John Alden (sailor)
Captain John Alden Jr. (c. 1623 – March 14, 1701) was a seventeenth-century American soldier and sailor. He was a well-known public figure in his time but is now chiefly remembered as a survivor of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, of which he wrote a much quoted account.
He was the son of John Alden Sr. and Priscilla Mullins, who settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620, arriving on the Mayflower. He was a sea-captain, a merchant in Boston, and a charter member of Rev. Samuel Willard's Third Church in Boston; and held a military command during King William's War. He married Elizabeth Phillips Everill in 1660 and they had fourteen children. His tombstone is preserved at the portico there after having been discovered during excavations where it had been dumped after the removal of the graves.
In addition to the troubles at Salem he was involved in a number of scandals and controversies, which featured heavily in his trial for witchcraft. However the only one to bring much modern attention occurred in Salem, Massachusetts when he stopped there on his return home from Quebec, where he had gone in February 1692 to ransom British prisoners captured in the Candlemas attack on York, Maine. He was subsequently accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in May 1692. He had been inclined not to make much of the matter, but was prevailed upon by some friends and broke out of jail. He escaped to Duxbury, where he stayed with friends until, as he later said, "the public had reclaimed the use of its reason". When he returned, he was cleared by proclamation. The authorities do not seem to have searched for him with any diligence; one of the judges, Samuel Sewall, an old friend, is known to have expressed doubts about his guilt, and attended a prayer service at Alden's house in the hope of receiving guidance.
His vivid first hand narrative of the witchcraft trials was later published by Robert Calef in More Wonders of the Invisible World. Alden recounts how he appealed to his friend Bartholomew Gedney, one of the judges, to clear his character; Gedney replied coldly that he had always looked on Alden as an honest man, but now must alter his opinion. Alden said that he hoped in time to change Gedney's opinion again: unlike another socially prominent eyewitness, Nathaniel Cary, he never cast doubt on the judges' integrity, although he referred to the afflicted girls with contempt as " juggling wenches". As he noted, much of their alleged "evidence" against him- such as claims that he sold whiskey to the Indians and had Indian wives and children- was simply gossip which they had presumably picked up from their parents.
- Date on gravestone, See http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~dahling/aldenj.htm
- Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts 1949 Doubleday Edition p.180
- Francis, Richard Judge Sewell's Apology- the Salem Witch Trials and the Formation of a Conscience. Harper Perennial 2006 p.118
- Starkey p.145
- A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. James Savage, Boston MA: Little Brown & Co., 1860. v. 1
- Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft: Volume II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co..
- Robinson, Enders A. The Devil Discovered: Salem Witchcraft 1692. Waveland Press, Prospect Heights (IL), 1991. pp. 326–328.
- "Mayflower Families Through Five Generations", General Society of Mayflower Descendants,(1999), v. 16 pt 1 pp 27–36