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In January of 1692, Jacobs wrote his will. He left his homestead to his wife. In the event of her death, his son George Jr. would inherit, followed by his grandson George, followed by his daughter Ann and her husband, John Andrew. According to the will, granddaughter Margaret would inherit one cow and some valuables from the gun room.


The servant in the household was Sarah Churchill, aged 25, who was the first to accuse Jacobs Sr. of witchcraft. Churchill was a refugee from the Native wars in Maine. In 1692, her mother Eleanor was living in Marblehead with her husband Arthur Churchill. According to historian Marilynne Roach, Sarah “carefully avoided calling him [Arthur] father.” Eleanor had given birth to a bastard in Maine, for which she had been fined in 1667. Perhaps Sarah’s birth details were also unclear?


Sarah Churchill first appears in the records as one of the afflicted, suffering convulsions. When her afflictions stopped (neighbors wondered, did her employer beat the devil out of her with one of his walking sticks?), the judges believed she’d signed the devil’s book herself and threatened her with jail. In her examination at the village meetinghouse on May 9, Sarah, fearing for her life, not only confessed to making a pact with the devil, but named her employer, George Jacobs Sr., his son, George Jacobs Jr., and his granddaughter Margaret, accusing them all of practicing witchcraft.


The possibility that George Jacobs Sr. may have used a walking stick to beat Churchill seems to have become the subject of gossip, particularly among the servant community. Thomas Putnam’s servant Mercy Lewis accused Jacobs Sr.’s specter of beating her with his sticks and Mary Warren, who worked for the Proctors, said she’d witnessed Jacobs Sr.’s specter beating Churchill at Ingersoll’s ordinary. Neighbor Mary Walcott also claimed she’d been beaten by Jacobs’s specter.


On May 10, both George Jacobs Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret were arrested and transported to Salem Town. Jacobs Sr. was examined at Thomas Beadle’s Tavern. He was astonished at the witchcraft accusations. A skeptic of the witchcraft hysteria from the start, he begged the judges to see the situation clearly. “You tax me for a wizard. You may as well tax me for a buzzard! I have done no harm!” In response to Churchill’s accusation that his specter had tormented her, Jacobs replied, “Well, burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ, I know nothing of it.”


Outside the tavern that day, Sarah Churchill confessed that she had lied about signing the devil’s book when she ran into Nathaniel Ingersoll’s niece Sarah, and Jacobs Sr.’s daughter Ann. Sarah Ingersoll’s later testimony about the encounter was ignored.


Examination of Jacobs Sr. continued at Beadle’s Tavern on May 11, where he was accused by Ann Putnam Jr., Abigail Williams, Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis, and Elizabeth Hubbard. They all testified against Jacobs and his granddaughter Margaret. Margaret, now confessing to witchcraft herself, convinced she could save herself by admitting it, also named her grandfather, Reverend George Burroughs, John Willard, and Alice Parker. Margaret and Jacobs Sr. were both sent to Salem jail.


Eleven accused witches were transported to Boston jail on May 12 to await their trial: George Jacobs Sr., Giles Corey, Bridget Bishop, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Sarah Wildes, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, William Hobbs, Mary English, and Mary Black. Of these, six would eventually be executed.


At their August 5 trials, George Jacobs Sr., John Willard, and Reverend George Burroughs were all found guilty of witchcraft. Jacobs’s servant Sarah Churchill once again testified against him, as did his neighbor John DeRich, who was a nephew of Elizabeth Proctor. Margaret Jacobs did not testify against her grandfather.


Overcome with guilt, Margaret recanted her confession in mid-May. Jacobs Sr., once convicted and about a week before his death, amended his will to reflect his final wishes. Word of Margaret’s recantation had clearly reached him. Jacobs Sr. inserted a line in his will leaving his granddaughter an additional £10 silver. His wife Mary would only inherit the homestead until she remarried. His son George Jr. was removed from the will entirely, as he had fled the country after being accused. Now it would be his grandson George who would inherit once Mary had a new husband. Daughter Ann and her husband John Andrews were also removed from the will. Jacobs Sr. felt they had not been supportive in his time of need.


Five were scheduled to be hanged on August 19: George Jacobs Sr., Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor, John Willard, and Martha Carrier. The night before the executions, Margaret Jacobs was able to speak to Reverend Burroughs in Salem jail and begged his forgiveness. She admitted her great guilt and shame for accusing him, Willard, and her own grandfather. Burroughs gave his forgiveness and prayed with her.


The hangings at Proctor’s Ledge on Gallows Hill took place as planned on the 19th. It was quite a crowd who turned out to see the event. After all, the “King of the witches,” Reverend Burroughs, was going to be executed on this day as was the “Queen in Hell,” Martha Carrier. Reverend Cotton Mather even traveled from Boston to witness the hangings.


It was believed witches could not recite the Lord’s Prayer, but Burroughs recited it perfectly, creating a stir in the crowd. Sheriff George Corwin oversaw the executions and the burial of the dead in a shallow grave on the site. Tradition holds that the family members of Jacobs and Proctor collected the bodies of their loved ones later that night and buried them on their own properties.


It was the law of the day that the sheriff could confiscate the personal property of the condemned, which was intended to cover jail costs and help provide for the family. From Jacobs, Sheriff George Corwin took livestock, hay, produce, household goods, and jewelry – even wife Mary’s wedding ring. She was left destitute and relied on the kindness of her neighbors to survive. Mary eventually recovered her ring, but the Jacobs family circumstances were greatly reduced from that point forward.


After his death, George Jacobs Sr.’s amended will was ignored in court. George Jr. returned from hiding in June of 1693 and took over the farm, against his father’s last wishes. John Andrews (who had also been crossed out of the will) settled the estate.


Margaret was ill at the time of her trial and escaped hanging. The last executions took place on September 22 and the Court of Oyer and Terminer was dissolved in October. Margaret was in jail for seven months until a good Samaritan paid her jail fees to free her. According to historian Frances Hill, he later sued for the money, which Margaret eventually paid.


Additional note: After George Jacobs Sr.’s death, his wife Mary remarried. Her new husband was John Wildes, the widower of Sarah Wildes, who had been hanged for witchcraft on July 19.


Additional note: In 1864, the Fowler family, who had purchased a portion of the Jacobs property, uncovered remains in a grave marked by two old stones. The toothless, tall skeleton was seemingly proof that Jacobs’s family had retrieved his body after his hanging and buried it at Northfields. The skeleton was re-interred. Jacobs was again exhumed in the 1950s by the town of Danvers. Stored for decades, his remains were buried for their final time in 1992 at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. A stone marks his grave, with a quote from his long-ago examination: “Well, burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ.”