Soon the two girls completely defied the whole adult world showing lawlessness, disobedience, mocking of authority and delinquency. Elizabeth, who had been brought up by the strictest of fathers, threw a bible across the room and got away with it. Abigail took the limelight during a solemn day of fasting on March 11th by shrieking and romping, thereby disrupting the prayers.

Soon a group of older girls began to act out of character as well; they were said to stand at odd postures, make antic gestures and utter foolish ridiculous speeches which neither they themselves nor any others could make sense of. This group of girls was Ann Putnam (12), Elizabeth Hubbard (17), Mary Walcott (16), Mary Warren (20), Mercy Lewis (19), Susan Sheldon (18), and Elizabeth Booth (18). The local physician, Dr. Griggs, who himself harbored a possessed girl in his home (Elizabeth Hubbard), with the local ministers diagnosed witchcraft. Keep in mind, elsewhere in the world, the witchcraft delusion was waning. The last execution in England was in 1685.

Reverend Parris and other upstanding citizens began urging the girls to name those who afflicted them but when the questioning failed to produce names, suggestive questions followed and finally, the girls began to spout names. The first three women to be accused were Sarah Good (the town beggar), Sarah Osborne (a crippled woman) and Tituba.

There was no way to try these people because there was no legitimate form of government. By the time Governor Phips arrived and instituted the Court of Oyer and Terminer (which was to hear and determine), prisoners in the jails of Salem, Boston and surrounding areas had swelled to numbers nearing 80. Before the trials began, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good's newborn baby girl both died and the majority of the rest were ill.

The preliminary hearing for Sarah Good was basically the testing and practice run for future accusations. The questions asked were not creating evidence to convict the woman so Judge Hawthorn asked the children to look upon her to see if this was indeed the person who had hurt them. They did and said she was then to demonstrate the torment, the girls cried out as if in pain, claimed they were pinched, bit, and paralyzed.

Each girl's story was generally the same for each person they accused and as time passed they became more and more detailed, drawing on things suggested in the court room and suggestions made by others. Tituba was actually the first person to bring up anything about specters or shapes of neighbors trying to win people to the devil. Later they came up with a "touch" test where if the toucher was a witch, the girl's chaotic fits were quieted.

Over the summer, the court heard approximately one case per month. Of the accused, only one was released when the girls recanted their identification of him. All cases that were heard ended with the accused being condemned to death for witchraft. A series of four executions over the summer saw 19 people hanged; six were men and the rest were mostly impoverished women beyond childbearing age. Only one execution during the Salem Witch Trials was not by hanging; Giles Cory was pressed to death. 55 of the 150 accused confessed and received reprieves.

The witch trials ended in October of 1692 even though some people who had been accused and already jailed for witchcraft were not released until the next spring. Officially, the royal appointed governor of Massachusetts, Sir william Phips, ended them after an appeal by Boston-area clergy. In 'Cases of Conscience Concerning Evil Spirits' (published October 3rd, 1692) Increase Mather stated, "It were better than ten suspected witches should escape, than that the innocent person should be condemned."

Theories abound as to why the community of Salem Village exploded into such a chaotic outpour of delusions of witchcraft and demonic invasions. The most common belief is that when this colony of Puritans began to have more royal interference after governing themselves for over 30 years, they went through mass religion-induced hysterical delusion. Others believe this is too simple of an explanation and suggest other theories such as child abuse, fortune telling experiments gone wrong, ergot induced fantasies (ergot is a fungus that grows on damp barley and produces a substance very similar to D-lysergic acid; this could easily be ingested back in pre-industrial society), a teenage prank gone wrong, conspiracy by the Putnam family to destroy their rival-the Porter family, or societal victimization of women.

No one truly knows for sure why the girls began accusing these people of horrible things, but the one thing that will forever remain true in history is that innocent people were tortured and killed.

.Chronology of Events.

Salem Witches

September 6, 1628: Puritans land at Salem from Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1629: Salem is settled.

1641: English law makes witchcraft a capital crime.

1684: England declares that the colonies may not self-govern.

1688: Following an argument with laundress Goody Glover, Boston child Martha Goodwin (aged 13), begins exhibiting bizarre behavior. Days later her younger brother and two sisters start acting a similar way. Glover is arrested and tried for bewitching the Goodwin children. Reverend Cotton Mather meets twice with Glover following her arrest in an attempt to persuade her to repent her witchcraft. She eventually confessed and was hanged. On the way to her execution, Goody Glover named others involved in betwitching the children and said killing her would do nothing. Mather took Martha Goodwin into his own house and her bizarre behavior continued and worsened. Later that year Mather publishes Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions.

November, 1689: Samuel Parris is named the new minister of Salem. Parris moves to Salem from Boston, where Memorable Providence was published.

October 16, 1691: Villagers vow to drive Parris out of Salem and stop contributing to his salary.

January 20, 1692: Eleven-year old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris begin behaving much as the Goodwin children acted four years earlier. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem girls begin acting similarly.

Mid-February, 1692: Doctor Griggs, who attends to the "afflicted" girls, suggests that witchcraft may be the cause of their strange behavior.

February 25, 1692: Tituba, at the request of neighbor Mary Sibley, bakes a "witch cake" and feeds it to a dog. According to an English folk remedy, feeding a dog this kind of cake, which contained the urine of the afflicted, would counteract the spell put on Elizabeth and Abigail. The reason the cake is fed to a dog is because the dog is believed a "familiar" of the Devil.

Late-February, 1692: Pressured by ministers and townspeople to say who caused her odd behavior, Elizabeth identifies Tituba. The girls later accuse Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of witchcraft.

February 29, 1692: Arrest warrants are issued for Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.

March 1, 1692: Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examine Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne for "witches teats." Tituba confesses to practicing witchcraft and confirms Good and Osborne are her co- conspirators.

March 11, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft. Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Mary Warren later allege affliction as well.

March 12, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Martha Cory of witchcraft.

March 19. 1692: Abigail Williams denounces Rebecca Nurse as a witch.

March 21, 1692: Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin examine Martha Cory.

March 23, 1692: Salem Marshal Deputy Samuel Brabrook arrests four-year-old Dorcas Good. Edward and Jonathan Putnam file complaints against Rebecca Nurse.

March 24, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Rebecca Nurse.

March 26, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin interrogate Dorcas.

March 28, 1692: Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft.

April 3, 1692: Sarah Cloyce, after defending her sister, Rebecca Nurse, is accused of witchcraft.

April 11, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Cloyce and Elizabeth Proctor. On the same day Elizabeth's husband, John, who protested the examination of his wife, becomes the first man accused of witchcraft and is incarcerated.

Early April, 1692: The Proctors' servant and accuser, Mary Warren, admits lying and accuses the other accusing girls of lying.

April 13, 1692: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Giles Cory of witchcraft and alleges that a man who died at Cory's house also haunts her.

April 19, 1692: Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Cory and Mary Warren are examined. Deliverance Hobbs confesses to practicing witchcraft. Mary Warren reverses her statement made in early April and rejoins the accusers.

April 22, 1692: Mary Easty, another of Rebecca Nurse's sisters who defended her, is examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Hathorne and Corwin also examine Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes, and Mary English.

April 30, 1692: Several girls accuse former Salem minister George Burroughs of witchcraft.

May 2, 1692: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Morey, Lydia Dustin, Susannah Martin and Dorcas Hoar.

May 4, 1692: George Burroughs is arrested in Maine.

May 7, 1692: George Burroughs is returned to Salem and placed in jail.

May 9, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine Burroughs and Sarah Churchill. Burroughs is moved to a Boston jail.

May 10, 1692: Corwin and Hathorne examine George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs. Sarah Osborne dies in prison.

May 14, 1692: Increase Mather and Sir William Phipps, the newly elected governor of the colony, arrive in Boston. They bring with them a charter ending the 1684 prohibition of self-governance within the colony.

May 18, 1692: Mary Easty is released from prison. Following protest by her accusers, she is again arrested. Roger Toothaker is also arrested on charges of witchcraft.

May 27, 1692: Phipps issues a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer and appoints as judges John Hathorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop, and Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton.

May 31, 1692: Hathorne, Corwin and Gednew examine Martha Carrier, John Alden, Wilmott Redd, Elizabeth Howe and Phillip English. English and Alden later escape prison and do not return to Salem until after the trials end.

June 2, 1692: Bridget Bishop is the first to be tried and convicted of witchcraft. She is sentenced to die.

June 8, 1692: Eighteen year old Elizabeth Booth shows symptoms of affliction by witchcraft.

June 10, 1692: Bridget Bishop is hanged at Gallows Hill. Following the hanging, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Corwin.

June 15, 1692: Cotton Mather writes a letter requesting the court not use spectral evidence as a standard and urging that the trials be speedy. The Court of Oyer and Terminer pays more attention to the request for speed and less attention to the criticism of spectral evidence.

June 16, 1692: Roger Toothaker dies in prison.

June 29-30, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe are tried, pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

July 19, 1692: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Gallows Hill.

July 23, 1962: Fearing that they can't get a fair trial in Salem village, John Proctor and other prisoners write a letter from prison to the Reverends Increase Mather, James Allen, Joshua Moody, Samuel Willard, and John Bayley in an attempt to gain their support for a change of venue.

August 5, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John and Elizabeth Proctor are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

August 19, 1692: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John Proctor are hanged on Gallows Hill. Elizabeth Proctor is not hanged because she is pregnant.

August 20, 1692: Margaret Jacobs recants the testimony that led to the execution of her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and Burroughs.

September 9, 1692: Martha Corey, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Dorcas Hoar and Mary Bradbury are pronounced guilty and sentenced to hang.

Mid-September, 1692: Giles Cory is indicted.

September 17, 1692: Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Earnes, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster and Abigail Hobbs are tried and sentenced to hang.

September 19, 1692: Sheriffs administer Piene Forte Et Dure (pressing) to Giles Cory after he refuses to enter a plea to the charges of witchcraft against him. After two days under the weight, Cory dies.

September 22, 1692: Martha Cory, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Willmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker are hanged. Hoar escapes execution by confessing. Mary Herrick of Wenham, Mass. reported that the ghost of Mary Easty appeared to her and proclaimed her innocence of witchcraft.

October 3, 1692: The Reverend Increase Mather, President of Harvard College and father to Cotton Mather, denounces the use of spectral evidence.

October 5, 1692: Five-year old Dorcas Good, daughter of a poor laborer imprisoned since May, is finally released when her father was able to raise bail.

October 8, 1692: Governor Phipps orders that spectral evidence no longer be admitted in witchcraft trials.

October 29, 1692: Phipps prohibits further arrests, releases many accused witches, and dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.

November 25, 1692: The General Court establishes a Superior Court to try remaining witches.

January 3, 1693: Judge Stoughton orders execution of all suspected witches who were exempted by their pregnancy. Phipps denied enforcement of the order causing Stoughton to leave the bench.

January 1693: 49 of the 52 surviving people brought into court on witchcraft charges are released because their arrests were based on spectral evidence. Lydia Dustin was one of the aquitted but had no one to come to her financial aid so she died in jail.

1693: Tituba is released from jail and sold to a new master.

May 1693: Phipps pardons those still in prison on witchcraft charges.

November 26, 1693: Parris gives his "Meditation for Peace" sermon, in which he admited to giving too much weight to spectral evidence.

January 14, 1697: The General Court orders a day of fasting and soul-searching for the tragedy at Salem. Moved, Samuel Sewall publicly confesses error and guilt.

1697: Minister Samuel Parris is ousted as minister in Salem and replaced by Joseph Green.

1702: The General Court declares the 1692 trials unlawful.

1706: At the age of 26, Ann Putnam Jr., one of the leading accusers, publicly apologizes for her actions in 1692.

1711: The colony passes a legislative bill restoring the rights and good names of those accused of witchcraft and grants 600 pounds in restitution to their heirs.

1752: Salem Village is renamed Danvers.

1957: Massachusetts formally apologizes for the events of 1692.

1992: On the 300th anniversary of the trials, a witchcraft memorial designed by James Cutler is dedicated in Salem.

.Books on the Salem Witch Trials.

Because knowledge rocks~ Until next time....

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