Saturday, May 12, 2012

Surname Saturday ~ Proctor of Salem, Massachusetts


John Proctor, of unknown origin and unknown birth date, died on 28 November 1672 in Salem, Massachusetts.  His son, John Proctor, died when he was hung as a witch in 1692, but lives on in most people’s memory as the main character in Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”.   In the play there is a fictional love affair between a young John and his teenaged servant, but in reality there was no affair since John Proctor was more than sixty years old, and Abigail Williams, his maid, was only eleven years old at the time of the trial.

The first John Proctor arrived on the “Susan and Ellen” in 1635.  He had land in Ipswich and also in Salem.  His son John was an innkeeper in Ipswich, and farmed his father’s land.  His first wife, Martha, is my 8x great grandmother through son Benjamin.  He had a total of 17 children with three wives.  His third wife was pregnant when they were arrested and she “plead the belly”.  She was not hung along with John on 19 August 1692, and she later gave birth to a child after the trials and hangings were suspended.  She was deeply in debt and impoverished when set free, and her home had been looted.  She had many children and stepchildren to care for.  She went back to Lynn, where she had been born and there is a record of intention to marry Daniel Richards on 22 September 1699.   In her father’s will she is named “Elizabeth Bassett, alias Richards”.  [The Bassett Family, by Catherine Soleman Chandler, Salem Historical Society Publications, Volume 3, No. I, page 11]

John Proctor was accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams and Mary Walcott, young maids in the household.  He had been outspoken against earlier arrests.  Several people in the community spoke against him, and he was found guilty.  There is a surviving petition signed by other members of the neighborhood requesting leniency in his case.  This was a very brave act, for it put them in grave danger, just like when John Proctor spoke out against earlier arrests.  There are several members of my family tree on that petition: John Andrews, William Cogswell, Thomas Choate, Thomas Varney, William Andrews, John Burnham, John Andrews, John Choate, John Cogswell, Samuel Giddings, and Thomas Andrews.

From Robert Calef's More Wonders of the Invisible World written in 1700 after the trials and executions, one of the few contemporary accounts of the witch hysteria:

"John Proctor and his wife being in prison, the sheriff came to his house and seized all the goods, provisions and cattle that he could come at, and sold some of the cattle at half price, and killed the others, and put them up for the West Indies; threw out the Beer out of a barrel,  and carried away the barrel; emptied a pot of broath, and took away the pot, and left nothing in the house for the support of the children; No part of the said Goods are known to be returned.  Mr. Proctor earnestly implored Mr. Noyes to pray with and for him, but it was wholly denied, because he would not own himself to be a witch." 

After his arrest and trial, his sons Benjamin (my 7x great grandfather) and William were also arrested.  He was hung along with Reverend George Burroughs, John Willard, George Jacobs (also my 8x great grandfather), Rebecca Nurse (a distant relation to the Proctors) and Martha Corey.  Later in 1711 the descendants of John and Elizabeth Proctor were given 150 pounds compensation for their suffering.   It took seven years for Elizabeth to reverse her legal rights since she was considered guilty by the court.  At the time John wrote his will, he thought Elizabeth would be hung, too, so he had left her nothing in the will.

As you see, the truth is much sadder than Arthur Miller's play...

I have two Proctor lineages:


Generation 1:  John Proctor, born about 1595 in England, died between 28 August and 28 November 1672 in Salem, Massachusetts; married on 1 June 1630 to Martha Harper.

Generation 2:  John Proctor, born 9 October 1631 in Assington, England, hung as an accused witch in Salem on 19 August 1692; married first about 1651 to Martha Unknown.  She died 13 June 1659; married second in December 1662 in Ipswich to Elizabeth Thorndike, daughter of John Thorndike and Elizabeth Stratton; married third about 1674 to Elizabeth Bassett.  He had four children with Martha, seven with the first Elizabeth, and six with the last Elizabeth.

Generation 3: Benjamin Proctor, born 10 June 1659 in Ipswich, died 1717; married on 10 December 1694 in Lynn to Mary Buckley. Four children.

Generation 4: John Proctor, born 27 January 1693 in Salem, died 3 September 1773 in Danvers; married first to Lydia Waters on 14 December 1727 in Salem, married second to Eunice Unknown. Ten children with Lydia.

Generation 5: Lydia Proctor, born 31 March 1730 in Salem; married 1 August 1751 in Salem to Jonathan Flint.

Generation 6: John Flint married Phebe Flint
Generation 7: Olive Flint married Luther Simonds Munroe
Generation 8: Phebe Cross Munroe married Robert Wilson Wilkinson
Generation 9: Albert Munroe Wilkinson married Isabella Lyons Bill
Generation 10: Donald Munroe Wilkinson married Bertha Louise Roberts (my grandparents)

Generation 2: Abigail Proctor, born about 1639, died 1 March 1732 in the Chebacco Parish of Ipswich, Massachusetts; married Thomas Varney as his first wife. 

Generation 3:  Mary Varney married Thomas Choate as his first wife
Generation 4: Anne Choate married John Burnham
Generation 5: Jeremiah Burnham married Abigail Andrews
Generation 6: Abigail Burnham married Isaac Allen
Generation 7: Joseph Allen married Judith Burnham
Generation 8: Joseph Allen married Orpha Andrews
Generation 9: Joseph Gilman Allen married Sarah Burnham Mears
Generation 10: Joseph Elmer Allen married Carrie Maude Batchelder
Generation 11: Stanley Elmer Allen married Gertrude Matilda Hitchings (my grandparents)

For more information on the Proctor family:

The American Genealogist, volume 81, page 218

The Great Migration, Immigrants to New England 1634 – 1625, by Robert Charles Anderson, Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1999, volume 5, pages 540 – 542

John Proctor of Ipswich and Some of his Descendants, by Leland H. Proctor, Springfield, MA: Research Associates, 1985

The Proctor Genealogy, by Albert Carlton Proctor, 1979,

Planters of the Commonwealth, by Charles Edward Banks, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1979

This website has the John Proctor genealogy and other Proctor families

See my blog post about my ancestor George Jacobs, who was also hanged the same day as John Proctor: 


Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

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