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Rebecca Nurse
1598 - 1692

Rebecca was the daughter of William and Joanna Towne. Joanna's maiden name was Blessing. Rebecca was born in Great Yarmouth, England in 1621. Her family settled in Salem Village, which is now known as Danvers, Massachusetts in 1640. She had three sisters and three brothers: Susan who was baptized on October 26, 1625 and died July 29, 1630; Mary Easty baptized August 24, 1634 and died 1692; Sarah Cloyce1 born in 1639 and died in 1703; Edmund baptized in June of 1628; Jacob baptized March 11, in 1631 or 1632; and Joseph born about 1639. Around 1644, Rebecca married Francis Nurse, also born in England. Her husband was a "tray maker" by trade, who likely made many other wooden household items. Due to the rarity of such household goods, artisans of that medium were esteemed. Nurse and her family lived on a vast homestead which was part of a 300-acre (1.2 km2) grant given to Townsend Bishop in 1636. Francis originally rented it and then gradually paid it off throughout his lifetime. Together, the couple bore eight children, four daughters and four sons. Rebecca Nurse frequently attended church and her family was well respected in Salem Village. Francis was often asked to be an unofficial judge to help settle matters around the village. In 1672, Francis served as Salem's Constable. It was later written that Rebecca had "acquired a reputation for exemplary piety that was virtually unchallenged in the community," making her one of the "unlikely" persons to be accused of witchcraft. On July 19, 1692 she was driven in a cart with four other women to Gallows Hill where she was hanged. Tradition says that at midnight Francis Nurse, his sons and sons-in-law found Rebecca's body in the common grave where it had been flung and carried it by boat to the farm for a proper burial. A large Memorial stone stands at the old Nurse cemetery. She was excommunicated, but her descendants had it revoked on March 6, 1712. In July 1885, her descendants erected a tall granite memorial over her grave on what is now called the Rebecca Nurse Homestead cemetery in Danvers (formerly Salem Village), Massachusetts. The inscription on the monument reads: Rebecca Nurse, Yarmouth, England 1621. Salem, Mass., 1692. O Christian Martyr who for Truth could die When all about thee owned the hideous lie! The world redeemed from Superstition's sway Is breathing freer for thy sake today. (From the poem "Christian Martyr," by John Greenleaf Whittier) In 1892 a second monument was erected nearby recognizing the 40 neighbors, led by Israel and Elizabeth (Hathorne) Porter, who took the risk of publicly supporting Nurse by signing a petition to the court in 1692. Her accuser, Ann Putnam, Jr., publicly apologized to the Nurse family for accusing innocent people. In 1711, the government compensated the Nurse family for Rebecca's wrongful death. The Nurse family homestead fell into the hands of Putnam family descendant Phineas Putnam in 1784. The Putnam family maintained control of the property until 1908. Today, it is a tourist attraction that includes the original house and cemetery, on 27 of the original 300 acres (1.2 km2). Source Wikipedia Internet Children of Rebecca and Francis: Rebecca born in 1642 and died in 1692; Sarah born in 1644; John born in 1645; Samuel born in 1649; Mary born in 1654 and died June 28, 1749; Elizabeth born in 1656, Francis in born 1660 or 1661; and Benjamin born in 1665 or 1666.
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Photo of Gravestone
Courtesy: Stone Credit: Carole Dick
Cemetery Picture

Danvers, Essex County

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