Ipswich MA and the Salem witchcraft trialsHistory

Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials

The 1996 movie “The Crucible” is based on Arthur Miller’s award-winning 1953 play about the Salem Witch Trials. It was filmed on Choate Island, part of the Crane estate in Ipswich and Essex. The story and movie are based on accusations against John and Elizabeth Proctor of Salem who had once lived in Ipswich. John Proctor was hanged and Elizabeth was given a reprieve in jail, until her baby was born. Her sentence was never carried out.

In his book Ipswich in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Thomas Franklin Waters wrote about Ipswich involvement in the Salem witch trials:

Image from the Ipswich Riverwalk mural: Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road is arrested for witchcraft.
Image from the Ipswich Riverwalk mural: Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road is arrested for witchcraft.

“The evidence was of the usual absurd character; Sarah Good had been confined in Ipswich jail. Joseph Herrick, the Constable of Salem, testified that she had been committed to his charge to carry to Ipswich. That night, he affirmed, he had a guard over her in his own house, and she disappeared for a time, bare foot and bare-legged, and ‘went and afflicted Elizabeth Hubbard.'”

Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road in Ipswich was charged for bewitching her neighbor’s child, was arrested on May 28, 1692 and was hanged in Salem on July 19, 1692

A request from ten women and “three or four men” confined in the unheated Ipswich jail, requesting that they be released on bail so that they do not “perish with cold.”

Many of the accused were kept in the Ipswich gaol (jail) which was erected near the Meeting House in 1652. The Court paid the keeper 5 shillings per prisoner and ordered that each prisoner should additionally pay the keeper before they could be released for “their food and attendance.” Those who were unable to pay for their food were allowed only bread and water.

The Ipswich jail was filled with the accused. Among them was Mary Easty, the wife of Isaac Easty of Topsfield, and sister of Rebecca Nurse. She petitioned the Court to proceed with caution, as many self-confessed witches had belied themselves:

“I was confined a whole month on the same account that I am now condemned, and then cleared by the afflicted persons as some of your honors know; and in two days time I was cried out upon by them again, and have been confined, and now am condemned to die. The Lord above knows my innocence then and likewise doth now, as at the great day will be known by men and angels.”

The prison keeper, Thomas Fossie and Elizabeth, his wife, testified that they “saw no evil carriage or deportment” while Mary Esty was confined in Ipswich jail. She was carried to execution with her fellow-prisoners, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeater, and five other unfortunates:

“When she took her last farewell of her husband, children and friends, she was, as is reported by them present, as serious, religious, distinct and affectionate as could well be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present.”

1720 Robert Lord house on High St. Robert Lord Jr. was a blacksmith and made the heavy leg-chains for the accused.

Robert Lord Jr. was a blacksmith and made the heavy leg-irons which secured the victims of the witch hysteria who were sent to Ipswich to await trial and execution.

In 1692 both Joan Braybrook and her 40-year-old stepdaughter Mehitable were accused of witchcraft and landed in jail, and are found among the 10 persons petitioning for release. The trials came to an end before the judges heard their cases and they were released.

Giles Corey was taken from Ipswich prison, where he made his will, to Salem, and there was pressed to death by heavy weights upon his chest, because he refused to plead.

The John Harris house on East Street. Harris was the constable who carried the accused from Ipswich jail to Salem.
The John Harris house on East Street. John Harris, father of the builder of this house, was a constable who carried the accused from Ipswich jail to Salem.

John Harris, the Deputy Sheriff, had charge of transporting the prisoners, and his account with the County reveals many sorrowful journeys of the reputed witches, through the streets from the Prison to Salem Court or Gallows Hill.

The early trials of the accused were before the Court of Assistants, of which Major Samuel Appleton was a member, but a special Commission of Oyer and Terminer was issued to several Justices, and Major Appleton had no part in the deliberations of this Court, which proceeded at once to pass severe sentence upon the reputed witches. Major Appleton, though an Assistant, and a Magistrate at the first trial, had no further connection with the matter, and his disappearance from the scene may be interpreted as indicating that his broad and well-balanced mind condemned this travesty of Justice.

On January 3, 1692-3, by virtue of an act of the General Court, the first Superior Court, called the “Court of Assizes and General Goal Delivery” was convened at Salem. The Grand Jury included Mr. Robert Paine, Mr. Richard Smith and Mr. Thomas Boardman of Ipswich.

Robert Paine was the son of the elder Robert Paine whose farm was on Jeffreys Neck Road and who had dealt so generously with the Ipswich School. Robert Payne the junior graduated in the Harvard class of 1656, was a preacher, and attained regretful prominence as foreman of the Grand Jury that brought in the indictments in the witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692.

paine house
The Robert Payne house on Jeffreys Neck Road. Robert Payne was foreman of the Grand Jury that brought in the indictments in the witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692.

On the “Jury for Tryalls,” were Ensign Thomas Jacob, Sargent Nathaniel Emerson, Sen., Mr. Jacob Perkins, Jr., Mr. Matthew Whipple Sen., John Pengery, Seth Story, Thomas Edwards and John Lamson. The Grand Jury, of which Mr. Paine was foreman, found nothing against thirty who were indicted for witchcraft, and true bills against twenty-six. Of those on trial, three only were found guilty, and sentenced to death. These were the last to suffer. Nineteen were hanged and Giles Corey had been pressed to death; John Proctor and Elizabeth How had perished, but other Ipswich folk, Elizabeth Proctor, Rachel Clinton and Sarah Buckley had escaped.

Plaque about the location of the Salem courthouse during the witchcraft trials
The Salem Court where the accused were tried was on the second floor of the Town House, which stood near the intersection of present-day Washington and Lynde Streets.

All the ministers put themselves on record as out of sympathy with the popular delusion, and Mr. Hubbard and Mr. Wise made formal appeals for the accused. Rev. John Wise, the minister of the Chebacco Parish had roused the Town to brave resistance of the Andros edict and had suffered fine and removal from his pulpit. When the Witchcraft Delusion swept many of the coolest and best balanced men off their feet, he dared to protest, and addressed a Petition’ to the Magistrates, signed by many of his parishioners, in behalf of John Proctor, Jr. and his wife, imploring the favor of the Court for these innocent victims of a false charge.

It is said that the group of accusing girls were brought to Ipswich but were refused permission to cross the bridge into town. In November, 1692, the afflicted girls came to Ipswich, and meeting an old woman at the bridge, they began their usual fits. But the people of Ipswich had not sent for the girls, and were fed up with the witchcraft accusations. Their antics were ignored, and there were no further accusations.

“In late April 1693, the Court convened in Boston and cleared Capt. John Alden by proclamation. On May 2, the Superior Court convened in Ipswich with several grand juries. Charges were dismissed against all except Susannah Post, Eunice Frye, Mary Bridges Jr., Mary Barker and William Barker Jr. who were all found not guilty. At the Ipswich court, unlike Salem, all were acquitted.” *Legends of America: Procedures, Courts & Aftermath of the Salem Witch Trials

Elizabeth Howe hanging 1692
Elizabeth Howe of Ipswich was hanged along with Rebecca Nurse of Salem Village (Danvers), Susannah Martin of Amesbury, Sarah Good of Wenham, and Sarah Wildes of Topsfield on July 19, 1692

Attempts to make amends for the irreparable harm soon began to be made. Twelve ministers of the County of Essex, including William Hubbard, John Rogers, Jabez Fitch, and John Wise, petitioned the General Court in July 1703, to clear the names of the accused and relieve those who had suffered.

In 1711, the legal disabilities resulting from the witchcraft executions and imprisonments were removed and damages awarded to the survivors and the families of the dead. John Appleton, Esquire, of Andros fame, and Nehemiah Jewett, Esquire, who had been a member of the House sixteen times and thrice its speaker, were members of this committee.

Ipswich had suffered grievously in the grim ordeal, but as compared with every other important town in the County, she had been favored indeed. None of her citizens, except Elizabeth Howe from the Linebrook Parish, near to Topsfield, were executed, and those that were accused were not condemned. No such delirium as afflicted Salem, Beverly, Wenham, Andover, Salisbury, Gloucester, and Newbury was ever manifest here. The same judicious and far-seeing temper that made Ipswich the leader of the Colony in the Usurpation period, preserved her balance in the wild excitement of the Witchcraft time.

Sources and further reading:

Mehitabel Braybrooke, in the Shadow of Salem - "In the Shadow of Salem" by Donna B. Gawell is about the life of Mehitabel Braybrooke of Ipswich, told in the first person. 17th Century court records exist that describe the charges against her, but the author's comprehensive research gave depth to the portrayal of this unfortunate young woman's life.
Peg Wesson the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson, the Gloucester witch - An old legend about the Gloucester witch Peg Wesson is often mentioned, but never was it told in such detail as in this story published in the Boston Evening Transcript, October 14, 1892. It was carried in papers throughout the country.
Mathison painting, "Examination of a Witch" trial of Elizabeth Howe of Ipswich The witchcraft trial of Elizabeth Howe, hanged July 19, 1692 - Elizabeth Howe and her husband James resided on outer Linebrook. She was charged with bewitching her neighbor’s child and was arrested on May 28, 1692. She was one of the five women hung in Salem on July 19, 1692.
Mary Perkins Bradbury charged as a witch Mary Perkins Bradbury, charged as a witch - Mary Perkins was born in 1615, the daughter of Sergeant John Perkins, Sr. and Judith Perkins. She became the wife of Capt. Thomas Bradbury of Salisbury, and was sentenced to death as witch in 1692, but was not executed. Over a hundred neighbors testified in her support.
Mary Walcott The witchcraft accusations against Sarah Buckley and Mary Witheridge - On May 23, 1692, a complaint for witchcraft was filed against Sarah Buckley and her widowed daughter Mary Witheridge. The "bewitched" girls of Salem Village claimed that the women's specters had attacked them. Held in shackles in the cold crowded jail, both were acquitted in January,1692
Elizabeth Morse Witch of Newbury The Witchcraft Trial of Elizabeth Morse of Newbury, 1680 - Elizabeth Morse of Newbury was accused and found guilty of being a witch. She was initially sentenced to be hanged, but after spending a year in the Boston jail, she was sent home
Rachel Clinton of Ipswich was accused of witchcraft Rachel Clinton arrested for witchcraft, May 28, 1692 - Everything about Rachel Clinton's life went wrong, and in her old age she was an easy target for the witchcraft hysteria that spread from Salem throughout Essex County.
A Modern Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft by John Hale, Pastor of the Church of Christ in Beverly, 1967 “We walked in the clouds and could not see our way” - The wife of Rev. John Hale of Beverly participated in the witch trials until his wife was accused. Hale later published an analysis in which he asserted that Satan had tricked the Puritans, and made a plea for forgiveness.
The Legend of Goody Cole - Some said that Goody Cole took the shapes of eagles, dogs, cats and apes. At last she lay under sentence of death in the Ipswich jail for changing a child in its cradle.
Four-year-old Dorothy Good is jailed for witchcraft, March 24, 1692 - On March 24, 1682. a child, Dorothy Good of Salem was taken custody, and interrogated by the local magistrates for two weeks. Hungry, cold and missing her mother, Dorcas broke down and told the inquisitors what they wanted to hear, that her mother was a witch, and consorted with the devil.
Spectral leaguers, Gloucester MA The Spectre Leaguers, July 1692 - In the midst of witchcraft accusations in 1692, Gloucester was invaded by a spectral company for a fortnight. Their speech was in an unknown tongue, and bullets passed right through them.
Ipswich MA and the Salem witchcraft trials Ipswich and the Salem witchcraft trials - During the Salem witch trials, Elizabeth Howe of Linebrook Road was tried and hanged. The Ipswich jail was filled with the accused, but the ministers of the town opposed the trials as a delusion. Residents blocked the bridge to prevent the accusing girls from being brought into Ipswich.
Lucretia Brown Ipswich MA Mary Baker Eddy Lucretia Brown and the last witchcraft trial in America, May 14, 1878 - Lucretia Brown, an invalid living on the South Green in Ipswich was a disciple of Mary Baker Eddy,. When she suffered a “relapse” in 1875, Mrs. Eddy convinced her that Daniel Spofford was exercising mesmeric powers upon her.

4 replies »

  1. Love to learn more about these events as I am a direct descendant of Mary Esty . This is quite an informative article.

  2. Hi…my 8th great grandmother Suzannah Rootes (Roots) was accused of being a witch. Any info on her or her family?

    Thank you!

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