Timeline for Salem witch hunts

Roger Conant statue in Salem, 1950s postcard

The Salem witch hunts within the scope of Massachusetts history.

1620: Plymouth Colony settled by Pilgrims.

1626: Roger Conant founded Salem, Massachusetts.

1630: Massachusetts Bay Colony founded.

1641: Massachusetts passed a statute making witchcraft a felony, punishable by death. According to surviving court records, more than 120 people were accused of witchcraft by 1691 in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire—and at least 10 were executed.

1672: Salem Village allowed to organize own parish church.

1675-1678: Indian wars in Massachusetts and what is now Maine.

1680-1683: Rev. George Burroughs minister at Salem Village.

1684: King Charles II revoked the Massachusetts Charter, putting the existing government of the colony in question.

1686: Sir Edmund Andros named governor of New England.

1688: Four Goodwin children are “afflicted” in Boston and accuse Goody Glover of being a witch; Glover is hanged. Wars began again with Wabanaki Indians in Maine.

1689: Governor Andros deposed and imprisoned by Colonists. Rev. Samuel Parris became minister in Salem Village. 

1691: Sir William Phips named governor of Massachusetts by the new English monarchs, William & Mary (who ousted King James II).

1692 January: Betty Parris, age 9, Abigail Williams, about age 11, and Ann Putnam Jr., 12, exhibit strange behavior in Salem Village.

1692 February: Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne are arrested as witches.

1692 May: The Court of Oyer and Terminer was established by Governor Phips to hear witchcraft cases. The court consisted of nine judges: Lt. Governor William Stoughton, Nathaniel Saltonstall, Wait-Still Winthrop, Peter Sergeant, John Richard, Samuel Sewall, Bartholomew Gedney, John Hathorne, and Jonathan Corwin. In June, Saltonstall resigned over the issue of spectral evidence; he was later accused of being a witch.

1692 June: Bridget Bishop tried, convicted, and hanged. Rev. Cotton Mather and other ministers question the use of spectral evidence.

1692 July: Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Sarah Wildes, Sarah Good, and Elizabeth How hanged.

1692 August: George Jacobs, Martha Carrier, Rev. George Burroughs, John Proctor, and John Willard hanged.

1692 September: Giles Corey pressed to death for refusing to answer in court to charges of witchcraft. Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, Wilmott Redd, Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker hanged.

1692 October: Rev. Increase Mather spoke against spectral evidence. Governor Phips dissolved Court of Oyer and Terminer. Some prisoners were released on bail, if they paid for their confinement, food, and the shackles they wore.

William Stoughton

1693 January: Witch trials began again. Some guilty verdicts were reached but Governor Phips did not allow judges to hang convicted witches.

1697 January: By order of the General Court of Massachusetts, there was a day of fasting and prayer for all the calamities that had befallen the colony. Judge Stoughton signed the proclamation, but would not allow references to the witch trials as part of its wording. Judge Samuel Sewall publicly admitted his “guilt” for his part in the witchcraft trials by having a statement read at the South Church in Boston. Twelve men who had been jurors during the witch trials asked pardon of God, of “the living sufferers,” and of “all whom we have justly offended” in Salem.

1697: Rev. Joseph Green became minister at the church in Salem Village, which started the healing process in this fractured community.

1699: War with Wabanaki Indians ended.

1703: Salem Village church rescinded excommunication of Martha Corey. Massachusetts legislature acquitted Abigail Faulkner and “sundry persons” of their convictions during the witch trials.

1706: Ann Putnam Jr. was received into full communion at the Salem Village Church after she confessed to being deluded by Satan in accusing innocent people of the crime of witchcraft.

1711: Reversal of Attainder nullified all witch trial judgments against George Burroughs, John Proctor, George Jacobs, John Willard, Giles and Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth How, Mary Easty, Sarah Wildes, Abigail Hobbs, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Martha Carrier, Abigail Faulkner, Ann Foster, Rebecca Eames, Mary Post, Mary Lacy, Mary Bradbury, and Dorcas Hoar. The government also paid reparations totaling 578 pounds to the victims or their families. Money was only given to those who asked to be reimbursed for expenses related to the trials and confinement.

1712: The Salem church reversed the excommunication of Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey.

1755: Salem Village incorporated as the town of Danvers.

1957: The Massachusetts General Court declared the innocence of Ann Pudeator “and certain other persons” for witchcraft.

1992: On the 300th anniversary of the witch trials, Salem and Danvers built memorials to the victims.

2001: Massachusetts resolution cleared the names of Bridget Bishop, Susannah Martin, Alice Parker, Wilmott Redd, and Margaret Scott, all of whom had not been specifically named in previous reversals of attainders.

2017: Proctor’s Ledge memorial dedicated, after researchers confirmed it as the site of the 1692 hangings.


first published in Genealogy Ink.