Many of our ancestors came from Massachusetts, and a few from Salem, where in 1692, Samuel Abbe and his wife Mary (Knowlton) Abbe (9th GG) were involved as witnesses in a number of the Witch trials.
The Salem Witch Museum website summarizes the trials:
In January of 1692, the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village became ill. When they failed to improve, the village doctor, William Griggs, was called in. His diagnosis of bewitchment put into motion the forces that would ultimately result in the death by hanging of nineteen men and women. In addition, one man was crushed to death; seven others died in prison, and the lives of many were irrevocably changed.
To understand the events of the Salem witch trials, it is necessary to examine the times in which accusations of witchcraft occurred. There were the ordinary stresses of 17th-century life in Massachusetts Bay Colony. A strong belief in the devil, factions among Salem Village fanatics and rivalry with nearby Salem Town, a recent small pox epidemic and the threat of attack by warring tribes created a fertile ground for fear and suspicion. Soon prisons were filled with more than 150 men and women from towns surrounding Salem. Their names had been “cried out” by tormented young girls as the cause of their pain. All would await trial for a crime punishable by death in 17th-century New England, the practice of witchcraft.
In June of 1692, the special Court of Oyer (to hear) and Terminer (to decide) sat in Salem to hear the cases of witchcraft. Presided over by Chief Justice William Stoughton, the court was made up of magistrates and jurors. The first to be tried was Bridget Bishop of Salem who was found guilty and was hanged on June 10. Thirteen women and five men from all stations of life followed her to the gallows on three successive hanging days before the court was disbanded by Governor William Phipps in October of that year. The Superior Court of Judicature, formed to replace the “witchcraft” court, did not allow spectral evidence. This belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes or spectres to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The new court released those awaiting trial and pardoned those awaiting execution. In effect, the Salem witch trials were over.
As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of “witch hunting” like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s, are remarkable.
Samuel Abbe was living in Salem during the days of witchcraft and was one of those opposed to its fanaticisms. One Rebecca Nours or Nurse, on trial as a witch, produced a paper signed by several “respectable inhabitants” of Salem, among whom was Samuel Abbe on her behalf.
Rebecca Towne Nurse, is perhaps one of the most tragic victims of the Salem witchcraft hysteria. She and her husband Francis had by 1692 established themselves, with their eight children, as a prosperous Salem Village family, owning 300 acres of land despite their humble origins. Rebecca was a 71 year old great-grandmother, ailing and deaf, when she was accused of witchcraft in March 1692. No one came any closer to the ideal of a Puritan saint. Rebecca was well known for her goodness and piety. and her accusation aroused more protest than that of any other witch hunt victim. She was accused by Abigail Williams. niece of Reverend Parris. and the two Ann Putnams. daughter and wife of Thomas Putnam. When visited by friends before her arrest. she exprcssed sympathy for the afflicted girls. When it was noted that she “was among the accused. she remarked: “Well, as to this thing, I am as innocent as the child unborn. But surely. what sin hath God found out in me unrepented of that he should lay such an affliction upon me in my old age?” Thirty-nine people bravely signed a petition in her favor. including Jonathan Putnam. who had signed the original complaint against her. The jury initially found her not guilty. but following the verdict. a “hideous outcry arose from the accusers. The judges asked the jury to reconsider and they subsequently changed their verdict.
Before the execution, Governor Phipps granted her a reprieve. but the afflicted girls “renewed their dismal outcries.” and the governor was persuaded by “some Salem gentlemen” to rescind it. Rebecca was hanged for witchcraft on July 19. 1692. Her house still stands in Danvers. amazingly unchanged from the 1600’s. Rcbecca is rcportedly buried on the property, where her family brought her under cover of darkness following the hanging. (See “A Delusion of Satin, by Frances Hill. Da Capo Press. 1995) Rebecca Nurse is a prominent character in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible. Her Daughtcr Rcbecca had petitioned on her mother’s behalf, fearing that the women who examined her would mistake some infirmity for a witch’s test, testifying that Goody Nurse “hath been troubled with an ailment of body” for many years. which the jury of women seem to be afraid it should be something else. (See Salem Witchcraft by Charles Upham) (From Essex Genealogist, 2001, p36-7 by Priscilla Eaton)
But Saumel Abbey wasn’t always on the side of the accused.
Samuel Abbey testified as to Mercy Lewis. On May 29, 1692, she being at the house of her neighbor, John Putnam, Jr., and accused of witchcraft. (Mercy Lewis was a character in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.)
A neighbor of John Putnam, Jr., Samuel became involved in the Salem Witchcraft trials. On May 20, 1692, he went to the home of John Putnam, Jr. and found Mercy Lewis in a terrible condition, “crying out with piteous tones of anguish which she continued the greatest part of the day, in such tortures as no tongue can express. ~ (“Salem Witchcraft”, Charles Upham: 201)
Samuel Abbe and his wife, Mary, were also witnesses in a witch trial in Salem in 1692 against Sarah Snow, a woman of vicious temper who had lived in their home for a time but was dismissed on account of her disagreeable way. She vowed vengance upon them and when several of their cows and hogs were taken sick, the blame was laid to her as a witch.
Samuel and Mary Abbe offered testimony of their own in the witchcraft trials against Sarah Good and Mary Easty.
The Abbes had taken William and Sarah Good into their home about three years previously, “out of charity, they being poor” and “desititue of a house.” But Sarah was “of so Turbulent a Spirit, Spiteful and so Maliciously bent” that they Abbes were forced, after about six months, to expel her and her husband from the house “for Quietness’ sake.” The expulsion, apparently did not improved Sarah’s disposition: ever thereafter, testified the Abbes, she behaved “very crossly and maliciously” toward them, calling their children vile names and often threatening them. The following winter, Samuel began to loose cattle “after an unusual manner, in a drooping condition, and yet they would eat.” Within two years, he lost seventeen head this way, besides sheep and hogs: “And both [Samuel and Mary] do believe they died by witchcraft.” To substantiate this belief, Samuel observed: “Just that very day that the said Sarah Good was taken up, we, your deponents, had a cow that could not rise alone, but … after she was taken up, the said cow was well and could rise so well as if she had ailed nothing.” The warrant for Sarah Good was issued at Salem, 29 February 1692.
In the case against Mary Easty, on 9 September 1692, Samuel testified that, the morning of 20 May 1692, he had visited the home of Constable John Putnam, where he found Mercy Lewis on the bed “in a sad condition.” Mercy sent him to fetch Ann Putnam “to see if she could see who it was that hurt her.” “Accordingly I went and found Abigail Williams along with Ann Putnam and brought them both to see Mercy Lewis, and as they were going along the way both of them said that they saw the apparition of Goody Estick … and when they came to Mercy Lewis, both of them said that they saw the apparition of Goody Estick and John Willard and Mary Witheridge afflicting the body of Mercy Lewis.” Samuel stayed with Mercy “who continued in a sad condition the great part of the day being in such tortures as no tongue can express … but at last she came to herself for a little while and was very sensible and then she said that Goody Estick said she would kill her before midnight because she did not clear her so as the rest did; then again presently she fell very bad and cried out ‘pray for the salvation of my soul, for they will kill me.'”
Of the individuals Samuel Abbe testified against, Good, and Easty were found guilty and executed. Nours was executed as well, despite Samuel Abbe’s petition in her favor.
See also: A Witch in the Family?
The following are taken from Records of Salem Witchcraft, copied from the original documents, Volume 1, pages 24 and 25.
Samuel Abbey Et ux vs. Sarah Good
Samuel Abbey of Salem Village Aged 45 years or thereabouts and Mary Abbey his wife aged 38 years of thereabouts, Deposeth and saith.
That about this time three years past William Good and his wife Sarah Good being destitute of a house to dwell in these deponents out of charity; they being poor lett them live in theirs some time untill that the said Sarah Good was of so Turbulant a sperritt, spitefull and so mallitiously bent, that these deponents could not suffer her to live in their house any longer and was forced for quiettness sake to turne she ye said Sarah with her husband out of their howse ever since, which is about two years 1/2 agone, the said Sarah Good hath carried it very spitefully and mallitiously, towards them, the winter following after the said Sarah was gone from our house we began to loose cattle and lost several after an unusall manner, in a drupeing condition (sic) condition and yett they would eate; and your deponents have lost after that manner 17 head of cattle within this two years besides sheep and hoggs, and both doe believe they dyed by witchcraft, the said William Good on the last of May was twelve months went home to his wife the said Sarah Good and told her, what a sad accident had fallen out, she asked what, he answered that his neighbor Abbey had lost two Cowes, both dyeing within halfe an hower of one another, the said Sarah Good said she did not care if he the said Abbey had lost all the cattle he had as ye said John Good told us. Just that very day that the said Sarah Good was taken up, we yr Deponents had a cow that could not rise alone, but since presently after she was taken up, the said cow was well and could rise so well as if she had ailed nothing. She the said Sarah Good ever since these deponents turned her out of their howse she hath behaved herselfe very crossely and mallitiously to them and their children calling their children the vile names and hath threatened them often.
Jurat in Curia.
Warrant for Sarah Good was given at Salem, February 29, 1691/2, in response to complaints of Sarah Vibber, Abigail Willims, Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam, and John Vibber. Among the many depositions in witness to her malign practices were those of Samuel Abbey and wife.
Records of Salem Witchcraft, copied from the original documents, Vol. 2, pp. 41-2, old series
Samuel Abby v. Mary Easty
The deposition of Samuel Abby aged about 45 years who testifieth and saith that on the 20th of May 1692 I went to the house of Constable John Putnam about 9 o clock in the morning and when I came there: Mirey lewes lay on the bed in a sad condition and continuing speachless for about an hour; the man not being at whom; the woman desired me to goe to the putnams to bring Ann Putnam to se if she could se who it was that hurt Mirey Lewes; accordingly I went; and found Abigail Williams along with Ann Putnam and brought them both to se Mercy Lewes; and as they ware a goeing along the way both of them said that they saw the Apperishtion of Goody Estick and said it was the same woman that was sent whom the other day; and said also that they saw the Appershtion of the other woman that appered with gooddy Estick the other day, and both of them allso said that the Apperishtion of Gooddy Estick tould them that now she was afflecting of Mircy Lewes and when they came to Mircy lewes both of them said that they saw the Apperishtion of Gooddy Estick and John Williard and Mary Witheridge afflecting the body of Mircy lewes; and I continueing along with mircy who contineued in a sad condition the greatest part of the day being in such tortors as no toungue can express; but not ablte to spake; but at last said Deare Lord receive my soule and againe said lord let them not kill me quitt, but at last she came to hir self for a little whille and was very sensable and then she said that Goody Estick said she would kill hir before midnight because she did not cleare hir so as the rest did, then againe presently she fell very bad and cried out pray for the salvation of my soule for they will kill me.
Jurat in Curia September 9th, ’92