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Mary Tarbell (Nurse)

Also Known As: "Nourse/"
Birthplace: Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)
Death: Died in Salem Village (present Danvers), Essex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, (Present USA)
Place of Burial: Salem Village (present Danvers)
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Francis Nurse, Sr. and Rebecca Nurse
Wife of John Tarbell
Mother of John Tarbell; Cornelius Tarbell; Elizabeth Abbott and Sarah Hutchinson
Sister of John Nurse, Sr.; Rebecca Preston; Sarah Bowden (born Nurse); Samuel Nurse; Nathaniel Michael Nurse and 4 others

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Mary Tarbell's Timeline

Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

The exact date of birth of Mary Nurse (future Mary Tarbell) to father Francis and mother Rebecca Nurse is unrecorded, as is the date of baptism. The infant has two older brothers (an older boy named John - age 14, and a boy named Samuel - age 8), and two older sisters (a girl named Rebecca - age 12, and a young girl named Sarah - age 6).

January 1661
Age 2
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony

As with most people from this period, Francis' actual birth date is unrecorded. His actual birth to father Francis and mother Rebecca Nurse likely took place within one or two months of his recorded baptismal date of February 3. The infant had two older brothers (a young man named John - age 16, and a boy named Samuel - age 12) and three older sisters (an older girl named Rebecca - age 14, a girl named Sarah - age 10, and a toddler named Mary - age 2).

(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.)

Age 5
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

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

The Town of Salem grants Francis Nurse (husband of Rebecca Nurse and father of six) 20 acres of land. Likely, the family begins farming around now.

January 2, 1665
Age 6
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony

As with most people from this period, Elizabeth's' actual date of birth to father Francis and mother Rebecca Nurse is unrecorded. Her actual birth likely took place within one or two months of her recorded baptismal date of January 9, 1664/1665. The infant had three older brothers (a young man named John - age 19, an older boy named Samuel, and a toddler named Francis - age 3), and three older sisters (a young woman named Rebecca - age 17, an older girl named Sarah - age 13, and a young girl named Mary - age 5).

Age 7
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 13
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.

October 25, 1673
Age 14
Town of Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

Mary, third daughter to Francis and Rebecca Nurse, marries John Tarbell.

August 12, 1676
Age 17
(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).


June 8, 1678
Age 19
Salem Village (Present Danvers}, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)

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

About this same time Zerubabel Endicott, youngest son of Governor John Endicott, a disappointed and embittered man because his brother's widow had left the Bishop farm on her death to her new husband, Rev. John Allen, sued and entered a claim to a part of the farm and sued Francis Nurse for trespass. Suit followed suit and appeal followed appeal.

"It was one of the most memorable and obstinately contested land controversies known to our courts." It was not until the General Court had handed down two decisions in Allen's favor, and the death of Endicott in 1683, that peace was restored.
(About Towne, Quarterly Newsletter of the Towne Family Association, Vol XIX, No. 2 April, May, June 1999)
June 8, 1678; Much dispute and legal battle ensued over the boundaries of Orchard Farm (the Bishop place).
There was litigation about the grant of the property to John Endicott's widow, but once the General Court had decided in her favor, troubles had barely begun. The piece of land was supposed to equal 300 acres, but there was confusion about the boundaries. The plaintiff in the case was the brother of John Endicott. Jr., and owner of the adjoining "Orchard Farm", Zerubabel Endicott...

It was, as in many cases, a matter of overlapping grants, and soon after Francis Nurse came into possession of the property, conflicts escalated. Trespass was complained of, suit followed coutersuit, and one of the most obstinately contested and confusing court cases in the Bay Colony was underway...Nathaniel Putnam who acted as legal counsel in the cases, had property on both sides of the land in question."

The court decision would affect all three parties involved.
(Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
From "Salem Witchcraft" Volume 1 by Charles W. Upham:

The point of difficulty which gave rise to litigation was this: The Bishop farm was required, by the terms of the grant, to be 116 rods wide at its eastern end. But there was no room for it.

The requisite width could not be got without encroaching upon either Putnam or Endicott, or both. As Endicott stood upon an earlier title than that of Bishop, and from a higher authority, and Putnam upon a later title from an inferior authority, the court of trials might have disposed of the matter, at the opening, on that ground, and Putnam been left to suffer the encroachment. But it did not so decide; and the case went on.

The struggle was between Endicott to push it north, and thereby save his Orchard Farm, and the land between it and the Bishop grant, given by the town to his father, called the Governor's Plain, and Nathaniel Putnam to push it south, and thereby save the land he had received from his wife's father, Richard Hutchinson, who had purchased from Stileman. Allen stood on the defensive against both of them.

The Nurses had nothing to do but to attend to their own business, carrying on their farming operations up to the limits of their deed, looking to Allen for redress, if, in the end, the dimensions of their estate should be curtailed. But, being the occupants, and, until finally ousted, the owners of the land, if there was any intrusion to be repelled, or violence to be met, or fighting to be done, they were the ones to do it. They were equal to the situation.
"Mr Zerubabel Endicott, heir and administrator of the estate of John Endicott, Esquire v. Francis Nurse. Defendant owned that he cut wood upon his land he bought of Mr. Allen, which Mr. Endicott laid claim to and that he carried away the wood. Vedict for plaintiff. Appealed to the next court of Assistants. Francis Nurse bound with Mr. Richard Calicot and Nathaniel Putnam as sureties"
(Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
"The first trouble appears to have come to this family (Francis & Rebecca Nurse) soon after the purchase of the Bishop farm. Allen had guaranteed the title. He was soon called upon to defend it against the claims of Zerubabel Endicott, who claimed a boundary line to the Endicott possessions that pushed back the eastern bounds of the Bishop farm. The controversy was a long one, going finally to the General Court for settlement. It was decided against Endicott."
(Witchcraft in Salem Village by Winfield S. Nevins pp 114, 172, 212, 232)

August 9, 1680
Age 21