Post by Joanna on Jan 13, 2016 2:16:43 GMT -5
Salem Witch Hanging Site Confirmed
SALEM, Mass. – Almost 325 years after 19 people – including an Amesbury widow – were hanged for witchcraft, a group of scholars has finally pinpointed the place where they met their fate, and it’s not the place where it’s popularly believed to have occurred.
Salem has a tall, steep hill known as Gallows Hill that was named for its purported part in the witchcraft trials of 1692. But it is wrongly named – researchers have proven the deadly deeds were done on Proctor’s Ledge, a less prominent hill in the shadow of Gallows Hill. Among those hanged at thus spot was Amesbury’s Susannah Martin, who was executed July 19, 1692, and said to be buried in a shallow grave there, along with others convicted of witchcraft.
The Gallows Hill Project, a group of seven scholars, was able to definitively identify the location with research, maps, ground-penetrating radar and aerial photographs, spanning five years of research. Now, the city intends to mark the location with a memorial, according to a prepared statement by Mayor Kim Driscoll.
The discovery didn’t come as a shock, according to Emerson “Tad” Baker, a history professor at Salem State University. Proctor’s Ledge, a city-owned woodsy area that abuts Proctor and Pope streets described as a “rocky ledge ... at the base of the hill,” has been thought of as the location since the early 1900s. Historian Sidney Perley conducted research and pinpointed the location. “There was never really a ‘eureka’ moment,” Baker said. “I think most of us – we’re talking about a number of scholars who were working on this – we knew Perley’s research was really good.”
By the time Perley released his research, Gallows Hill had already gained notoriety as the place where the executions occurred. It was a favored tourist attraction and Perley’s research didn’t sway the popular opinion. What Perley’s research lacked was modern technology, Baker said. Around 1,000 documents survive from the time of the trials, Baker said, making it “one of the best recorded events in early American history.” But missing are eyewitness accounts, he added.
The group – Baker, Shelby Hypes, chair of the Salem Award Foundation; Elizabeth Peterson, director of Salem’s Corwin House; Tom Phillips, who directed and produced Salem Witch Trials: Examine the Evidence; Marilynne Roach, a witch trials author and historian; Peter Sablock, a Salem State geology professor; and Benjamin Ray, a religion professor at the University of Virginia – was able to combine their research and knowledge of the summer of 1692 events, explore the possibilities, and also rule out that there was anything on Gallows Hill. “We’re pretty certain there’s nothing up there,” Baker said.
One of the key pieces of evidence is the presence of a ledge crevice, a feature referred to in some of the witchcraft trial documents. Several bodies were buried in the crevice immediately after execution, including Martin. Proctor’s Ledge has a crevice that matches the description, but Gallows Hill does not. Martin was the only person from the Newbury/Salisbury/Amesbury area who was executed as a witch. The outspoken and active 71-year-old widow lived on a farm on Martin Road – the home site now lies within the Interstate 495 roadbed. Decades earlier she had been accused of witchcraft and the charges dismissed. But in the hysteria of 1692, old accusations were renewed and expounded upon. Martin was arrested and carted to Salem in April 1692. As the charges were read in court, the “afflicted girls” – young girls who went into fits when in the presence of accused witches – performed their acts of affliction. Martin laughed and when asked by a judge why, she responded, “Well I may at such folly.” Martin stoutly defended herself, but her fate was preordained. She was found guilty and hanged along with four other women. They were the first five of 19 to be executed at Proctor’s Ledge.
To memorialize the people who died there, the city is seeking Community Preservation Act grand funds to install a plaque, as well as clean the site up and prepare for tourist traffic. “Salem, long known for a dark time in our past when people turned on each other, is now a community where people turn toward each other,” Driscoll said in the statement. “Having this site identified marks an important opportunity for Salem, as a city, to come together and recognize the injustice and tragedy perpetrated against 19 innocent people.” This is a deep contrast from what was planned back in 1892 – a large memorial lookout tower, according to Baker.
At least 25 people died in the Salem Witch Trials – five died in prison awaiting trial. Another, Giles Corey, was crushed to death when rocks were placed on his chest in an effort to make him cooperate with the court.
While Baker said he and his team were excited to give the location legitimacy, he said they are simply “confirming the great work” Perley did. “I think we are all honored to be a part of this effort and are extremely happy that the mayor and the city are eager to see that the site is properly maintained and marked,” he said.
Source: Arianna MacNeill, The Salem News, January 12, 2016.
See also: "Salem's 'Real' Gallows Hill" at whatliesbeyond.boards.net/thread/3312/salems-real-gallows-hill