July 19, 1692
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 occurred in such a short amount of time, this being one of the reasons why they are so horrifically famous, and July 19th is no exception to the reasons.
Eight people were found guilty of witchcraft and hanged on July 19th. Two of the first accused in 1692, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes, were hanged that day, as well as the only minister to be executed during the trials: the Reverend George Burroughs. It seems he was not only guilty of being a “witch”, but was overdue in repaying his debts to the Putnam’s; a prominent family in Salem Village whose daughter led the girls responsible for the accusations. Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Martin, and Susanna Martin had all previously been accused of witchcraft, their charges dropped due to lack of evidence, but, like numerous historians and history books state, reasons or motives for many of the accusations in 1692 were due to politics and land disputes, making accusations about more than just witches.
Martha Carrier was unfortunate enough to land herself in a deathly land dispute with her neighbor, Benjamin Abbott. After experiencing a disagreement, Abbott suddenly fell ill, and accused Carrier of bewitchment. Not long after the accusation, he accused her whole family and made them testify against her in court. She was hanged on July 19th, 1692.
John Proctor, one of the most famous victims of the trials due to Daniel Day Lewis’ film portrayal, was possibly the most outspoken citizen of Salem Village. He would threaten to beat and whip the afflicted girls, knowing that they were lying and performing theatrics. This was perilous to Proctor, as soon the girls accused his pregnant wife and then him. In a final plea for help during this time of mass hysteria, Proctor composed and sent a letter to the Boston clergy asking them to intervene or move the trials to Boston. This was to no avail for the poor man, as their reply came too late to save his own life, but was helpful in pardoning his wife’s’ and their unborn child’s.
One of the most memorable victims of the trials, was the beloved and pious Rebecca Nurse. A respected woman of Salem Village, Nurse was wrongly accused of witchcraft with no credible evidence against her. “I am as innocent as the child unborn” stated Nurse. 39 citizens of Salem Village risked their lives in signing a petition to save this innocent woman. Dismally, Nurse was given false hope, after first being found innocent there were fits and protests from the afflicted girls and townspeople, forcing the judge to order the jury to reconsider their verdict, resulting in her death sentence.
The fate of Rebecca Nurse might have been what sparked doubt in the people of Salem Village. How could this innocent, good-hearted Puritan woman be hanged for a crime she so clearly did not commit? Were these people really witches?
A month will pass before the next execution day. The Salem Witch panic is far from over.