Within his duties as High Sheriff, George Corwin also oversaw the gruesome death of Giles Corey. After refusing to comply with court procedure, Giles Corey was condemned to peine forte et dure. This extreme measure entailed laying the 81 year old Corey on his back, and piling heavier and heavier weights on a plank across his body. According to some reports, when Corey’s tongue lolled out of his mouth as a result of the weight on his chest, Corwin callously used his walking stick to poke the tongue back in – a disturbing image. Given the shocking nature of his demise, as time has gone on a legend has grown surrounding Corey’s death. This tale claims with his last breath Giles Corey cursed Sheriff Corwin and the town of Salem. There is no evidence to suggest Corey ever uttered these words, but this has become a popular legend surrounding the Sheriff.
Another myth surrounding George Corwin involves Philip English, the wealthiest merchant in Salem, who, along with his wife Mary, was accused of witchcraft. English’s wealth was such that he was able to flee to New York City, where he remained until the witchcraft accusations passed. Upon his return to Salem, he discovered that George Corwin (along with some of English’s own neighbors) had confiscated his belongings – from his home, warehouses, wharves, and shop. Furious at the degradation of his life’s work, English sued Corwin repeatedly, for years, in an effort to regain his property. Ultimately, Corwin died before English had obtained any satisfaction from his legal efforts. In a wild and desperate measure, English went so far as to threaten to steal Corwin’s corpse and hold it for ransom. While most scholars believe this theft did not actually happen, legends grew. This tale is often retold, claiming that English DID snatch the body, or that Corwin was buried in his own basement for years, for fear he would be stolen from his grave. In truth, Corwin was interred in the Broad Street Cemetery.
Additional note: There are numerous myths around George Corwin, including the idea that he tortured prisoners in his basement, and that he, or his victims, haunt the site to this day. There is no evidence to substantiate the claim that Corwin was torturing prisoners, nor that this was taking place within his own home. However, today popular tradition maintains that the Joshua Ward House is the most haunted house in Salem.
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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.