Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Nurse, Rebecca

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NURSE, Rebecca, reputed witch, b. in Yarmouth, England, in February, 1621; d. in Salem, Mass., 19 July, 1692. Her maiden name was Towne, and she became the wife of Francis Nurse, who settled in Salem village, and in 1678 purchased the valuable Bishop farm. Although Rebecca stood in the highest esteem for goodness of heart and piety and was one of the most respectable women in the town, yet the “afflicted children,” as they were called, after accusing two or three persons of lower station, pointed out this aged matron, who was now an invalid, as one of their tormentors. She was arrested on 24 March, 1692, for practising “certain detestable arts called witchcraft.” She was confronted before the examining magistrates with the children, who went into spasms on seeing her. Several grown women also accused her, not only of tormenting them, but of having killed people by witchcraft. She was tried on 29 June, and, notwithstanding the weighty testimony of many persons, the clamors of the townspeople, and the bias of the court against her, the jury delivered a verdict of “Not guilty.” The judges expressed dissatisfaction, and directed attention to the fact that the accused had at the trial spoken of a witness against her who had confessed to being a witch as “one of our company.” Her meaning, as she subsequently explained, was that they had been confined together in jail on the same charge. The jury went out again and brought in a verdict of guilty. She was excommunicated by the church after her conviction, and hanged with four other convicted witches on the appointed day, a committee of citizens having dissuaded the governor from granting a reprieve in her case, as he intended.