Salem Witch Trials - Early Accusations


The first witch trial, in Massachusetts, occurred soon after the Puritans arrived in America.  In 1648, Margaret Jones was accused - and hanged - in Charlestown.

About forty years later, a supposed witch - Goodwife Glover - was executed in Boston.  Cotton Mather, then a prominent Boston pastor, was involved in the event as an investigator.  His book, Memorable Providences, relates the story and was widely circulated at the time.

In the early 1690s, it is likely that people in Salem read Cotton Mather's book.  Salem Town was a seaport along the Atlantic coast.  Salem Village, today known as Danvers, was located further inland. 

Strange events would soon take place in Salem Village.

Around 500 people lived in the village.  It was not a place where settlers were thriving.  To make matters worse, the royal charter - which gave Puritans the right to own land in Massachusetts - was revoked.  Although it was restored five years later, a feeling of uncertainty had descended on Salem Village.

Puritans lived in a very rigid society.  They were not free to do whatever they wished.  They believed that each person was predetermined to spend eternity either in heaven or hell - but individuals could never be sure which destination was in store for them.  All of this created a very unsettling, anxious atmosphere.

Women, in Puritan society, were held in exceedingly low esteem.  They were far more likely, people thought, to succomb to evil ways.  The Malleus Maleficarum (also known as "The Hammer of Witches," first published in 1486) demonstrates this belief in the second part of its Question VI:

Why is it that Women are chiefly addicted to Evil superstitions?

People in Salem Village were often at odds with people in Salem Town.  In 1692, religious fervor and political differences joined forces to create one of early America's darkest times. 

Scholars believe those dark moments - leading to the Salem Witch Trials - began in the kitchen of Rev. Samuel Paris, a Salem-Village pastor.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Oct 07, 2013

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

Media Credits

Clip from "In Search of History - Salem Witch Trials" - online, courtesy History.com.  Copyright, History Channel, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes.

A&E Home Video

DVD Release Date:
April 26, 2005

Run Time:
50 minutes

Full documentary available, in DVD format, though Amazon.com and other retailers.


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