Salem Witch Hunt

Salem Witch HuntIn the 17th-century the village of Salem, Massachusetts considered that the supernatural was  part of everyday life. Most people believed that Satan was present and active on Earth and blamed all their misfortunes in life, on the devil!  When events such as infant death, crop failures or New Englander’s just didn’t get along, many people  falsely accused their neighbors of practicing witchcraft. On DEBORAH WILBUR’S (wife of Jonathan Irish) branch of the family tree we have both ACCUSERS and ACCUSED!

Not all the accused witches actually lived in Salem and a total of nine women  from nearby Gloucester, Massachusetts were accused of witchcraft during the hysteria of 1692: ESTHER (DUTCH) ELWELL, Margaret Prince, Elizabeth Dicer, Joan Penney, Phoebe Day, Mary Rowe, Rachel Vinson. Abigail Rowe and Rebecca Dike.

ACCUSERS – The accusations began in September of 1692 when Gloucester resident EBENEZER BABSON (age 25) asked some of the afflicted Salem Village girls to visit his mother. At the time, ELINOR (HILL) BABSON (7X GGM) was complaining of spectral (phantom) visions of Indians and French soldiers. Upon visiting Elinor the girls accused  Elizabeth Austin Dicer and Margaret Prince of bewitching her. On behalf of his mother, Ebenezer filed charges against the two woman and they were put in prison in Salem.

ACCUSED – A warrant for the arrest of **ESTHER (Dutch) ELWELL daughter-in-law, of *ROBERT ELWELL (7X GGF,) along with ABIGAIL ROWE and REBECCA DIKE for killing a neighbor.

Fortunately for the accused  9 Gloucester women their  cases never went to trial because the use of spectral evidence was banned in October of 1692, and the special court set up to hear the Salem Witchcraft cases was disbanded. On December 15th  Elizabeth Austin Dicer and Margaret Prince were released from jail on their own recognizance, and  ESTHER (Dutch) ELWELL like most of the other accused from Gloucester was released due to lack of evidence. It is interesting to note that much like the accused of Salem the accused woman of Gloucester were also prominent, wealthy citizens, or troublemakers or relatives of other accused witches.

ACCUSER, EBENEZER BABSON (7XGGUNCLE) would DIE AT SEA a few years later in 1696,at age 29. After his death a story circulated about Ebenezer saving his nephew, Henry Whitham from a bear attack.  It was rumored that the five-year-old boy was playing in the “Neck” when he was suddenly attacked by a bear. His uncle Ebenezer seeing the attack and after a terrific struggle killed the bear with his fishing knife. Ebenezer then brought the bear onto the shore , skinned him and spread the skin on the rocks to dry. Gradually this neck of land, projecting out from Dock Square in Rockport, MA. became known as Bear Skin Neck. Today the “Neck” has become popular as an artist colony and has assumed an atmosphere unequaled by any spot on Cape Ann.

I strongly suspect that the story of “Bear Skin Neck” (SEE SHORT STORIES) was perpetuated by Ebenezer’s family’s need to create a good lasting memory of him.  For one thing, in 1696 when Ebenezer died, Henry Whitham would have been a one-year-old when the attack supposedly took place.  I’m sure it was Ebenezer’s mother and sister’s attempt to preserve his memory as being a HERO rather than as an ACCUSER in the Salem With Hunt.

ELINOR (HILL) BABSON died in Gloucester in 1713 at age 82.

 

*ROBERT ELWEEL – Common Ancestor and 10X great, grandfather to SARAH JESSICA PARKER 

 

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