Sarah (Averill) Wildes, alleged Salem witch

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Sarah Wildes (Averill)

Also Known As: "Salem Witch", "Wild", "Averell"
Birthplace: Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England
Death: Died in Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
Cause of death: Execution by hanging
Place of Burial: Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Averill Sr. and Abigail Averill
Wife of John Wild, of Topsfield
Mother of Ephraim Wildes
Sister of William Averill, Jr.; Thomas Averill; John Averell; Abigail Averell; Mary Averell and 4 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sarah (Averill) Wildes, alleged Salem witch

Sarah Averill Wildes (c1627 - 1692) - Sarah Averill, daughter of William Averill, Sr. (c1611 - 1652) and Abigail Hinton (c1610 - 1655), was born about 1627 at Chipping, Norton, England; convicted of witchcraft at the age of 65, she was executed by hanging on 19 July 1692 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, and buried in an unmarked grave. She married John Wild (1618 - 1705) on 23 November 1663 at Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts.

Marriage and Children

Sarah Averill married John Wildes on 23 November 1663 at Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts. They had one child:

  1. Ephraim Wildes (born 1 December 1665 Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts)

Biographical Sketch

Sarah was born to William Averill and Abigail Hynton about 1627 in Chipping, Norton, England. The family immigrated to America before 1637 and settled in Massachusetts.

A Poor Reputation

In November 1649, Sarah was arrested for "too great intimacy with Thomas Wardell" in nearby Ipswich, which may be why she married so much later than most of her contemporaries. In May 1663 she was accused of the lesser offense of "wearing a silk scarf", also in Ipswich. A few months later, Sarah married John Wildes on 23 November 1663 in Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts, when she was 36 years old. They had just one child. John had previously been married to Priscilla Gould Wildes, with whom he had nine children, and Priscilla had died in April 1663, just six months before.

Family Resentments

John's first wife's brother, Lieutenant John Gould and her sister, Mary Gould Reddington, resented that John married so soon after the death of his first wife, as evidenced in the will of John Wildes, Jr. (son of John Wildes and his first wife, Priscilla Gould Wildes). In John Jr.'s will, he refers to his inheritance from his grandfather, Zaccheus Gould, hoping that his father might not be troubled by any claims made by his uncle, Lieutenant John Gould. Years earlier, when King James II appointed Edmund Andros as the Royal Governor of Massachusetts in 1685, serious unrest occurred in the colony. After speaking out about his displeasure, Lieutenant John Gould was arrested for treason, and John Wildes, Sr. testified against him. Lt. John Gould was found guilty of "uttering malicious treasonable and seditious speeches" in August 1686. After paying a fine, he was released; but he would never forgave his brother-in-law, John Wildes. Shortly afterward John Wildes married Sarah Averill, Lt. Gould's sister Mary Gould Reddington began to spread witchcraft stories about Sarah Averill Wildes. John Wildes then threatened to sue Mary's husband, John Reddington, for slander, but Mary denied her accusations. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done.

Many Factors Led to the Witch Hunts

There had been a long-running feud between the villages of Ipswich, Topsfield and Salem, over the Salem Village boundaries, which may have helped fuel the witch hunt hysteria. There were also serious disagreements between the two Salem Village ministers, George Burrows and Samuel Parris. Whatever the causes, this epidemic lasted about six months before the reaction came. During that period twenty persons were executed, fifty-four were tortured or frightened into a confession of witchcraft; and when a special Court convened in October 1699, one hundred and fifty accused persons were still in prison.

Powerful Enemies

It is now known that many of the accused belonged to the better classes instead of the lowest as first thought. Sarah's husband was a magistrate and her son was a constable, but the Goulds were related to the powerful Putnam family of Salem Village. On 21 April 1692, a warrant was issued for Sarah's arrest based on a complaint made the same day by Thomas Putnam, Jr. and John Buxton of Salem Village. She and others were accused of afflicting Ann Putnam, Jr., Mercy Lewis, and Mary Walcott. She was arrested the next day by Salem Village Marshal George Herrick, who took her Salem Village, where she was examined by Justices Hathorne and Corwin at the Salem Village meetinghouse. In this examination and later ones, she would not only be accused by the afflicted girls, but also by Deliverance Hobbs, who had also been accused. Deliverance had been arrested by John and Sarah's son, Ephraim Wildes, a Topsfield constable. Ephraim testified that he believed Deliverance had accused his mother as revenge for her arrest. Sarah Wildes' husband and son testified on her behalf.

Testimony of John Wildes

"John Wiells testifieth that he did hear yt Mary the wife of Jno Reddington did raise a report yt my wife had bewitched her and I went to ye saide Jno Reddinton & told him I would arest him for his wife defaming of my wife but ye said Reddinton desired me not to do it for it would but waste his estate and yt his wife would a done it in tyme and yt he knew nothing she had against mye wife .... after this I got my brother Averill to goe to ye said Sarah Reddinton & my sd Bror told me yt he told ye said Sarah Reddinton yt if she had anything ag" my wife yt he would be a means and would help her to bring my wife out; but yt ye said Sarah Reddington replyed yt she knew no harm mye wife had done her."

[The year and month that John Wildes' "brother Averill" spoke to Sarah Reddington does not appear in said document. But William Averell died April 23, 1691, and as the accusation of Sarah was after that date, the brother Averell was undoubtedly her brother Thomas Averell of Wells or York, Maine.]

Testimony of Ephraim Wildes

Ephraim Willdes aged about 27 or thereabouts testifieth and saith that about fouer yeers a goe there was some likly hode of my having one of Goody Simonds dafter and as the maid towld me hur mother and father were verily willing I should have haur but after some time I had a hint that Goodeey Simonds had formerly said she believed my Mother had done her wrong and I. went to hare and tock Marke how that is now dead who dyed at the Eastward along with me, and before both of us She denied that euer she had eneey grounds to think eniey halme of my Mother only from what Goodiey Redington had saide and afterwarde I left the house and went no more and euer since she bene veriey angriey with me and now she will reward me. Ephraim Willdes

This may inform this Honored Court that I Ephraim Willdes being Constabell for Topsfield this yere and the Marshall of Sallem coming to fetch away my Mother he then shurd me a warrant from Authority directed to the Constablell of topsfelld wherein was William Hobbs and Deliuerence his wife with many others and the Marshall did then require me forthwith to gow and aprehend the bodyes of William hobs and his wife which accordingly I did and I have had sereous thoughts many times sence whether my sezing of them might not be some case of here thus acusing my Mother thereby in some mesure to be revenged of me the woman did show a veriey bad spirit when sezed. we might all most se revenge in her face she looked so malishosly on mee As fore my Mother I never'saw aney harm by har upon ainey such a cont neither in word nor action as she is now acused for.

She hath awlwais instructed me well in the Christian religion and the wais of God euer sence I was abell to take instruction And so I leve it all to this honord cort to consider of it. Ephraim Willdes

Tried, Convicted and Executed

Also arrested at the same time as Sarah Wildes were John Wildes' daughter and son-in-law, Edward and Sarah Bishop of Salem Village, and his daughter Phoebe Wildes Day of Ipswich. On 13 May 1692, 65 year-old Sarah Averill Wildes was sent to the Boston Jail in fetters and handcuffs to await further trial. During her imprisonment her husband, John, and their son, Ephraim Wildes traveled back and forth to see that Sarah was fed and clothed and to give her such comfort as they could. Testifying against her were Humphrey Clark, Thomas Dorman, John Andrew, John Gould, Zacheus Perkins, Elizabeth Symonds, Nathaniel Ingersoll, and Reverend John Hale. Having a magistrate for a husband and a son who was a constable did not prevent Sarah from being tried, convicted and executed for witchcraft. Sarah Averill Wildes was condemned for the practice of witchcraft, and was executed by hanging in Salem, Massachusetts, on 19 July 1692.

Sources and Further Information

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Sarah (Averill) Wildes, alleged Salem witch's Timeline

Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, England
November 23, 1663
Age 36
Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts

...First, John Wildes, one of the earliest settlers of that town, had married in 1663 for his second wife, Sarah Averell, a sister of William*; ...

Source: The Averell-Averill-Avery family:
A record of the descendants of William and Abigail Averell of Ipswich, Mass. ... (Google eBook), pages 79-97

December 1, 1665
Age 38
Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts
Age 64

His will, witnessed by his sister, Sarah Wildes, and her husband, reveals a fine spirit of consideration of which his descendants may be proud.

Source: The Averell-Averill-Avery family:
A record of the descendants of William and Abigail Averell of Ipswich, Mass. ... (Google eBook), pages 79-97

July 19, 1692
Age 65
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
July 19, 1692
Age 65
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts