Salem Witch Trials
Witch Trial Analysis
Rebecca Nurse: Life, Accusation, and Trial
“I can say before my Eternal Father I am innocent and God will clear my innocency…The Lord knows I have not hurt them. I am an innocent person.” ((Examination of Rebecca Nurse) [24 March 1692)
Rebecca Nurse was born in 1621 in Great Yarmouth, England. Though her exact birthdate is unclear, her baptism is documented as February 21, 1621. Rebecca had three sisters and three brothers, though one sister would die before reaching adulthood. Somewhere between the years 1638 and 1640, Rebecca and her family immigrated to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. While most of her family eventually made their home in Topsfield, Massachusetts, Rebecca settled in Salem Town with her new husband, Francis. Francis and Rebecca were married in 1644, and she quickly found home in Salem Town with her new husband.
Francis was an esteemed artisan in Salem, a maker of trays and other wooden household goods, and an influential member of the community. Though some records indicate Francis may have had a minor criminal past in his youth, he was now an upstanding and respected pillar of the Salem community. Francis even served as constable of Salem Town in 1672. Rebecca and Francis had eight children together, four girls and four boys, and prided themselves on being devoutly puritan members of The Salem Town Church. In 1678 the Nurses, being of higher social status and monetarily superior, bought a lease-to-own 300-acre farm in more rural Salem Village. The couple moved their children and their lives to Salem Village and began their new occupation of farming. Just as they had in Salem Town, the couple became very involved in their new community. However, the Nurse family remained members of the Salem Town Church, rather than attend the Salem Village church. Records indicate that they regularly attended meeting houses, mediated neighborly disputes, and became all around respected members in the small community. Rebecca and Francis were reported to have “brought up a great family of children and educated well soe…” ((Testimony of Nathaniel Putnam, Sr. for Rebecca Nurse) [June 1692)
Although the couple was known to mediate disputes between neighbors in their community, they were not exempt from the in-fighting themselves. According to records, the family had been embroiled in a longstanding dispute with the Putnam family. Thomas and Ann Putnam’s land bordered the Nurse family farm, fueling disputes over property lines and ownership of particular parts of the land. Though Rebecca and Francis Nurse often solved problems in the community, this one seemed to go unresolved for many years.
On March 23, 1692, a warrant was issued for the arrest of Rebecca Nurse, wife of Francis Nurse, for the charges of “vehement Suspition, of haveing Committed Sundry acts of Witchcraft"((Warrant v. Rebecca Nurse) [23 March 1692) The warrant came as a shock to both communities of Salem Village and Salem Town,...