Path from Jail to Execution

In 1692, convicted witches would be picked up at the jail, loaded into a cart, and escorted to the execution site by High Sheriff George Corwin, who would sign their death warrants. The path led south on Prison Lane (today St. Peter Street), right on Main Street (today Essex Street) heading west to the edge of town. The cart would have passed within view of the Meeting House where some examinations took place and the Town House where the trials took place, and past the homes of Judge John Hathorne, Court Clerk Stephen Sewell, and Judge Jonathan Corwin (the Witch House). At Boston Street, the procession would head north, turning right on Bridge Street (today Boston Street) and over the Town Bridge that spanned the North River. Shortly after the bridge crossing, the cart would turn left to the execution site at Proctor’s Ledge.

Crowds would gather for the executions, both along the way and at Proctor’s Ledge.

Executed on June 10 was Bridget Bishop.

Executed on July 19 were Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wildes.

One of the biggest crowds to witness the hangings was reportedly on August 19, when Cotton Mather arrived from Boston to witness the execution of Reverend George Burroughs (who he considered to be the “king of the witches”), Martha Carrier (thought to be the “queen of the witches”), George Jacobs, John Proctor, and John Willard.

The last execution day was September 22. Hanged were Martha Corey (her husband Giles Corey was pressed to death three days earlier), Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot Redd, Margaret Scott, and Samuel Wardwell. Reverend Nicholas Noyes was quoted: “What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there.”

The executed were not afforded proper burials but were instead cut down after death and placed into a nearby crevice which acted as a shallow grave. It is speculated that family members – particularly those of George Jacobs, Rebecca Nurse, and John Proctor – came to the site under cover of darkness to retrieve the bodies of their loved ones and bury them on family property. According to historian Emerson Baker, “…there are no human remains in the very shallow soils of Proctor’s Ledge.”

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7 Pope Street, Salem, MA, USA

7 Pope Street, Salem, MA, USA

Locust trees in bloom on Proctor's Ledge, June 10, 2019