Rebecca Nurse Homestead:
Salem Witch Trials Site- Danvers, Mass.
‘I can say before my Eternal Father, I am innocent & God will clear my innocency,’
Rebecca Nurse; Hanged July 19, 1692
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The Rebecca Nurse Homestead in previously Salem village (today Danvers, Mass.) is a significant historical site & Must-See Gem because- 1. It’s the ONLY home of an accused & executed Witchcraft Trial victim that’s available for public viewing. 2. The grounds include the family cemetery that holds both of the ONLY known locations of remains of any of the Witch Trial victims, Rebecca Nurse & George Jacobs, Sr. (though Giles Corey is believed to lie somewhere within a cemetery behind the old jail.) The home is original c 1678. Added onto in the mid 1700s, is is not a replica like a number of historic sites. Rebecca lived here for 14 years prior to being charged as a ‘witch’ & her execution. It remained in her family for more than a century after.
Rebecca Nurse was a mother of 8, grandmother, and was well-liked & respected among town, considered to be a pious, deeply religious woman. But that wasn’t enough to keep you safe in Salem village, 1692. Once accused, 40 prominent friends & neighbors petitioned the court (& even the governor), attesting to her devout & Godly character, risking their own lives in a time where it was very dangerous to testify for an accused ‘witch’. She was originally found ‘Not Guilty’, until the accusers acted out & the judges changed their minds. After 4 months in jail, she was hanged as a ‘witch’ at 72, a frail and deaf, Godly woman.
Today, the site includes 27 beautiful acres of the Nurse’s original 200 acre farm. The house & property were also home to Rebecca’s great grandson- a Revolutionary war soldier, and later sold to the Putnam family, whose ancestors were some of the 1692 primary ‘witch’ accusers. The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is the 1st of The Top 5 Salem Witch Trial Must See’s. The home is furnished to period & includes artifacts excavated from the property, or donated to the site. Some of the collection pre-dates the Nurses and include Native American artifacts from when the property was hunted by local tribes. It’s easy to imagine on these preserved 27 acres of serene fields, edged by woods.
It was so quiet, it feels isolated and on this morning with no other tourists, yet, surrounded by buildings centuries old, you couldn’t help but feel and imagine all of the history- the Native Americans & their way of life, later the heartache & fear among the Witch Hysteria with Rebecca & her family, then the Revolutionary times that this property saw. That somber mood carries you out back to the 2nd Highlight of the site, the Nurse Family Cemetery where Rebecca and another 1692 witch accusations victim, George Jacobs Sr, lie- the only 2 known remains of the executed accused. Their families had to steal their bodies away from the mass grave, at night, where they were hung. Rebecca’s family lovingly buried her here in their grief, in an unmarked grave, so that she was left in peace. A beautiful grave monument was erected in 1885 in the area they believe she rests. It includes a poem by an ancestor of an accused victim- John Greenleaf Whittier, which reads, “Oh, Christian Martyr, who for truth could die, when all about thee owned the hideous lie. The world redeemed by superstition’s sway is breathing freer for thy sake today.” The back includes Rebecca’s plea, “I am innocent and God will clear my innocency!” and eulogizes, ‘In loving memory of her Christian character, even then fully attested by 40 of her neighbors.’ George Jacobs Sr’s body was exhumed from his property and moved here to be preserved in 1992. His grave marker includes his quote, “Well! Burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ!”
The 3rd Highlight of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead is an exact replica of the First Salem Meeting House (c 1672). The replica was built here for the set of a TV movie, 1985’s ‘Three Sovereigns for Sarah’. The Meeting House was tied to the Witch Trials in a number of ways. It’s where Parris preached fire about witches, before & after it consumed his house and the town & surrounding areas. It’s also where Rev. George Burroughs preached before him- though instead of starting the Witch Hysteria, Rev. Burroughs became a victim to it & was hung for the false crime. It is also where numerous Witch Trial interrogations occurred throughout 1692. When I imagine the interrogations, the packed, excited & fearful crowds, the wild fits of the reckless accusers, the murmuring crowd trying to hide their gasps & shock so to hear every word. The desperate pleas of the accused when only they could see the madness… I imagine this room.
The site also holds the Endecott Barn c 1681, an original. It was the home of the Massachusetts’s Governor’s son in the late 1690s. It was re-erected here in the spot of the Nurse barn which burned in 1964. It houses a small gift shop. The Shoemaker’s Shed & Basket Shop/ Cooperage- buckets & barrels- common on New England farms in the 1600s, are visible outside, but were locked for our visit. A Dairy Shed from the late 1800s is used as an office.
What the Wheats think:
The opportunity to not only see a 17th century, early America, colonial historic home, but one owned by a victim of the Salem Witch trials is extraordinary. This is the only one open to the public. It is the only known site of not 1 but 2 graves of Witch Trial victims. Somber, moving & peaceful, it is a Must See Gem for exploring the 1692 Witch Trials & a significant historical site. To follow my Itinerary of all of the historic Salem Witch Trial sites: The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is part of my Salem Witch Trials Part A Itinerary, before heading over to Salem (town) for my Salem Witch Trials Sites Part B sites Itinerary.
SITE INFO: As of date of writing. Check their site for changes.
- Free, guided tours are available 10:30, 11:30, 1 & 2
- Tours run 40 minutes to an hour.
- Total time here takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, outside of special events.
- Hours: Open May- Nov., Wed- Sun only, 10a- 3p (changes monthly- check for your visit).
- Admission: $8 adults, $6 seniors, $5 children, under 6 Free.
- The property can be rented & has seasonal & holiday events.
149 Pine St, Danvers, Mass.
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The ONLY home of one of the hanged accused Witchcraft Trial victims that’s open to public & ONLY graves of any of the victims known.