Looking from the Water Street entrance of Pentucket Cemetery (aka Pentucket Burial Ground, opened in 1660), the white obelisk on the right, closest to the street, marks the resting place of Major Nathaniel Saltonstall.
When Governor of Massachusetts Sir William Phips returned to New England from Britain in May of 1692, new charter in hand, he discovered the jails were full of accused witches. Phips quickly created a Court of Oyer and Terminer (“to hear and determine”), a kind of English court set up for times of social turmoil.
The nine-member court included: Chief Judge William Stoughton and associate judges John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, Nathaniel Saltonstall, John Richards, Bartholomew Gedney, Wait-Still Winthrop, Samuel Sewall, and Peter Sergeant.
Bridget Bishop was convicted and sentenced to death on June 2, largely on “spectral evidence.” Saltonstall did not agree with the verdict, nor with Bishop’s hanging on June 10, the first execution of the trials. He resigned from the court, and remained “very much dissatisfied with the proceedings.” It is perhaps for this reason Saltonstall himself was accused of witchcraft by the afflicted girls, although he never came to trial.