Benjamin Nurse

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Benjamin Nurse

Birthplace: Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Death: Died in Framingham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Immediate Family:

Son of Francis Nurse, Sr. and Rebecca Nurse
Husband of Tamesin Nurse and Elizabeth Nurse
Father of William Nurse; Ebenezer Nurse; Benjamin Nurse; Tamesin Nurse; Elizabeth Nurse and 3 others
Brother of John Nurse, Sr.; Rebecca Preston; Sarah Bowden (born Nurse); Samuel Nurse; Nathaniel Michael Nurse and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
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Benjamin Nurse's Timeline

January 26, 1666
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony

As with most people from this period, the actual date of birth of Benjamin Nurse to father Francis and mother Rebecca Nurse is unrecorded. His actual birth likely took place one or two months before this date.

(A note on English "double dates" - the old English calendar before 1752 used to change year on March 25. The first date indicated the English year, which differed between January 1 and March 24 from what the rest of the world followed. As what appeared to be some sort of compromise, English officials would double date their documents, and the rest of English society followed. Because the computer date system inflexibly changes years only on January 1, in order to maintain a proper chronology, the second date should be used.)

Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony

As with most people from this period, Benjamin's actual date of birth to father Francis and mother Rebecca Nurse is unrecorded. His actual birth likely took place within one or two months of his recorded baptismal date of January 26, 1665/1666. The infant had three older brothers (a young man named John - age 20, a young man named Samuel - age 16, and a young boy named Francis - age 4) and four older sisters (a young woman named Rebecca - age 18, an older girl named Sarah - age 14, a young girl named Mary - age 6, and an infant named Elizabeth - age 13 months).

March 1672
Age 6
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

According to the Familypedia page on Rebecca Towne:

In 1672, Francis served as Salem's Constable. Together the couple had eight children, four daughters and four sons. Rebecca Nurse frequently attended church and her family was well respected in Salem Village. It was later written that she had "acquired a reputation for exemplary piety that was virtually unchallenged in the community," making her one of the first "unlikely" witches to be accused.
According to information on the Nurse Family by S.J. Walker:

March 1672; With Bartholomew Gedney and Samuel Gardner appointed by the Town of Salem to "inquire what land there was about the Farms, that it might be improved to pay Mr. Higginson's debts" (Salem's minister).

It might have been at this time that he found Orchard Farm to purchase (lease) from the absentee landlord, Mr. Allen of Boston.
(Currents of Malice - McMillen)
Francis Nurse also served on his second Grand Jury sometime this year.

August 12, 1676
Age 10
(Present Massachusetts), (Present USA)

With the execution of "King Phillip of the Wampanoag" (also known as Chief Metacomet or Pometacom), the bloody King Phillip's War comes to an end. The war had taken the lives of 3,000 warriors and 600 colonists (this amounted to 15 percent of the native population and 1.5 percent of the English population), and involved at least half of the 90 existing English settlements.

The war had been the result of growing tensions over land - having run out of trade goods, the Wampanoag began trading land for tools and weapons. The first casualty of the war was John Sassamon, "The Praying Indian," an early Harvard College graduate who had betrayed King Phillip's plans to carry out a massive surprise attack on several English settlements; he was found under the ice of Assawompet Pond in January 1675. His warning to Plymouth Colony, before his death, was not taken seriously, but after one of three Pokanoket tribesmen confesses on the gallows to King Phillip's involvement in Sassamon's death, the Puritans prepare for war with the Wampanoag.

The timeline of the war:

1675, June 8: Execution of the accused murderers of John Sassamon.
June 20-25: Pokanoket attack and destroy Swansea in Plymouth Colony.
June 28: Combined Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth military expedition march against the Wampanoag town at present Bristol, Rhode Island.
July 8: Wampanoag attacks at Middleborough and Dartmouth.
July 14: Wampanoag attack at Mendon.
August 2: Wampanoag attack at Brookfield.
August 9: Wampanoag attack at Lancaster.
September 9: After a week of Wampanoag attacks on Deerfield, Hadley, and Northfield, the New England Confederation declares war on the tribe. An expedition is sent to collect crops from the fields before winter.
September 18: Wampanoag ambush the Puritan expedition at the Battle of Bloody Brook, near Hadley, routing the English.
October 5, Wampanoag attack Springfield.
October 16, Wampanoag attack Hatfield.
November 2, Plymouth Colony sends militia against the Narragansett, who had sheltered many Wampanoag women and children.
December 16, the Plymouth expedition finds the Narragansett fortress at present South Kingstown, starting the Great Swamp Fight, which burns most of the tribe's winter stores.

1675/76 January: King Phillip attempts to ally with the Mohawk, but being traditional enemies with the Wampanoag, instead carry out raids on undefended isolated Wampanoag and Narragansett communities. The French in Quebec likewise refuse to side with King Phillip.
March 12, after a winter of more than 20 Wampanoag attacks, a combined Narragansett and Wampanoag assault is carried out against Plymouth Plantation. Several other settlements are attacked in a follow-up to this greatest advance by the tribes on the English.
March 29, the abandoned Rhode Island capital of Providence is burned to the ground, as is a portion of Springfield while its militia was chasing away a second war party.
April, Chief Canonchet of the Narragansett is killed in battle.
May 18, William Turner attacks the fishing camp at present Turner Falls, but is killed while withdrawing from the attack.
June 12, the Wampanoag are defeated at Hadley. Later, a large war party is routed at Marlborough.
July, massive Wampanoag desertions and surrenders occur. King Phillip flees to Assowamset Swamp below Providence. Colonists form raiding parties to hunt for him. A party of native scouts led by Captain Benjamin Church and Captain Josiah Standish find the Wampanoag chief, and tribesman John Alderman shoots him dead.
August 12, the body of King Phillips is beheaded, then drawn and quartered. The head is kept on display at Plymouth Colony for the next 20 years.

As a result of the war, many farmers in Massachusetts Bay Colony suffered economic losses, perhaps discouraging further development of remote settlements for a few years. The timing of the war may have had an effect on the timing of the Nurse family's decision to purchase their homestead in Salem Village. Edmund Andros, Governor of New York and head of the New England Confederation, concluded a peace treaty with the surviving tribes on April 12, 1678, eight months later (he would be knighted during the trip to England that followed this event).


April 29, 1678
Age 12
Salem Village (present Danvers), Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

According to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead website:

In 1678 the then owner, James Allen, began renting the property to Francis Nurse, who could purchase the property outright at the end of 20 years. The land agreement proved very successful for Francis, his wife Rebecca, and their eight children. The "First Period" house traditionally dates from this time when the Nurse family moved to the property.
From S.J. Walker's information on the Nurse family:

April 29, 1678; Bought the Bishop Farm from Rev. James Allen, minister of the First Church in Boston and moved from Salem Town to Salem Village (Danvers).
"The property which adjoined the model farm called "Orchard Farm", was originally a grant of 300 acres made by the General Court to Townsend Bishop in 1636. It was sold to Chickering in 1641. He sold it to his son John, who died without issue, leaving it to his widow in these terms... and whereas I forsook all other women and joined myself in marriage unto Elizabeth my dear wife and so we twain became one flesh, and she having always carried herself a loving, helpful and patient wife unto me, I do give her... all my whole estate..."
(Currents of Malice - McMillen)
The first settlers of Salem built up a compact town at the harbor and between the North and South rivers, but within the bounds of the township, toward the northwest, there were several thousand acres of heavily wooded land, and there in the 1630s, the General Court made large grants of several thousand acres each to the most prominent political and clerical figures in the colony.

One such grant of 300 acres was made on 11 Jan., 1636, to Mr. Townsend Bishop who represented Salem in the General Courts. During his ownership he cut timber, laid out gardens and orchards and built a large house that is still standing. In 1641, he sold his estate to Henry Chickering, and left the province. Chickering kept the property until 1648, when he sold it to Gov. John Endicott for 160 pounds.

(Gov. Endicott gave the property) to son, John, for a wedding present. John Endicott, Jr. died childless in 1668. (The Widow Endicott) married Rev. James Allen of Boston's First Church, six months later. She died in 1673 and left Allen the Bishop farm.

This chain of title is of interest to us because on 29 April 1678, Francis Nurse, an artisan, bought the great Bishop farm for the large sum of 400 pounds. The terms of the purchase were unusual for that time. The 400 pounds were not to be paid until 21 years had passed, but in the meantime, he was to pay a rental of 7 pounds for each of the first 12 years and 10 pounds for each of the remaining years. However, if any part of the principal sum should be paid before the expiration of the 21 years, a proportionate part of the farm was to be free from all obligation to Allen and vest in Nurse.

These terms were valuable to Nurse and before half the time had elapsed, a value was created equal to discharging the whole sum due to Allen. Nurse gave a bond, recorded in Suffolk County (Boston), reciting these terms, and Allen gave a warranty deed.
From the New England Magazine, Volume 5, Making of America Project:

In 1678, he purchased the farm in Salem Village then known as the Townsend Bishop farm, now better known as the Nurse farm. . . .

The Nurses were blessed with eight children, — Samuel, John, Francis, and James, Rebecca, wife of Thomas Preston; Mary, wife of John Tarbell; Elizabeth, wife of William Russell; and Sarah, then unmarried. They dwelt on the farm or near it, and in a short time Nurse divided the larger part among them.

From all the information that has come down to us, Salem Village contained no more prosperous, happy, and contented family than this. There were others of much greater wealth, but none that promised more enjoyment in old age than that reared and established at Salem Village by Francis Nurse and his wife Rebecca. He had been prominent and honored in the communities where he dwelt. She was an intelligent, pious, devout woman, a veritable "mother in Israel." Against her good name and fair fame no breath of suspicion had yet been uttered.

February 21, 1688
Age 22
Town of Salem, Essex County, Dominion of New England (Present MA)

Youngest son Benjamin Nurse married Thomasine Smith at the First Church in the Town of Salem. This was during the three year period that Massachusetts was part of King James II of England's Dominion of New England in America.

With Benjamin out of the house, this meant that the aging Francis and Rebecca Nurse had effectively completed their child-rearing days, and continued to quietly tend the small family farm alongside those children who still lived nearby to their homestead.

November 13, 1691
Age 25
February 1693
Age 27
Salem Village (present Danvers), Essex County, MA, USA

Some time in February, John Hadlock returned to Salem Village from his tour of duty Eastward, and reckoned with Francis Nurse for the remaining seven shillings owed for his service in Benjamin Nurse's stead. Francis paid all but four shillings, which Hadlock picked up a few days later from Benjamin Nurse, who had most benefitted from this arrangement. Benjamin paid Hadlock himself on that occasion and thought the business ended. (Hadlock, however, would eventually think otherwise.)
(The Salem Witch Trials - Marilynne K. Roach)

January 20, 1694
Age 28
June 13, 1694
Age 28
Salem Village (Present Danvers}, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, (Present USA)

From S.J. Walker's information on the Nurse family:

"Deputized by Sheriff George Corwin, Jonathan Putnam attached an orchard and two nurseries belonging to widower Francis Nurse as bond in a suite brought by John Hadlock. The latter claimed that he still had not been fully paid for performing Benjamin Nurse's military service in 1692. (Also in 1692, Jonathan Putnam had entered the complaint against Rebecca Nurse, then later helped petition on her behalf.)"
(The Salem Witch Trials - Marilynne K. Roach)