Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Surviving The Salem Witch Trials - The Bishop Family

Much has been written about the Salem Witch Trials, that infamous time in American history. The fear of the occult and the subsequent trials were commonplace during the 17th century. How else could the people explain weird weather, earthquakes (one of which occurred around 1690 in Essex Co., MA, and is recorded in the History of Amesbury, Massachusetts), lunar and solar eclipses, and strange illnesses. Mankind had not yet achieved a scientific basis for understanding natural phenomenom or disease.

I read in a passage about my ancestor, Samuel Dunham, that he was ex-communicated a couple of times. One time was around 1690 for saying, "a pox upon your house and puck," to one of his neighbors. Fortunately, the curse wasn't taken seriously. Rev. Mathers attributed it to Old Sam's alcoholism, stating in his journal, "Sam Dunham is an old drunk."

Another of my ancestors, Joseph Ballard of North Andover, however, blamed witchcraft for his wife's death from female problems. His accusation sparked the Andover branch of the 1692 witch hunt. Ballard brought the "afflicted girls" to the village for examination in July of that year. One of those accused, Nehemiah Abbott, was a cousin to the Abbotts that his granddaughter would marry a few years later.

The panic that followed the accusations in northeastern Massachusetts forever changed America's perception of the judicial system and religion's role in government. It also marked the end of Puritanism as a major religious force.

Of the many men and women accused, the Bishops were one that moved on, creating a new life for themselves in a different part of colonial Massachusetts. Ironically, generations later, descendants of Joseph Ballard and the Bishops would become related through marriage.

The Bishops

Some years ago, the Carpenter Museum of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, published a biography of Edward and Sarah Bishop in its newsletter. We use that as reference, together with web sites about the Salem Witch Trials to provide you with an account of the Bishop family's life after the witch trials and the events.

Edward Bishop operated an inn in Salem Village, now known as Danvers. He had problems with the law in 1685, twice being charged with running an unlicensed establishment, profaning the sabbath, selling liquor illegally, and abusing swine. They were not well liked by the Puritan community. The anomosity between the two factions peaked on April 21, 1692, when a group of citizens filed complaints of witchcraft against nine of their neighbors, including Edward Bishop, his wife Sarah Bishop, and Sarah's step-mother, Sarah Averill Wildes. They were arrested and imprisoned.

On July 1, 1692, Edward and Sarah Bishop testified against Mary Warren, also imprisoned. Why they did so is a mystery. However, if they had hoped they would be granted a lesser sentence or be freed, their plan didn't succeed.

Both Sarahs went on trial July 2. Their accuser was the Bishop family minister, Rev. John Hale of Beverly. Mrs. Wildes was accused of bewitching her two step-sons in 1676, resulting in their deaths. She was convicted and hanged on July 19th. Sarah Bishop remained in jail.

In August 1692, Edward and Sarah escaped to New York. Sarah's sister Phoebe Wildes Day, was accused and arrested in September.

The Bishops remained in New York until the spring of 1693, at which time they moved to Rehoboth, Massachusetts, near Providence, Rhode Island. The center of Rehoboth at that time is now Rumford, Rhode Island. Fifty years earlier, a schism within the Puritan church at Hingham drove many to Rehoboth. Perhaps the Bishops felt the residents of that place would be more tolerant of them, in spite of the family's lack of commitment to the Puritan church and of their notorious involvement in the witchcraft trials. In any case, the Bishop family prospered.

By 1706, Edward Bishop had received a license to serve strong drinks and established an inn in what is now East Providence. He purchased a good deal of land and served as a juror in 1705. The innkeeper was not without his legal problems, though. In 1707, he lost his license to serve liquor. Evidently, Bishop corrected the problem as it was reissued in 1708.

Bristol County Probate Court References

On May 11, 1711, Edward Bishop made a will, which was probated May 28 of that year. It was witnessed by Deacon Samuel Newman, Moses Read, and Daniel Carpenter.

Edward named the following individuals in his will:
  • Sarah Bishop: Wife. Executor.
  • Edward Bishop: Eldest son.
  • Samuel Bishop: Son.
  • William Bishop: Son.
  • Jonathan Bishop: Son.
  • Joseph Bishop: Son.
  • David Bishop: Son.
  • Benjamin Bishop: Son, adding, "if he lives to come home."
  • John Bishop: Son.
  • Ebenezer Bishop: Son.
  • Priscilla Day: Daughter.
  • Sarah Jorden: Daughter.
  • Samuel Day: Son-in-law.
  • Edward Day: Grandson, under age 21.
  • John Day: Grandson, under age 21.

Sarah Bishop died in 1725. Bristol County Probate Records Vol. 5, p. 157, records that the Court appointed Samuel Bishop of Attleboro the administrator of his late mother's estate. She died intestate. The appointment was dated September 4, 1725.

Bristol County Probate Records, Vol. 5, pp 224-225, references the division of the estate of Mrs. Sarah Bishop of Rehoboth on February 15, 1725/6 between her children, namely:

  • Edward Bishop, eldest son.
  • Samuel Bishop, second son.
  • Jonathan Bishop, third son.
  • William Bishop, fourth son.
  • David Bishop, deceased.
  • John Bishop, fifth living son.
  • Ebenezer Bishop, sixth son.
  • Priscilla Day, daughter; wife of Samuel Day.
  • Sarah Jorden, youngest daughter.

The committee members were Abiah Carpenter, John Robinson, and Daniel Carpenter.

David Bishop died sometime before or near the time of his mother Sarah Bishop's passing. Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Court records (Vol. 5, p 199) indicate that on December 21, 1725, Samuel Bishop of Attleboro was appointed guardian of the children of David Bishop, late of Ashford, Hartford County, Connecticut, namely:

  • Rachel Bishop, over age 14.
  • John Bishop, over age 14.
  • Ebenezer Bishop, over age 14.
  • David Bishop, over age 14.
  • Rebecca Bishop, under age 14.
  • Mary Bishop, under age 14.

Samuel Bishop died sometime between the writing of his will on June 6, 1726 and its probate filing on August 16, 1726. The witnesses were Isaac Bucklin, Ebenezer Robinson and Noah Carpenter. Samuel Bishop named the following as benefactors to his estate:
  • Mary Bishop: Wife.
  • Samuel Bishop: Son and Executor.
  • Daniel Bishop: Son.
  • Joseph Bishop: Son, under age 21.
  • Benjamin Bishop, "under age."
  • Edward Bishop.
  • Gideon Bishop.
  • Thomas Bishop, under age 16.
  • Mehetibel Carpenter, Daughter.
  • Mary Follet, Daughter.
  • Hannah Bishop, Daughter.
  • Sarah Bishop, Daughter.

Samuel Bishop directed his son and Executor, Samuel Bishop, to "...bind out my three sons namely: Benjamin, Edward & Gideon to good trades."

Samuel Bishop may be the same Samuel Bishop of Attleboro, Massachusetts, who wrote a will, dated October 19, 1739 and probated June 17, 1740. An Elizabeth Bishop was named his wife. Samuel Bishop, his son under age 21, and daughter Mehitbel Bishop were named, along with "...the Child unborn My Wife Now Goes With..." Witnesses were Timothy Tingley, Benjamin Day, and Noah Carpenter. Wife Elizabeth was named Executor by her husband. (Vol. 9, pp 434-436).

The source for the probate records is from Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1687-1745 by Peter Rounds, available online at Ancestry.

Ancestry.com Free Trial

Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1687-1745

Abstracts of Bristol County, Massachusetts Probate Records, 1745-1762

Salem Witches

A listing of over 200 individuals accused of witchcraft in New England betwen 1647 and 1697. These are only accusations that went to trial. Not limited to Salem, Massachusetts, some trails were in Andover and other Massachusetts towns, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Maine. Ancestry database. Name searches are free.

Ancestry.com Free Trial


Salem Witch Museum - The award-winning, official website for the institution located in Salem, Massachusetts. Includes location, telephone number, and information for group tours. An educational section is available for those wishing to learn more about the trials. Take the 1692 virtual tour.

Chronology of the Trials - Documents the events from the first accusations through the pardons. Visit the Memorial page for snapshots of the headstones dedicated in 1992.

University of Virginia - Salem Witch Trials - Comprehensive site with historical maps, legal proceedings, written observations of the hysteria, information on the Salem and Andover witch hunts.

Salem Witchcraft Trials - University of Missouri - Kansas Law School - Cronology, arrest and death warrants, complete witchcraft papers, and much more. Some educational material seems suitable for high school students.

Discovery School - Salem Witch Trials Lesson Plans (Grades 9-12).

Salem Witch Trials Books | U.S. | Canada (Francais) | UK |

Ancestry.com / Ancestry.ca



Sardonic Prussian said...

This is my grandmother Mary Bishop Colborns brother! We the legitimate direct offspring of Mary Bishop Colburns marriage legitimate every generation since Mary Bishop took my grandfather's Robert Colburns hand! Are denied by the world! Because they spelled out our name Colbourne and Colburn and Colborn! And passed out our surnames on Ellis island to strangers who had no surnames,

Sardonic Prussian said...

This is my grandmother Mary Bishop Colborns brother! We the legitimate direct offspring of Mary Bishop Colburns marriage legitimate every generation since Mary Bishop took my grandfather's Robert Colburns hand! Are denied by the world! Because they spelled out our name Colbourne and Colburn and Colborn! And passed out our surnames on Ellis island to strangers who had no surnames,