Thursday, September 1, 2011

Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692

One of the things that I was most surprised to learn was of our familial connection with the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. This had never been mentioned by my mother as a possibility. However, once you trace your ancestry to families living in Massachusetts before 1700, pretty much anything is possible. There just were not that many people living in Massachusetts that early.
Once Gary Boyd Roberts had noticed the family name of Towne in our Fleming and Leland lines, he focused on this possibility.
There were three Towne sisters who were convicted of Witchcraft. They were all married: Sarah Towne Cloyse, Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Estey(Esty). Mary and Rebecca were executed and Sarah was condemned but never executed. In referring to these three sisters, it should be noted that the state of Massachusetts paid the families a settlement less than twenty years after their death, for wrongful death. They were clearly the victims of some Puritan hysteria.
What Gary discovered for me is that Jacob Towne, brother to these three, was my 8th great grandfather. His father William Towne, father of the three, was my 9th great grandfather. This makes Mary, Rebecca and Sarah my eighth great grand aunts.
According to "The Towne Family" by Lois Payne Hoover,William Towne, son of John Towne and Elizabeth Clarke, was baptized March 18, 1598/99 at St. Nicholas Church, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, and died before July 24, 1673 in Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts. He married Joanna Blessing April 25, 1620, also at St. Nicholas Church. Joanna had been baptized June 22, 1595 at Holy Trinity Church, Caister-on-Sea, Norfolk, England. Her parents were John Blessing and Jone. Joanna died before January 17, 1682/3, in Topsfield. Neither William nor Joanna lived to see their daughters accused of witchcraft. Much of this research was attributed to the Parish Register of St. Nicholas Church. This register also confirms the baptisms of the first six Towne children and the burial of child Susan.
There is a Towne Family Association that has verified these facts over the years. The Towne family is now holding an annual family reunion. Next year, 2012, they will meet for a tour of the various locations in England where the family lived.
On September 26, 1635, William and Joanna were cited for failing to appear for communion at St. Nicholas Church, and were labeled "Separatists, William and Joanna Towne, his wife" according to the Norwich Consistory & Archdeaconry Visitation Records. The term Separatists meant that they were no longer attending church but did not mean they had left England.
William Towne is first seen in Massachusetts records in 1640 when he was granted ten acres of land in the Northfields area of Salem.

Here by generation is the Towne family in relation to me:

My ninth great grandparents: William Towne = Joanna Blessing

My eighth great grandparents: Jacob Towne = Catherine Symonds

My seventh great grandparents: John Towne = Mary Smith

My sixth great grandparents: Isaac Towne = Susannah Haven

My fifth great grandparents: John Haven = Susanna Towne

My fourth great grandparents: Lois Haven = Solomon Leland

My third great grandparents: Silas Leland = Lucina Bartlett

My Second great grandparents: Robert King Fleming = Lucina Leland

My great grandparents: Thomas H B Fleming = Ellen Giblin

My grandparents: John Leland Fleming = Margaret Finnegan

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