George Jacobs, Salem Witch Trial

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George Jacobs, Sr.

Also Known As: "George Jacob"
Birthplace: England
Death: August 19, 1692 (80)
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts (Execution by hanging)
Place of Burial: Salem, Essex , Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Richard Jacobs and Winefrede Jacob
Husband of First Wife of George Jacobs and Mary Wildes
Father of George Jacobs, Jr.; Mary Jacobs and Ann Andrews
Brother of Nicholas Jacobs, of Hingham

Occupation: Murdered--Victim of Witchcraft
Managed by: Joe Fitzgerald
Last Updated:

About George Jacobs, Salem Witch Trial

George Jacobs, Sr. (c.1620 – 1692) — George Jacobs was accused of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in Salem Village, Massachusetts in 1692, and was found guilty and hanged on 19 August 1692. His accusers included his daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Marriages and Children

  1. Unknown (Mrs. George Jacobs) - Not much is known about the first wife of George Jacobs, Sr. (c.1620 – 1692), except that she was the mother of his three children, and she died before he remarried in 1673. Since the average age of a Puritan woman having her first child was about 22, and her son George Jacobs, Jr. was born about 1649, we can estimate that she was born circa 1627.
    1. George Jacobs, Jr. (circa 1649 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts - 1717); also accused of witchcraft; married Rebecca (Andrew) Frost, who was also accused of witchcraft in 1692. Their children were:
      1. George III Jacobs
      2. Margaret Jacobs (born circa 1676); also accused of witchcraft, and an accuser of her grandfather
      3. John Jacobs
      4. Jonathan Jacobs
      5. Mary Jacobs
    2. Mary Jacobs (born circa 1650 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts)
    3. Ann Jacobs (born circa 1655 Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts)
  2. Mary MNU, married circa 1673; no issue

In 1692 George Jacobs, Sr. was accused, tried, and convicted of witchcraft, and was executed by hanging. On 23 June 1693, George's widow Mary married John Wilds, whose wife had been hanged as a witch just a month before George's execution.

Biographical Sketch

George Jacobs, Sr. was born circa 1620. Not much is known about when he came to Massachusetts Bay Colony, or about his first wife. He had three children from his first marriage, all born in Salem. He bought a homestead, consisting of a house and ten acres, at a secluded spot off the main road leading to Topsfield, on 20 November 1658, and later added four acres more, partly of marsh land. He received also a grant of land from the town of Salem, which remained in the family for several generations. George Jacobs, Sr. married his second wife, Mary Fecher on 12 January 1673 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts. He had lived in Salem for a little over thirty years when he was accused of witchcraft.

How the Hysteria Began

The Puritan settlers of New England had many fears. During King Philip's War many settlers were killed. In 1690, there was still a strong fear of Indian attacks. Ministers routinely attributed unexplainable events such as drought, foul weather, and illness as the work of the Devil. Puritans had a very real fear of the Devil in their everyday lives.

The witchcraft hysteria began in the home of the Reverend Samuel Parris, where Tituba, a slave from Barbados, had been telling stories about magic to Betty Parris, the Reverend's nine-year-old daughter, and Betty's cousin Abigail Williams. The result was that Tituba was accused of witchcraft.

Tituba's trial led to the accusations Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. Several other young girls, friends of Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, were drawn into the hysteria. The "afflicted girls" accused others of causing their "seizures" through witchcraft. Anyone accused of witchcraft was put in chains until their trial, sometimes for months. The town seized their property. Family members including children were left to fend for themselves.

When the trial began, if the accused were unable to offer plausible explanations, including being led to the Devil by another, they were hanged. The "afflicted children" were present at the trials and played an important part in the trial. They usually had seizures, which helped condemn the accused.

Accused of Witchcraft

George Jacobs, Sr. attended church in Salem irregularly and was apparently a man of few words. When he spoke, he was direct and some said he had a "salty tongue". These characteristics did not make George popular with many inhabitants of Salem village. Like so many of the others who fell under suspicion of witchcraft, he did not always get along well with his neighbors. In 1677 he had been fined for striking a man. His son, George, Jr., three years earlier, was sued by Nathaniel Putnam to recover the value of some horses that he had chased into the river, where they were drowned. The court found against Jacobs.

One of the "afflicted children" was Sarah Churchill, a servant of George Jacobs. She had heard George refer to the afflicted girls as "witch bitches". On the tenth day of May 1692, a warrant was issued for the arrest of George Jacobs, Sr., of Salem, and Margaret Jacobs, daughter of George Jacobs, Jr., of Salem.

Warrant v. George Jacobs Sr.

"To: The Constables in Salem. You are in theire Majests names hereby required to apprehend and forthwith bring before vs. George Jacobs Sr of Salem, And Margaret Jacobs the daughter of George Jacobs Junr of Salem Singlewoman Who stand accused of high suspicion of sundry acts of witchcraft by them both Committed on sundry persons in Salem to theire great wrong and Jnjury and hereof faile not. Dated Salem May 10th. 1692."

Once arrested, the sheriff's officers went to his house and seized all his goods, and even took his wife's wedding ring. His son George, Jr., his daughter-in-law Rebecca, and granddaughter Margaret were also accused. George, Jr. abandoned his family in his desperate rush to elude arrest.

His son's wife was in prison and in chains, awaiting trial for witchcraft; her children, including an unweaned infant, had been left destitute. His granddaughter, Margaret, was also arrested.

Examination for Witch Marks

Doctor George Herrick testified that in May he went to the jail and searched Jacobs' body for a "witch's teat". He found a slight protuberance under the right shoulder a quarter of an inch long. He ran a pin through it, but "there was neither water, blood, nor corruption, nor any other matter, and so we make return." This mark, combined with the spectral evidence offered by the "afflicted girls" made the case strong enough for indictment.

"Wee whose names are under written having received an order from ye sreife to search ye bodyes of George Burroughs and George Jacobs wee find nothing upon ye body of ye above sayd Burroughs but wt is naturall but upon ye body of George Jacobs wee find 3 tetts wch according to ye best of our judgements wee think is not naturall for wee run a pinn through 2 of ym and he was not sincible of it one of them being within his mouth upon ye inside of his right cheak and 2d upon his right shoulder blade and a 3d upon his right hipp. Ed Welch, sworne; John Flint, jurat; Will Gill, sworne; Tom West, sworne; Zeb Gill, jurat; Sam Morgan, sworne; John Bare, jurat.

Pre-Trial Questioning

Four days after his arrest, he was brought before the magistrates for questioning. Jacobs continued to protest his innocence:

Jacobs: "I am as innocent as the child born tonight. I have lived 33 years here in Salem. "What then? If you can prove that I am guilty I will lye under it."

Sarah Churchill: "Last night I was afflicted at Deacon Ingersoll's"

Mary Walcott: "It was a man with 2 staves. It was my master."

Jacobs: "Pray do not accuse me. I am as clear as your worships. You must do right judgements."

Magistrate: "What book did he bring you, Sarah?"

Sarah Churchill: "The same book that the other woman brought."

Jacobs: "The devil can go in any shape."

Magistrate: "Did he not appear on the other side of the river and hurt you? Did not you see him?"

Sarah Churchill: "Yes, he did."

Magistrate: "Look there, she accuseth you to your face, she chargeth you that you hurt her twice. Is it not true?"

Jacobs: "What would you have me say? I never wronged no man in word nor deed."

Magistrate: "Here are 3 evidences."

Jacobs: "You tax me for a wizzard. You may as well tax me for a buzzard. I have done no harm."

Magistrate: "Is it not harm to afflict these?"

Jacobs: "I never did it. "

Magistrate: "But how comes it to be in your appearance? "

Jacobs: "The devil can take any license."

Magistrate: "Not without their consent."

Jacobs: "Please your worships, it is untrue, I never showed the book. I am silly about these things as the child born last night."

Magistrate: "That is your saying. You argue you have lived so long, but what then, Cain might (have) lived so long before he killed Abel and you might live long before the devil had so prevailed on you."

Jacobs: "Christ hath suffered 3 times for me."

Magistrate: "What three times?"

Jacobs: "He suffered the cross and gal..."

Sarah Churchill: "You had as good confess if you are guilty."

Jacobs: "Have you heard that I have any witchcraft?"

Sarah Churchill: "I know that you lead a wicked life."

Magistrate: "Doth he ever pray in his family?"

Sarah Churchill: "Not unless by himself."

Magistrate: "Why do you not pray in your family?"

Jacobs: "I cannot read."

Magistrate: "Well you may pray for all that. Can you say the Lord's prayer? Let us hear you." [It was generally believed that no witch could recite the Lord's Prayer perfectly. The old man, nervous and unlettered, omitted an entire sentence and made several other recitation errors.]

Jacobs: “Well, burn me or hang me, I will stand in the truth of Christ.”

Margaret's Confession

Overwhelmed with fright and horror, bewildered by the statements of the accusers, and probably controlled by her minister, Mr. Noyes (whose peculiar function in these proceedings seems to have been to force the accused to confess) Margaret Jacobs confessed to witchcraft, and in turn accused her grandfather, along with Constable John Willard and Reverend George Burroughs. When Jacobs Sr. was finally tried for witchcraft in August 1692, Margaret was one of nearly a dozen primary witnesses against him.

Confession Recanted

George Jacobs, Sr. was convicted and sentenced to death. After the sentencing, his granddaughter recanted her confession and her accusation against her father and George Burroughs. She was re-arrested and imprisoned again, but it wasn't enough to save her grandfather.

"The Humble Declaration of Margaret Jacobs unto the Honored Court now sitting at Salem showeth, that, whereas your poor and humble declarant, being closely confined here in Salem jail for the crime of witchcraft,—which crime, thanks be to the Lord! I am altogether ignorant of, as will appear at the great day of judgment,—may it please the honored Court, I was cried out upon by some of the possessed persons as afflicting them; whereupon I was brought to my examination; which persons at the sight of me fell down, which did very much startle and affright me.

The Lord above knows I knew nothing in the least measure how or who afflicted them. They told me, without doubt I did, or else they would not fall down at me; they told me, if I would not confess, I should be put down into the dungeon, and would be hanged, but, if I would confess, I should have my life: the which did so affright me, with my own vile, wicked heart, to save my life, made me make the like confession I did, which confession, may it please the honored Court, is altogether false and untrue.

The very first night after I had made confession, I was in such horror of conscience that I could not sleep, for fear the Devil should carry me away for telling such horrid lies. I was, may it please the honored Court, sworn to my confession, as I understand since; but then, at that time, was ignorant of it, not knowing what an oath did mean. The Lord, I hope, in whom I trust, out of the abundance of his mercy, will forgive me my false forswearing myself.

What I said was altogether false against my grandfather and Mr. Burroughs, which I did to save my life, and to have my liberty: but the Lord, charging it to my conscience, made me in so much horror, that I could not contain myself before I had denied my confession, which I did, though I saw nothing but death before me; choosing rather death with a quiet conscience, than to live in such horror, which I could not suffer.

Where, upon my denying my confession, I was committed to close prison, where I have enjoyed more felicity in spirit, a thousand times, than I did before in my enlargement. And now, may it please Your Honors, your declarant having in part given Your Honors a description of my condition, do leave it to Your Honors' pious and judicious discretions to take pity and compassion on my young and tender years, to act and do with me as the Lord above and Your Honors shall see good, having no friend but the Lord to plead my cause for me; not being guilty, in the least measure, of the crime of witchcraft, nor any other sin that deserves death from man.

And your poor and humble declarant shall for ever pray, as she is bound in duty, for Your Honors' happiness in this life, and eternal felicity in the world to come. So prays Your Honors' declarant, Margaret Jacobs."


George Sr. was executed by hanging on 19 August 1692 on Gallows Hill along with Reverend George Burroughs, John Proctor, Martha Carrier, and John Willard. A procession formed at the jail on St. Peter's Street and followed the victims, who were taken in a car to the gallows. All of them protested their innocence; but Cotton Mather told them that they all died by a righteous sentence.

When Mr. Burroughs was upon the ladder, he made a statement of his innocence so solemnly and seriously that the people, who were present in large numbers, admired him for it; and it seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. He closed his prayer by repeating the Lord's prayer so composedly and fervently that it was very affecting and drew tears from many. The accusers, who were there to see the culmination of their work, said that the "black man" stood and dictated to him.

As soon as the hangings were over, Cotton Mather declared that Mr. Burroughs was not an ordained minister and that Devil was often transformed into an angel of light. This somewhat appeased the people. When Mr. Burroughs was cut down, he was dragged by the halter to a hole or grave between the rocks, about two feet deep, his shirt and breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of trousers of one of the other men who was executed, put on. He was put into the hole with the bodies of Willard and Mrs. Carrier. One of his hands and his chin and a foot of one of the others were left uncovered. After dark, Mr. Buffum went to the crevice and covered the exposed parts of their bodies.

"Because I am falsely accused. I never did it." — George Jacobs, Sr.

Margaret Jacobs: A Letter to her Father

Written the day after her grandfather's execution.

"From the Dungeon in Salem Prison."

"August 20, 1692."

"Honored Father,After my humble duty remembered to you, hoping in the Lord of your good health, as, blessed be God! I enjoy, though in abundance of affliction, being close confined here in a loathsome dungeon: the Lord look down in mercy upon me, not knowing how soon I shall be put to death, by means of the afflicted persons; my grandfather having suffered already, and all his estate seized for the king.

The reason of my confinement is this: I having, through the magistrates' threatenings, and my own vile and wretched heart, confessed several things contrary to my conscience and knowledge, though to the wounding of my own soul; (the Lord pardon me for it!) but, oh! the terrors of a wounded conscience who can bear? But, blessed be the Lord! he would not let me go on in my sins, but in mercy, I hope, to my soul, would not suffer me to keep it any longer: but I was forced to confess the truth of all before the magistrates, who would not believe me; but it is their pleasure to put me in here, and God knows how soon I shall be put to death.

Dear father, let me beg your prayers to the Lord on my behalf, and send us a joyful and happy meeting in heaven. My mother, poor woman, is very crazy, and remembers her kind love to you, and to uncle; viz., D.A. So, leaving you to the protection of the Lord, I rest, your dutiful daughter, Margaret Jacobs."

The "uncle D.A." that Margaret referred to was Daniel Andrew, their nearest neighbor, who had escaped at the same time with her father. He was probably a brother of John Andrew who had married Ann Jacobs, sister of her father.


On 22 September 1692 there were eight more hangings. In all, nineteen people hanged for witchcraft in Salem. In 1711 the town of Salem officially recognized the travesty of the trials and granted financial reparation to the families of those who had been executed.

George's family buried his body on his farm. When he was disinterred in 1864, he was discovered to have been tall, arthritic, and toothless. His remains were taken to Salem in 1992, and reburied as part of the ceremony marking the 300th anniversary of the trials. His tombstone reads: "Because I am falsely accused. I never did it."

Timeline of Events

  • 4 May 1692 - George Burroughs arrested
  • 9 May 1692 - George Burroughs examined by John Hathorne, Corwin, Sewall and William Stoughton
  • 10 May 1692 - George Jacobs, Sr. and his granddaughter, Margaret examined and indicted. Margaret confessed, testified that her grandfather and George Burroughs were both witches
  • 14 May 1692 - Warrants issued for the arrest of George Jacobs, Jr., and his wife Rebecca
  • 2-6 August 1692 - George Jacobs, Sr. and George Burroughs tried for witchcraft and condemned
  • 19 August 1692 - George Jacobs and George Burroughs were hanged on Gallow's Hill
  • 20 August 1692 - Margaret's letter to her father
  • 3 January 1693 - Rebecca Jacobs tried and acquitted

Sources and Further Information

  • Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft, 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.
  • Endicott, C.M. "Minutes for a Genealogy of George Jacobs, Senior, of Salem Village..." Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Vol I, p. 52-55.
  • 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.
  • Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2000. Print.
  • Karlson, Carol. F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England, 1998.
  • 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.
  • Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, Kory L. Witches in Colonial America. ProGenealogists., n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • 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.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692, 1993.
  • Salem Town Records, Volume II, page 269. "Pasture of the Northfield Men. This tract of common land was leased for one thousand years to John Green, John Leach (son of Richard Leach) and John Bachilder, all of Salem, Feb. 1, 1677." John Tompkins, John Waters, Sr., John Foster and George Jacobs, all of Salem, husbandmen, appear to have been the owners in 1677. Though it is probable that some division of this tract of land was made in fact, a legal partition was not made until March 2, 1707, when John Leach, Samuel Leach, John Batchelder, Jonathan Batchelder, Josiah Batchelder, John Foster, John Waters, Richard Waters, Nathaniel Tompkins, Joseph Jacobs (in behalf of his father George Jacobs) and Samuel Foster agreed to divide it. This was done27 March 1708.
  • 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.

According to the Historic Americans Buildings Survey, the Jacobs house survived many centuries and remained in the Jacobs family until sometime after 1920. By the 20th century, the house had fallen into disrepair and was last photographed in 1935 by the Historic American Buildings Survey, shortly before it finally collapsed in 1938.

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George Jacobs, Salem Witch Trial's Timeline

Age 37
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
Age 38
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
Age 48
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
August 19, 1692
Age 80
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts
August 19, 1692
Age 80
Salem, Essex , Massachusetts, United States