Saturday, August 18, 2012

August 19, 1692 and how you can help the Salem Witch Trials Memorial

On Thanksgiving 2004 I brought my Father-in-Law
from Spain to see the Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Mass. 

On August 19, 1692 five people were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts when found guilty of witchcraft.  Their names were Reverend George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, George Jacobs, John Proctor, and John Willard.   Jacobs and Proctor were my 9x and 8x great grandfathers.   Carrier (maiden name Martha Allen) was my first cousin 9 x removed. Willard is my first cousin 11 x removed.  Other family members include the jailor, several accusers, and many witnesses both for and against the victims. My family has lived in this area a long time, and I was born less than ten miles away from Gallows Hill.  

During this frightening summer the victims of the witchcraft hysteria were hanged on June 10, July 19, August 19, September 19 and September 22, until the Royal Governor Phips stopped the trials from proceeding with hangings.   Hundreds of people had been imprisoned, tortured, and the entire colony had been scared into blaming neighbors and even family members of the crime of consorting with the devil.

The Witch Trials Memorial in Salem, Massachusetts stands in quiet memorial to those who suffered death during the witchcraft hysteria.  It was dedicated by Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel in August 1992 as part of the 300th anniversary of the Witch Trials.  It consists of 20 granite benches along a granite dry wall.  Each bench is inscribed with the name of one victim, along with their cause of death and the date of their execution.  Nineteen people had been hung, and one tortured to death.   The entrance of the memorial contains a threshold of granite blocks inscribed with quotes from the victims. 

John Proctor
My 8 x Great Grandfather

I have visited this memorial several times.  It is located right next to the Charter Street Burying Point, and on my regular tour of Salem when we bring out-of-town visitors.  Many tourists leave flowers and other memorials on the stone benches.  The compassionate, the descendants, and the history buffs all spend a few quiet moments inside the granite enclosure.  It is a powerful reminder of intolerance, and a place to memorize the victims because most do not have proper burial sites to visit, or gravestones. (Rebecca Nurse has a cenotaph and George Jacobs a gravestone in Danvers). 

This simple, yet elegant, memorial has suffered neglect in the past twenty years, and is in need of a facelift.   Over six million visitors have walked through the memorial, and the City of Salem has provided regular maintenance, but several stones need to be replaced by a master mason, and the walls have shifted due to weather and frost heaves. 

Quotes taken from court records decorate the entrance,
but are cleverly cut off mid sentence.
This quote from Bridget Bishop reads in its entirety
"I am no witch. I am innocent.  I no nothing of it." 
The Salem Award Foundation has begun a major fundraising drive to restore the Salem Witch Memorial.  There is an urgent need to provide maintenance to the site, before the problems with the granite walls grow worse.  Please consider donating now.  You can visit the website below to make a donation electronically, or send a check to the address.

Bridget (Playfer) (Wasselbee) (Oliver)  Bishop
My 9x Great Grandmother

The Salem Award Foundation website.

The Salem Award for Human Rights and Social Justice Foundation
P. O. Box 8484
Salem, MA  01971

Disclaimer:  I am not affiliated with the Salem Award Foundation, nor was I asked to write this post, nor did I receive special treatment or monetary consideration.

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. Hi Heather,
    I have retweeted your tweet about the Salem Witch Trials Memorial, and also posted a link to your blog on my Facebook Book Page for THE AFFLICTED GIRLS A Novel of Salem.
    Suzy Witten

  2. Thanks Heather, for such an important posting... Those were very hysterical times and many people's lives were touched. Sad.

  3. The trials did not end by royal decree. Gov. Phips put a stop to them himself. See Sewall's Diary for primary sources, or Salem Possessed by Boyer and Nissenbaum (p. 19) or wikipedia uses the same sources in their Salem Witch Trials article.

  4. Nice piece Heather. I don't know if I mentioned before, but I also have John Proctor, yep, another cousin connection.