August 13 (August 3, o.s.)

Massachusetts: The Court of Oyer and Terminer reconvenes in Salem Town to continue its third session. The proceedings begin with the continuation of the trial of Martha Carrier from the previous day. Prosecutor Anthony Checkley calls his remaining witnesses, mainly neighbors of Carrier from years back giving accounts of suspicious interactions with her, then Carrier is offered the opportunity to defend herself. She has no arguments that convince the judges or the jury, which quickly finds her guilty.

The next case considered by the court is that of John Willard, who was indicted on June 3 during the first session of the court but is only now being brought to trial. As usual, Checkley opens by calling the afflicted persons and their adult male supporters to testify about Willard’s spectral attacks on them. The focus of the prosecution then turns to the testimony of Willard’s in-laws, particularly his wife’s grandfather, Bray Wilkins, and her second cousin, Daniel Wilkins, who died on May 16 under suspicious circumstances after some of the afflicted girls had publicly accused Willard of bewitching him. Other members of the Wilkins family produce more evidence of various kinds against Willard, and some other witnesses accuse him of beating his wife as well.

The next evidence to be presented against Willard is that of the confessors, including Martha Carrier’s son Richard, who named Willard in his July 22 confession, as well as Margaret Jacobs and Sarah Churchwell, who confessed earlier. Willard’s defense is defiant but unconvincing to the jury, and he too is quickly convicted.

Also indicted earlier, on June 30, but only now brought to trial are John and Elizabeth Proctor. This husband and wife have been the focus of innumerable accusations since quite early in the crisis, so Checkley has a lot to work with. The initial statements of the afflicted are extensive and numerous, and include considerable testimony from Elizabeth Booth, a neighbor of the Proctors. The confessors, too, have a lot to say about the couple’s attendance at witchcraft meetings, and one, Mary Warren, has even more to offer. She was the Proctors’ servant when she began to have fits like many of the other girls in Salem Village, and after John Proctor refused to indulge her she seemed to recover, then suddenly confessed to witchcraft and accused the Proctors of enticing her into the Devil’s service. She repeats her story now, adding considerable weight to the already strong case against the couple.

Unlike most witchcraft suspects, the Proctors have carefully prepared a detailed defense to present at trial. They argue, as John did in the petition he and several other prisoners sent to several ministers of the colony on July 23, that the judges are prejudiced against them and the whole structure of the court is unfair to the accused and based largely on confessions obtained by torture. They also present a petition signed by twenty people who know them attesting to their good reputations, along with another petition signed by thirty-one men arguing that the Devil can impersonate innocent people to afflict others, an argument that has been rejected by Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton, chief justice of the court, but which was upheld by the ministers the council consulted about the trials on June 13 in their June 15 reply. Nonetheless, the jury convicts both Proctors, although Elizabeth is able to obtain a temporary stay of her death sentence by pleading that she is pregnant.

Now that the court has cleared out the backlog of cases from previous sessions, it turns to new ones. The grand jury is convened to hear evidence against George Burroughs, the minister who has been named with increasing frequency by both the afflicted and the confessors as the leader of the witches. Most of the evidence is the same as that presented at his initial examination on May 9, and revolves primarily around the spectral evidence of the afflicted girls. The grand jury is persuaded by this evidence and issues four indictments against Burroughs.

The grand jury also hears evidence against Mary Easty, the sister of the accused witches Rebecca Nurse (who was executed on July 19) and Sarah Cloyce. Easty was first charged on April 21 and examined the next day, then released on May 18, only to be arrested again on May 21 after being accused again by Mercy Lewis, one of the most prominent and influential of the afflicted girls. The evidence presented to the grand jury largely revolves around her second examination, and it is sufficient to get two indictments against her.

Mexico/New Mexico: The 35 soldiers ordered by Governor Pardiñas of Nueva Vizcaya from the presidios of Pasaje, Gallo and Cerro Gordo in his province for the reconquest of New Mexico assemble in the provincial capital of Parral for inspection. The governor and the province’s royal accountant, José de Urzúa, inspect the troops and make a list of the equipment each man has.  Finding them sufficiently equipped, they certify that they have passed muster and send them on to the presidio of Conchos, on the way to New Mexico, where fifteen more troops are waiting to join them, having passed muster before the local commander there on August 10.

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Published in: on August 13, 2008 at 12:00 am  Comments (4)  

4 Comments

  1. […] children (7 and 10 years old respectively) of Martha Carrier, who was convicted of witchcraft on August 3, are examined by the Andover magistrate Dudley Bradstreet. Both quickly confess to witchcraft, as […]

  2. […] to Gallows Hill in Salem to be hanged.  They include Martha Carrier of Andover, convicted on August 3 and since accused by several more confessors of being a key figure in the witchcraft conspiracy; […]

  3. […] meets in Salem Town.  The first case to be tried is that of Mary Easty, who was indicted on August 3 after being released from jail and immediately rearrested when Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted […]

  4. […] the fifty soldiers from Nueva Vizcaya who departed from Parral on August 13 to join Vargas’s expedition arrive in El Paso at 9:00 am. In accordance with the instructions […]


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