REBECCA EAMES and the Salem Witchcraft Trials
Rebecca (BLAKE) EAMES was born in February 1641 in Gloucester, Essex County, Massachusetts, the first of seven children of George and Dorothy BLAKE. She is the fifth great grandmother of Carl Everett LYON, Sr. (1884-1960). The EAMES (later AMES) and LYON lines crossed with the 4 February 1870 marriage of Edward Augustus LYON (1841-1929) and Marietta Farnsworth AMES (1843-1929) in Worcester, Worcester County, Massachusetts. Early in 1692 in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts (about 15 miles northeast of Boston) several girls began acting strangely-suffering seizures, trance-like states, and mysterious spells. Physicians, unable to identify a cause for their symptoms, concluded that the girls were under the influence of Satan. Pressured to identify the source of their afflictions, the girls identified three women as witches. On 1 March 1692, one of these women, the slave Tituba, confessed to witchcraft. The hysteria grew, with several women and men accused of witchcraft and examined by magistrates during February, March, and April 1692.
On 27 May 1692, Governor Phips appointed a seven-member special Court of Oyer and Terminer (empowered to inquire, hear and determine) the validity of the witchcraft accusations. On 2 June 1692, in its initial session, the Court pronounced Bridget BISHOP guilty and condemned her to death. She was hanged on 10 June.
The accusations and trials continued, with five women hanged on 19 July and four men and one woman hanged on 19 August. Rebecca EAMES of Andover, Essex County, Massachusetts, was a spectator of the 19 August hangings at a house near Gallows Hill. While there, the woman of the house felt a pinprick in her foot. She immediately accused Rebecca EAMES of bewitching her. Rebecca was promptly arrested and examined by magistrates in Salem on 19 and 31 August. Coerced by her interrogators, she confessed to being "in the snare [of the devil] a month or two."
At this point in the witchcraft hysteria, Rebecca EAMES was almost certainly aware that only those who denied being a witch had been hanged. She probably confessed at the urging of her husband and children to save her life. She was jailed, and on 17 September 1692 she was among nine persons tried and condemned. Four of those nine were hanged on 22 September.
In October 1692, with 20 people having been executed in the Salem witch hunt (along with others who died in prison), Governor Phips ordered that the special Court of Oyer and Terminer not rely on spectral and intangible evidence. On 29 October, he dissolved the special court. With the May 1693 Superior Court trials of remaining indicted witches resulting in acquittals, the Salem witchcraft hysteria ended. No person was subsequently hanged for witchcraft in Massachusetts.
From Salem prison on 5 December 1692, Rebecca EAMES petitioned Governor Phips:
"That wheras your Poor and humble petitioner having been here closely confined in Salem Prison neare four monthes and likewise Condemned to die for the crime of witchcraft w'ch the Lord above he knowes I am altogether innocent and ignorant off as will appeare att the great day of Judgment having had no Evidences against me but the Spectre Evidences any my owne confession w'ch the Lord above knowes was altogether false and untrue I being hurried out of my Senses by the Afflicted persons. Abigaill Hobbs and Mary Lacye who both of them cryed out against me charging me with witchcraft the space of four dayes mocking of me and spitting in my face saving they knew me to be an old witch and If I would not confesse it I should very Spedily be hanged for there was some such as my selfe gone before and it would not be long before I should follow them w'ch was the Occasion with my owne wicked heart of my saying what I did say: and the reason of my standing to my confession att my tryall was : That I know not one word w't I said when I was upon my Tryall att what the honoured Majestr'ts said to me but only the Name of Queen Mary: But may it please your Excellencye: when Mr Matther and Mr Brattle were here in Salem they disowned w't they before had said against me and doe still owne and say w't they has sayd against me was Nothing but the Divells delusions and they knew nothing in the least measure of any witchcraft by me: your poor and humble petition'r doe begg and Implore of yo'r Excellencye to Take it into yo'r Pious and Judicious consideration To Graunt me A Pardon of my life Not deserving death by man for wichcraft or any other Sin That my Innocent blood may not be shed and your poor and humble petitioner shall for ever pray as she is bound in duty for yo'r health and happiness in this life and eternal felicity in the world to come So prays."
Your poor and humble petition'r
from Salem prison
Decem the 5th: 1692
She was released from Salem prison in March 1693. Her husband, Robert EAMES, died on 22 July 1693. On 17 October 1711, Rebecca EAMES was among 22 of those convicted during 1692 whose attainder (forfeiture of all land and property) was reversed by act of the Massachusetts General Assembly. Rebecca EAMES died on 8 May 1721 in Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts, survived by some (if not all) of her eight children.
Rebecca EAMES is buried in the West Boxford Burying Ground (now called Mount Vernon Cemetery) in Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts. Her headstone encased in concrete for preservation, its inscription is clear:
HERE LYES BURIED THE BODY OF REBEKAH EAMS DIED MAY Ye 8 1721 IN Ye 82ND YEAR OF HER AGE. Although not commonly seen in New England cemeteries, a smaller footstone also marks her grave.
She is an ancestor of Elwin E. Dresser (#1079) and his descendants.
1. The Salem Witchcraft Papers: Verbatim Transcripts of the Legal Documents of the Salem Witchcraft Outbreak of 1692, 3 vols., ed. Paul Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum (New York, 1977) I:279-285; III:986-987, 1018-1019, 1024
(also at http://etext.virginia.edu/salem/witchcraft/texts/)
2. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman--Witchcraft in Colonial New England,
Carol F. Karlsen, New York, 1987, pp. 140-41
3. Witchcraft in Salem Village, by Winfield S. Nevins, pp. 28, 85, 231, 254-6
4. Essex County Archives, Salem-Witchcraft, Vol. 2, p. 25
5. Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft, Boyer & Nissenbaum,
Cambridge, MA, 1974, pp. 12 (n. 28) & 215
6. Records of Salem Witchcraft, Woodward, New York, 1864, vol. II, pp. 143-146
7. A Guide to Cemeteries in Essex County, MA, Essex Society of Genealogists, p. 19.
8. Cemetery Inscriptions Prior to 1800 from Boxford, MA, p. 12 (extracted
from The Essex Antiquarian, 1900)
Bruce C. Lyon
LtCol, USMC (Ret)
Database Manager, Lyon(s) Families Association
The National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Number 148842 Willington, CT