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Travel Back in Time: Rebecca Nurse Homestead

Travel Back in Time with the Wednesday Patch Passport, to discover the history and roots of Danvers.

The year is 1692 in Salem Village, present day Danvers. 

The infamous Salem Witch Trial hangings began in June, acting as a black mark in Danvers history.

When Rebecca Nurse, an elderly and well respected God-fearing member of the community, was accused, many began to question the methods in determining a witch. Nurse, who had been in land disputes with the Putnam family for years, was found not guilty amidst a public outcry of support.  

But to no avail. Upon the reading of the verdict, Ann Putnam and her siblings fell into renewed fits in the courthouse and the verdict was quickly overturned.  Nurse was hanged at the gallows on July 19, 1692, and buried in a shallow unmarked grave with the other unfortunate accused, that day.

In all, 19 innocents were hanged, while one man, Giles Correy, was pressed to death.

As most families did during this tragic time period, Nurse's family secretly returned after dark and dug up her body, which they interred properly on their family homestead, in a secret grave.

In the aftermath of what has become known in present day as The Hysteria, the villagers moved to disassociate themselves from the black mark on their history. Elizabeth Paris, wife of the reverend of the first church of Salem Village Samuel Paris, passed away the following year and is buried in the old burying point, the cemetery located on Summer St. in Danvers. Paris himself stayed another few years, before eventually moving on to preach in Stow.

Of the accusers, only Ann Putnam publicly apologized to the Nurse family for her part in accusing innocent people. Putnam never married, and died ten years after her public declaration at the age of 37.

In 1711, the government compensated the Nurse family for Rebecca's wrongful death. The Nurse family homestead fell into the hands of Putnam family descendant Phineas Putnam in 1784. The Putnam family maintained control of the property until 1908. Today, it is a tourist attraction that includes the original house and cemetery, on 27 of the original 300 acres.

In July 1885, the Nurse descendants erected a tall granite memorial to her in the family cemetery, in what is now called the Rebecca Nurse Homestead in Danvers (formerly Salem Village), Massachusetts.

The inscription on the monument reads:

Rebecca Nurse, Yarmouth, England 1621. Salem, Mass., 1692.

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 the poem "Christian Martyr," by John Greenleaf Whittier)


The Rebecca Nurse Homestead Today

 

  • Built circa 1678 as a two-story First Period structure with central entrance and chimney.
  • Located at 149 Pine Street, Danvers, Massachusetts and includes 25 acres of fields, pasture and woods.
  • The historic colonial homestead includes three rooms furnished in 17th and 18th century period pieces, and is open for tours.
  • Other buildings on the site include the c. 1671 Zerubabel Endecott house frame, which has been clad to resemble a barn and contains a gift shop.
  • The 1672 Salem Meetinghouse reproduction building on the site features a program detailing the hysterical outbreak of the witch hunt of 1692.
  • The family cemetery on the grounds contains the memorial to Rebecca Nurse, as well as the remains of George Jacobs, another innocent executed during the witch trials.  Jacobs was laid to rest here after being unearthed during construction in 1992. 
  • The Homestead is owned and operated by the Danvers Alarm List Company, Inc., a non-profit, educational, 18th century reenactment group.

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