Friday, September 03, 2010


It has come to my attention that my mother's side of the family is related to one of the victims of the Salem witch trials, Rebecca Towne Nurse. You can read about her in the Wikipedia article here, and there's slightly more detail here. As you'd expect, it's not a funny story.

To sum up: Rebecca and her husband were respected members of the community, but another family, the Putnams, had a dispute with them. That may or may not have prompted Ann Putnam to include Rebecca among those she accused of sending her into fits. Rebecca was 71 at the time. At first she was judged not guilty, and then, because people are idiots, she was judged guilty and executed. One of her sisters was also executed, and another was accused, but lived.

Apparently Rebecca behaved in a dignified manner on the gallows. (That is possibly the most horrible sentence ever.) This is one situation in which an overdeveloped sense of piety could be really helpful in facing an inescapable and terrible fate. On the other hand, it was religious fervor and superstition (one and the same in my book) that made the entire ugly episode possible. So. I guess if the faith that gets you hanged is the same faith that allows you to peacefully accept being hanged, it evens out, right? Wrong! And, I think I might throw up.

Interestingly, I am also related to some Putnams, but I don't know whether they're the same Putnams. Either way, surely most Putnams don't go around accusing people of witchcraft.

The Nurse homestead is now a tourist attraction.

That's weird.

On the upside, my great (x11 or something) grandmother was living in Massachussetts at the same time as the poet Anne Bradstreet, which is neat. They came to America from England within ten years of each other. As an upside though, that's pretty weak.

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