George Burroughs (c. 1652 – August 19, 1692), was born in Suffolk, England. At a young age he left England for Massachusetts. There he was raised by his mother in the town of Roxbury. American Congregational pastor, graduated from Harvard College in 1670, and became the minister of Salem Village (now Danvers, Massachusetts) in 1680, a charge which he held until 1683. He lived at Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) until it was destroyed by the Wabanaki in 1690. Burroughs then moved to Wells, Maine. In May 1692, during the Salem witch trials, based on the accusation of some of his personal enemies from his former congregation who had sued him for debt, Burroughs was arrested and charged, among other offenses, with extraordinary weight lifting (lifted a musket with a finger in the barrel), and such feats of strength as could not be done without diabolical assistance.
Execution and aftermath
George Burroughs was executed on Witches Hill, Salem, on the 19th of August, the only minister who suffered this extreme fate.
Though the jury found no witches' marks on his body he was convicted of witchcraft and conspiracy with the Devil. While standing on a ladder before the crowd, waiting to be hanged, he successfully recited the Lord's Prayer, something that was generally considered by the Court of Oyer and Terminer to be impossible for a witch to do. After he was hanged, Cotton Mather, a minister from Boston, reminded the crowd from atop his horse that Burroughs had been convicted in a court of law, and spoke convincingly enough that four more were executed after Burroughs. Below is the original account as first compiled and published in 1700 by Robert Calef in More Wonders of The Invisible World pages 103-104, and later reprinted or relied upon by others including Charles Wentworth Upham and George Lincoln Burr,
Mr. Burroughs was carried in a Cart with others, through the streets of Salem, to Execution. When he was upon the Ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his Innocency, with such Solemn and Serious Expressions as were to the Admiration of all present; his Prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord’s Prayer) was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness as such fervency of spirit, as was very Affecting, and drew Tears from many, so that if seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accusers said the black Man [Devil] stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off [hung], Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a Horse, addressed himself to the People, partly to declare that he [Mr. Burroughs] was no ordained Minister, partly to possess the People of his guilt, saying that the devil often had been transformed into the Angel of Light. And this did somewhat appease the People, and the Executions went on; when he [Mr. Burroughs] was cut down, he was dragged by a Halter to a Hole, or Grave, between the Rocks, about two feet deep; his Shirt and Breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of Trousers of one Executed put on his lower parts: he was so put in, together with Willard and Carrier, that one of his Hands, and his Chin, and a Foot of one of them, was left uncovered.—Robert Calef
- Nichols, Amy. "George Burroughs". Retrieved 10 January 2012.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "George Burroughs". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., 2 vv., v. 1 pp. 255, 278, 280, v. 2 pp. 140–163, 296-304, 319, 480, 482, 514.