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Salem was established, as a fishing settlement, on Cape Ann in 1626 by a group from a failed fishing settlement, led by Roger Conant. Established at the mouth of the Naumkeag River, Salem was called originally Naumkeag and renamed in 1629 for the Hebrew, shalom, or peace. It is ironic that this would later be the site of the Salem Witch Trials.

Conditions in Salem were strange in 1690 for the settlers. Strange weather, earthquakes, lunar and solar eclipses and strange illnesses such as smallpox only added to the Puritanical fears. Only Satan could be responsible for these strange occurrences, for they knew of no scientific explanation.

The witch-hunt in Salem began when the local doctor, William Griggs, announced that bewitchment was causing the illness of the niece of Rev.Samuel Parris. This diagnosis would result in the death of over nineteen men and women and the arrest of over 150 persons. The crime of witchcraft was a crime punishable by death.

The Court of Oyer and Terminer was designated to hear the trials and was presided over by Chief Justice William Stoughton. Bridget Bishop was the first to be tried. She was found guilty and hanged 10 Jun 1692. Three successive hanging days followed with the deaths of fifteen persons before Governor William Phipps halted the hangings in October of 1692. A Superior Court of Judicature was formed to replace the witchcraft court, which did not allow spectral (the idea that the accused used invisible shapes or spectres to torment their victims) evidence. The new court released those awaiting trial and pardoned those accused who were awaiting execution, thereby ending the Salem witch trials.

Later, restitution and apologies were made to the victim's families.

The Balch family lived among the families accused of witchcraft and yet remained almost totally removed from the 1692 witchcraft delusions. Only two of the witchcraft trials documents contain information about the Balchs. First is the deposition of Elizabeth Woodbury Balch, wife of Benjamin, Jr. and her sister Abigail in regards to Sarah Bishop, wife of Edward. Please see right for further information on these documents.

Edward and Sarah Bishop were arrested and imprisoned 22 April 1692. Edward was the owner of an inn in Salem. In 1685, he had been twice charged with operating an unlicensed establishment, profaning on the Sabbath, selling liquor illegally and abusing swine. The Bishop's were not esteemed by the Salem community and the anomosity reached a peak 22 April, when the Bishops were mprisoned. On 1 Jul 1692, the Bishop's testified against Mary Warren, but their testimony did not win their release. On 2 Jul, Sarah Bishop faced trial, accused by her family minister, the Rev.John Hale of Beverly, MA. In August of 1692, the Bishops escaped and fled to New York, where they remained until the spring of 1693.

John Moulton, brother of Mirriam Moulton (wife of Freeborn Balch), was married to Elizabeth Giles, (daughter of Giles Corey) during the time of the trials.

 

"The Depotion of Elizabeth Balch of Beverly Aged aboute Eight & thirty years & wife unto Benjamin Balch ju'r This Deponant Testifieth hereby & saith that she being at Salem on the very Day that Cap't Georg Curwin was buried & in the evening of s'd Day Cominge from s'd Salem unto s'd Beverly on horse back with her sister then known by the name of Abigaile Woodburie now Abigaile Waldon Living in Wenham wife unto Nathaniell Waldon Rideing behinde her & as they were Rideing as befour & were Come soe far as Crane River Common soe Called Edward Bishop & his wife over tooke us (on horse back) who are both now in prison under suspition of witchcraft & had some words of Difference it seemed unto us. s'd Bishop rideing in to the brooke pretty hastily she finding fault with his soe doing & said that he would throw her in to the water or words to that purpose s'd Bishop Answered her that it was noe matter if he Did or words to that Effect: & soe wee Rode along all together toward Beverly & she blamed her husband for Rideing soe fast & that he would Doe her a mischeife or words to that purpose & he Answered her that it was noe matter what was Done unto her or words to that purpose: And then s'd Bishop Directed his speech unto us as we Rode along & s'd that she had ben a bad wife unto him ever since they were marryed & reckoned up many of her miscarriages to- wards him but now of Late she was worse then Ever she had ben unto him before (and that the Devill Did Come bodyly unto her & that she was familiar with the Devill & that she sate up all the night Long with the Devill) or words to that purpose & with such kinde of Discourse he filled up the time untill we Came to s'd Bishops Dwelling house & this Deponant Did reproove s'd Bishop for speaking in such a manner unto his wife s'd Bishop Answered it was nothing but what was truth & s'd Bishops wife made very Little reply to all her husbands Discourse Dureing all the time we wer with them & farther said not
the mark of elezebeth Balch.
the mark of Abigail walden.

Testimony of Mary Gage in the case against Dorcas Hoar of Beverly:

And s'd Deponent saith farther that about 2 year agon s'd Deponent being often Concerned at the house of Benjamin Balch sen'r w'th his son David being then sick: she heard s'd David Balch often Complaine that he was tormented by witches: s'd Deponent asked him whether he knew who they were & s'd David balch answered it was Goody wiles & her Daughter & Goody Hoare. & one of marblehead he knew not by name; saying alsoe there was a Confederacy of them & they were then whispering together at his beds feet, and desired Gabriell Hood to strike them: & when he did strike at the place where s'd. Balch said they sate: s'd Balch said that he had struck Goody wiles & she was Gone presently: and at severall other times s'd Balch Cried out of Good Hoares tormenting him & prayed earnestly to the Lord to bring them out & discover them & farther saith not."

   

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