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Salem Witch Trials Timeline

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Salem Witch Trials Timeline
Salem Witch Trial

Salem Witch Trial - Disorder in the Court

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The events of 1692 in Salem Village, resulting in 185 accused of witchcraft, 156 formally charged, 47 confessions and 19 executed by hanging, remain one of the most studied phenomena in colonial American history. Far more women than men were among the accused, convicted and executed. Before 1692, the British colonists had only executed 12 people in all of New England for witchcraft.

This timeline shows the major events leading up to, during and following the Salem witch accusations and trials. If you want to skip to the first strange behavior of the girls involved, start with January 1692. If you want to skip to the first accusations of witches, start with February 1692. The first examination by judges began in March 1692, the first actual trials were in May 1692 and the first execution was in June 1692. The page below gives a rich introduction to the environment which may have fostered the accusations and executions.

The chronology includes a representative sampling of the events, and is not meant to be complete or include every detail. Note that some dates are given differently in different sources, and that names are given differently (even in contemporary sources, a time when the spelling of names was often inconsistent). Consult the bibliography for a variety of sources used in developing this timeline and for additional reading: Salem Witch Trials Bibliography

Timeline:  Before 1692 | January 1692 | February 1692 | March 1692 | April 1692 | May 1692 | June 1692 | July 1692 | August 1692 | September 1692 | October 1692 | November/December 1692 | 1693 | The Aftermath

Before 1692: Events Leading Up to the Salem Witch Trials

1627: Guide to the Grand-Jury Men published by Rev. Richard Bernard in England, which included guidance for prosecuting witches. The text was used by the judges in Salem.

1628: Salem was established with the arrival of John Endecott and about 100 others.

1636: Salem banished clergyman Roger Williams, who went on to found the colony of Rhode Island.

1638: A small group settled about 5 miles outside of Salem town, in what became Salem Village.

1641: England established a capital penalty for witchcraft.

June 15, 1648: First execution for witchcraft known in New England: Margaret Jones of Charlestown in Massachusetts Bay Colony, a herbalist, midwife and self-described physician

1656: Thomas Ady published A Candle in the Dark, critical of witchcraft prosecutions. He published A Perfect Discovery of Witches in 1661 and The Doctrine of Devils in 1676. George Burroughs used one or more of these in his trial in 1692, attempting to refute the charges against him.

April 1661: Charles II regained the throne of England and ended the Puritan Commonwealth.

1662: Richard Mather drafted a proposal, adopted by the Massachusetts Puritan churches, called the Half-Way Covenant, distinguishing between full covenanted membership in the church and "half-way" membership for their children until they were able to become full members.

1668: Joseph Glanvill published "Against Modern Sadducism" which argued that those who did not believe in witches, apparitions, spirits and demons thereby denied the existence of God and angels, and were heretics.

1669: Susannah Martin was accused of witchcraft in Salisbury, Massachusetts. She was convicted, but a higher court dismissed the charges.

October 8, 1672: Salem Village separated from Salem Town, and was authorized by a General Court order to tax for public improvements, hire a minister and build a meetinghouse. Salem Village remained more focused on agriculture and Salem Town centered on a more mercantile identity.

Spring 1673: Salem Village meetinghouse raised.

1673 - 1679: James Bayley served as minister of the Salem Village church. Controversy over whether to ordain Bayley, over failure to pay and even for slander made their way into lawsuits. Because Salem Village was not yet fully a town or church, Salem Town had a say on the future of the minister.

1679: Simon Bradstreet became governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bridget Bishop of Salem Village was accused of witchcraft, but the Rev. John Hale testified for her and the charges were dropped.

1680: In Newbury, Elizabeth Morse was accused of witchcraft. She was convicted and sentenced to death, but was reprieved.

May 12, 1680: the Puritan churches assembled at Boston consented to gathering the Salem Village church, a decision drawn on in 1689 when the Salem Village church was formally gathered.

1680 - 1683: Rev. George Burroughs, a 1670 Harvard graduate, served as minister of the Salem Village church. His wife died in 1681, and he remarried. As with his predecessor, the church would not ordain him, and he left in a bitter salary fight, at one point being arrested for debt. John Hathorne served on the church committee to find Burroughs' replacement.

October 23, 1684: The Massachusetts Bay Colony charter was annulled and self-government ended. Sir Edmund Andros was appointed governor of the newly-defined Dominion of New England; he was pro-Anglican and unpopular in Massachusetts.

1684: Rev. Deodat Lawson became the minister in Salem Village.

1685: News of the end of Massachusetts self-government reached Boston.

1685: Cotton Mather was ordained. He was the son of Boston's North Church minister Increase Mather , and joined his father there.

1687: Bridget Bishop of Salem Village was accused for a second time of witchcraft and acquitted.

1688: Ann Glover, an Irish-born Gaelic-speaking Roman Catholic housekeeper for the Goodwin family in Boston, was accused of witchcraft by the Goodwins' daughter Martha. Martha and several siblings had exhibited strange behavior: fits, flapping of hands, animal-like movements and sounds, and strange contortions. Glover was tried and convicted of witchcraft, with language being something of a barrier in the trial. "Goody Glover" was hanged on November 16, 1688 for witchcraft. After the trial, Martha Goodwin lived at the home of Cotton Mather, who soon wrote about the case. (In 1988, Boston City Council proclaimed November 16 Goody Glover Day.)

1688: France and England began the Nine Years' War (1688-1697). When this war manifested as outbreaks in America, it was called King William's War, the first of a series of French and Indian Wars. Because there had been another conflict between the colonists and the Indians earlier, not involving the French and usually called King Philip's War, these outbreaks of the Nine Years' War in America sometimes were called the Second Indian War.

1687 - 1688: Rev. Deodat Lawson left as Salem Village's minister. While he, too, was not fully paid and was not ordained by Salem Town church, he left with some but less controversy than that of his predecessors. His wife and daughter died just before he left the post. He became a minister in Boston.

June 1688: Rev. Samuel Parris arrived in Salem Village as a candidate for the position of Salem Village minister. He would be their first fully ordained minister.

1688: King James II, remarried to a Catholic, had a son and new heir who would replace James' older and Protestant daughters in the succession. William of Orange, married to the elder daughter Mary, invaded England and removed James from the throne.

1689 - 1697: Indian raids in New England were launched at the instigation of New France. French soldiers sometimes led the raids.

1689: Increase Mather and Sir William Phips petitioned William and Mary, newly rulers of England after James II was deposed in 1688, to restore the charter of the Massachusetts colony

1689: Former Governor Simon Bradstreet, removed when England revoked the charter for Massachusetts and appointed a governor for the Dominion of New England, may have helped organize a mob in Boston that led to Andros' surrender and jailing. The English recalled the New England governor, and reappointed Bradstreet as Massachusetts governor, but without a valid charter, he had no real authority to govern.

1689: Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions by Rev. Cotton Mather was published, describing the Boston case from the previous year involving "Goody Glover" and Martha Goodwin.

1689: Benjamin Holton died in Salem Village, and the doctor attending could not identify a cause of death. This death was later brought out as evidence against Rebecca Nurse in 1692.

April 1689: Rev. Parris was formally called as the minister at Salem Village.

October 1689: Salem Village church granted Rev. Parris a full deed to the parsonage, apparently in violation of the congregation's own rules.

November 19, 1689: The church covenant was signed, including Rev. Parris, 27 full members.

November 19, 1689: Rev. Samuel Parris was ordained at Salem Village church, with Nicholas Noyes, minister at Salem Town church, presiding.

February 1690: The French in Canada sent a war party mainly made up of Abenaki that killed 60 at Schenectady, New York, and took at least 80 captive.

March 1690: Another war party killed 30 in New Hampshire and captured 44.

April 1690: Sir William Phips led an expedition against Port Royal and, after two failed attempts, Port Royal surrendered. Captives were traded for hostages taken by the French in previous battles. In another battle, the French took Fort Loyal in Falmouth, Maine, and killed most of the residents, burning the town. Some of those fleeing went to Salem. Mercy Lewis, orphaned in one of the attacks on Falmouth, first worked for George Burroughs in Maine, and then joined the Putmans in Salem Village. One theory is that she saw her parents killed.

April 27, 1690: Giles Corey, twice a widower, and unmarried since his wife Mary died in 1684, married his third wife. Martha Corey already had a son named Thomas.

June 1691: Ann Putnam Sr. joined the Salem Village church.

June 9, 1691: Indians attacked in several places in New York.

1691: William and Mary replaced the Massachusetts Bay Colony charter with a new one establishing the Province of Massachusetts Bay. They appointed Sir William Phips, who had come to England to gather help against Canada, as royal governor. Simon Bradstreet refused a seat on the governor's council and retired to his home in Salem.

October 8, 1691: Rev. Samuel Parris asked the church to provide more firewood for his house, stating that the only wood he had was donated by Mr. Corwin.

October 16, 1691: In England, a new charter for the Province of Massachusetts Bay was approved.

Also on October 16, 1691: At a Salem Village town meeting, members of one faction in a growing church conflict promised to stop paying the church's minister, Rev. Samuel Parris. Those supporting him generally wanted more separation from Salem Town; those opposing him generally wanted closer association with Salem Town; there were other issues that tended to polarize around the same lines. Parris began to preach about a Satanic conspiracy in town against him and the church.

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