More Salem Witch Trials gossip…

Giles_Corey_restoredI thought I would add a little more spice to Ezekiel Cheever’s connection to the Salem trials. This was found in an old Goble Family Newsletter while I was researching a different ancestor, (the reason they wrote an article regarding the trial was because of the Corey connection to the Goble line):

On 18 April Giles Cory was accused of witchcraft by John Putnam, Jr. and Ezekiel Cheever. On 19 April 1692 he was examined in Salem Village and on 19 September he was pressed to death under an old torture known as peine forte et dure, an ancient English procedure designed to force recalcitrant prisoners either to enter a plea (so their trials might proceed) or to die. Brown describes him as “Eighty-year-old Giles Corey, husband of the imprisoned Martha, was a powerful brute of a man and feared by many in the Village. Seventeen years before he had brutally murdered a servant (Jacob Goodale) on his farm and ever since had tangled repeatedly with the law.” Hansen tells us “Giles Corey had been ready very ready to testify against his wife, Martha, and to speak out against her out of court as well as in; he had told several people that he knew things that ‘do his wife’s business.’ Now he was admirably, if belatedly, protesting her innocence as well as his own. But he did it stupidly; he denied having said things which witnesses had heard him say and thus was several times caught lying. Since lying was a serious matter in Puritan Massachusetts and perjury is a serious matter in any age, Giles Corey must have made a very bad impression.”

Brown describes his death: “He was taken to a Salem field and there staked to the ground. A large wooden plank was placed over him. Upon it were piled stones one at a time. The authorities intended to change his mind with force. Tradition has it that Corey pleaded only for “more weight” so that he might die swiftly. ‘In pressing,’ a contemporary wrote, ‘his Tongue being prest out of his Mouth, the Sheriff (George Corwin) with his Cane forced it in again, when he was dying.’ His was a horrible death. Corey endured this punishment for two days before expiring.”

Source: Goble Family Newsletter, Vol 6, Issue 4, December 1999, sponsored by the Goble Family Association.


Ahhhh yes, the good old days of the Salem Witch Trials…

Well, it is that time of year again which means I can finally post this ghoulish story which has been sitting on the back burner for a few months.

So, the Salem Witch Trials. I never really thought that I would be posting anything related to this particular bit of American history, even though I have ancestors who I know were involved in a few witch trials, none had previously been a part of this particular one.

Giles Corey being pressed to death by the citizens of Salem. The image of course is flawed as he was naked when the townsfolk decided on the evenings entertainment.
Giles Corey being pressed to death by the citizens of Salem. The image, of course, is in error, as he was stripped naked when the townsfolk decided on the day’s ‘pressing’ entertainment.

And, I have Esther Newell to thank for this excellent addition to the family archives. Esther’s mother was Abigail Smith, who’s line on her mother’s side goes back a few more generations to Mary Cheever, a daughter of Ezekiel Cheever.

This is not a picture of Ezekiel junior, it is his father, senior.

Ezekiel is famously known as a Boston school master who wrote a latin textbook titled Accidence: A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue. This publication was used for many generations in the schools of New England. (I am including his biography in this .pdf file, it makes for a pretty interesting, short, read.) Cotton Mather, in his eulogy about Ezekiel, remembered his great piety and “his untiring abjuration of the Devil.” Judge Sewall had this to say, “The welfare of the commonwealth was always upon the conscience of Ezekiel Cheever,”…”and he abominated periwigs.” Apparently he despised the wigs so much he was known to pluck the despised object off an offender’s head and fling it out the window. (Which if you ask me is pretty rude. I hate hoodies and baseball caps, but you don’t see me running up to folks to rip the ugly fashion wear off and fling the items out windows – although…I would really, really love to do that.)

Ezekiel and his wife Mary Margaret Culverwell came to New England in 1637, eventually settling in Boston where he became head master of the Latin school there. Ezekiel married twice and had a total of 11 children. Our ancestress Mary Cheever was a daughter with his first wife Mary Margaret. With his second wife he had a son Ezekiel, junior. It is this son who we have to thank for our Salem Witch Trial connection.

Junior and his siblings were brought up in a very Puritan household where his father was known for his “untiring abjuration of the Devil.” Eventually junior grew up, married, had children and settled the family in Salem. He earned his living as a respectable tailor. As he grew older he also became an official clerk of the court, due mostly to his knowledge of shorthand, and earned prominence in town, eventually taking the oath of fidelity and the freeman’s oath. The family outgrew their home in town, so in 1684 they purchased and moved to the Lathrop farm in Salem Town.

In 1689 he was promoted to a charter member of the Salem Village Church, eventually becoming a deacon, a position he held for many years.

It was during the Salem Witch Trials that he was promoted as an official of the court, where he was called upon to present depositions and complaints. As church deacon he also made calls to the homes of the accused for questioning. His name is seen as the notetaker for a number of infamous witch trials at the time. In many of his notations he saw fit to incorporate his own views and opinions on the proceedings. In the case of Sarah Good he noted the accused behavior as being “in a very wicked, spiteful manner…with base and abusive words and many lies.”

Poor screen shot of poor online image from court documents of Salem Witch trials, this particular document has Ezekiel's name.
Poor screen shot of poor online image from court documents of Salem Witch trials, this particular document has Ezekiel’s name about 2/3rds of the way down in the paragraph.

In fact, Junior was also an accuser, filing accusations and complaints against accused – Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey*, Abigail Hobbs, and Mary Warren, after witnessing a number of the, supposedly, afflicted and tormented girls being harassed by their, conveniently invisible, tormentors. He also accused Martha Corey, at her questioning, of afflicting Ann Putnam, Jr. and Mercy Lewis, based upon testimony he had heard from others and his own observations, protesting that Corey was lying before the court. His view of the proceedings was no doubt colored and distorted by his upbringing, and his father’s views on the devil and evil in the world.

It was a dark and evil time in American history, unfortunately merely one of many. Ezekiel remained heavily immersed in Salem Church affairs after the trials. There is no indication in the records, or history, that he suffered guilt or remorse over his part in the murder of innocent victims of this mass hysteria. It is quite possible the rest of his family was cheering him on. I can only hope that his sister Mary, who was living in Farmington, Massachusetts at the time of the trials, with her husband William Lewis and their children, was appalled at her brother’s involvement.

There were public calls for justice, by others, starting to occur by at least 1695 when Thomas Maule, a noted Quaker, publicly criticized the way the court proceedings were handled. There was also a group of jurors from the trial who asked a local Reverend to read aloud a public apology and their pleas for forgiveness. One minister admitted, “Such was the darkness of that day, the tortures and lamentations of the afflicted, and the power of former presidents, that we walked in the clouds, and could not see our way.” Even the Salem Village church began to seek repentance at they voted to reverse the excommunication of Martha Corey, Giles’ wife. Other church goers publicly asked for forgiveness from their fellow parishioners for their part, claiming that they had been deluded by Satan into denouncing innocent people.

Over time all of the accused were eventually pardoned by the State and the church. (Gee, that was mighty nice of them.)

Ezekiel Cheever, junior died in December of 1731.


Imagined scene of the questioning of the accused.
*Giles Corey – This poor man was the only lucky person to be pressed to death in this country. He might also be a relative of mine, not direct, but a cousin of some kind, as we also have Coreys in our ancestry. I haven’t found the connection yet though.
1. – trial documents and other interesting items found at this site.
2. New York Times article, By BLAKE BAILEY: Published: March 13, 2009
5. The Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege, by Marilynne K. Roach
6. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of…, edited by William R. Cutter, William F. Adams

More fun with land records…

On my several trips to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City in the last few years, the collections that I seem to spend a lot of time going through are the land records. Most deeds are pretty run of the mill, but sometimes you find a few gems.

I have posted a few examples of great land records from various surname searches in previous posts, and today I thought I would share another one.

This particular deed regards Thomas Stockpole’s estate. When Thomas died in 1886 in Wetzel County, West Virginia he left a wife and at least 13 adult children to divide his property. Because of the nature of metes and bounds, boundary lines are usually all crazy-wonky, this very wonkiness made it necessary, in this case, for the land agents to redraw the property so everyone could have a better idea of the layout, and to better define Lydia’s dower property (property given by law by a deceased husband to his widow, for her lifetime).

What makes this deed particularly interesting for me, is that this is the only one I have found where the property is drawn out. I still don’t know its exact location on a map, but at least I have a better idea of what the property looked like. What is also cool is that the stables and homestead are marked on the deed.

Boundaries drawn out on deed to determine Lydia's dower property location.
Boundaries drawn out on deed to determine Lydia’s dower property location.

Another tavern in the family tree…

This tavern might not be as infamous as the Fay’s tavern, but it was certainly older. Welcome to Nieu Amsterdam!


NEW AMSTERDAM, c1656 Painting; NEW AMSTERDAM, c1656 Art Print for sale

My ancestor on my father’s side, Andries Rees is believed to have arrived in New Amsterdam around the 1650s with his wife Celjite Jans and their son Willem. Andries was actually born in Lipstadt, Germany. His move to New Amsterdam was because his employer, the West India Company, required his, and his fellow soldiers, presence in the new settlement. By 1660 Andries and his wife Celjite were busy running a tavern, the location of which is circled in the map below in red. (Present day this is an office building, the funky wall going across the peninsula is now Wall Street.)

Redraft of the Castello Plan of New Amsterdam in 1660, redrawn in 1916 by John Wolcott Adams and Isaac Newton Phelps Stokes.
A Dutch tavern scene. in the 1660s

While the Rees’s tavern itself isn’t famous for who was there, it is a historical landmark because of when it was around as can be seen in the historical marker below.

Andries Rees’s Tavern Marker
Andries Rees’’s Tavern Marker; a transcription from website, of sign, is below. From the Historical Marker Database:

   William Street and Wall Street
Dutch Name:   Smit Straet

Here, in 1660, Andries Rees ran a tavern serving his fellow colonists. Taverns were lively centers of social life in the Netherlands, and Dutch settlers carried the tradition across the Atlantic. Entrepreneurs like Rees sold rum and wine imported from the Caribbean and Europe, as well as locally-brewed beer. Drunkenness and tavern violence were problems in Nieuw Amsterdam. In 1663, Rees was taken to court for not reporting a brawl in which his customer Denys Isaacksen stabbed Pieter Jansen, a mason. He was also charged with breaking the law by selling beer during Sunday church hours. But the city court dismissed charges against him, and Rees apparently stayed in business.
Taverns or “taprooms” also played other roles for townspeople. Men and women came to play ninepins and backgammon, and to share gossip and news. Taverns were settings for business deals and public meetings. The beer that taverns sold earned money for local farmers, millers, and brewers. As with their windmills, canals, and houses, the Dutch imported their taverns to ease life in the New World.

It would have been great to have known about this while my sister an I were in New York visiting a while ago, we were in the area and could have checked it out.

According to histories regarding New Amsterdam, the fashion of the day in the seventeenth century was drinking and gambling. This included young as well as the old. These vices were, no doubt, popular in New Amsterdam because of the lack of other entertainments for the locals, as there were no books, theaters, museums or other distractions for one’s evening entertainment. When the official work or school day was done you either spent your time at home, in the sober environment of your parents, or spouse, or joined in the revelry at the local corner tavern. At the tavern there was drinking, dicing, card playing and many other questionable games to amuse. And apparently in New Amsterdam the licencoiousness was even more prevalent. In fact not only did the men indulge, but women and even the clergy were known to spend many an evening in drunken revelry.

One interesting result of this habit, in New Amsterdam, was that drunkenness was used as an excuse in court cases such as assault. The law also allowed men 24 hours to get sober, if after that time they wanted to denounce any transactions they entered into while they were drunk they were allowed to do so, with no repercussions.

In the seventeenth century ice was in use in taverns to keep their wines cooled. Customers drank from steins and horns, if it was wine, or pewter mugs and steins with lids if it was beer, poorer taverns served beer in wooden bowls. The common fare found in your local New Amsterdam tavern was wine, beer, ale, cider, rum, or gin, which was considered a poor class drink.

Major no-nos in New Amsterdam on a Sunday were, no drinking no gaming no gambling – in other words no fun. Celjite was in court being accused of having ninepins at her house on a Sunday. The can and glass, parts of the game, had been found on a table. Andries said he was not at home, but on watch, and he did not see any drinking at his house during the Sunday preaching. Celjite

“denies that there was any nine pins or drinking at her house, saying that some came to her house, who said that Church was out, and that one had a pin and the other a bowl in the hand, but they did not play. The Schout states that defendant’s wife said she did not know but Church was out, and offered to compound with the Schout.”

The court ended up fining her six guilders.

On June 19 of 1657, having fulfilled his duties as a soldier well Andries was promoted to the rank of Cadet. He and Celitje bought a house on Smits* Street (now William Street) in 1672. The family eventually ended up in Beverwick, now known as Albany. Their son Willem, my ancestor, had descendants that eventually married into the Jeremiah Smith line, Gertrude Cain’s great grandfather on her mother’s side.