Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bridget PLAYFER WASSELBEE OLIVER BISHOP, hanged as a witch in Salem on this day 325 years ago

Examination of a Witch, by T.H. Matteson 1853

Surname Saturday ~ PLAYFER

Hanged as a witch 325 years ago today.  Bridget Bishop was the first person hanged in the 1692 Salem witch hysteria.

Bridget Bishop, my 9th great grandmother, is of unknown origin.  She married Samuel Wasselbee on 13 April 1660 at the church of St. Mary in the Marsh, in Norwich, Norfolk County, England.  She had two children named Wasselbee, Benjamin baptized in Norwich, and Mary’s birth recorded in Boston in 1665 as the daughter of “Samuel dec. & Bridget Wesselbee late of Norwich in England”.  I don’t know if Samuel died in England or Massachusetts.

On 26 July 1666 she married Thomas Oliver in Salem, Massachusetts.  He was also from Norwich, England.  She had a daughter named Christian Oliver, my 8th great grandmother.  Apparently this was a contentious marriage, and the couple was sentenced in 1678 to stand gagged in public for fighting and arguing. Oliver died and  In 1680 Bridget received her first accusation of witchcraft as a widow.

About 1685 Bridget remarried for a third time to Edward Bishop. This was also his third marriage.  His first wife was Hannah UNKNOWN, and they were my 9th great grandparents, through their son, Edward Bishop (1648- 1711) my 8th great grandfather.  You can read about this lineage at this link:

Edward Bishop was an older, well respected man who was a founder of the church in Beverly, Massachusetts.   On 18 April 1692 he accused his third wife of witchcraft “The Devil did come bodily unto her, and that she was familiar with the Devil, and that she sat up allnight long with the Devil”.  Soon other witnesses brought forth similar charges.  Bridget was accused of using “poppets” or dolls to bewitch victims, and of killing a baby in its cradle. She underwent the humiliation of having her body examined for marks made by the devil and "witches teats". She was tried on June 2, found guilty, and on 10 June 1692 she was the first hanging victim of the witch hysteria.

During 1692 many people were accused and imprisoned under charges of witchcraft.  There are many, many books and resources for the witch trials.  You can read social and local historians’ versions of what happened in Salem, the trials and the executions. What is more difficult to uncover is genealogical information on this family.  In 1867 Charles W. Upham wrote a book Salem Witchcraft: With an Account of Salem Village and a History of Opinions on Witchcraft.  This book confuses Sarah (Wildes) Bishop with Bridget Bishop.  Sarah Bishop, a tavern owner, was the wife of Edward Bishop’s son, Edward, Jr. This mistake has been repeated in many articles and books about Bridget Bishop and her trial. 

The court of Oyer and Terminer, which conducted the Salem Witch Trials, was disbanded in October 1692.  In 1693 Governor Phips granted several pardons to accused witches.  Over 70 people had been tried as witches, and 19 were executed.   More than 200 people had been accused.   In 1711 the state of Massachusetts cleared the names of the accused, and offered monetary restitution, but the Bishop family did not accept the settlement.  Bridget’s daughter, Christian (Oliver) Mason, my 8th great grandmother, had died in 1693 and Bridget’s third husband, her accuser, had died in 1695.

On 12 April 1694 Edward Bishop was appointed the guardian of Susanna Mason, my 7th great grandmother, and took control of the 9 pounds she inherited from the death of her father, Thomas Oliver.  She grew up to marry John Becket of the shipbuilding family in Salem.  According to Sidney Perley in The History of Salem, "Bishop seems to have invested the money of his ward in the lot at the extreme end of Forrester Street, where it connects with Essex Street, bounded by Forrester Street on the north and east, and Essex Street on the south. This was the property of Susannah when she married John Becket, Jr."  The Becket shipyard was very close to this property.

And, just to make this more confusing, Edward Bishop, husband of Bridget, is my 9th great grandfather through his marriage with his first wife, Hannah Unknown.  His son, Edward Bishop, Jr. (1648 - 1711), my 8th great grandfather, married Sarah Wildes about 1675.  Her step mother, Sarah Averhill Wildes, was also hanged as a witch on 19 July 1692, a few weeks after Bridget Bishop's hanging.

Some genealogical sources of information on Bridget Playfer Wasselbee Oliver Bishop:

“Salem Witches 1: Bridget Bishop” by David Green, The American Genealogist, Volume 57, 1981, pages 129 – 138.

“Bridge (Playfer) (Wasselbe) (Oliver) Bishop: Her Origin and First Husband”, by Robert Charles Anderson, The American Genealogist, Volume 64, 1989, page 207.

Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused ant their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials, by Marilynne Roach,  2013, (see the afterward on pages 378 - 380 for additional genealogical information on the Bishop, Oliver and Mason families).  
My PLAYFER genealogy:

Generation 1:  Bridget Player, born in England, married first to Samuel Wasselbee on 13 April 1660 at the church of St. Mary in the Marsh, Norwich, Norfolk, England; married second to Thomas Oliver on 26 July 1666 in Salem, Massachusetts; married third to Edward Bishop.  Two Wasselbee children, one daughter named Oliver.

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

Generation 3:  Susannah Mason, born 23 August 1687 in Salem, died after 1769; married on 20 September 1711 in Salem to John Beckett, son of William Becket and Hannah Sibley.  He was born 10 August 1684 and died 1763 in Salem. Six children.

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, “Bridget PLAYFER WASSELBEE OLIVER BISHOP”, Nutfield Genealogy, posted June 10, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 

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