Site of Bridget Bishop Home and Orchards
Bridget Playfer, born sometime in the mid-to-late 1630s in Norwich, England, married her first husband there in 1660. His name was Samuel Wasselbe (alternate spellings Wasselbee and Wasselby). It is unclear whether Wasselbe died before or after Bridget’s immigration to New England, but it is known that the child she was carrying from that union died in infancy in Massachusetts, and the father was already deceased. A previous child of the Wasselbes had died in England. Bridget married for the second time in 1666, this time to a widower named Thomas Oliver, who was also from Norwich, England. The Olivers made their home in Salem Town. The property fronted Washington Street, on the southeast corner of Washington and present-day Church Street (there was no street there in 1692) and included orchards that extended to the east past the location of the Salem Lyceum building, which today is Turner’s Seafood. The couple had one daughter, named Christian. Oliver had three grown children from his previous marriage. Oliver died in 1679 and, around 1685, Bridget married Bishop as husband number three. The Bishops continued to live on the Washington Street property. Bridget Bishop had lifetime rights to the property she inherited from Thomas Oliver, but it was officially “held for Bridget Bishop” by her new husband, Edward Bishop.
Bridget Bishop was a target of witchcraft accusations for a variety of reasons. There was gossip that she was responsible for the deaths of her first two husbands. She had been previously accused of witchcraft in 1679, when John Ingersoll’s slave Juan claimed her specter had pinched him, that she had stolen eggs, and that she had frightened horses. Ten neighbors now testified against her. Among the accusations were stories of her pressuring the afflicted girls to “sign the Devil’s book.” Men who had worked on her house in 1685 told of discovering poppets stuck with pins in her cellar wall, an example of “counter-magic.” Her specter was said to have visited several men at night. Samuel Shattuck, a dyer in Salem Town, thought she was making poppets because of the small pieces of lace she’d brought to him to dye. Shattuck and his wife also accused Bishop of bewitching their son and causing his declining health. Others claimed that small items went missing when Bishop was around – a spoon, money, a mill brass. After arguments with Bishop, trouble and disaster always seemed to follow. John Louder, who worked at the Ship Tavern, told of an argument after Bishop’s chickens got into the tavern’s gardens. He claimed to have seen a black pig and black imps in her yard, and even Bishop flying over her orchards afterward. When intimately examined on her trial date of June 2, a witch’s mark was reportedly found on her body. Cotton Mather reported that, on her way to trial, Bishop simply glanced at the Salem Meetinghouse, causing a board to tear from the wall inside and land some distance away.
Perhaps what made her neighbors most uncomfortable about Bishop had been her relationship with her second husband. While married to Thomas Oliver, Bridget gave every sign of being an abused wife. She would appear on the streets with bruises and scratches. However, it was believed that she was equally an abusive wife. The Olivers were known to verbally fight, and in public. Even on the Sabbath! The couple was once charged for that offense, and told to pay a fine or stand in the public square as punishment. Oliver’s daughter Mary paid the fine for her father, but declined payment for her stepmother. And so, Bridget was made to stand in the public square in penance for such behavior. Bridget Bishop was clearly a person who made others uncomfortable.
Bishop was convicted of witchcraft in short order. On June 10, Sheriff George Corwin escorted her from Salem jail, along Prison Lane to Main Street, and finally to “a spot of common pasture at the edge of town.” A crowd gathered. Bridget Bishop was “hanged by the neck until she was dead,” on Proctor’s Ledge at Gallows Hill, the first of 19 people to be executed. Was the worst over? Would this execution bring people to their senses? Sadly, it was not the end, but the beginning.
Bridget Bishop was among the last of the innocent victims to be exonerated, by legislation passed in 2001 in Massachusetts.
Additional note: Bridget’s daughter Christian married a man named Thomas Mason. According to historian Marilyn Roach, Christian had died by late 1693, because her husband was remarried to the widow of Thomas Greenslett, who was one of the executed Ann Pudeator’s sons.
Image of Bridget Bishop's death warrant found at the University Virginia Salem Witch Trials documents at http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/BoySalCombined?term=&div_id=BoySal1-n13.23&chapter_id=n13&name=stough
Bridget Bishop bench at the Salem Witch Trials Memorial
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Originally part of Salisbury, MA (1640), “New Town,” on the left bank of the Powwow River (a tributary of the Merrimack) officially became Amesbury in 1668.
The Old Burying Point Cemetery, also known as the Charter Street Cemetery, is the oldest cemetery in Salem, and one of the oldest in the United States. Opened in 1637, it is the final resting place of several Salem notables. (King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston is the oldest, founded in 1630.)
The only structure still standing in Salem that has a direct connection to the witchcraft trials and is open to the public is the Witch House, on the corner of Essex and North Streets. This home, built circa 1675, was the residence of Judge Jonathan Corwin in 1692.
This church was established In 1733 largely through the support of the wealthy Salem merchant Philip English. English was accused of witchcraft in 1692, but ultimately escaped from prison and fled to New York to wait out the witch trials.
Located just off Charter Street, on Liberty Street, is Salem’s simple yet dramatic memorial to the 20 victims of the witch trials of 1692. This memorial was erected to mark the 300th anniversary of the Salem witch trials. The Witch Trials Memorial was dedicated on August 5, 1992 by Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor, and author Elie Wiesel, who noted, “If I can’t stop all of the hate all over the world in all of the people, I can stop it in one place within me,” adding, “We still have our Salems.”
Samuel Sewall, a justice on the Court of Oyer and Terminer, is buried beneath a red sandstone table stone in the northwest portion of the cemetery (Plate 18). The stone’s surface is inscribed: “Honl. Judge Sewall’s Tomb Now the property of his Heirs Philip R. Ridgway 1810 Ralph Huntington 1812 No. 185 Ralph Huntington.”
Hale built this house in 1694 and lived here until his death on 15 May 1700. A graduate of Harvard College in 1657, Hale became minister of the First Church in Beverly in 1665, a position he held for over thirty years.
In 1692, North Andover was known simply as “Andover.” It became embroiled in the witchcraft in July 1692 when Joseph Ballard brought several of the afflicted girls there to determine the cause of his wife’s illness.
Located at the intersection of Tremont and School Streets. Two people connected with the witchcraft are buried here. Also remembered here are: Major General Wait Still Winthrop, Thomas Brattle, and Thomas Newton
In this ancient cemetery, beneath an imposing marble table stone adorned with skulls, lies buried William Stoughton, the chief justice of the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Stoughton was born in 1631 and graduated from Harvard College in 1650.
By 1692, widow Mary Gedney was licensed to “sell drink out-of-doors” from this home, earning money that helped support her children. Mary Gedney, as well as her sister-in-law, both provided refreshments for the jurors and witnesses during the Salem witch trials.
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.
Judge John Hathorne was one of the most vocal participants during the Salem witch trials. Judge Hathorne lived south of the Town House/Salem Courthouse in 1692, on present-day Washington Street, a short walk from home to court.
Bridget Bishop was not the first to be accused of witchcraft but she was the first to be executed for the crime in 1692. At the time of the trials, she was married to her third husband, the elderly sawyer Edward Bishop. When arrested, Bridget was living on the property she inherited from her second husband Thomas Oliver, on present-day Washington Street in Salem Town.
In 1692, the Salem jail was located on Prison Lane, today known as St. Peter Street. The building, at the corner of Prison Lane and County Street (present-day Federal Street) measured “thirteen feet stud, and twenty feet square, accommodated with a yard.”
Site of Reverend Higginson Home/Salem Witch Museum
In 1692, the property where the museum and one building on each side stand today belonged to Reverend John Higginson. It is believed his home was located close to the street, approximately where the museum is located. At 76, Reverend Higginson was the elderly minister of Salem, assisted by the 45-year-old Nicholas Noyes. Reverend Higginson’s adult daughter, Ann Dolliver, was accused of witchcraft during the hysteria, and imprisoned.
Just down the street from the Reverend John Higginson’s property (where the Salem Witch Museum is today) was the home of his son, Captain John Higginson Jr. He was sworn in as a new Salem magistrate in July of 1692.
There were many taverns in Salem in 1692, two of which were owned by the Beadle brothers, Thomas and Samuel. It was in Thomas Beadle’sTavern, on the south side of Main Street (present-day Essex Street) and east of Salem Common that some of the accused were detained.
The House of the Seven Gables/Turner-Ingersoll Mansion
In 1668, sea captain John Turner built a multi-room house on the Salem waterfront. This house eventually came into the possession of Susanna Ingersoll, who was often visited at her home by her younger cousin, Nathaniel Hawthorne.
A simple memorial, designed by landscape architect Martha Lyon, was dedicated on July 19, 2017, the 325th anniversary of the hangings of Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Wildes. Embedded in the semi-circular wall are stones engraved with the names of the nineteen victims.
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.