Colonial Literature – Puritan Beginnings – Winthrop, Bradstreet, & Sewall

18 From The Diary of Samuel Sewall – Witchcraft Trials: Involvement, 1692, and Recantation 1697

Samuel Sewall

April 11th 1692.
Went to Salem, where, in the Meeting-house, the persons accused of Witchcraft were examined; was a very great Assembly; ’twas awfull to see how the afflicted persons were agitated. Mr. Noyes pray’d at the beginning, and Mr. Higginson concluded. [In the margin], Vœ, Vœ, Vœ, Witchcraft.

Augt. 19th 1692.
This day the Liet. Governour, Major Phillips, Mr. Russel, Capt. Lynde and my self went to Watertown. Advisíd the Inhabitants at their Town-Meeting to settle a Minister; and if could not otherwise agree, should first have a Town-Meeting to decide where the Meetinghouse should be set. Many say Whitneyís Hill would be a convenient place.

This day [in the margin, Dolefull! Witchcraft] George Burrough, John Willard, Jno Procter, Martha Carrier and George Jacobs were executed at Salem, a very great number of Spectators being present. Mr. Cotton Mather was there, Mr. Sims, Hale, Noyes, Chiever, &c. All of them said they were innocent, Carrier and all. Mr. Mather says they all died by a Righteous Sentence. Mr. Burrough by his Speech, Prayer, protestation of his Innocence, did much move unthinking persons, which occasions their speaking hardly concerning his being executed.

Augt. 25.
Fast at the old [First] Church, respecting the Witchcraft, Drought, &e.

Monday, Sept. 19, 1692.
About noon, at Salem, Giles Corey was press’d to death for standing Mute ;  much pains was used with him two days, one after another, by the Court and Capt. Gardner of Nantucket who had been of his acquaintance : but all in vain.

Sept. 20.
Now I hear from Salem that about 18 years agoe, he was suspected to have stampd and press’d a man to death, but was cleared. Twas not remembred till Ae Putnam was told of it by said Corey’s Spectre the Sabbath- day night before the Execution.

Sept. 21.
A petition is sent to Town in behalf of Dorcas Hoar, who now confesses : ‘ Accordingly an order is sent to the Sheriff to forbear her Execution, notwithstanding her being in the Warrant to die to morrow. This is the first condemned person who has confess’d.

Thorsday, Sept. 22, 1692.
William Stoughton, Esqr., John Hathorne, Esqr., Mr. Cotton Mather, and Capt. John Higginson, with my Brother St., were at our house, speakinging about publishing some Trials of the Witches. Mr. Stoughton went away and left us, it began to rain and was very dark, so that getting some way beyond the fortification, was fain to come back again, and lodgd here in Capt. Henchman’s Room. Has been a plentifull Rain, blessed be God. Mr. Stoughton went away early in the morn so that I saw him not. Read the 1 Jn° 1. before went to bed.

Jany 1697

Copy of the Bill I put up on the Fast day ; giving it to Mr. Willard as he pass’d by, and standing up at the reading of it, and bowing when finished; in the Afternoon.

Samuel Sewall, sensible of the reiterated strokes of God upon himself and family ; and being sensible, that as to the Guilt contracted upon the opening of the late Comission of Oyer and Terminer at Salem (to which the order for this Day relates) he is, upon many accounts, more concerned than any that he knows of. Desires to take the Blame and shame of it. Asking pardon of men. And especially desiring prayers that God, who has an Unlimited Authority, would pardon that sin and all other his sins ; personal and Relative : And according to his infinite Benignity, and Sovereignty, Not Visit the sin of him, or of any other, upon himself or any of his, nor upon the Land : But that He would powerfully defend him against all Temptations to Sin, for the future ; and vouchsafe him the efficacious, saving Conduct of his Word and Spirit.

1692 Source:

1697 Source:



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