Bridget Bishop

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Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop, as depicted in a lithograph
Bishop, as depicted in a lithograph
Born Bridget Playfer
c. 1632
England
Died June 10, 1692 (aged 59 or 60)
Salem, Colony of Massachusetts
Nationality English
Other names Wasselbe, Wasselby, Waselby, Waselby, Wasselbee, Wesselbee, Hayfer; Goody Oliver, Goody Bishop
Occupation Housewife
Criminal charge Witchcraft, Conspiracy with the Devil (rehabilitated)
Criminal penalty Execution by hanging
Criminal status Vacated

Bridget Bishop (c. 1632 — June 10, 1692) was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692. All together, about 72 people were accused and tried, while 19 others were executed and suffered the same fate.

Bishop may have been accused because she stood to inherit from her deceased husband. She was said to own a tavern in her home, where shuffleboard was played and minors were served. She deliberately dressed differently, in a trademark red tunic, and was very outspoken.[1]

Recent historical interpretation[edit]

One interpretation of the historical record suggests that she was a resident of Salem Town and thus not the tavern owner. Perhaps she did not know her accusers. This would be supported in her deposition in Salem Village before the authorities stating, "I never saw these persons before, nor I never was in this place before."[2] The indictments against her clearly note that she was from "Salem"[3] which meant Salem Town, as other indictments against residents of Salem Village specified their locations as such.[4]

Traditional historical interpretation[edit]

“'Goodwife Bishop her Neighb'r wife of Edw: Bishop Jun'r might not be permitted to receive the Lords Supper in our church till she had given her the said Trask satisfaction for some offences that were against her .viz because the said Bishop did entertaine people in her house at unseasonable houres in the night to keep drinking and playing at shovel-board whereby discord did arise in other families & young people were in danger to bee corrupted & that the s'd Trask knew these things & had once gon into the house & fynding some at shovel-board had taken the peices thay played with & thrown them into the fyre & had reprooved the said Bishop for promoting such disorders, But received no satisfaction from her about it”

— John Hawthorn and Jonath Corwin, Bridget Bishop Executed, June 10, 1692: The Examination of Bridget Byshop at Salem Village 19. Apr. 1692 [5]

Family[edit]

Bridget's maiden name appears to have been Playfer. She was married three times. She married her first husband Captain Samuel Wesselby on 13 April 1660, at St. Mary-in-the-Marsh, Norwich, Norfolkshire, England.[6]

She had one son and one daughter from her first marriage, Benjamin[7] and Mary[8] She had another daughter from her marriage to Thomas Oliver, Christian Oliver (sometimes spelled Chrestian), born 8 May 1667.[9]

Her second marriage on 26 July 1666 [10] was to Thomas Oliver, a widower and prominent businessman. She was earlier accused of bewitching Thomas Oliver to death, but was acquitted for lack of evidence. Her last marriage circa 1687 was to Edward Bishop, a prosperous sawyer, whose family lived in Beverly.[citation needed][11]

Nature of allegations[edit]

Bishop was accused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard, on the date of her examination by the authorities, 19 April 1692.

A record was given of her trial by Cotton Mather in "The Wonders of the Invisible World." In his book, Mather recorded that several people testified against Bishop, stating that the shape of Bishop would pinch, choke or bite them. The shape also threatened to drown one victim if she did not write her name in a certain book. During the trial, anytime Bishop would look upon one of those supposed to be tortured by her, they would be immediately struck down and only her touch would revive them. More allegations were made during the trial including that of a woman saying that the apparition of Bishop tore her coat, upon further examination her coat was found to be torn in the exact spot. Mather mentions that the truth of these many accusations carried too much suspicion, however.

William Stacy, a middle aged man in Salem Town, testified that Bishop had previously made statements to him that other people in the town considered her to be a witch. He confronted her with the allegation that she was using witchcraft to torment him, which she denied. Another local man, Samuel Shattuck, accused Bishop of bewitching his child and also of striking his son with a spade. He also testified that Bishop asked him to dye lace, which apparently was too small to be used on anything but a poppet (doll used in spell-casting). John and William Bly, father and son, testified about finding poppets in Bishop's house and also about their cat that appeared to be bewitched, or poisoned, after a dispute with Bishop. Other victims of Bishop, as recorded by Mather, include Deliverance Hobbs, John Cook, Samuel Gray, Richard Coman, and John Louder.[citation needed][12]

During her sentencing, a jury of women found a third nipple upon Bishop (then considered a sure sign of witchcraft), yet upon a second examination the nipple was not found. In the end Mather states that the biggest thing that condemned Bishop was the gross amount of lying she committed in court. According to Mather, "there was little occasion to prove the witchcraft, it being evident and notorious to all beholders." Bishop was sentenced to death and hanged.[citation needed][13][14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://paganwiccan.about.com/od/wiccanpaganhistory/p/Bridget_Bishop.htm for an example of this historical research.
  2. ^ "The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692/edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum". Etext.virginia.edu. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  3. ^ "The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 1 : verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692/edited by Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum". Etext.virginia.edu. Archived from the original on 2012-07-12. Retrieved 2011-06-02. 
  4. ^ See the indictment against Sarah Good, a resident of Salem Village http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=BoySal2.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/oldsalem&tag=public&part=29&division=div2[permanent dead link]
  5. ^ Bridget Bishop Executed, June 10, 1692: 'The Examination of Bridget Byshop at Salem Village 19. Apr. 1692', by John Hauthorn & Jonath Corwin Esq'rs.
  6. ^ Anderson, Robert Charles. "Bridget (Playfer) (Wasselbe) (Oliver) Bishop", The American Genealogist (October 1989), 64: 207. [https://books.google.com/books?id=QfwnAQAAMAAJ&dq=playfer+genealogy&focus=searchwithinvolume&q=wasselbeeThe American Genealogist
  7. ^ "England Deaths and Burials, 1538-1991" (Benjamin Waselby), Middlesex, England; Burial Date:26 Sep 1664.
  8. ^ "Massachusetts Births and Christenings, 1639-1915", BOSTON, SUFFOLK, MASSACHUSETTS; 10 Jan 1665.
  9. ^ Vital Records of the Town of Salem, Volume 1, Births, Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1916.
  10. ^ Vital Records of the Town of Salem. Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1924.
  11. ^ Rosenthal, Bernard (1995-09-29). Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521558204. 
  12. ^ Hall, David D. (2005-02-04). Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England: A Documentary History 1638–1693, Second Edition. Duke University Press. ISBN 0822336138. 
  13. ^ Findling, John E.; Thackeray, Frank W. (2000-01-01). Events that Changed America Through the Seventeenth Century. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313290831. 
  14. ^ Warnke, Mike (1972). The Satan Seller. Logos International. p. 91. ISBN 0-912106-79-4. A witch with a long family tree. An ancestor of hers by the same name was hanged there June 10, 1692, but don't sweat it, Mike, they don't do that anymore. 

Further reading[edit]

+Boyer, Paul S.; Nissenbaum, Stephen (1999). Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. USA & UK: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674785267. 

  • Hearn, Daniel Allen (1976). Legal Executions in New England: A Comprehensive Reference, 1623-1960. Boston: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3248-6. 
  • Cooke, William H. (2009). Justice at Salem. Undertaker Press. 
  • Goss, K. David (2007). The Salem Witch Trials: A Reference Guide. Greenwood. ISBN 0-313-32095-0. 
  • Hill, Francis (2000). The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Da Capo Press. 
  • Karlsen, Carol F. (1998). The Devil in the Shape of a Woman. WW Norton & Company. ISBN 9780393317596. 
  • Rosenthal, Bernard (1993). Salem Story: reading the witch trials of 1692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521558204. 
  • Savage, James (1860). A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England. Boston, MA: Little Brown & Co. 
  • Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft: Volume I. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. 143, 191–7. 
  • Upham, Charles (1980). Salem Witchcraft: Volume II. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. pp. 114, 125–8, 253, 256–7, 463. 
  • Wilson, Jennifer M. (2005). Witch. ISBN 1-4208-2109-1. 
  • Vital Records of the Town of Salem. Salem, MA: Essex Institute. 1924. 
  • The Wonders of the Invisible World. London, UK: John Russell Smith. 1862. 
  • The Salem Witchcraft Papers on Bridget Bishop