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Salem Witch Trials

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

Samuel Abbey, was born in 1646, probably in Wenham, Massachusetts. He was the son of John Abbe. On October 12, 1672, in Wenham, Samuel married to Mary Knowlton, daughter of William and Elizabeth Knowlton.

Samuel was made Freeman in the 1680s. A freeman was debt-free and could own land, become a member of the church, and vote. He and Mary lived in Wenham until about 1682. They were members of the Salem Church until 1689 when they were dismissed to form one at Salem Village (now Danvers). They remained in Danvers for about 15 years, before returning to Wenham in 1697.

It was while they were living in Salem village that the infamous Salem witch trials took place there in 1692, ending in the execution of twenty accused witches, plus six who died in prison. Although none of the Abbys were accused of witchcraft, they knew both the accused and the accusers and Samuel Abby was one of many townspeople who gave written depositions regarding their experiences with them.

Samuel testified that he visited Thomas Putnam's home on May 20, 1692. The Putnam's had a servant named Mercy Lewis. Mercy had become a servant after her family was killed by an Indian attack during which she successfully hid herself. The dark memories of that horrific day, and the consequences of it, may have had an affect on Mercy's mental health.

Samuel testified that upon arriving at the home, Mercy was in bed, speechless, in a sad condition, and being assaulted and tormented by unseen forces. Mrs. Putnam asked him to go to fetch Mercy's friend, Ann Putnam, to see if she knew who was harming her. Samuel brought Ann Putnam and Abigail Williams back to see Mercy and along the way they told him that they had seen an apparition of "Goody Estick" (Mary Easty) who told them it was she who was afflicting Mercy. Upon arrival at the Putnam home, the girls reported that they saw the apparitions of John Willard and Mary Witheridge also afflicting the body of Mercy. John Willard was executed on August 19, 1692 and Mary Eastey's execution followed, on September 9, 1692. (From the Salem Witchcraft documents Volume 2 p. 41-42)

When Mary Easty's sister, Rebecca Nurse, was accused of witchcraft, Samuel and several other "respectable inhabitants" signed a document in her defense, testifying to her good character. The efforts delayed her death for a short time, but she was executed anyway on July 19, 1692.

Samuel gave testimony against Mrs. Sarah Good who was found guilty of witchcraft and hanged at the age of 39 on July 29, 1692. He testified that his family had allowed William and Sarah Good to live with them after they became homeless, but that she was such a turbulent spirit, spiteful and malicious, that they were forced to ask them to leave. He claimed that afterwards his cattle started dying in an unusual manner. He had lost 17 head of cattle within two years, plus sheep and hogs. He and his wife were convinced it was witchcraft. They claimed Sarah Good behaved crossly toward them, called their children vile names, and threatened them often. (From the Salem Witchcraft documents Volume 1 p. 24-25)

The Salem witch trials is a tragic story full of irony, but it was a valuable lesson and turning point for America. It demonstrated the dangers of a society in which people can make accusations leading to a conviction without evidence. The accused in these cases were guilty until proven innocent and the outcome proved regrettable later. After this, the protocol became "innocent until proven guilty", the protect the liberties of American citizens. Also, before the trials, the Puritan's plans were to make America a theocracy. Perhaps the events led them to realize that without omniscience, they cannot know people's hearts and therefore, cannot justly enforce such regulations.

Samuel died in March 1697-8, in Windham, Connecticut. After he died, Mary remarried to Abraham Mitchell, with whom she had one son, Daniel, who was born and died on December 10, 1700. Church records show Mary Mitchell, formerly Mary Abby, transferred from the Salem Village Church to Windham, Connecticut, in 1701.

Samuel's children were: Mary Abby, Samuel Abby, Thomas Abby, Elizabeth (Abby) Slate, Ebenezer Abby, Mercy (Abby) Ormsby, Sarah (Abby) Fowler, Hepzibah (Abby) Palmer, Abigail (Abby) Ormsby, John Abby, Benjamin Abby, and Jonathan Abby.

Samuel Abbe was the 6th great-grandfather of my great-grandmother, Mary (Harvey) Reese Gaul, making him my 9th great-grandfather. See the Harvey page for more on the Harvey/Abbe connection.

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Maileen Mezera
Maileen Mezera
Aug 15, 2019

I believe he is my 9th great uncle. I was always curious about the Salem Witch Trials but never thought I had ancestors in Boston. This is crazy.


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