Thursday, December 22, 2016

Favorite Ancestors: Rebecca Towne Nurse

I have never really been a big fan of wearing neckties. Hannah Wakeman may be part of the reason. [See earlier post.] Rebecca Towne Nurse may be another reason.

Rebecca was born in Yarmouth, England about 1620/1 and arrived in New England in 1640. The Townes settled in Salem, where Rebecca married Francis Nurse in 1644. The Nurses became well-respected members of the community. They moved to Salem Village in 1678.

The Nurses were involved in boundary disputes and several court cases over the next 14 years. They were also among the village citizenry who opposed Rev. Samuel Parris. Parris was backed by the influential Putnam family and their supporters.

In 1692, teenaged girls from the Parris and Putnam families feigned possession by the devil and accused neighbors - all Parris opponents - of being witches. The witch scare quickly got out of hand and several villagers were tried and convicted of witchcraft. Among those were 71 year-old Rebecca Nurse and her sisters Sarah Cloyce and Mary Esty. Rebecca and Mary would be sentenced to death and hanged.

The governor of Massachusetts Bay eventually intervened and ended the debacle. Convicted witches were pardoned and released. Those already executed were posthumously pardoned. The Nurses and others managed to get Parris removed as pastor.

Salem has become a tourist destination for those curious about the 1692 witch trials. Salem Village, where the story unfolded, is now Danvers.

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