Who was Rebecca Nurse?
In the simplest terms, Rebecca Nurse was a sick, hard of hearing, elderly woman from a powerful, wealthy family, and the eldest of three sisters who lived in and around Salem Village. She was known for her piety and almost regal bearing. More significantly, her family had a long standing feud with the Putnams (the main accusors in the Salem Witch Trials) over land.
Rebecca had eight children -- four boys and four girls --, many grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Her husband, Frances, was a tray maker by trade. He was a constable in Salem and sometimes served as an unofficial judge for small matters in the town. They lived on a 300 acre farm with a large farm house and were active, respected members of the Salem Village church.
Rebecca Nurse had two real chances of beating the witch charges.
- At her trial, the jury originally returned a verdict of "not guilty." When the accusors heard this verdict, they fell into fits. The magistrate asked the jury to reconsider. They returned with a guilty verdict.
- The governor gave her a stay of execution which caused her accusors to go into fits again. Their fits convinced the community of Rebecca's guilt.
She was hanged on July 19, 1692. That evening, her youngest son, Benjamin, retrieved her body from the shallow grave on Gallow's Hill. Her family buried it in a family cemetery on her land. The property is now a tourist attraction called the Rebecca Nurse Homestead.