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The Founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony

Proctor Lineage
By Sarah Saunders Smith
Courtesy of The House Of Proctor Genealogy Collection.

The Founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: A Careful Research of the ...
By Sarah Saunders Smith

PROCTOR LINEAGE. "James Proctor, of the clergy of Lincoln, of the English low church and a puritan. Was at Queen Elizabeth's first convocation, and was in London, Jan. 24, 1558-9."

I have no earlier record of the Proctor family in England, other than that found in Downton, County of Wiltz, England, where it was a family of such influence and importance, as to have been represented in Parliment in 1747, by the Honorable George Proctor.

The American ancestor, John Proctor, sailed with his wife and two children from London [The Susan and Ellen] and arrived at Ipswich, Massachusetts in 1635. In the colonial records of that date we have,

Mr. John Proctor age 40. Mrs. Martha. age 28. John, age 3. Mary, age 1.

Mr. John Proctor was a man of good estates, and seems to have been very much respected. He possessed a large farm and occupied many various offices of trust in the colony. Ipswich was then a part of Salem, and was an arable farming portion of the town. By this record we find that John Proctor Jr., was born in England in 1632. He received his education at Ipswich, aad grew up to be a man of most decided religious character, and though impulsive, he was considered to have been a most honest, upright, honorable and sincere Christian, as well as a popular and influential man. He was married at Ipswich, Dec. 1662, to widow Elizabeth (Thorndike) Bassett, born, 1642-2 m.

In 1666 John Proctor, Jr., and wife, Elizabeth, moved to Salem, from Ipswich, and purchased the Downing farm; this farm was a grant to Emanuel Downing, brother-in-law to Governor Winthrop ; it consisted of 200 acres, had house, out buildings, barn, etc. Elizabeth Thorndike, wife of John Proctor. Jr., was daughter of John Thorndike, Esq., who about this time made a journey to England, died, and is buried in Westminster Abbey. John Proctor was appointed administer to his estate and was mentioned in his will as his son-in-law.

From 1666 to 1692 John Proctor, Jr., and wife, Elizabeth, occupied this home, raised and educated a large family of children and were much respected in the church and the community generally.

In 1692 the terrible craze of witchcraft was started in England as well as in the New Colonies, and the victims of this terrible misfortune were from the most religious and respected families in the colonies. The story of the life of John Proctor, Jr., and that of his wife, Elizabeth, from this date has been told by records of blood, and his name is immortalized through his arrest, conviction and execution, caused by the frenzied and ignorant superstition of the representations of witchcraft, accused by an ignorant servant. It was a conspiracy among a few girls to accuse these people of bewitching them. The most prominent among the accusers was Mary Warren, who had been a servant to the Proctors.

"She had long been a member of the circle that so often had met at Mr. Parris's house and Thomas Putnam's. She was a leading spirit among the girls. She did not take an open part against her master and mistress at the examination, although she acted with avidity and malignity against them as an accused witness, thus contributing to secure their conviction and the death of John Proctor." The trial was short. He made a most noble appeal to the authorities at Boston for the life of his associates and himself. Two petitions, testifying to their worth and christian character, were offered to the courts in behalf of "John Proctor and his wife, Elizabeth, now in trouble, under the suspicion of witchcraft," but the feeling of superstition was too strong; judges were obdurate, and he was executed August 19, 1692, a martyr to the foolish and malicious representations of a few girls. Two weeks after his execution a child was born to Elizabeth, his wife, in prison. Later she was pardoned by order of the Crown. Ann Putnam, one of the accusers, confessed to the impositions she had practiced, attributing it to the devil. Be it said of the judges that they realized in time, but alas too late, how deluded they had been. Judge Jewell, who was present as one of the council, in his diary writes later, on the margin of that date, "Alas, alas, alas, what perfectly deluded us, were the exhibitions made by the afflicted children."--(Upham.)

While in prison John Proctor Jr. wrote the following letter, addressed to several reverand gentleman at Boston.

SALEM PRISON, July 23, 1692.
Mr. Mather, Mr. Allen, Mr. Moody, Mr. Willard and Mr. Bailey; Rev.,
The innocency of our case with the enmity of our accusers, and our judges and jury, whom nothing but our innocent blood will serve, having condemned us already before our trials, being so much incensed and enraged against us by the Devil, makes us bold to beg and implore your favorable assistance of this one humble petition to his excellency, that if it be possible our innocent blood may be spared, which undoubtedly otherwise may be shed, if the Lord doth not mercifully step in; the magistrates, ministers, juries and all the people in general being so much enraged and incensed against us by the delusion of the Devil, which we can term no other, by reason we know in our own conscience, we are all innocent persons.
Here are five persons, who have lately confessed themselves to be witches, and do accuse some of us of being along with them at a sacrament since we were committed into close prison. This we know to be lies. Two of the five, all Curriers sons, young men who would not confess anything till they tied them neck and heels till the blood was ready to come out of their noses, and it is creditably believed and reported, this was the occasion of making them confess what they never did, by reason they said one had been a witch a month, and another five weeks, and that their mother made them so, who has been confined here this nine weeks. My son William Proc tor, when he was examined because he would not confess he was guilty, when he was innocent, they tied him neck and heels till the blood gushed out at his nose, and would have kept him so 24 hours, if one more merciful than the rest had not taken pity on him, and caused him to be unbound. These actions are like the Popish cruelties. They have already undone us, in our estates, and that will not serve them, without our innocent blood. If it cannot be granted that we can have our trials at Boston, we humbly beg that you would endeavor to have those magistrates changed and others in their room, begging also, and beseaching you that you would be pleased to be here, if not all, some of you at our trials, hoping thereby you may be the means of saving the shedding of our innocent blood. Desiring your prayers to the Lord in our behalf, we rest your poor afflicted servants.

This BOLD LETTER cost John Proctor his life, and although petitions were sent the Governor and council, nothing could stay the anger of the court and accusors. The excitement was so intense that a word of sympathy was sufficient reason for another accusation. I give below the names of some who signed the petition for the release of John and Elizabeth Proctor?-they did it knowing that perhaps from their very protestations they themselves might become implicated. It required more than moral courage to sign this petition, and their names should be immortalized in history:

Jno. Wise, Jonathan Cogswell, Jr.,.
William Story, John Cogswell,
Reinald Foster, Thomas Andrews,
Thomas Choate, Joseph Andrews,
John Barnum, Benjamin Marshall,
William Thomson, John Andrews, Jr.,
Thomas Low, Sen., William Bartlett,
Isaac Foster, William Andrews,
John Barnum, Jr., John Andrews,
William Goodhue, Joseph Proctor,
Isaac Perkins, Sam'l Gidding,
Nant'l Perkins, Joseph Eveleth,
Thomas Lookine, James White,
William Cogswell
Thomas Verney, Courage. Justice.
John Fellows,
Wm. Cogswell, Jr., (Copy original
Jonathan Cogswell, by Upham.)

The court met Aug. 5, and John Proctor,his wife Elizabeth, George Jacobs, John Willard, and Martha Carrier, were condemned to be executed the 19th. Elizabeth Proctor was pardoned under the plea of gestation, but John Proctor was hung upon his own estates, and within sight of his home and possessions; the excitement was so intense, that even the celebrated Cotton Mather rode up on horseback to see the execution, haranging the people upon the good work they had accomplished. Nineteen persons in all were executed here, before the public feeling was somewhat abated. The sufferings and sadness of the immediate families can never be estimated, and throughout the land a general feeling of compassion, was raised in their behalf. A proclamation was issued by the Honorable, the Lieut. Governor, Council, and Assembly, of his majesty's province of the Massachusetts bay, in General Court assembled, and the 15 day of May, 1694, was appointed as a public day of prayer, in the churches, for the families of the accused and convicted. The proclamation read thus,

"Whereas the anger of God is not yet turned away, but his hand is still stretched out against his people in many fold jndgements," and after usual spicifications of the calamities under which they were suffering, and referring to the many days of public and solemn adresses made to God it proceeds, "yet we cannot but also fear that there is someting still wanting to accompany our sublications, and doubtless there are some particular sins which God is angry with our Isreal for, that have not been duly seen and resented by us. about which God expects to be sought if ever he turns against our captivity," therefore be,
Thursday 14 day of Jan. 1697 be accordingly appointcd to be observed as a day of prayer and fasting."

As time passed and a better realization of the evil effect of what had been done began to be realized, the feeling became intense against the judges and jury who condemned the innocent sufferers to death. During the year 1697, the following document was published and circulated.

"We, whose names are underwritten, being in the year 1692, called to serve as jurors in court in Salem on trial of many who were by some suspected guilty of doing acts of witchcraft upon the bodies of sundry persons, we confess that we ourselves were not capable to understand nor able to understand the mysterious delusions of the power of darkness and Prince of the air, but were for want of knowledge in ourselves, and better information from others, prevailed with to take up with such evidence against the accused, as on further consideration and better information we justly fear was insufficient for the touching the lives of any whereby we fear we have been instrumental with others, though ignorantly and unwittingly to bring upon ourselves and this people of the Lord the guilt of innocent blood, which sin the Lord saith in scripture He would not pardon, that is, in regard to His temporal judgments. We do therefore hereby signify to all in general, and to the surviving sufferers in special our deep senee of, and sorrow for our errors in acting on such evidence to the condemning of any person, and do hereby declare that we justly fear that we were sadly deluded and mistaken, for which we are much disquieted and distressed in our minds and do therefore humbly beg forgiveness first of God, for Christ's sake, for this our error, and pray that God would not impute the gilt of it to ourselves nor others, and we also pray that we may be considered candidly and aright by the living sufferers as being then under the power of a strong and general delusion, utterly unacquainted with and not experienced in matters of that nature. We do heartily ask forgiveness of you all, whom we have justly offended, and do declare, aecording to our present minds, we would none of us do such things again, on such grounds for the whole world ; praying of you to accept of this in way of satisfaction for our offence, and that you would bless the inheritance of the Lord, that He may be entreated for the land."

Thomas Fisk, foreman of the jury Thomas Peasley Sr.,
Wiliam Fisk, John Peabody,
John Bacheler, Thomas Perkins,
Thomas Fisk Jr., Samuel Sawyer,
John Dane, Andrew Elliott,
Joseph Evelith, Henry Herrick Sr.

This manly acknowledgement of error allayed the resentment against the jury, but a public acknowledgement and redress was demanded of the court, and March 18, 1702, a petition was presented to the general court by persons of Andover, Salem and Topsfield, who had suffered by these condemnations of 1692.

"Your petitioners, being dissatisfied and grieved that beside what the condemned persons have suffered in their persons and estates, their names are exposed to infamy and reproach, while their trials and condemnations stand upon public record, we therefore humbly prey this honored court that something may be publicly done to take off infamy from the names and memory of those who have suffered as aforesaid, that none of their suffering relations nor their posterity may suffer reproach on that account."
Signed, Francis Faukner,
Isaac Eastey,
Thorndike Proctor, (son of John Proctor Jr.)
Eighteen others.

On 20 July a bill was introduced by the house of representatives forbiding such proceedings as in the witchcraft trials of 1692.

July 8, 1703, an address was made to the General Court by several ministers of the county, begging the prayers of the foregoing petitioners be granted.

Thomas Barnard, Andover,
Joseph Green, Salem,
William Hubbard, Salem,
John Wise, Ipswich,
John Rogers, Ipswich,
Jabez Fitch, Ipswich,
Benjamin Rolfe, Haverhill,
Samuel Cheever, Marblehead,
Joseph Gerish, Wenham,
Joseph Capen, Topsfield,
Zacariah Symonds, Bradford,
Thomas Symonds, Boxford.

May 25, 1709, an address was introduced into the General Court for the passage of a suitable act to restore the reputation of the sufferers, and to make some remuneration as to what had been damnified in their estates, etc. This paper was signed by Philip English and twenty others.

At General Court, Oct. 17, 1710, an act was passed "that the several convictions, judgments and attainders be and hereby reversed and declared to be null and void."

17 Dec. 1711. Gov. Dudley issued his warrant for the purpose of carrying out a vote of the General Assembly by and with the advice of the Majesties council to pay the sum of ?578 12 to such persons as are living and to those that legally represent them that are dead, which sum was divided as follows: Descendants of

John Proctor and wife, ? 150
George Jacobs. 79
Geo. Burroughs, 50
Sarah Good, 30
Giles Corey and wife, 21
Dorcas Hoar, 21 17
Abigail Hobbs, 10
Rebecca Eames, 8 14
Mary Post, 8 14
Marcy Lacy, 8 10
Ann Foster, 6 10
Samuel Wardell and wife, 36 15
Rebecca Nourse, 25 0
Mary Eastey, 20 0
Mary Bradbury, 20 0
Abigail Faulkner, 20 0
John Willard, 20 0
Sarah Wildes, 14 0
Elizabeth How, 12 0
Mary Parker, 8 0
Martha Carrier 7 6

Philip English, a wealthy ship builder, who with his wife was arrested, tried, and condemned, but were enabled to escape through the assistance of the Rev. Mr. Moodey, received ?60 through a jndgment from a legal prosecution of the judges.

These awards were small in estimation of the wrong done, but were a just and deserved acknowledgement of this wrong and were accepted as proof of tlie errors committed and honorably admitted us such.

The farm of John Proctor extended through the extreme northwest portion of Salem, adjoining Danvers, and his home was somewhat distant from the main Boston Road, (so called) to the left. He was executed upon his own ground within sight of the home of his wife and family. This sight was the most elevated point of land in Salem, and commanded a view of Lynn, Danvers, Salem, Beverly and the Harbor. This spot, so memorable from the terrible results of the so called Witchcraft craze, is still isolated ground to day; the lot has never been built upon, and for years the Proctor fields around it have remained in the family and their descendants. It is only since 1850-60, since the subdivision made by Mr. Philip Saunders, and the cutting of streets through the northern portion of the Proctor property, that the section has grown into a resident portion of the city, and even now is mostly inhabited by the foreign element of the city, who could by association have little or no sentiment in regard to the location and its history.

~ The Founders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony: A Careful Research of the ... By Sarah Saunders Smith Published 1897 Press of the Sun printing company 372 pages
Transcription Courtesy of The House Of Proctor Genealogy Collection. ~

Linked toMartha Giddons Proctor; John Proctor Of The Salem Witch Trials; Elizabeth Thorndike Proctor

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