Set back from Washington Street is the beautiful Federal style home built for the successful merchant Joshua Ward in 1784. The property has older connections that date back to the witchcraft trials. Today, visitors can still see ragged stones along the building’s foundation, which are all that remain of the 1692 home of George Corwin.
Twenty-five-year-old George Corwin was the High Sheriff during the witchcraft trials of 1692. This important position may have been obtained through nepotism – he was the nephew of both Judge Jonathan Corwin and Judge Wait Winthrop, as well as the son-in-law of Judge Bartholomew Gedney. In his role, Sheriff Corwin escorted the condemned by cart from prison to the execution site at Proctor’s Ledge on Gallows Hill. As required by law, Corwin would also confiscate the property of condemned prisoners —not land, but belongings such as livestock, hay, apples, and corn, and household goods such as kettles, pewter, furniture, and jewelry. It is a common misconception that witchcraft accusations were part of a deliberate attempt to gain the land of neighbors or fellow community members. At this time, English law allowed the seizure of a felon’s possessions, but this did not extend to their real estate. The worldly possessions of the married women who were convicted were considered the property of their husbands. As such, there was nothing to confiscate from the condemned married women, but the possessions of the condemned men and widows were allowed to be confiscated. These domestic goods were supposed to be inventoried and stored, to help pay the felon’s jail costs and support his family. However, it is known that Sheriff Corwin sold off some of John Proctor’s livestock and slaughtered and salted the rest, for shipping to the West Indies.