Sarah was one of seven children born to William Averell[note 1] and Abigail Hynton, immigrants from Chipping Norton, England. She married English immigrant John Wildes (born 1616) and had a son, Ephraim. Ephraim held the positions of town treasurer and constable during the period of the conspiracy. Two of her step-daughters, Sarah (Wildes) Bishop and Phoebe (Wildes) Day, and a step-son-in-law, Edward Bishop Jr., were also accused of witchcraft.
Sarah had a reputation as a nonconformist in Puritan Massachusetts, with prior offences which may have made her an easy target for accusations of witchcraft. She was sentenced to be whipped for fornication with Thomas Wordell in November 1649, and later, in May of 1663, charged with wearing a silk scarf. Also, because she married John so soon after his first wife's death, John's former in-laws held something of a grudge against her. John Wildes testified against his first wife's brother, Lieutenant John Gould, in a treason trial, which further angered the family. Shortly after, John's ex-sister-in-law, Mary Goulds Reddington, began circulating rumors that Sarah was a witch. When John threatened to charge her with slander, she retracted her claims, however, the groundwork was laid for future charges of witchcraft. The Goulds were related to the Putnam family, the central accusers during the Salem Witch Trials.
Salem witch trials
Constable Ephraim Wildes was ordered by the Marshall, George Herrick, to arrest Deliverance Hobbs. Hobbs, whether through coercion or not, made a jailhouse confession and implicated Sarah Wildes as a witch. Ephraim himself testified that he seriously believed Hobbs' accusation to be vengeance against him for arresting her.
Sarah was condemned by the Court of Essex County for practicing witchcraft. She was executed by hanging in Salem, Massachusetts, along with Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Sarah Good, and Rebecca Nurse, on July 19, 1692 at 65 years of age. Since that time, all of the so-called "witches" have been formally pardoned of the hysterical accusations and subsequent convictions. The Salem Witch Trials Memorial includes a bench inscribed with her name.
- William is known to have spelled his name Averell, with a second "e", notably in the signature on his will, though his children and descendants often spelled the name Averill.
- Avery, Clara Arlette (1922). Supplement for Insertion in the Averell-Averill-Avery Family. p. 3. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
- "Sarah Wilds Executed July 19, 1692". Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. University of Virginia. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
- Robinson, Enders A. (1992). The Devil Discovered. Hippocrene Books. p. 295. Retrieved 30 December 2013.
Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co., v. 2, pp. 135, 268, 480.
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