Salem Witch Trials – Falsely Accused


It is a tragic reality that that several of our ancestors were involved in the witch trials at Salem in the late 17th century. Those involved were relatives whose lines decended through to the Currier line and the Pond/Dickie line.

Among our accused family members were three Towne sisters – Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Estey, and Sarah Towne Cloyse. Their parents were William Towne and Joanna Blessing. Mary Estey’s husband Isaac’s parents are also ancestors, Jeffrey Estey (Esty) and Margaret Pott. Nicholas Frost was also accused, grandson of his namesake, an original settler of Kittery, ME.

Members of the Jury included, three members of the Fiske family, their cousins – Thomas Fisk (Foreman of the jury), William Fisk, and Thomas Fisk, Jr. It is interesting to note that their decendants, Ruth Fiske and Richard Estey, married. One would wonder if family resentments remained. Could theirs have been a forbidden love?

Officiating minister in the trials was no less than another one of our “esteemed” ancestors the Rev. Nicholas Noyes, pastor at Salem, and the son of founding settler of Newbury, Nicholas Noyes.

“The sheriff brought the witch up the broad aisle,
her chains clanking as she stepped.”


The above drawing illustrates a scene in John Musick’s book, The Witch of Salem, in which Rebecca Nurse is brought in chains to the meeting house where the Rev. Nicholas Noyes pronounces her excommunication before the congregation.

One must wonder who “the congregation” was. Those she once considered friends, neighbors, those whom she had worshipped with? Family members?

~ * ~

On September 22, 1692 Rev. (I hate to even call him that!) Nicholas Noyes officiated as clergyman at the executions . It is reported that he turned toward the suspended bodies of the victims and said, “What a sad thing it is to see eight firebrands of hell hanging there.”

Witch or prophetess: Before the execution of Sarah Good, Rev. Noyes asked her to confess. Her famous last words were, “I am no more a witch than you are a wizard, and if you take away my life God will give you blood to drink.” Twenty-five years later Noyes died of a hemorrhage and literally did choke on his own blood.

Rebecca Towne Nurse & Mary Towne Estey were executed. Nicholas Frost was released as well as Sarah Towne Cloyse. Sarah and her husband, Peter, moved away to Marlborough, MA and joined a different church.

Later in life Rev. Noyes repented of his part in the witchcraft persecutions and did what he could to assist the dependent families. Jurors, Fiske, also confessed to their error in sending the so-called witches to their eternal damnation.

~ * ~


This statue depicts Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Esty, and Sarah Towne Cloyse, wearing shackles, being under arrest for witchcraft. The statue is located in the Salem Wax Museum of Witches and Seafarers, Salem.

~ * ~

“O Christian Martyr who for Truth could die
When all about thee owned the hideous lie!
The world redeemed from Superstition’s sway
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.”

From “Christian Martyr,” by John Greenleaf Whittier.


Mary Towne Estey

Rebecca Towne Nurse

Great Events from History

The Salem Witch Trials

17th Century Colonial New England

Towne Sisters

Salem Witch Trials 1692

Time Line

52 thoughts on “Salem Witch Trials – Falsely Accused

  1. Hello, that is some interesting stuff about Mary Towne and her sister, considering the are my ansesters.

  2. You are very harsh in the beggining in your assesment of Nicholas Noyes. Then you end by telling how much he tried to make up for his errors. I think a little Christian kindness you claim he lacked would do you some help in your path to forgiving him.

  3. I think the criticism of Noyes and the Fisks is quite justified — and I speak as Deacon William Fisk’s 7G-grandson. (My 9G-grandmother Mary Barnes was hanged as a witch in Hartford in 1663, so we’ve got both ends of the noose in our family tree.)

  4. Lynda Noyes, I happen to be a direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse as well as a proud Atheist. I find it hilarious that you talk of “Christian kindness” when the Salem Witch Trials were just one of a staggering number of atrocities committed “in the name of God.”

  5. Although the Salem Witch trials were committed in the name of God, those particular people were misguided. Sadly, many Christians, as people of other faiths, do not always act according to their principles. It is a tragedy when this happens, especially for those who strive to live a Godly life and exlemplify his teachings. I am, indeed, disgusted with the way people such as the ministers acted during this time. It was clearly superstitious and not pleasing to God. I think they may have believed there was some evil that they needed to purge from the community, but it was based on heresay, dare I say lies. This is how I feel. But the fact is, that Rev. Noyes did repent and try to make restitution for his wrong doing. It does not excuse what is done, but it does reveal that his true faith in God evenutally convicted him of wrongdoing. And that is a good example of the Christian faith in action. I do forgive him.

  6. hey. im a decendant of Mary Estey and i would just like to say although our ancestors were murdered in “the name of god” it wasnt done for god it was done for the fear of not unerstanding. basic human logic. we dont understand it, we become afraid an try to forget it if we cant we get rid of it. kill these people and we dont have to deal with the idea of witches. i for one do not forgive those people for murdering so man innocent people, but i do apperciate it that nicholas noyes took it upon himself to try to right the wrong he comited. i am a proud beggning wiccan and i do not forgive the murder of Mary Estey and the many others on the charge of witchcraft.

  7. I am a descendant of Mary Estey.I can’t help but think that if mary Estey’s faith in Christ so easily allowed her to forgive her murders, as our Christ did His, then as her Children we must not disgrace her name and faith by not forgiving as She did, the tear in my eye comes from being proud of her great faith, She did place blame nore judge, but pleaded for the lives of others, “If you Love those that love you what reward have you?” Jesus… “but I say unto you Love your enemys!” Jesus… Great is her reward!

  8. Thought I’d fill you on a little Noyes family history, that is not in any book…

    Rev. Nicholas had a twin brother, Rev Nathaniel… now it is said that with the last words of Sarah Good came the Noyes Family Curse…

    I am a decent of Nathaniel… every direct blood decedant has died the same way… “drinking his/her own blood”… we all die of either heart attack or hemorage.

    Now call this hocus-pocus if you must… but this is not the only curse from the early days of Salem. Every Sheriff since 1692 has died in office… There are a total of 5 Salem curses from my research…

    Out of curosity, goes anyone know where Rev Nicholas is buried… most of the family is buried in Newbury… but I can’t seem to locate him.

    And if you would like to see the family crest, there is a grave on the RI/CT border, I think in Westerly that has the crest on it!

  9. I was just wondering, if you were accused of being a witch and you confessed to being a witch what happened to you after that? were you allowed to live, and what was life like after admitting to being a witch?

  10. I’ll call you on more than “hocus pocus” Elizabeth, I call you full of crap. I’m a direct descendant of Nicholas Noyes and I can say with confidence that there is no Noyes curse. My great-grandpa died of cancer and my grandpa is heading towards a death due to liver failure. Even if they all did die of heart attacks, it wouldn’t be surprising because heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.. It’s natural, not part of a curse lol.
    Oh Laura, if you confessed, repented, and/or “revealed” other witches in the community, you were set free.

  11. Nicholas Noyes was my (insert many greats) uncle. What happened in Salem was obviously atrocious (paranoia to the extreme). I do take some solace, however, knowing that he at least acknowledged that he was wrong, and did what he could to make things right with dependent family members of those wrongfully sentenced to death.

  12. Interesting post, it seems to have turned into a family forum. I am a 9th Great Grandson of Mary Estey. It is amazing people are emotionally-invested in events which occurred so long ago. The most interesting part of geneology is our own unique histories which unfold. I like this post, it has generated some comments from multiple families related to certain events; although, the comments cannot be easily proven, it provides a possible perspective from families several generations later.

  13. I am a descendant of Peter Cloyes (through his father), Sarah Coyles husband. I had know idea anyone in my family was connected to the Salem Witch Trials until a few days ago when I uncovered the connection doing research. My mother’s family was from Texas as far as I knew and they didn’t know any relatives past their great grandmother. Oddly enough, my mother’s mother and her sisters always told me stories growing up that “there’s always a witch every generation in the family”. They said their mother taught them healing remedies, etc. and they taught them to me. (not that I believe in them, it was just too strange of a claim to ignore)

    What I want to know is…. were any other descendants of the people accused of witchcraft told stories like this?

  14. lucrecia….you need to start at the beginning “you”. Join or similar and find a good ancestry library in you area. Also, start asking questions of you family. It really helps. For me to know from my dad that his father told them they were “Welsh” instead of English, when I needed to know at what point which way to turn, it really helped.

  15. May name is Ian Fiske, I am a descendent of Charles Thomas Fiske born Barbados 1808. His father Charles T and his wife Eliza have no record in the United Kingdom, (birth, marraige or death.) I shall be coming to New England in 2013 to try and track them down as I believe they are early US settler stock. If anyone has any information please contact me on

  16. I am a descendant of Thomas Fiske of Wenham through his daughter Mary. I would like to know how the Fiskes, Townes, and Estys were related. I also noticed the surname Coffin. While I have no immediate family members named Towne of Coffin it’s interesting because many people with these surnames ended up in Dutchess County, NY. My immediate reaction when I found out that I was descended from Thomas was shame, but I have come to realize that the people of Salem were in the grips of a fear that we as 21st century people have no experience of unless we suddenly were in the midst of a plague of some sorts. I also believe he and the jury were pressured into returning guilty verdicts probably in fear for their own and their family’s safety.

  17. Well my oldest daughter has been to Salem to see where my ancestry have their head stones and being a Decent of William Towne. When my parents and I told her that I was named after one of the sister that was tryied and killed for being a witch she finally beleaved me. Rebecca Towne is my name and I can’t wait to get to Salem to see for myself. I would like to find out when Rebecca Towne nurse was born. I’ve always been fasinated with the Salem Witch Trials.

  18. Sarah Towne was my 8th. generation Great Grandmother, and her Sisters Mary Towne Easty and Rebecca Towne nurse were my 8th generation great aunt’s. I have two stories one is my relationship is through William Towne and the second one is through the Bridges. I’ve always been saddened by the Salem Witch Trials.

  19. Rebecca Towne Nurse was christened 21 February 1621 in Great Yarmouth St Nicholas, Norfolk, England. You can copy and paste the following link into your browser and it will take you to a copy of her orignal christening entry. It is on the far left hand column on the left side of the page and Rebecka Towne is the 12th name above March in the first column on the far left. I only put together tonight that Rebecca Town, my 10th Great Grandmother was the one from Salem Village who had to under go such terrible ordeals when she was 71. I am 71 now and I have good health. Our poor dear Grandmother must have had an unbearable time in that awful prison. I’m looking forward to meeting her someday. When I watched the Crucible, I was impressed with how they portrayed Rebecca. It was a hard to watch movie with a powerful ending. I wept in the movie and more tonight after realizing that this was my Grandma Rebecca.

  20. We are a gaggle of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme
    in our community. Your web site provided us with
    helpful info to work on. You’ve performed an impressive job and our whole community might be grateful to you.

  21. Would like more information on this I was born a towne had people pass on In life was wondering if i could get more info related to this

  22. I too am an ancestor of Mary Estey something like a 10th g aunt through the Hollister family in NY and/or WI. (this family also crosses paths with the Putnam/Putman family around the 1800’s) I just found the connection through genealogy research and I am blown away. Has anyone seen the movie 3 Sovereigns for Sarah? I also read above that the Crucible was good. I wonder how true to history these accounts are. Wonder how many people are descendants of Mary and Rebecca. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see all of the different surnames..

  23. This week, I was thinking wondering about how many descendant Rebecca Towne Nurse has? After reading your comments, Ann, it would probably be mind boggling to see how many descendants from Mary and Rebecca together. The Crucible is an amazing movie especially the ending. Don’t know how true to history it is.

  24. Marilyn I will try to get my hands on the movie and view it for myself. Maybe this website will become a sort of check in for any descendants. It is a shame that they were able to convict and execute people on the accusations of others especially knowing that there may have been land disputes, etc. I guess “beyond a reasonable doubt” didn’t mean anything then…

  25. Ann, you are correct in that “beyond a reasonable doubt” didn’t mean anything then. The puritans were known for their intolerance toward anyone that did not believe as they did. For some reason I feel a closeness to my 10th great grandmother, Rebecca Towne Nurse. Perhaps it is because I am the same age now as she was when she went through her horrendous ordeal.

  26. I can’t answer your question, but last week I read Six Women of Salem which is a well researched, accurate book well written and very readable. It gives historical sketches fleshed out with imagination of accused and accusers of the Salem period. Rebecca Towne Nurse is the first person featured. Be certain to read to the bitter end because it tell of their families efforts after the execution. Reading this book will let one know which parts of the movie, The Crucible are factual and which parts are added for entertainment. The Proctor family is not accurately portrayed in the movie, The Crucible.

  27. (03/05/2014)

    To Whom It May Concern:

    My name is Laura Setser. I am a Student at Canton High School in Canton, Oklahoma. Each year our school participates in the National History Day Contest. This contest involves the comprehensive research of a topic chosen to fit a national theme. This year’s national theme is: Rights and Responsibilities. In keeping with this theme, we have decided to research The Salem Witch Trials. My project will be displayed as a Visual Exhibit.

    My project will be entered in district, state, and national competitions. To be competitive in this contest I must locate and analyze the best sources available relating to the my topic. It is me our hope that you can help me with this endeavor. Primary source material is essential. I am looking for newspaper and magazine articles, diary, or journal entries, photographs, memos, letters, or other related materials that will help me better understand the impact the Salem Witch Trials had on history.

    If you can help me in my search for information, I would be very grateful. Please notify me in advance of any expenditure for you help. If you have any suggestions of other places or people I should contact, please let me know. Thank-you for your assistance


    Laura Setser

    Contact information

    Laura Setser

    Canton High School

    Box 639

    Canton, OK 73724

    Fax: 580-886-2306

    School Phone: 580-886-2256


  28. How sad. Where were their hearts? Not on God. Witch trials are going on in Africa today…and for base reasons. Young family members are accusing old (and we’re talking late 50s/early 60s) family members of witchcraft to have them executed and then to take their property. Evil, pure evil.

  29. I am also a descendant of Mary Estey through her son Isaac, grandson Richard, and great grandson Zebulon and his wife Molly. Mary would be my 8x great-grandmother, and Rebecca and Sarah my 8x great-aunts. I am descended from Richard who married Ruth Fiske, so I guess I’m related to not only the accused, but the jury, too. Before I knew this, I taught an university history course on gender & witchcraft … including talking about my (then unknown to me) Great-grandmother! Thanks for the information.

  30. It is edifying to see so many other descendants of victims and participants here as we learn more about our history together. Rebecca (Rebecka) Nurse, née Towne is a maternal 11th great grandmother descending through other Mayflower and Puritan families: Southwick, Doughty and Haskins/Winthrop. I have a published a recent book about 1692 for readers of all ages GRANDMA REBECKA and the WITCHES’ TREE available at authorhouse and Amazon.

  31. I just became aware of my family’s direct lineage to Mary (Towne) Esty (12th generation through her son John). I am shocked and saddened to learn what these elderly women were put through. It is all the more painful to know that these were family members.
    There are no words to describe the travesty of justice that was done to these victims. Not even the passage of time softens the pain caused by the injustice. From the readings that I have found, it appears that the Towne girls fell victim to the greed and conniving abuse of power of Thomas Putman and “Rev.” Samuel Parris. The Towne family arrived in MA only a few months after the Mayflower. Apparently, they were quite influential in the area and owned substantial land holdings. The Towne sisters were about to inherit land from their father’s will. ( Probably a rare event in the 1600’s)Thomas Putman, who had been disinherited from his family, (he must have been a man of quite a bad character) was in land disputes with Mary (Towne) Esty’s husband, Issac.
    Parris had recently become the Rev. of Salem Village (now Danvers). Rebecca Towne Nurse’s husband was outspoken against his appointment. Thomas Putnam’s daughter, Ann Putnam, (12 years old) her cousin, Mary Walcott, Parris’ daughter Elizabeth Parris (aged 9) and the Parris’s slave girl, Tituba,(umm…a minister with a slave from barbados…???)were ‘divining egg yolks’ (isn’t that ‘witchcraft’…) They started having ‘fits’ (whatever that is) a short time after that. The fathers got the girls to say that it was others who had caused their dilemma. (Why weren’t the girls tried for witchcraft??)
    At first, they only accused 3 people with bad reputations in town. Then, they gained boldness and went after their fathers’ enemies. Since their fathers’ families were the judge and jury, the Towne sisters never had a chance. Others were implicated of witchcraft (I think to cover Putnam’s and Parris’ real crime of killing off their enemies). Plus, if you were accused, admitted to practicing witchcraft and named someone else, you were let go. (What form of justice was allowed back then…?!)Several other Putnam family members signed a petition to release 71 year old Rebecca Nurse, who was practically an invalid, but it was of no avail. They murdered her and her sisters and others. 28 people died because of the wickedness of these young girls and their fathers. This has to be the first documented episode of “Mean Girls” in the Colonies.
    My only comfort in knowing this is a family history, is that the Towne sisters were noted for their Christian character up to their deaths; they never considered denouncing their faith in Jesus Christ just to save their lives. Also, they were educated (Mary Esty wrote an eloquent appeal to have the trials stopped). How many people, least of all women, in 1692 could actually write?) Mary (Towne) Esty and Issac had 9 children before this madness overtook Salem Village (now Danvers). And, many of the Towne Sisters’ descendants have prominent places in U.S. history. May they rest in peace.

  32. Actually, they didn’t murder Sarah Towne Cloyce or Cloice, the sister to Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Esty Nurse. They imprisoned Sarah for a long time in terrible circumstances and that ultimately caused her death after her release. Find the movie, Three Sovereigns for Sarah . It is quite historically accurate. Rebecca Towne was my 10th great grandmother. I have shed tears over her fate and rejoiced that she was honest until the end.

  33. My ancestor was Mary Estey, who refused to admit to something that was not true, which could have saved her life. Her bravery and honesty was commendable. If she had denied being a witch, and denounced religion as well, they probably would have hung her, anyway. Today, a religious fundamentalist would be more highly thought of, by the general public, than an Atheist. Things haven’t really changed very much in past three hundred years since the Witch Trials.

  34. My 10th great grandmother was Rebecca Town Nurse. She was not a witch. Superstition and fear caused her death. She was a very honest and brave woman who loved God and stood up for what is true and honest. She is a martyr and I am proud to be her granddaughter
    I wonder if some things have really changed all that much. We may not kill witches, but most people in the world today including a lot of Christians, don’t read the bible. They go to church and let someone tell them what the bible is about. That’s kinda like going to reviews forever about a movie but never seeing the movie! LOL. There are Christians who read parts and pieces of the bible but trust others to explain it instead of letting the bible interpret itself. People that profess that they don’t believe it at all have never read any of it usually…yet they say they don’t believe it ?? Sounds silly to me.
    Superstitions come from ignorance…and they can be deadly. I still believe however that there are a lot of Christians today that do study the word of God and are not tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, they are grounded and not caught up in the hypocrisy that is still somewhat prevalent today. There are still some of us who Rebecca would be proud of.

  35. Like so many others I am surprised at the number of descendants, having only been told of my ancestry recently. I have several journals from those family members who survived and moved out of the area…. Funny, we ended up in Salem Oregon!

  36. I am a direct descendant from Nicholas Noyes thru his son John (1645-1717 ). John’s brother Rev Nicholas Noyes had a daughter Sarah who was suspected of being a witch, However because her father was a Rev. and her husband was Rev, John Hale, she was not accused. Is there any proof of this ? Nancy Malone

  37. I’m pleased to have found this. I’m only now stumbling onto this story. The stumbling being a direct result of researching my ancestry. Sarah Towne Bridges Cloyes was my 8th Great Grandmother. I find the story fascinating – I’ve ordered the PBS movie about this – Three Sovereigns for Sarah. Thank you so much for having written this article and for keeping it here on wordpress for people like myself to find. All the best.

  38. I was informed by my cousin that we are direct descendants of Sarah Towne and Edmund Bridges. I went on her account and sure enough, I can connect her as being my 9th great-grandmother. What a day it has been, researching her and learning about her. Wow! Thank you for the page.

  39. I am also a descendant of Mary Towne Estey. My greatgrandmother was an Estey. I met a man last week who mentioned that he is a direct descendant of Rebecca Nurse. So it made us wonder how many descendants are out there. I see there are quite a few here.

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