Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sarah Good, Sarah Wildes, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, and Rebecca Nurse are tried

The history of the Salem witch trials continued when on June 29, 1692, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth Howe were put on trial for witchcraft.

They were all convicted at trial and were later executed on July 19, 1692.

The case against Sarah Good is documented in my book,
Justice at Salem.
She was on of the first accused by the Indian slave, Tituba, of being a witch.
A younger woman, despite popular misconceptions, she, along with her husband, had a hard time supporting themselves and often had to rely on the charity of others. Good was a angry woman and even when others were generous with her, she responded with bitterness and rage. When someone would give her something to eat, she would often mutter curses over the food, leading many to suspect that she was a witch even before the outbreak of the trials. Cattle and other livestock would often become ill and sometimes die after coming in contact with her. During her deposition during the trials she was caught in several lies and even her own husband thought she was a witch, or soon would become one. It is not hard to imagine why the people of Salem thought she was guilty.

Susannah Martin was also hanged as a witch. Martin, like Bridget Bishop, had previously been accused of witchcraft, although that allegation was not proven in court.

Although she was able to quote the Bible during her trial, something which many common folk thought impossible for a witch to do, the Reverend Mr. Cotton Mather, who did not subscribe to such superstitions, was still convinced of her guilt. In his book, Wonders of the Invisible World, he recounted the evidence against her. Most of it related to spectral evidence of her spirit alleging attacking the victims in the courtroom. Some of it seemed to relate to the people having nightmares that they blamed on her. Other allegations involved harm to livestock and various other threats and the use of occasional supernatural power.

Mather concluded his remarks on Martin by writing:
Note, this Woman was one of the most impudent, scurrilous, wicked Creatures in the World; and she did now throughout her whole Tryal, discover her self to be such an one. Yet when she was asked, what she had to say for her self? Her chief Plea was, That she had lead a most virtuous and holy Life.

Regarding Sarah Wilds or Wildes, Mather had no comment.
The case against Wilds is documented here. Much of it appears spectral in nature, meaning that it ought not to have been enough for a conviction at the time. Much of it is hard to read or follow.

Elizabeth Howe was also condemned. Mather didn't comment on her case either. In his book he tried to document the strongest witchcraft cases and did have doubts about some of the convictions, although not directly expressed.

Under questioning, Howe expressly rejected the witchcraft claim:

What say you to this charge? Here are them that charge you with witchcraft

It it was the last moment I was to live, God knows I am innocent of any thing in this nature
Did not you take notice that now when you lookt upon Mercy Lewis she was struck [down?]
I cannot help it.
You are charged here; what doe you say?
I am innocent of any thing of this nature.
Is this the first time that ever you were accused?
Yes S'r.
Howe had several people come forward and offer character evidence for her, including this elderly woman:

The Deposision of Debory Hadley aged about 70 yeares: this Deponant testifieth & s'h: that I have lived near to Elizabeth How (the wife of James How Junior of Ipswich) 24 year & have found her a Neighbourly woman Conssiencious in her dealing faithfull to her mises & Christian-like in her Conversation so far as I have observed & further saith n't.
The rest of the case against Howe is here and includes the usual spectral allegations and problems with livestock.

Finally, Rebecca Nurse was also condemned. When the jury originally returned they had a verdict of not guilty, but after uproar from the victims, the judges sent the jurors back to reconsider (not an uncommon practice at the time, but would be completely rejected as unfair and illegal in America today) and she was convicted. At her execution, she prayed for her accusers, unlike Sarah Good who cursed them.

The case against Nurse is documented here. Needless to say, it was not overwhelming.
When Ann Putnam, Jr, one of the young accusers later sought to become a full member of her church, she issued a general apology for her role in the trials and expressly apologized for her role in condemning Nurse, who had generally been seen as a nice elderly church lady before she was accused.

The Salem Village Church Record Book recorded the event with this entry:

The confession of Anne Putnam when she was received to communion: 1706.

I desire to be humbled before God for yt sad and humbling providence that befell my fathers family in the year about 92, yt I then being in my childhood should by such a providence of God be made an instrument for yt accuseing of severall persons of a grievous crime wherby their lives were taken away from them, whom now I have just grounds and good reason to believe they were innocent persons, and yt it was a great delusion of Satan yt deceived me in that sad time, whereby I justly fear I have been instrumental with others tho' ignorantly and unwittingly to bring upon myself & this land the guilt of innocent blood Though what was said or done by me against any person I can truly and uprightly say before God & man I did it not out of any anger, malice, or illwill to any person for I had no such thing against one of them; but what I did was ignorantly being deluded by Satan. And particularly as I was a chief instrument of accuseing of Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters I desire to lye in the dust & to be humbled for it in that I was a cause with others of so sad a calamity to them & their familys, for which cause I desire to lye in ye dust & earnestly begg fforgiveness of God & from all those unto whom have given just cause of sorrow & offence, whose relations were taken away or accused.

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