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WITCH TRIALS
Page 7

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REBECCA (TOWNE) NURSE


born: 1617/18 Greater Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
HANGED
for witchcraft on 19 July 1692
at Gallows Hill, Salem, Essex County, MA
Rebecca was 74 years old


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Rebecca (Towne) Nurse, and Sarah Elizabeth Rose
are 12th cousins 13 times removed,
through their shared ancestor,
Hawise DE Quincy

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REBECCA (TOWNE) NURSE was the daughter of William Towne,
and Joanna Blessing, of Yarmouth, Norfolk County,
New England where she was baptized Feb. 21, 1621.
REBECCA
IS THE SISTER OF MARY (TOWNE) EASTY (see page 12)
and the sister of SARAH (TOWNE) CLOYCE (see page 14)
This mother of 7 was accused and
EXECUTED
Later, her family was compensated with 20 pounds
from the government, for her wrongeful execution.

Nurse's husband was described
as a "traymaker." The making of these articles and similar articles of
domestic use was important employment in the remote countryside. He seems to
have been highly respected by his neighbors, and more often than anyone else
was called in to settle disputes. Nurse had four sons and four daughters.

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Nurse was one of the first "unlikely" witches to be accused. At the
time of her trial she was 71 years old, and had "acquired a
reputation for exemplary piety that was virtually unchallenged in
the community." It was written of Nurse: "This venerable lady, whose
conversation and bearing were so truly saint-like, was an invalid of
extremely delicate condition and appearance, the mother of a large
family, embracing sons, daughters, grandchildren, and one or more
great-grand children. She was a woman of piety, and simplicity of heart."

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That her reputation was virtually unblemished was evidenced by the fact
that several of the most active accusers were more hesitant in their
accusations of Nurse, and many who had kept silent during the
proceedings against others, came forward and spoke out on behalf of
Nurse, despite the dangers of doing so. Thirty-nine of the most
prominent members of the community signed a petition on Nurse's behalf,
and several others wrote individual petitions vouching for her innocence.
One of the signers of the petition, Jonathan Putnam, had originally sworn
out the complaint against Nurse, but apparently had later changed his
mind on the matter of her guilt.

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Unlike many of the other accused, during the
questioning of Nurse, the magistrate showed signs
of doubting her guilt, because of her age,
character, appearance, and professions of innocence.
However, each time he would begin to waiver on the
issue, someone else in the crowd would either heatedly
accuse her
or one of the afflicted girls would break
into fits and claim Nurse was tormenting her. Upon
realizing that the magistrate and the audience had
sided with the afflicted girls Nurse could only reply,
" I have got nobody to look to but God." She then
tried to raise her hands, but the afflicted girls fell
into dreadful fits at the motion.

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At Nurse's trial on June 30, the jury came back
with a verdict of "Not Guilty." When this was
announced there was a large and hideous outcry from
both the afflicted girls and the spectators. The
magistrates urged reconsideration. Chief Justice
Stoughton asked the jury if they had considered
the implications of something Nurse had said. When
Hobbs had accused Nurse, Nurse had said "What do
you bring her? She is one of us." Nurse had only
meant that Hobbs was a fellow prisoner. Nurse,
however, was old, partially hard of hearing, and
exhausted from the day in court. When Nurse was
asked to explain her words "she is one of us," she
did not hear the question. The jury took her
silence as an indication of guilt. The jury
deliberated a second time and came back with a
verdict of guilty. Shocking as it seems today, it
was not uncommon in the seventeenth century for a
magistrate to ask the jury to reconsider its
verdict. Her family immediately did what they
could to rectify the mistake that had caused her
to be condemned, but it was no use. Nurse was
granted a reprieve by Governor Phips, however no
sooner had it been issued, than the accusers began
having renewed fits. The community saw these fits
as conclusive proof of Nurse's guilt.

On July 3, this pious, God fearing woman was
excommunicated from her church in Salem Town,
without a single dissenting vote, because of her
conviction of witchcraft. Nurse was sentenced to
death on June 30. She was executed on July 19.
Public outrage at her conviction and execution have
been credited with generating the first vocal
opposition to the trials. On the gallows Nurse was
"a model of Christian behavior," which must have
been a sharp contrast to Sarah Good, another
convicted witch with whom

Nurse was executed, who used the gallows as a
platform from which to call downcurses on those
who would heckle her in her final hour. It was not
until 1699that members of the Nurse family were
welcomed back to communion in the church,and it was
fifteen years later before the excommunication of
Nurse was revoked.In 1711, Nurse's family was
compensated by the government for her wrongful death.

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Our next account regarding Rebecca (Towne) Nurse,
and her mother and sisters, comes to us from

http://www.rootsweb.com/~nwa/nurse.html

There were several reasons why she was targeted.
First, her relationship to a prominent citizen of
the town of Topsfield, Francis Nurse, her husband.
The town of Topsfield had for some time been in
dispute over land along the border of Salem
Village; that is to say, the Putnam family estate.

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Second was her affiliation with the church in Salem Town.
She was a member of the church in Salem Town and her
husband was an outspoken leader of the anti-Parris
committee. This was a committee who believed the reverend
Parris was not hired properly and should be removed from
the position of minister for the church of Salem Village.
Again, the Putnams were the leaders of the pro Parris committee.

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Third, this may have been a test for the Putnams. If they
could bring down such a highly respected, deeply religious,
pious pillar of the community, then surely they'd have
absolute freedom over those they'd bring charges against
in the future.

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Rebecca was 70 years old when she was tried by the Court
of Oyer and Terminar (Hear and Determine). The court was
formed by Governor Phipps at the request of the Lieutenant
Governor, William Stoughton. Stoughton was then assigned
by Phipps to serve as Chief Magistrate. It should be noted
that only the Judicial Branch of the Provincial Government
can form a court as a part of governmental checks and
balances. Clearly, Phipps was overstepping his own
authority. Additionally, none of the magistrates of the
Court of Oyer and Terminar had any legal training and
relied heavily on their various religious backgrounds.

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Rebecca's two sisters were also accused for many of the
same reasons. Several years earlier Rebecca's mother had
been accused of witchcraft. She was, however, never tried.
Local gossip during the trials suggested the profession
was passed down from mother to daughters.

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The trial itself was a sham and a virtual mockery
of the judicialsystem. The complaint was signed by
Edward and Jonathan Putnam. The charge was for afflicting
Ann Putnam Jr. and Abigail Williams. Ann Putnam, Sr.
testified that the ghosts of Benjamin Houlton, Rebecca
Houlton, John Fuller, and her sister Baker's children
(6 of them) as well as her sister Bayley and her three
children came to her at various times in their winding
sheets and cried for justice of being murdered by Rebecca
Nurse. John Putnam, Sr. and his wife Rebecca (Prince)
Putnam actually refuted charges that their daughter Rebecca
Shepard and their son-in-law John Fuller had been murdered
by Rebecca Nurse. Sarah Nurse (Rebecca's daughter) testified
she saw Goodwife Bibber (an afflicted woman in the trial)
pull pins out of her clothes and hold them between her
fingers, and clasp her hands around her knees, and then
she cried out and said, "Goody Nurse pricked me." On
June 2, 1692, two physical exams to search for witches
marks were performed by midwives. On June 28, 1692,
Rebecca petitioned the court for another physical exam
citing one previous examiner to be of contradictory
pinion from the others. At her trial, testimonials
regarding her Christian behavior, care, and education
of her children brought a verdict of not guilty. William
Stoughton then politely asked the jury to again retire
and reconsider their verdict. So much for not being tried
twice for the same offense.

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On July 3, 1692, the Reverend Nicholas Noyes had
Rebecca brought from her prison cell to the church.
When she arrived, the Reverend excommunicated her
before the congregation. How shattering would this
be to such a deeply religious person as she was known
to be?

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A petition was drawn up and signed on May 14, 1692 by most
of the richest and most influential people such as Israel
Porter (his name appears first), Daniel Andrews, even John
Putnam, Sr. and his wife along with 35 other were cosigners
of the petition. The petition was sent to Governor Phipps
who responded with a temporary reprieve. The reprieve ran
out and Rebecca, along with four other ladies, was hanged
on July 19, 1692. She was buried in such a shallow grave
on that rocky hill that some body parts remained exposed.
Her family came in the dark of night, collected her
remains, and reburied her on the family's property.

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This data regarding Rebecca (Towne) Nurse

came to us from http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_BNUR.HTM

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E MAIL ME


PAGE 1
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(PERKINS)
BRADBURY
PAGE 2
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
BRADBURY
Part 2
PAGE 3
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
PAGE 4
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
KNAPP
Part 2
PAGE 5
WITCHTRIALS
SUSANNAH
(NORTH)
MARTIN
PAGE 6
WITCHTRIALS
REBECCA
(TOWNE)
NURSE
PAGE 8
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(BLISS)
PARSONS
Part1
PAGE 9
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
PARSONS
Part 2
PAGE 10
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
SR. & JR.
Part 1
PAGE 11
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
WILSON
Part 2
PAGE 12
WITCHTRIALS
MARY
(TOWNE)
ESTEY
PAGE 13
WITCHTRIALS
INFANT DAUGHTER
DEWOLF
PAGE 14
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
(TOWNE)
CLOYCE
Part 1
PAGE 15
WITCHTRIALS
SARAH
CLOYCE
Part 2
PAGE 16
WITCHTRIALS
ELIZABETH
(HUTCHINS)
HART
PAGE 17
WITCHTRIALS
ANNE
PUTNAM
PAGE 18
WITCHTRIALS
EARLY
CT
LAWS



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