William TOWNE Francis NURSE John NURSE Rebecca NURSE Sarah NURSE Samuel NURSE Nathaniel NURSE Michael NURSE Mary NURSE Isaac NURSE Jacob NURSE Suzanne NURSE Francis NURSE Elizabeth NURSE Benjamin NURSE John TOWNE Susanna TOWNE Edmund TOWNE Jacob TOWNE Mary TOWNE Joseph TOWNE Sarah TOWNE Joanna BLESSING Mini tree diagram

Rebecca TOWNE2

also known as Rebecca TOWNE1,2

also known as Rebecca TOWNE2

21st Feb 16212 - 19th Jul 16922,2,2

Life History

21st Feb 1621

Born in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.1,2,2

(most likely)

21st Feb 1621

Born in St Nicholas, Gt Yarmouth, Norfolk, England.2

(less likely)

24th Aug 1644

Married Francis NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of son John NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of daughter Rebecca NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2


Birth of daughter Sarah NURSE in Marblehead, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2,2

3rd Feb 1649

Birth of son Samuel NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of son Michael NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2


Birth of son Nathaniel NURSE in Salem Village, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of daughter Mary NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2


Birth of son Isaac NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of son Jacob NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Birth of daughter Suzanne NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2

3rd Feb 1660

Birth of son Francis NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2

9th Jan 1665

Birth of daughter Elizabeth NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2

26th Jan 1665

Birth of son Benjamin NURSE in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2


Death of son Michael NURSE in SL.2,2


Death of son Nathaniel NURSE.2


Death of daughter Sarah NURSE.2

19th Jul 1692

Died in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA.2,2,2


  • Rebecca (Towne) Nurse was baptized at Yarmouth, England, on February21, 1621/22, the daughter of
    William Towne and Joanna Blessing. She came to Salem with her familyin 1640. In about 1645, she married Francis Nurse, who was born inEngland between 1618 and 1620. Francis was a tray maker who probablyalso made other wooden household items. He was Salem's constable in1672.

    In 1692, the "black cloud of the witchcraft delusion descended uponSalem Village." Rebecca was a 71-year old invalid who had raised afamily of eight children. The Nurse family had been involved inseveral land disputes which could have caused ill-feeling among someof the residents of Salem. Nevertheless, most of her contemporariessympathized with her. The dignity and nobility of her character whichshe showed throughout the trials undoubtedly helped turn publicopinion against the trials. Her story is well-known, and has beenwritten in many historical and fictionalized accounts of the trials,including Arthur Miller's play The Crucible.

    Soon after the first of the women had been accused of witchcraft,Rebecca Nurse discovered that her name had also been mentioned as asuspect. She is reported to have said "I am innocent as the childunborn, but surely, what sin hath God found out in me unrepented ofthat He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age." On March23 a warrant was issued for her arrest upon the complaint of Edwardand John Putnam. (The Putnam family was among those that had beeninvolved in land disputes with Rebecca and her husband.)

    As in other cases, Rebecca's examination by judges was accompanied by"great noyses by the afflicted."
    She repeated her assertion that she was innocent but was committed tothe Salem jail. Needless to say, the procedure was a travesty ofjustice. Belief in witchcraft was widespread in New England at thattime, but even in that climate it is surprising that convictions couldoccur as a result of hearsay, slander and hysteria.

    Rebecca was indicted on June 2 and subjected to a physical examinationby a jury of women. They found
    what a majority of them believed to be a mark of the devil -- althoughtwo of the women disagreed, saying the mark was due to natural causes.Rebecca asked that others examine her before she was brought to trial,but the request was denied.

    Rebecca Nurse was tried on June 29, 1692. Her accusers included thefour young girls who initiated the
    witchcraft hysteria in Salem, Rev. Parris and several members of thePutnam family. Rebecca's son, son-inlaw and daughter-in -law spoke inher defense. In addition, some 40 members of Salem Village signed adeclaration defending her character.

    The jury at first returned a verdict of "not guilty." Some who hadbeen accused confessed to practicing
    witchcraft in hopes that their death sentences would be dropped. Oneof these women, Goody Hobbs, had muttered "she is one of us." In lightof this the judge asked that the verdict be reconsidered. When Rebeccawas asked what Goody Hobbs had meant, she didn't answer. Later shesaid that she had not heard the question, as she was hard of hearing,and that "one of us" had meant that they were imprisoned together.

    The Governor granted a reprieve, but when Rebecca's accusers renewedtheir outcry it was withdrawn.

    On July 3, Rebecca Nurse was excommunicated -- "abandoned to the deviland eternally damned." On July 19 she was driven in a cart with fourother women to Gallows Hill where she was hung. Tradition says that atmidnight Francis Nurse, his sons and sons-in-law found Rebecca's bodyin the common grave where it had been flung and carried it home for aproper burial.
    One of Rebecca's sisters, Mary (Towne) Estey, was also hung on chargesof being a witch. The last of the executions in Salem took place inSeptember 1692. In all, 20 people were put to death (including fivemen), and eight others died in jail. The trials ended perhaps becausetoo many people of good reputation had been accused. By 1703 theGeneral Court made payments to the heirs of the victims and 25 poundswas paid to the heirs of Rebecca Nurse. In 1706, Ann Putnam, one ofthe original four hysterical young women, made a written statement ofremorse. She said that the devil had deceived her into accusinginnocent people and mentioned "Goodwife Nurse" in particular. In 1712the pastor who had cast Rebecca out of the church formally cancelledthe excommunication.

    Francis Nurse survived until November 22, 1695. The house where he andRebecca lived still stands and is maintained by an historical society.


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