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John Arnold

Birthplace: Braintree, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
Death: Died in New London, New London County, Connecticut Colony
Immediate Family:

Son of Joseph Arnold, of Braintree and Rebecca Arnold
Husband of Mary Arnold and Mercy Arnold
Father of William Arnold; Mary Copeland; Margaret Arnold; Rebecca Arnold; James Arnold and 2 others
Brother of William Arnold; Joseph Arnold; Samuel Arnold; Ephraim Arnold and Rebecca Arnold
Half brother of Solomon Curtis, of Braintree & Swansea and Ruth Curtis

Occupation: Blacksmith, goal keeper at Boston Prison
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John Arnold

John Arnold

  • Born: April 2, 1655 at Braintree, Ma., the third of four sons born to Joseph Arnold and Rebecca Arnold (Curtis). The children of Joseph Arnold and Rebecca:
  1. William Arnold: born March 16, 1648/49; Braintree, Ma.
  2. Joseph Arnold: born October 18, 1652; Braintree, Ma.
  3. John Arnold: born April 2, 1655; Braintree, Ma.
  4. Ephraim Arnold: born June 6, 1664; Braintree, Ma.

Marriage 1.) Mary, last name unknown; date of marriage unknown.

Children of John and Mary as follows:

  1. William Arnold: born November 22, 1678; Braintree, Ma.
  2. Mary Arnold: born September 12, 1681; Braintree, Ma.
  3. Margaret Arnold: born October 14, 1683; Weymouth, Ct.
  4. Rebecca Arnold: born February 26, 1685/86; Boston, Ma.
  5. James Arnold: born February 2, 1693/94; Weymouth, Ct.

Marriage 2.) Mercy Pickett ( Fosdick) ; Married December 6, 1703, New London, Ct.

Children of John and Mercy as follows:

  1. Ruhannah/Ruhamah Arnold: born September 7, 1704; New London, Ct.
  2. Lucretia Arnold: born August 26, 1706; New London, Ct.; Page 39: Information recorded in Massachetts Archives; Vol.LXVIII p.179

John was a blacksmith by trade. He served as a militia member at Weymouth and was also a prison keeper for the City of Boston.

Death: August 26, 1725 at New London, Ct.


Recorded as written:

It was while Henry was fighting in the eastern parts of the colony that Martha was put in a Boston jail on suspicion of witchcraft. The History of Chelmsford provides an account of John Arnold, the Boston jailer, who not only played host to Martha Sparks for 58 weeks, but had as his guests the more celebrated ladies from Salem, including Sarah Good, Sarah Osborn and Rebecca Nurse.


The above link is taken from The History of Chelmsford, Ma.: The records of "John Arnold, the goalkeeper at Boston" : list of charges for items used by accused women.


ARNOLD, John (d. New London, Conn., Aug. 26, 1725, "aged abt. 73 yrs,") at Norwich, 1680, later removed to Boston; was jailer at Salem. during the witch- craft delusion, and was discharged from his position because he had freed a woman victim on a forged order of release; removed, 1700, to New London, where he was an anchorsmith; a, Dec. 6, 1703, Mercy, widow of Samuel Fosdick; issues 1--Ruhamah (b. Sept. 7, 1704); 2--Lucretia (b. Aug. 26, 1706)


All three earthly women, however, were serving their third day in a Boston JAIL. Since most capital trials were held in Boston, Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba were transported there earlier that week from Salem town JAIL, a trip that would have taken all day. John Arnold, prison keeper, took custody of the women on March 7th. The basic fee was two shillings, sixpence a week – about as much as a woman could hope to earn in a week – plus processing fees and fees for shackles. Boston’s jail seemed to be an open common room bordered by smaller rooms where some of the prisoners were locked at night (and from which some escaped by removing the window bars). Like the smaller Essex County jails, it was set inside a fenced yard that less dangerous prisoners could exercise in. Wealthy prisoners could even rent a room in the prison keeper’s house and attend religious meetings under guard. It is not clear if any of the rooms were underground, although there may have been windowless inner rooms. References to “dungeons” may be metaphorical, synonymous with “close confinement” or “close prison,” a term an earlier prisoner used when confined full-time to a room with an EXTERIOR WINDOW. Even then the jails, intended to hold prisoners only temporarily, were hot in summer and cold in winter, infested with lice, and stank at all times of dung and tobacco. Prisons, as one visiting Englishman said a few years before, were “suburbs of Hell” (Roach 35). Roach, Marilynne K. Salem Witch Trials: A Day-By-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege. Cooper Square Press. New York. 2002.


From The Salem Witch Trials Reader (pages 73-74):

To Mr. John Arnold, Keeper of the Prison in Boston, in the County of Suffolk.

Whereas Captain John Alden of Boston, Mariner, and Sarah Rice, wife of Nicholas Rice of Reading, husbandman, have been this day brought before us, John Hathorne of Jonathan Corwin, Esquires; being accused and suspected of perpetrating divers[e] acts of witchcraft, contrary to the form of the statute, in that case made and provided: These are therefore in their Majesties', King William and Queen Mary's names, to will and require you, to take into your custody, the bodies of the said John Alden, and Sarah Rice, and them safely keep, until they shall thence be delivered by due course of law; as you will answer the contrary at your peril; and this shall be your sufficient warrant. Give under our hands at Salem Village, the 31st of May in the fourth year of the reign of our sovereign Lord and Lady, William and Mary, now King and Queen over England, etc., Anno Dom. 1692.

John Hathorne, Jonathan Corwin, Assistants -

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John Arnold's Timeline

April 2, 1655
Braintree, Suffolk County, Massachusetts Bay Colony
November 22, 1678
Age 23
Braintree, Norfolk County, Massachusetts
September 12, 1681
Age 26
Braintree, Norfolk, Massachusetts, United States
October 14, 1683
Age 28
Weymouth, Massachusetts
February 26, 1685
Age 29
February 1, 1694
Age 38
Weymouth, Norfolk County, Massachusetts
September 7, 1704
Age 49
New London, New London County, Connecticut Colony
August 26, 1705
Age 50
New London, CT, United States
August 26, 1725
Age 70
New London, New London County, Connecticut Colony