|Colonial American History Stories - 1665 - 1753|
On February 29, 1692, Judge John Hathorne issued warrants for Tituba, a slave, for practicing witchcraft. The next day magistrates examined her at Nathaniel Ingersoll's tavern in Salem Village. The testimony delivered during this examination would set Salem Village on edge. It would also launch the infamous Salem Witch Trials.
The first accused was a slave owned by Rev. Samuel Parris. Historians have speculated more about her than they have actually established as fact. Many think she had roots in an Arawak Village in South America, from which she was abducted and sold as a slave. Others think she had African origins because her name appears to be Yoruba. These people live in southwestern Nigeria in Africa. They do know that Reverend Parris purchased her in Barbados when he lived there. He also purchased two other slaves, John Indian and a boy whose name has escaped history. She was the first accused and the first to confess to the crime of witchcraft. Many say that her owner, Reverend Parris, beat her until she confessed.
Sarah Osborn was a widow of Robert Prince, who had died in 1674, leaving her with three children, Joseph, James, and Elizabeth. Robert's sister had married into the powerful Putnam family. After his death, legal problems from this family afflicted her. The community considered her an outcast. This was because she had not attended church in almost three years because of a long illness. The judge signed her arrest warrant on March 1, 1692. The authorities arrested her and sent her to a Boston jail for the duration of the trials.
Sarah Good was also the product of unfortunate circumstances. Her father had been wealthy, but she had not received any inheritance from him when he died in 1672. Her marriage to Daniel Poole left her with huge debts when he died. Her new husband, William Good, could not handle the debt. Reduced to poverty and homelessness, they begged for work, food, and shelter.
Three local girls, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr. and Betty Parris, became ill in early 1692. Their symptoms included involuntary convulsions. While convulsing their eyes rolled into the back of their heads and their mouth hung open. The girls asserted that something pinched, bit and abused them during these episodes. A local doctor and a minister examined the three girls. They diagnosed that an “Evil Hand” caused the girl’s afflictions. The girls accused Tituba as the source of their problems.
After her arrest, Tabita accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne as being in league with her during her interrogation. With the prospect of three witches living in their midst, the townspeople began a massive witch-hunt. During the hysteria that followed many fantastic accusations flew about. The authorities arrested many other men and women during this troubled time.
The trials began with the initial accusations in February 1692 and concluded in May 1693. The trials eventually consumed over twenty men and women in several area towns. Nineteen received hanging as their sentence. One died of being "prest to death,." This execution method consisted of an accused held on the ground while someone put heavy objects on their chest. They increased the weights until the accused either confessed or died. Five people died in jail awaiting trial. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn were hanged. Because she had confessed, Tabita never went to trial and was not hanged. After the trials, an unknown person paid her jail fees and took her away. She has disappeared from history.
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