Who was Mary Towne Eastey?
First and foremost, Mary Towne Eastey was the sister of Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce. The "Towne girls," were born in Suffolk, England and lived with their husbands in Topsfield, a town just north of Salem Village. Rebecca was the much elder, senior "girl", Sarah was known for her quick temper and Mary was known for her intelligence and grace. The sisters were well respected and considered to be pious in nature.
Mary married Isaac Eastey, a yoeman farmer, in 1647. She was his second wife. He was known to have two children from his first marriage. They had eleven children, of which seven were known to have survived childhood.
Mary's troubles began with her elder sister Rebecca's trial and conviction as a witch. Rebecca was elderly and frail. When Rebecca was arrested, Mary and Sarah believed their pastor, Samuel Parris, should have shown some kind of charity for a woman of her age and social stature. But Samuel Parris was at the very center of the witch hysteria. He refused to speak up for Rebecca. Further, the pastor went to the prison to put pressure on the elderly woman to confess to being a witch -- an act her family felt was brutal and cruel. Mary, Sarah, and their families stopped going to the Salem Village church, choosing instead to go to a church in a neighboring community.
It wasn't long before Sarah and Mary were arrested as witches. Mary's quiet nature and thoughtful presentation as well as pressure from the community led all of the accusers, except Mercy Lewis, to back off their claims that she was a witch. Mary was released from prison on May 18. Two days later, Mercy Lewis went into fits. They brought the accusers to Mary's bedside to see if she was causing the fits. Mary was arrested in her bed and taken to prison.
While in prison, Mary and her sister petitioned the magistrates for a chance to plead their own case or receive council. Further, Mary proposed that the individuals who confessed to being witches be brought to trial. (Only those who did not admit to being a witch were charged and hanged.) Despite her pleas, she was convicted of being a witch on September 9.
At her hanging, Mary was allowed to give this statement:
"The Lord above knows my innocency then...as on the great day will be known to men and angels. I petition your honours...if it be possible, that no more innocent blood be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in. I question not, but your honors do to the utmost of your powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches, and would not be guilt of innocent blood for the world; but by my own innocency, I know you are in the wrong way. The Lord in His infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be his blessed will, that innocent blood be not shed..."
Her last words to her husband and children were said to have brought tears to the eyes of all those there. She was hanged on September 22, 1692 with the other "8 firebrands of Hell".
Her sister Sarah was released in January, 1693 by order of Governor Phipps.
Mary's petitions to the court and her final statement got the community thinking about the witch trials. While she wasn't the only force which ended the trials, her words and attitude played a big role in ending the Salem Witch Trials.
Mary lives with the Amish in Suffer a Witch. She returns to Boston in Chapter 15.