Born: 21 Feb 1621, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
Died: 19 Jul 1962, Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Marriage: Francis Nurse around 1644 and had eight children:
Samuel ; Elizabeth ; John ; Benjamin ; Mary ; Francis ; Sarah ; Rebecca
Her sister Mary Eastey was also hanged on 22 Sep 1692
On 23 Mar 1692, she was issued for her arrest based upon accusations made by Edward and John Putnam. Upon the accusations, she said "I am innocent as the child unborn, but surely, what sin hath God found out in me unprepented of, that He should lay such an affliction on me in my old age."
A public outcry greeted the accusations made against her, as she was considered to be a woman of very pious character, who lived in amity with her neighbors, and had a reputation for benevolence as well as piety: even her neighbor Sarah Holton, who had accused Rebecca of acting quite unreasonably in a quarrel over some trespassing pigs, later changed her mind and spoke in Rebecca's defence. 39 of the most prominent members of the community signed a petition on Rebecca's behalf. The examining magistrates, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin who normally regarded the guilt of the accused as self-evident, took a notably different attitude in Rebecca's case, as they also did in the case of her sister Mary Eastey. They told Rebecca openly that if she was innocent, they prayed that God would show her innocence, for "it is a sad thing to see church members accused." Hathorne was no doubt influenced by the fact that his sister Elizabeth Porter was a close friend of Rebecca, and one of her stauchest defenders.
Her trial began on 30 Jun 1692, in accordance with the procedures at the time, Mrs. Nurse, like others accused of witchcraft, represented herself since she was not allowed to have a lawyer. By her respectability, many members of the community testified on her behalf, including family members. Often the "afflicted" would break into fits and claim Nurse was tormenting them. In response to their outbursts, Nurse stated, "I have got nobody to look to but God."
In the end, the jury ruled Rebecca not guilty. Due to the public outcry and renewed fits and spasms by the "afflicted", the judges reviewed her case with the jury. One particular point was empathized, and the jury requested a second chance of deliberation. The jury asked Rebecca to explain her remark that another accused witch, Deliverance Hobbs, was "of her company", the implication being that they had both signed a pact with the Devil. Fatally, Rebecca, who was hard of hearing, did not hear the question: she later explained to her children that she was referring to this woman as a fellow "accused" witch. However the jury had changed their verdict and sentenced her to death on 19 Jul 1692. In view of the urgent pleas of her family, and the abundant evidence of her good character, including a moving letter from the foreman of Nurse's jury, the Governor of Massachusetts, Sir William Phips, granted a reprieve, only for it to later be rescinded.
Rebecca Towne was the oldest to be hanged at age 71. After she was buried near the gallows, her family secretly dug up her body, and interred properly on their family homestead.
Rebecca's Homestead in Salem, Massachusetts
My name is Ellen Rutila. Have been doing Ancestry research since 2009, and been doing it ever since. I'm also a violinist, jewelry maker and Graphic Designer.