17th Century Salem


During the 17th century Europe endured a crisis - a series of social and political upheavals involving civil wars, revolts, peasant uprisings, and a rebellion of the nobility. The Reformation had ended, but religious strife continued in some areas. In England, a branch of Protestantism appeared which opposed the Church of England and sough to cleanse the Church by purifying it from rituals that were 'Roman'. Nicknamed, 'Puritans' they became the leading faction in opposing the Stuart kings of England. Eventually the Puritans would settle in New England.

Salem, a city of Massachusetts, about 15 miles NE of Boston, was founded in 1626 as a commercial venture, partly agricultural and partly to provide a wintering-place for Banks fishermen.

Among the early Puritan settlers of New England, one might expect to find a population living under somewhat primitive conditions. Indeed, the earliest settlers did live in temporary structures under difficult conditions, but these structures were gone by 1660, replaced by more permanent houses.

Salem village was the center of the witchcraft delusions of 1692. A wealth of court records, diaries, and letters dating as far back as 1650 shows that Salem was not the first of New England's towns to be burdened with the witch-hunting. Salem became a place in which the natural and the 'preternatural' were strangely intermingled and where powerful feelings of anger, grief, and revenge led neighbors to accuse one another of committing witchcraft, and within four months hundreds were arrested and tried, 19 hanged, and one pressed to death for refusing to plead. The reaction came quickly, and in May 1693, then Governor Phelps ordered the release of all prisoners held on the charge of witchcraft. Thus ended this gruesome period.

This area is comprised of the village of Salem and Salem town. It has taken facts from printed documents of the time, journals, and the like, as well as mythical rumors that have been passed down through the generations in printed books, and other articles.