Mary Estey (Towne)

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Mary Estey (Towne)

Also Known As: "Eastey", "Easty"
Birthplace: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
Death: Died in Salem Town, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts
Cause of death: Execution by Hanging
Place of Burial: Salem Town, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Towne and Joanna Towne
Wife of Isaac Estey or Easty
Mother of Joseph Estey; Sarah Gill; Isaac Estey; John Esty; Hannah Abbot, and 10 others
Sister of Rebecca Nurse; John Towne; Susanna Towne; Edmund Towne; Jacob Towne and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Mary Estey (Towne)

Mary Towne Estey (1634 - 1692) - Mary Towne, daughter of William Towne (1599-1685) and Joanna Blessing (1595-1682), was born 12 August 1634 at Great Yarmouth, Suffolk, England; she was executed for witchcraft on 22 September 1692 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Colony. She married Issac Eastey (1627-1709) about 1647 at Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts; they had seven known surviving children.

Children of Mary and Issac

  1. Isaac Esty (1656 - 1714)
  2. Joseph Estey (2 May 1657 - 25 October 1738)
  3. Sarah Esty (30 June 1660 - 29 June 1749)
  4. John Esty (born 2 January 1661/1662)
  5. Hannah Esty (1667 - 5 Nov 1741); married George Abbot 21 July 1707 Topsfield, Massachusetts
  6. Benjamin Esty (29 April 1669 - 28 March 1750)
  7. Samuel Esty (25 March 1672 Topsfield, Massachusetts - 1708)
  8. Jacob Esty (4 January 1673/1674 - 3 October 1732)
  9. Joshua Esty (2 July 1678 - 25 April 1718)
  10. Mary Esty
  11. Abigail Esty

Biographical Sketch

Born at Great Yarmouth, Suffolk, England on 12 August 1634, Mary Towne was christened two weeks later on 24 August. She migrated with family to Salem, Massachusetts at a very young age, possibly in 1637 aboard the Rose of Yarmouth. Mary was the second wife of yeoman farmer, Issac Eastey, who had two children from his first marriage. She and Issac had eleven more children, four of whom did not survive infancy and childhood.

Accused of Witchcraft

At the time, witchcraft was assumed to be hereditary. After the accusations of her sisters Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce, Mary (Towne) Easty was virtually certain to be accused as well.

Mary Easty was a resident of Topsfield, a settlement just north of Salem Village. Animosity had festered between members of Salem Village and Topsfield since 1639 when the General Court of Massachusetts granted Salem permission to expand northward in the direction of the Ipswich River, but then just four years later authorized inhabitants of Ipswich to found a settlement there as well. As land became scarcer, quarrels regarding boundaries between the settlements went on for a century.

Considering the bitterness between the Putnams and the Nurse family, it can be no coincidence that the three Towne sisters, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce and Mary Easty, were all daughters and wives of Topsfield men to be persecuted by Putnam women in 1692 on behalf of Putnam men.

Like her sister Rebecca, Mary was a pious and respected member of Salem. Once accused, however, Mary stood little chance of escaping conviction.

Would You Have Me Accuse Myself?

Her examination on 22 April 1692 followed the pattern of most of the accused witches in Salem. The girls feigned fits and speechlessness. When Eastey clasped her hands together, Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted, imitated the gesture and claimed to be unable to release her hands until Eastey released her own. Again, when Mary inclined her head, the afflicted girls accused her of trying to break their necks.

Magistrate John Hathorne aggressively questioned Easty, or more accurately, tried to lead her to a confession:

"How can you say you know nothing when you see these tormented [girls], & accuse you that you know nothing?"

"Would you have me accuse myself?"

"Yes if you be guilty."

"Sir, I never complied but prayed against [the devil] all my dayes... I will say it, if it was my last time, I am clear of this sin."

In a surprising moment, Hathorne, clearly affected by the convincing manner with which Easty spoke, turned to the accusers and asked, "Are you certain this is the woman?" This question prodded the accusers to release their full energy into tormented fits. Hathorne was now convinced and imprisoned Easty.

The girls, however, seemed not to be fully convinced of their own accusations. Perhaps due to pressure from community around Easty, all of the accusers except Mercy Lewis, began to back off their claims. Easty was released from jail on 18 May. John and Mary Arnold testified that her behavior in the Boston prison was good and that her deportment was sober. She and her family believed she was safe.

Returned to Prison

What happened next provides an undeniable insight into the power of the accusers and the impossibility of obtaining a fair judicial process. After Easty's release, Mercy Lewis fell into violent fits and appeared to be approaching death. Mercy Lewis claimed that Easty was tormenting her, and "said [Easty] would kill [Lewis] before midnight because she did not cleare hir so as the Rest did."

Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam were brought to her bedside in an effort to discover who was tormenting Mercy. Along the path to the Mercy's house, Ann and Abigail explained that they saw Easty's specter tormenting Mercy, strongly suggesting a collaboration effort had already taken place before Mercy began her torments.

Frances Hill in A Delusion of Satan calls this episode a propaganda scheme to show doubting villagers the dire consequences of freeing witches from jail. Mercy and four others cried out against Easty on 20 May. A second warrant was issued that night for Eastey's arrest. She was taken from her bed and returned to the prison. Mercy's fits did not cease until Easty was back in chains and in prison, demonstrating the effective power of the accusers.

Damning Testimony

On 23 May 1692, Mary was indicted. Seventy year-old Margaret Reddington testified that about three years before, she was at the Estey home and talked with Mary about an illness and had and became very sick after that. She said that Mary's apparition appeared and offered her a piece of fresh meat that was not fit for the dogs. When she said she wouldn't have it, the apparition vanished.

Twenty-five year-old Samuel Smith of Boxford testified that about five years before he was rude to Isaac Estey, and Mary said he should not be so rude or he would regret it. That night on his ride home, he received a little blow on his shoulder and a stone wall rattled and frightened him and his horse.

A Plea for Fairness

Mary Town Estey was a devout Puritan who affirmed the existence of witchcraft but strongly condemned the trial proceedings. While in jail awaiting trial, she and her sister, Sarah Cloyce, composed a petition to the magistrates in which they asked, in essence, for a fair trial. They complained that they were "neither able to plead our owne cause, nor is councell allowed." They suggested that the judges ought to serve as their counsel and that they be allowed persons to testify on their behalf. Easty hoped her good reputation in Topsfield and the words of her minister might aid her case in Salem, where she wasn't as well known.

Lastly, the sisters asked that the testimony of accusers and other "witches" be dismissed considering it was predominantly spectral evidence that lacked legality. The sisters hoped that the judges would be forced to weigh solid character testimony against ambiguous spectral evidence. Despite her eloquent petition to the court, on 17 September she was condemned to death. But Easty did force the court to consider its flaws.

No More Innocent Blood

Easty wrote a second petition as a plea that "no more innocent blood may be shed." She concedes saying that the court had the best of intentions, but only more innocent deaths would occur if the court continued its practices, for she like many others could not "belie [their] own soul." She proposes two strategies for the court in to use when determining witchcraft: First, she asks that the accusers be kept apart to see if under such circumstances they would all tell the same experiences. If they were able to give similar credible accounts of their spectral experiences then any doubt would be removed as to the guilt or innocence of the person on trial.

Easty also proposed that all confessing witches be brought to trial as well as those confessing innocence. Rosenthal writes in A Salem Story that in an atmosphere of rising doubt, "for the court to ignore Easty's challenge would be to acknowledge to the critics that the proceedings were fatally flawed - that the hunt was not really for witches after all but for validating the court."

The Lord Above Knows My Innocency

She was imprisoned for a total of about four months before finally being tried, and convicted on 9 September. Three weeks later, on 22 August 1692, she was one of a group of eight hanged for witchcraft, referred to by Salem minister Nicholas Noyes, as the "eight firebrands of Hell". Mary’s parting communications with her husband and children were said by those who were present to have been, "as serious, religious, distinct, and affectionate as could be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present."

Her final statement prior to execution was, "The Lord above knows my innocency on the great day will be known to men and angels. I petition your honours...if it be possible, that no more innocent blood be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in. I question not, but your honors do to the utmost of your powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches, and would not be guilt of innocent blood for the world; but by my own innocency, I know you are in the wrong way. The Lord in His infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be his blessed will, that innocent blood be not shed..."


Her older sister, Rebecca Towne Nurse, had been among the first to be executed, two months previously. Their younger sister, Sarah Towne Cloyce, escaped execution. She was reprieved at the end of the witch hunt, after more than eight months of imprisonment. In November, after Eastey had been put to death, Mary Herrick gave testimony about Eastey. Herrick testified that she was visited by Eastey who told her she had been put to death wrongfully and was innocent of witchcraft, and that she had come to vindicate her cause. Eastey's family was compensated with 20 pounds from the government in 1711 for her wrongful execution.

Mary Towne Estey's Salem Witch Trials Timeline

  • 21 April 1692: Accused by Ann Putnam, Jr. of witchcraft and jailed
  • 22 April 1692: Pre-trial Examination
  • 18 Mary 1692: Released from jail
  • 21 May 1692: Imprisoned on new witchcraft charges by Mercy Lewis
  • 9 September 1692: Tried and convicted
  • 22 September 1692: Executed by hanging

Sources and Further Information

  • Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974.
  • Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. The Salem Witchcraft Papers, 1977.
  • Buckstad, Kristin. Salem Witch Trials: George Jacobs, Sr., Undergraduate essay, Salem Witch Trials in History and Literature, University of Virginia. 2001.
  • Burns, M. The Salem Witchcraft Papers. A Guide to the Online Primary Sources of the Salem Witch Trials. 17th Century U.S., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014. This page links the entries in Records of the Salem Witch-Hunt, Bernard Rosenthal, General Editor (Cambridge University Press, 2009), with the publicly available facsimiles online of the manuscripts and published sources from which they were transcribed.
  • Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World.
  • Essex County Archives, Salem - Witchcraft Vol. 1 Page 177
  • Fowler, Samuel P. Salem Witchcraft; Comprising More Wonders of the Invisible World. Salem, MA: H.P. Ives and A.A. Smith, 1861. Print.
  • Greene, David L. "Salem Witches II: George Jacobs". The American Genealogist, Vol 58:2. April 1982.
  • Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England. London: Harvard University Press, 1990.
  • Hill, Francis. A Delusion of Satan: the Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials
  • Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2000. Print.
  • Hill, Frances. The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Da Capo, 2002.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Devil’s Disciples: Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996.
  • Horsley, Richard A. “Who Were the Witches? The Social Roles of the Accused in the European Witch Trials.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9, no. 4 (Spring, 1979): 689 – 715.
  • Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1987.
  • Linder, Douglas O. An Account of the Events in Salem. The Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. The University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Sept. 2009. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Matossian, Mary Kilbourne. Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History. Yale University Press, 1991.
  • Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, Kory L. Witches in Colonial America. ProGenealogists., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Miller, Perry. "The New England Mind, From Colony to Province.
  • Morgan, Edmund S. The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-century New England. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. “Essex County Witchcraft.” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, no. 3 (July): 483-488.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
  • Odrowaz-Sypniewski, BFA, Margaret. [ The Salem Witch Trials]. Salem Trials. Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, BFA, 9 Sept. 2005. Web. 7 Apr. 2014.
  • Perley, Sidney. The History of Salem, Massachusetts, Vol.III. 1924.
  • Ray, Benjamin, and University of Virginia. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive. Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive. University of Virginia; Scholar's Lab of the University of Virginia Library; Intitute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, 2002. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
  • Ray, Benjamin C. 2008. “The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village.” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, no. 3 (July): 449-478.
  • Roach, Marilynne K. The Salem Witch Trials. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing: 2004.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Records of the Salem witch-hunt. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
  • Upham, Charles Wentworth. Salem Witchcraft, Volumes I and II. Cirencester, Eng.: Echo Library, 2005. Print.
  • Woodward, W. Elliot. Records of Salem Witchcraft, Copied from the Original Documents. Whitefish, Mt: Kessinger, 2007. Print.


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Mary Estey (Towne)'s Timeline

August 24, 1634
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

Unfortunately, birth records are not available for Mary Towne, only baptismal records. Her actual birth may have been one or two months before her August 24 baptism. She was the last of her family born in England.

August 24, 1634
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

Unfortunately, birth records are not available for Mary Towne, only baptismal records. Her actual birth may have been as much as two months before this date. Within three years, her family emigrated to the newly-founded Massachusetts Bay Colony. The date is confirmed by the Towne Family Memorial:

April 18, 1637
Age 2
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England, (Present UK)

According to Rebecca Towne's Familypedia page (submitted by "Main Tour"):

Rebecca Towne's family departed England on the ship "Rose of Yarmouth" in April 1637, and says that the exact date of the ship's departure is uncertain.
According to "Genealogical and Family History of the State of Vermont"

Fellow passenger John Cutler, emigrating from Sprowston in Norfolk, embarked on the Rose of Yarmouth on April 18, 1637. By June 10, he had a lot assigned to him in Hingham, Massachusetts Bay Colony.
A transcription of a small parchment volume containing the passenger list for the John & Dorothy of Ispwich and The Rose of Yarmouth, 1637, was posted by Laura Freeman:

The apparently partial list shows embarkations on April 8, 11, 12, and 13. The name Towne shows up on the list in one instance, with respect to the apprenticeship of an Edmund Towne to Henry Skerry:

Aprill 11th 1637
Skerry Henry Great Yarmouth, Co. of Norff. Cordwaynar 31 New England to Inhabitt.
Skerry Elizabeth wife 25 New England to Inhabitt.
Skerry Henry child New England to Inhabitt.
Towne Edmoun apprentice 18 New England to Inhabitt.

According to the Towne Family Association, this is not the same Edmund associated with William Towne's family. From a forum entry on 3 September 2007:

In 2006 it was determined Edmund Towne, son of William, was not apprenticed to Henry Skerry. There is no apprenticeship found in England by a professional researcher hired by Towne Family Association. The age of the Edmund Towne who boarded the ship with Skerry was much older than William's son Edmund. The original book has been viewed to determine if the age reported in the History of Salem and other publications is correct. The age entered in the boarding book is the age published. Because there was only one Edmund Towne in Salem/Topsfield, it has been determined the Edmund who left England with Skerry must have died on the trip over.

I believe Henry Skerry was a cordwainer. Check the History of Salem, MA by Sidney Perley.

Lois Payne Hoover
Genealogist - Towne Family Association, Inc.
Again this was the only Towne on the surviving portions of the registry; William Towne's family does not appear elsewhere in this list. The closest variation of the Towne family name seems to be Dowe (Dowe Henry Ormsby 29, and wife Joan 30, plus four children), but the match is not really all that close (William Towne would have been 39, and his wife Joan 43). It should be noted that married names for females are used in the source document (further, there are no "Blessings" in the surviving portions of the list).

The transcription shows that at least 9 pages are torn in the original:

A small parchment volume (also in the Rolls Office) labelled on the cover "T G 27.299 A. D, 1637---13 Car. I" is occupied with a record of persons"desirous to pass beyond seas." Its upper right hand corner has been destroyed, by which much of the record is gone. What is not destroyed of the title of the volume is "A Register of the ... of such persons a ... and upwards and have ... to passe into formigne partes ... March 1637 to the 29th day of Septe... by verts of a commission granted to Mr Thomas Mayhew gentleman."

" These people went to New England with William Andrews of Ipswich, Mr of the John and Dorothay of Ipswich, and with William Andrewes his Sons Mr of the Rose of Yarmouth."
From "More Gleanings for New England History" published by the Massachusetts Historical Society:

Michill Metcalfe of Norwich, a dornock weaver aged 45, later wrote that the ship sailed from Yarmouth on April 15, and disembarked his family (wife Sarah and 9 children) at Boston (footnote, page 96).
To confuse the matter further, according to R.J.O'Hara's New England Immigrant Ancestors:

Hotten lists the ships as having passengers examined at Ipswich, instead of Yarmouth (April 8-15, same dates as the Massachusetts Historical Society).


Hotten, John Camden. 1874. The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles; Political Rebels; Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations 1600–1700. London. [Reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1974.]
Likely, the ships departed from their respective home ports (purely speculation, as this hasn't been documented).

June 20, 1637
Age 2
Boston, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

Different dates are given for the arrival of the Rose of Yarmouth in Boston, ranging from June 8 to 20 (again, fellow passenger John Cutler is recorded as having a lot assigned him in Hingham, a town next to Weymouth south of Boston, on June 10). More than one port of arrival may have been used as well (Governor Winthrop's journal, according to the book "More Gleanings for New England History", notes arrival in Boston on June 20). The route of travel for the Rose and its sister ship "John and Dorothy of Ipswich" within Massachusetts Bay is unknown.

According to information from the Towne Family Memorial information pamphlet:

William Towne, Rebecca's father, became a freeman on 18 April (second month, OS) 1637, saying that he appeared before the General Court (this would have been on a Tuesday; General Courts did convene on Tuesdays once a month) and took "the requisite oath to become a freeman, or voter." This would be difficult, though, if he were aboard ship and still in English waters. Court of Assistants meetings that took place around the arrival of the ship include June 6 and September 19 (OS).

(Ben M. Angel notes: Possibly this was the date of his oath of allegiance before leaving England? If so, this would mean that the Towne family would have been among the last to board, and certainly act as proof that the ship left on April 18 rather than April 15. But this is speculation given lack of reliable documentation.)

October 11, 1640
Age 6
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

The Town of Salem, on 11 8mo 1640, "graunted to William Townde a little neck of land right over against his howse on the other side of the riuer to be sett out by the towne." This part of town was called "North Fields," and the home served the family until William and Joan moved to what will then be the newly-incorporated town of Topsfield 11 years later.

According to S.J. Walker:

Believe the home in Salem to have been on the south side of Waters River, about 1/8 mile east of Water Street. (Pope's Pioneers of Mass; Currents of Malice - McMillen, NEHGS, Vol. 21, p. 15)

Age 20
Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts
February 5, 1658
Age 23
Topsfield, Essex, MA, USA
June 30, 1660
Age 25
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, United States
January 2, 1662
Age 27
Topsfield, Essex, MA, USA
Age 27
Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)