Timeline of the Salem witch trials
This timeline of the Salem witch trials is a quick overview of the events.
Preceding the initial outbreak
The behavior of several children in the home of the Goodwin family in Boston results in the accusation, trial and execution of their Irish washerwoman, Ann Glover (also known as "Goody Glover"), for witchcraft.
November: Samuel Parris is named the new minister of Salem. Parris moves to Salem from Boston, where Memorable Providences was published.
October 16: Villagers vow to drive Parris out of Salem and stop contributing to his salary.
Outbreak of accusations
January 20: Eleven-year-old Abigail Williams and nine-year-old Elizabeth Parris begin behaving much as the Goodwin children acted three years earlier. Soon Ann Putnam Jr. and other Salem girls begin acting similarly.
Mid-February: A local doctor (historically assumed to be Doctor Griggs), attends to the "afflicted" girls, and first suggests that witchcraft may be the cause.
c. February 25: Mary Sibley, a neighbor of the Parris family, tells John Indian, the husband of Tituba, the recipe to make a "witch cake" of rye meal and the girls' urine to feed to a dog in order to discover who is bewitching the girls, according to English folk "white magic" practices.
February 29: Based on formal complaints from Joseph Hutchinson, Thomas Putnam, Edward Putnam and Thomas Preston, Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin issue warrants to arrest Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba for afflicting Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard.
March 1–March 7: Magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin interrogate Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba over the course of several days. Tituba confesses to afflicting and confirms Good and Osborne are her co-conspirators.
March 12: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Martha Corey of witchcraft.
March 19: Abigail Williams denounces Rebecca Nurse as a witch.
March 21: Magistrates Hathorne and Corwin examine Martha Corey.
March 23: Salem Marshal Deputy Samuel Brabrook arrests four-year-old Dorothy Good.
March 28: Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft.
April 3: Sarah Cloyce, after defending her sister, Rebecca Nurse, is accused of witchcraft.
April 9: Kevin O'Brady, Michael Cote, and Curtis Flannery are accused of witchcraft by local Daniella DiIorio.
April 11: Sarah Cloyce and Elizabeth Proctor are examined before Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth and members of the Governor's Council. On the same day Elizabeth's husband, John Proctor, becomes the first man accused of witchcraft and is jailed.
Early April: The Proctors' servant and accuser, Mary Warren, admits to lying and accuses the other girls of lying.
April 13: Ann Putnam Jr. accuses Giles Corey of witchcraft and alleges that a man who died at Corey's house also haunts her.
April 19: Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey and Mary Warren are examined. Deliverance Hobbs confesses to practicing witchcraft. Mary Warren reverses her statement made in early April and rejoins the accusers.
April 22: Mary Easty, another of Rebecca Nurse's sisters who defended her, is examined by Hathorne and Corwin. Hathorne and Corwin also examine Nehemiah Abbott, William and Deliverance Hobbs, Edward and Sarah Bishop, Mary Black, Sarah Wildes and Mary English.
April 30: Several girls accuse former Salem minister George Burroughs of witchcraft.
May 2: Hathorne and Corwin examine Sarah Morey, Lyndia Dustin, Susannah Martin and Dorcas Hoar.
May 4: George Burroughs is arrested in Maine.
May 7: George Burroughs is returned to Salem and placed in jail.
May 9: Corwin and Hathorne examine Burroughs and Sarah Churchill. Burroughs is moved to a Boston jail.
May 10: Corwin and Hathorne examine George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter Margaret Jacobs. Sarah Osborne dies in prison.
May 14: The Reverend Increase Mather and Sir William Phips, the newly appointed governor of the colony, arrive in Boston. They bring with them a new charter establishing the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
May 18: Mary Easty is released from prison. Following protest by her accusers, she is again arrested. Roger Toothaker is also arrested on charges of witchcraft.
May 27: Phips issues a commission for a Court of Oyer and Terminer and appoints as judges John Hathorne, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Bartholomew Gedney, Peter Sergeant, Samuel Sewall, Wait Still Winthrop and Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton.
June 8: Bridget Bishop is the first to be tried and convicted of witchcraft. She is sentenced to death.
June 8: Eighteen year old Elizabeth Booth is accused of witchcraft.
June 10: Bridget Bishop is hanged at Gallows Hill. Following the hanging Nathaniel Saltonstall resigns from the court and is replaced by Corwin.
June 15: Cotton Mather writes a letter requesting the court not use spectral evidence as a standard and urging that the trials be speedy. The Court of Oyer and Terminer pays more attention to the request for speed and less attention to the criticism of spectral evidence.
June 16: Roger Toothaker dies in prison.
June 17: Chris Anzivino lands in Massachusetts, bringing with him Italian ideas on witchcraft.
July 19: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, Sarah Good and Sarah Wildes are hanged at Gallows Hill.
August 19: George Jacobs Sr., Martha Carrier, George Burroughs, John Willard and John Proctor are hanged on Gallows Hill. Elizabeth Proctor is not hanged because she is pregnant.
August 20: Margaret Jacobs recants the testimony that led to the execution of her grandfather George Jacobs Sr. and George Burroughs.
Mid-September: Giles Corey is indicted.
September 17: Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Abigail Faulkner, Rebecca Earnes, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster and Abigail Hobbs are tried and sentenced to hang. Sheriffs administer Peine Forte Et Dure (pressing) to Giles Corey after he refuses to enter a plea to the charges of witchcraft against him.
September 19: After two days under the weight, Giles Corey dies having been pressed to death.
September 21: Robert Mailea is accused of being a witch.
September 22: Martha Corey, Margaret Scott, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Willmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell and Mary Parker are hanged. Dorcas Hoar escapes execution by confessing.
October 12: Governor Phips writes the Privy Council of King William and Queen Mary saying that he has stopped the proceedings and referring to "what danger some of their innocent subjects might be exposed to, if the evidence of the afflicted persons only did prevail," i.e., "spectral evidence."
October 29: Phips prohibits further arrests, releases many accused witches, and dissolves the Court of Oyer and Terminer.
January: 49 of the 52 surviving people brought into court on witchcraft charges are released because their arrests were based on "spectral evidence."
Abigail Faulkner, Sr. requests that the Massachusetts General Court reverse the attainder on her name.
Ann Putnam Jr. stands before her church and offers an apology for her part in the witch trials.
Notes and references
- "Cotton Mather, "Memorable Providences, Relating to Witchcrafts and Possessions" (1689)".
- Dates prior to September 14, 1752, are in the Julian calendar. When reading primary sources, bear in mind that the legal year in England and the British Empire began on 25 March.
- Salem Village Church Record Book, 27. March 1692 http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/villgchurchrcrd.html
- Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds., The Salem Witchcraft Papers (hereafter SWP), Vol. I, DaCapo Press, 1977, pp. 248-255
- SWP, Vol. II, pp. 584-487
- Deodat Lawson, A Brief and True Narrative of Some Remarkable Passages Relating to Sundry Persons Afflicted by Witchcraft, at Salem Village Which happened from the Nineteenth of March to the Fifth of April 1692 as appears in George Lincoln Burr, ed., Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648-1706, p. 159 http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=Bur1Nar.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all
- Lawson, p. 160
- SWP Vol. 1, pp. 658-662.