More About John and Mary (Nurse) Tarbell House, Site of

After the trials were over, Tarbell, Samuel Nurse, and Thomas Wilkins, father-in-law of the executed John Willard, were called “dissenting brethren” by Reverend Parris, due to their continued absence from, and complaints about, the church. At a meeting with the minister on Feb 6, 1693, the Nurse kin defended their point of view for an hour each, voicing their belief that Rebecca would still be alive if not for Parris’s support of the touch test, and his belief in the claims of the “possessed” individuals. They expected Parris to take responsibility for his part in Rebecca’s death. Parris continued to question their absence from weekly worship and lack of support for his ministry. Subsequent meetings through 1693 – where the “dissenting brethren” were sometimes joined by Peter Cloyce (who had moved with his wife to Boston after she was released from jail), and others who were not even members of the Salem Village church, including Joseph Putnam, Joseph Holten Sr., and William Osborne – resolved nothing. At a meeting with Parris in the spring of 1694, the wronged family members read a list of their complaints: they stopped attending church in the summer of 1692 because of the excitement and interruptions caused by the afflicted; they believed Parris had handled the situation badly; and they thought he should not have embraced spectral evidence. The complainants wished to have a meeting in front of the whole church, which they were finally granted in May, but it was unproductive.


By mid-November, Parris presented his own list of grievances with the dissenters, which included an accusation of libel. Shortly thereafter, on November 18, 1694, Parris read his apology “Meditations for Peace,” which greatly affected Tarbell when he first heard it, although not all of the dissenters were so moved. On November 26 it was read to the entire congregation. The “dissenting brethren” were finally satisfied in 1697, when Reverend Parris left Salem Village.


Disputes between families had existed long before 1692. Rebecca Nurse’s two sons-in-law, John Tarbell and Thomas Preston, had been involved in land disputes with the Putnams and Endicotts for years, including struggles over firewood harvested on Nurse property in 1683.


The Nurse family also supported “The Topsfield men” in border disputes. Rebecca and her sisters were members of the Towne family of Topsfield. Rebecca’s husband Francis, her oldest son Samuel, and her two sons-in-law Tarbell and Preston, all sided with Topsfield in disagreements about land. This engendered animosity from other Salem Villagers.


John Tarbell died in 1715 at the age of 63. He was buried in the cemetery at the Rebecca Nurse Homestead. In 1970, a descendant replaced the original stone.