Wednesday, August 19, 2015

19 August 1692, Five People Hanged for Witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts

On this date in 1692 five people were executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.  Only one was a woman, contrary to popular belief.  On this particular day George Jacobs, Sr., Martha Carrier, the Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor, and John Willard were hanged on Gallows Hill.   Five innocent people.  

One month earlier the upstanding citizens Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes were executed.   Two months earlier, on June 10, Bridget Bishop was hanged in Salem as the first official execution of the Salem witch trials.    Over that summer, nineteen innocent lives were lost to gossip, heresy and lies. 

What has been learned since then?  Did anyone change their ways because of this?  Did we see the follies of our ways and become kinder and more forgiving to our neighbors? Did we become accepting of the "different" and less fortunate?

In 2015, modern “witches” have taken over Salem, Massachusetts- people like Laurie Cabot, who exploit the deaths of innocent people for their own profits.  My daughter’s AP History Class took a field trip to the “Witch Museum” in Salem after reading Miller’s play The Crucible.  I was shocked to hear myths being re-told during the presentation, and then the narrator invited the school children to the back of the museum to see a display of modern pagan witch artifacts “by the descendants of the original witches!”   I was flabbergasted, as a chaperone, to know that these myths persist.  

The truth is that none of the original nineteen people were witches, nor were they practicing witchcraft.  The people of Salem were Puritans, however they did believe the Devil dwelt amongst them in Massachusetts.  They falsely believed that witches lived among them, the cause of their problems and troubles. The Devil’s work was truly the gossip, lies and heresy told by neighbors and friends, and not the work of witchcraft.  Over the years these innocent victims have all had their records expunged from the criminal court system. 

If you want to see any actual sites related to the trials of 1692, you are better off going to Danvers, Massachusetts to visit the Archives where some of the original documents can still be read, or the memorial to the victims on the site of the original meeting house, or the well preserved Rebecca Nurse Homestead.   In the city of Salem, there is a memorial (cenotaphs) to the executed victims, Judge Corwin’s house, and the disputed site of Gallows Hill.  In Salem you will also find several museums of dubious quality and inaccurate displays.  You are better off touring the world class Peabody Essex Museum in Salem than any of the other witch museums, and thank goodness the PEM has removed the display of George Jacob’s finger bones.

On this date in 1692 two of those five people hanged on Gallows Hill were my 9x great grandfathers, George Jacobs and John Proctor.  Sarah Averhill Wildes was my 9x step great grandmother (I descend from her husband's first wife).  Bridget Bishop was my 9x great grandmother.  In 1992 the descendants of George Jacobs removed his body from where it had been secretly buried on the Jacobs homestead, because the land was being sold for commercial development.  We had his body re-interred with a very nice reproduction 17th century style headstone at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers, Massachusetts.   Laurie Cabot, nor any of the merchants profiting from “witchcraft” in modern Salem, did not donate a penny towards the re-internment.  It is the only actual gravesite of a witch trial victim, since the others were buried in a crevice, and not allowed to be buried in the town burial grounds.  Rebecca Nurse was reburied in secret on the grounds of the family farm.  No one knows where she is located exactly, and hopefully she has been at peace ever since 1692.

George Jacobs
"Because I am falsely accused. I never did it."

Bridget Bishop
"I am no witch. I am innocent. I know nothing of it."

Margaret Jacobs
"... They told me if I would not confess I should be put down into the dungeon and would be hanged, but if I would confess I should save my life."  [note:  Margaret was forced to confess and to accuse her own grandfather, George Jacobs, of witchcraft]

Engraved on a cenotaph to Rebecca Nurse, at the Nurse Family Burial Ground in Danvers, Massachusetts:
“O, Christian martyr!  Who for truth could die,
When all about thee owned the hideous lie!
The world, redeemed from superstitions sway
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.”
By John Greenleaf Whittier

Originally posted 19 August 2011 at Nutfield Genealogy 

Published under a Creative Commons License
Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "19 August 1692, Five People Hanged for Witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts", Nutfield Genealogy, posted 19 August 2015, ( : accessed [access date]). 


  1. Susannah North Martin is my 9th Great Grandmother, which I found out as an adult. So three years ago when I had the chance to visit Salem I was excited. I wanted to visit this historic area, learn more and just be in the presence of my ancestors. Then we arrived and the whole feeling and expectations were blown apart! This is part of the letter I sent to the Mayor and other Salem officials, NOT ONE PERSON RESPONDED to me.

    "On Friday we landed in the early morning in Boston and drove to Waltham to our hotel. Since our room would not be ready for hours, we decided to go to the first place I had wanted to visit, Salem. When I asked the hotel employee how long it would take to get there, the woman scrunched up her face, shaking her head side to side and told us we would not like it. Not deterred, we went not really knowing what to expect.

    So, why Salem? Susannah North Martin, hung on 19 July 1692 was my 9th great grandmother. One of her accusers, and probably more of those involved, were also my ancestors. It was my intention to go up to Salem and pay my respects at the memorial garden and then hopefully learn more about the town and people. I have books, but wanted to be there in the area it actually happened. As we drove into the city, I was appalled by what I saw. Dollar Store Halloween at it’s worst. Even as close as a foot from cemetery and the memorial to these innocents there were trailers of cider, t-shirts and souvenirs being sold. The buildings of witch and vampire goods being sold, with smoke coming out to form mists and scary sounds being pumped into these businesses was hard to see. Flags and banners on the businesses and just a scary b-movie kind of look to the town. The Park Ranger told me it would only get worse in the next week, but yes it was this cheesy most of the time. He said it brings in a lot of cash. I asked where we could go to see more of the historic parts of the city and lazily he noted on the map, “well this house was owned by one of the judges” as he circled it. He was not even interested in telling me more when I told him I wanted to learn more about the history surrounding the time period. Just directions to this house, though he failed to mention it was not open.

    We visited the memorial and the cemetery and then had to leave. It was not the sprinkle of rain that led us away either. To take a town like Salem, beautiful and full of history and let it become what I believe to be a mockery to the lives lost was too much. Do I take it too seriously, I think not. Just as people do not want shopping malls on Civil War battlefields, I do not want our history to be forgotten and turned into a shameless way to make money at the expense of the memories of these citizens; wives, husbands, daughters and sons, who were tortured in mind, body and soul, then killed in an angry, frightful superstitious time. Better that we take this opportunity to teach the lessons that were earned at a very high price of lives.

    I have been working in a historical town for many years and one of the reasons I came here was so that I could experience a part of the story,be a part of the process to learn and hopefully ignite a passion for our history in others so that either good or bad, our history is a lesson for our future. I would love to come back to Salem one day, and spend more time visiting and will hope that the "Halloween" atmosphere will be much less."

    I was appalled at the lack of respect by those in and near the cemetery in the center of town, the "witches" and cheap trick shops and the whole atmosphere there. Someday I hope to return to the area and really have a chance to visit places and do more research, but perhaps not to Salem.

    1. You must have visited during October. The rest of the year Salem is not like that, but the witch museums are very tacky. Avoid the witch museums and visit the NPS visitor center and sign up for a few tours. Visit the Rebecca Nurse Homestead and the memorial in Danvers. Go to the Phillips Library, the PEM, and the Danvers Archives. I recommend those spots.

  2. Comment from Kathleen Kent [accidentally deleted] "Thank you for this post. As a 10th generation descendent of Martha Carrier, I'm still dismayed by the persistent belief that the 19 men and women hanged in Salem were in fact witches. We need to keep the true history of that dreadful time alive."

  3. Susannah Martin was my 10th g-grandmother. Another ancestor who was convicted, but thankfully somehow escaped the gallows, was Mary (Perkins) Bradbury. What a strange and terrible period of history that to this day is not fully understood. Wish I could say I was related to Gile Corey-- you have to love a man who challenges injustice, and is brave enough in the midst of being crushed to death to answer, "More weight!" when asked if he has anything to say.

  4. Susannah North Martin is my 8th Great Grandmother. I was in Salem a couple of years ago and was equally turned off by the "witch" lore. I sat on her bench and wished her well. I'd like to be in touch with other offspring of hers. I am related through her daughter, Esther; her daughter Susanna Jameson Pressey, her son John Pressey, his daughter Elizabeth who married Thomas Welch. I am a Welch.