Not far from the popular Salem Village Witchcraft Victims Memorial, the Rebecca Nurse Homestead and Graveyard stands as a memorial to the hardships of 17th century life in the province of Massachusetts Bay. A favorite destination for school field trips, the historical preservation site boasts a traditional barn, a salt-box-style home and other outbuildings. However, a trail behind the buildings leads to a memorial to the dark history that made this region famous.
On the western edge of the property, nestled in a copse of trees, a large monument sits directly over the remains of witch trials victim, Rebecca Nurse. In 1692, the 71-year-old mother of eight was accused of practicing witchcraft by the local Putnam family with whom the Nurses had had a series of land disputes. A jury found Nurse not guilty, but when the judge asked them to reconsider, she was sentenced to death.
Hanged on July 19th, 1692 and buried in a shallow grave beside the gallows, Nurse’s loved ones exhumed her body in the night and gave it a proper Christian burial on the family’s property. Surrounding the memorial are other family graves, as well as the final resting place of yet another victim of the Salem Witchcraft hysteria—a man named George Jacobs, who was executed exactly one month after Nurse.
The Nurse Graveyard is a tangible reminder of the consequences of history’s violent response to superstition, rumor and fear of the unknown.