January 1692- Reverend Samuel Parris of Salem Village’s daughter, 9-year-old Elizabeth “Betty” Parris, falls ill, soon followed by his 11-year-old niece, Abigail Williams.
Mid-February- After a month of fasting, prayer, and home remedies, Betty and Abigail have not improved. The girls are examined by a doctor (most likely local physician William Griggs), who pronounces their alarming behavior to be caused by bewitchment.
February 25- Following the directions given to them by their neighbor Mary Sibley, Tituba and John Indian (both enslaved people working in the household of Samuel Parris) prepare a “witch cake.” This act is an attempt at counter-magic. Though strongly discouraged, attempts at utilizing magic (primarily for simple tasks such as protecting one’s home from evil forces, fortune telling, or curing the sick) are still relatively common in Puritan New England. This particular charm calls for the combination of the sick girls’ urine with rye meal to create a small cake. This cake is then baked on hot ashes and fed to a dog. The hope is this could harm the witch responsible for hurting the children. Around this same time, 12-year-old Ann Putnam Jr. and 17-year-old Elizabeth Hubbard are the next to become afflicted with this mysterious illness. The girls report terrible attacks from invisible specters and apparitions.
February 29- The girls name three women, alleging these are the witches who are harming them by invisible means. Warrants are issued for the arrests of Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba.
March 1- Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne are examined in the meeting house in Salem Village by Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin. Though Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne maintain their innocence, under extreme pressure, Tituba confesses, implicates Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, and tells the magistrates there are more witches, though she is unsure of their identities.
March 3- Though Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, and Elizabeth Hubbard temporarily recover after the initial suspects are brought into custody, Ann Putnam Jr.’s torment continues. She soon claims to see the specters of Martha Corey, Dorothy Good (the four-year-old daughter of Sarah Good), and Elizabeth Proctor.
March 13- Ann Putnam Jr. allegedly sees yet another specter, this time of an unknown old woman sitting in her grandmother’s chair. Guided by the suggestion of either her mother, Ann Putnam Sr., or the Putnam’s 17-year-old servant, Mercy Lewis, Ann Jr. eventually identifies this specter as elderly Salem Village resident, Rebecca Nurse. Soon Mercy Lewis falls ill and is now also regularly tormented by the same mysterious affliction.
March 18- Ann Putnam Sr. (age 31) reports spectral torment. She is now among a small group of adult women who claim to be afflicted.
March 21– Martha Corey is arrested and examined at Ingersoll’s ordinary in Salem Village. She is held for trial.
March 24- Having been arrested the previous day, Rebecca Nurse is examined before Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin. Though she firmly maintains her innocence, the torment of afflicted witnesses (present during the examination) is enough for the magistrates to hold her for trial. The 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse is sent to Salem jail.
April 2– Abigail Williams continues to claim she is tormented by the specter of Elizabeth Proctor. Meanwhile, John Proctor (husband of Elizabeth) keeps a close eye on his 20-year-old servant Mary Warren. Though Mary testifies as an afflicted witness during the trial of Rebecca Nurse, her employer is an outspoken skeptic of the affliction. In this environment, Mary’s fits eventually cease, and she posts a note on the Meeting House door requesting prayers of thanks for her recovery.
April 11- Having been arrested a few days prior, Elizabeth Proctor and Sarah Cloyce (Rebecca Nurse’s sister) are examined in Salem Town. John Indian, husband of Tituba, is now among the afflicted and is present during these proceedings. During the examination, the afflicted claim both Elizabeth and her husband are tormenting them and appear to be violently afflicted. John Proctor is taken into custody. Sarah Cloyce, and both Proctors are held for trial.
April 18– Four more suspected witches are arrested; Giles Corey (husband of Martha), Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, and the once afflicted Mary Warren. They are examined the next day. Abigail Hobbs breaks down, making her the second person to confess. In the coming weeks more and more will be arrested, not just from Salem, but from towns and villages miles away.
May 4- An arrest warrant having been issued 4 days ago, Rev. George Burroughs arrives in Salem, having been transported all the way from Wells, Maine. Burroughs was minister of Salem Village for three years a decade prior. Evidently, he left bad feelings in his wake, and was now forcibly returned to Salem to face witchcraft charges.
May 10- Sarah Osborne dies in prison in Boston. She is the first causality of the Salem witch trials.
May 14- Increase Mather returns from England with a new charter and new governor, Sir William Phips. Massachusetts Bay Colony’s charter had been revoked in 1684, and until the new charter was issued, the colony had been operating in a kind of legal limbo. Until this point, there had only been pretrial examinations to determine if those accused of witchcraft had enough evidence against them to warrant a trial. With the arrival of the new charter, a court could now be formed to oversee the growing witchcraft cases.
May 27- Governor Phips approves the creation of a special court, the Court of Oyer and Terminer (meaning to hear and to determine). This court will try the witchcraft cases.
May 31- At the request of John Richards, one of the magistrates appointed to the Court of Oyer and Terminer, Boston minister Cotton Mather offers advice regarding the trial of witches. While Mather cautions against the use of spectral evidence (the appearance of invisible apparitions only the afflicted can see), he concedes that the court’s procedure should be determined by to the magistrates’ good judgment.
June 2- Bridget Bishop is tried and condemned at the first sitting of the court in Salem. Sometime after this date Judge Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns, presumably due to his dissatisfaction with the court’s proceedings.
June 10- Bridget Bishop is executed on Proctor’s Ledge at Gallows Hill in Salem. She is the first person to be executed during the Salem witch trials.
June 15- Twelve ministers of the colony advise the court not to rely entirely on spectral evidence to obtain convictions. The court ignore this advice and continues to rely heavily on spectral evidence. This is primarily the evidence used for conviction going forward.
July 19- Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth How, Sarah Good, and Sarah Wildes are executed on Proctor’s Ledge. When Sarah Good ascends the gallows, Reverend Nicholas Noyes encourages her to confess and save her soul. In response, she angrily replies “You are a liar! I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take my life, God will give you blood to drink!”
August 19- George Jacobs, Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Proctor and John Willard are hanged. Although George Burroughs recites the Lord’s Prayer perfectly on the gallows (a task witches were allegedly unable to complete without error), Cotton Mather insisted that, “…the Devil has often been transformed into an Angel of Light.”
September 19- The 71-year-old Giles Corey is taken to an open field near the Salem jail and is pressed to death under heavy stones after refusing to recognize the authority of Court of Oyer and Terminer. This is the first (and only) time this method of torture is used in colonial New England.
September 22- Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty (sister of Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce), Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker are hanged. This is the last date of execution during the Salem witch trials.
October 3- Boston minister Increase Mather, father of Cotton Mather, addresses a meeting of ministers in Cambridge to warn against reliance on spectral evidence. Mather writes, “It were better that ten suspected witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned…”
October 29- With public opinion turning against the trials, Governor Phips dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
December 14- The Lower House passes the “act against conjuration, witchcraft, and dealing with evil and wicked spirits.” This law maintains that witchcraft is a felony offense, punishable by death. However, it lessens the penalties for minor acts of magic (such as attempting to find love, tell the future, or unsuccessfully trying to harm another person by magical means).
December 16– In response to the numerous individuals accused of witchcraft still languishing in jail, the General Court determines the Massachusetts Superior Court will meet for a special session on January 3, 1693 to oversee these remaining cases. Governor Phips decrees this new court will no longer accept spectral evidence.
January 1693- The Superior Court condemns three of the fifty-six persons accused of witchcraft. Chief Justice Stoughton signs death warrants for these three and for five others previously convicted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692. The next date of execution is set for February.
January 31- Governor Phips steps in and issues reprieves for the eight scheduled for execution. Upon paying their jail fees, all of those accused of witchcraft are now officially free to go.
March 10– Lydia Dustin, a 79-year-old resident of Reading, dies in jail. Though cleared of her original witchcraft charges, she could not come up with the money to pay her jail fees, and dies in jail still awaiting her release.
April 1696- Samuel Parris steps down as the minister of Salem Village.
January 14, 1697- The Massachusetts General Court orders a day of public fasting and prayer in atonement for errors made by the colony, including the witchcraft trials. On this day, twelve of the jurors of the Court of Oyer and Terminer sign a statement of apology for their role in the witch trials. In addition, Samuel Sewall, who served as a magistrate in 1692, stands before his congregation while his minister reads a prepared statement aloud. In this declaration, Sewall acknowledges his feelings of shame for his role in the witchcraft trials and asks God to pardon his sins.
1698- A new minister, the 22-year-old Joseph Green, is ordained as the minister of Salem Village. Reverend Green tries to bring peace and reconciliation to his parishioners, and rearranges the seating within the meeting house so that the families of the accusers and accused are sitting side-by-side.
August 26, 1706– At the age of 27, Ann Putnam Jr. wishes to join the Salem Village church. On this day, she stands before the congregation as Reverend Green reads aloud her statement of faith. In her declaration, she apologizes for her role in the witchcraft trials. Though she attributes her actions to a delusion of the devil, Ann Putnam Jr. is the only afflicted witness to publicly acknowledge her wrongdoing in the years after the witchcraft trials.
October 17, 1711– Massachusetts legislature approves the reversal of the attainder (restores the civil liberties) of twelve of those individuals who were executed, and seven of those who were condemned but not executed in 1692. While an important step, not all those convicted of witchcraft are recognized by this resolution.
1945- A bill is introduced into legislature to clear the six remaining names of those convicted during the Salem witch trials. This bill is championed by descendants of Ann Pudeator. Twelve years later, in 1957 a resolution is finally passed that pardons “Ann Pudeator and certain other persons.” However, these “other persons” are not yet formally named in legislature.
October 2001- The known missing names are finally added to the 1957 resolve. As such, Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott, and Wilmott Redd are formally cleared of all witchcraft charges. This is an important acknowledgment of the wrongdoings and significance of the events that took place in 1692.
August 2021- Though it was believed the proceedings in October 2001 had cleared the names of all of those wrongly convicted of witchcraft in 1692, it is discovered that one name has erroneously been overlooked. Thanks to the work of historian Richard Hite, and the efforts of an eight-grade class in North Andover, MA, legislature is introduced to clear the name of Elizabeth Johnson Jr.