Rebecca Nurse Homestead
Backstory and Context
The Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft. Hysteria soon spread after these accusations. The accused witches were brought before the magistrate and questioned. The daughter and niece of the minister of Salem, Samuel Parris, began having fits and the local doctor diagnosed bewitchment. After this diagnoses, other young girls in the community began to exhibit similar symptoms. The first three accused were local women- homeless beggar Sarah Good, elderly Sarah Osborn, and slave to the minister, Tituba. Tituba confessed and claimed there were other witches acting alongside her in service of the devil.
As hysteria spread through the community, a number of others were accused including Rebecca Nurse- who was regarded as an upstanding member of church and community. Rebecca Nurse was one of eight children of William Towne. She married Francis Nurse in 1644. Together they had eight children- four sons and four daughters. She was known for her piety, but she was also known for losing her temper.
On March 19, Rebecca Nurse was accused of witchcraft, despite being a church member and a respected community member. A warrant was issued on March 23 for Nurse's arrest. Rebecca Nurse was accused by Mary Walcott, Mercy Lewis and Elizabeth Hubbard. Unlike many other accused, the magistrate showed signs of doubting her guilt because of her age (71), character, appearance, and professions of innocence. However, each time he would begin to waiver on the issue, someone in the crowd would heatedly accuse her or one of the afflicted girls would break into fits and claim Nurse was tormenting her. She was originally found not guilty by the court, but the when the courtroom protested, the jury reconsidered and Nurse was found guilty the second time. Nurse was sentenced to death on June 30th, she was excommunicated from the church on July 3rd, and was hung on July 19th, 1962.
The Nurse family were welcomed back to communion in the church in 1699, and fifteen years later Nurse's excommunication was revoked. In 1711, Nurse's family was compensated by the government for her wrongful death.