This is the story of the Salem Witch Trials which centred around the community of the small town of Salem in Colonial Massachusetts at the end of the seventeenth century.
Salem was a growing community of European migrants who crossed the Atlantic ocean to the new world in the seventeenth century.
The migrant influx started with the arrival of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620 from Plymouth England and continued in waves following an end to the English Civil War in 1653 and the anglo-french war on american soil in 1689.
The influx to Salem was intensified by people displacement in other parts of North America.
Reverend Samuel Parris was ordained as clergyman for the parish in 1691.
By this time, Salem had already become a divided community for the rich and poor.
Quarrels and bickering broke out between townfolk about property lives, grazing rights and church privileges. Public penance was commonplace for trivial things.
This was an era of puritan extremiism and when the disease of astonishment – witchcraft by another description – was not at all understood.
At the heart of the problem which was about to escalate was a feud between the affluent Putnam and Porter families.
In early 1692, three young girls became afflicted in the parsonage home of the Parris family with the ‘disease of astonishment’. They had strange fits, saw things and behaved in a very odd way. This ‘disease’ soon affected others within the community.
The most likely causes were hysteria brought on by native Indian attacks, eating food which was either poisonous or had hallucionary side-effects or being affected by an epdemic but nobody could have realized or known that at the time.
One of the afflicted girls was a daughter of he Putnams who were influential in accusations being made against many people in the community who were brought to trial.
In fact, as many as two hundred people were accused but only twenty were brought to trial. Fourteen were women.
In May 1693, all but one of the twenty were convicted and executed by hanging and beheading .
Ironically, it was Tituba, the black slave of the Parris family, who had her freedom bought, despite being the only one of the accused who had confessed to the crime.
Years later, the some of the accusers, notably Ann Putnam sought redemption for their statements which had led to the deaths of so many innocent people.
The Salem Witch Trials remain the most notorious ever reported in history and a major turning point against Witch-Hunting.