Saturday, May 13, 2017

Surname Saturday ~ OLIVER of Salem, Massachusetts

Thomas OLIVER, my 9th great grandfather,  age 36, came to New England aboard the ship Mary Ann with his first wife, Mary Leman, two children (Thomas and John), and two servants (Thomas Doged, age 30; and Mary Sape age 12).  They arrived at Boston on 20 June 1637, but settled at Salem, Massachusetts where he bought much property.  Thomas Oliver was listed as a calenderman on the ship records.  The definition of a calenderman was one who operated a machine called a calender or mangle at a paper pulp mill or laundry.  The calender pressed cloth or paper between rollers to make them smooth or the proper thickness.

Thomas Oliver’s first wife, Mary, spoke out in support of the Salem church teacher Roger Williams.  Roger Williams was controversial because he was politically and theologically out of step with the Puritan church.  He was thus exiled from Salem, and ultimately exiled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Mary Oliver was punished in 1638 for “berating our elders”.  Thomas Oliver was brought to court for his inability to control his wife, and they were exiled back to England in 1649.  Sometime before 1666 Mary died and Thomas Oliver returned to Salem, where he still owned all his property.

On 26 July 1666 in Salem Thomas Oliver married for a second time to Bridget Playfer, the widow of Samuel Wasselbee.  They had one daughter, my 8th great grandmother, Christian Oliver, born in 1667.  This was not a happy marriage.  Thomas beat Bridget.  They were brought to court several times, and in January 1669 they were charged with fighting in public and sentenced to pay a fine or be whipped with ten stripes.  They were brought to court again in 1677:

 “Bridget, wife of Thomas Oliver,.. for calling her husband many opprobrious names, as old rogue and old devil, on Lord’s days; she was ordered to stand with her husband, back to back on about an hour with a paper fastened to each of their foreheads, upon which their offence should be fairly written” (TAG, July 1981 see below)

In 1678 Thomas Oliver died without a will.  His estate was settled on 24 April 1679 and Bridget was named administrix.  She lost all the property he had accumulated when his debtors claimed many debts.  Bridget was left penniless, and had to petition the town of Salem for relief.  The people of Salem found Thomas Oliver’s death suspicious, and his children accused her of betwitching him to death.  Bridget received her first accusation of being a witch in 1680, and the case was dismissed for lack of evidence.

The twice widowed Bridget brought herself out of poverty by marrying the prosperous and well respected man Edward Bishop around 1687.  This marriage was not happy either, and Bridget found herself accused of witchcraft again in the 1692 hysteria. In my opinion, the events of both marriages led to her accusations.  She was the first person to be executed by hanging during these trials on 10 June 1692.

This is a blog post about the Oliver family, not just about Bridget, the accused witch.  I will write more about Bridget (Playfer) (Wasselbee) (Oliver) Bishop in a blog post to be posted 10 June 2017, the 325th anniversary of her death.  Please stay tuned!

To read about my BISHOP lineage (from Bridget’s third husband, Edward Bishop – yes, I descend from both Bridget through her Oliver marriage, and Bishop through his marriage with his first wife Elizabeth) please see this link:

For the truly curious:

Salem Witchcraft with an account of Salem Village and a history of opinions on Witchcraft and Kindred Subjects, by Charles W. Upham, NY: Frederick Unger Pub Co, 1978, 2 volumes.

A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. by James Savage, Boston MA: Little Brown & Co., 1860, volume 3, page 311.
David L. Green, "Salem Witches I: Bridget Bishop", The American Genealogist, July 1981

The Olivers of the Sagdahoc, Georgtown, Maine, by Eliot Chandler

Salem Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England, by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, 1972.  See pages 155 and 156 for the case of Bridget Oliver Brought to Court for Using Foul Language against Her Husband,  January 1678

My OLIVER lineage:

Generation 1:  Thomas Oliver, born about 1601 probably in Norwich, England, died before 24 June 1679 in Salem, Massachusetts; married first to Mary Leman on 29 January 1626 at St. Andrew’s in Norwich, England; married second on 26 July 1666 in Salem to Bridget Player, widow of Samuel Wasselbee.  She died by hanging in Salem on 10 June 1692.  One child.

Generation 2:  Christian Oliver, born 8 May 1667 in Salem, died about 1693; married about 1686 to Thomas Mason.  One child.

Generation 3:  Susannah Mason m. John Becket
Generation 4:  John Becket m. Rebecca Beadle
Generation 5:  Hannah Becket m. Joseph Cloutman
Generation 6:  Mary Cloutman m. Abijah Hitchings
Generation 7:  Abijah Hitchings m. Eliza Ann Treadwell
Generation 8:  Abijah Franklin Hitchings m. Hannah Eliza Lewis
Generation 9:  Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil
Generation 10:  Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, “Surname Saturday ~ OLIVER of Salem, Massachusetts”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted May 13, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. Thomas Oliver, I believe to be my 9th Greatgrandfather. I follow down thru the Oliver to Rideout to Weeks to Hutchinson family. Your blog is very interesting .... thank you for sharing I have a tree on ancestry Linda Gilbert