Last week a new memorial was dedicated to victims of the Salem witch trials. Wednesday, July 19 marked the 325th anniversary of the first five hangings, a number that would expand to 19 in a series of public executions.
In 1692, when children often died young, Rebecca Nurse’s lived. During the Salem witch trials, this was one of the reasons locals were convinced that Nurse was a witch, according to Benita Towle, her granddaughter nine generations removed.
“I was told that people were jealous of her,” said Towle, a Milford, Conn., resident.
Exactly 325 years since Nurse’s execution, dozens of people gathered at the spot of her death Wednesday for a dedication of the new Salem Witch Trials Memorial at Proctor’s Ledge, where 19 were executed because of accusations of witchcraft.
Wednesday’s event began at noon, around the same time the first of three mass executions took place on the site on July 19, 1692, when five women accused of witchcraft were hanged: Nurse, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, and Sarah Wildes. In addition to those executed at Proctor’s Ledge, at least five died in jail, and one was crushed to death.
I started out to write a brief acknowledgment of this new monument. But each time I turned my hand to it, the more the strange tendrils of this story tugged at me. Salem is iconic, not only for its tragic history, but for its enduring lessons about human nature.