Judge Thomas Danforth, Salem Witch Trials

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Dept. Gov. and Judge Thomas Danforth

Birthplace: Framlingham, Suffolk, United Kingdom
Death: November 05, 1699 (76)
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony i
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicholas Danforth and Elizabeth Danforth
Husband of Mary Danforth
Father of Sarah Whiting; Mary Browne; Elizabeth Foxcroft; Bethia Danforth; Joseph Danforth and 4 others
Brother of Elizabeth Belcher; Mary Parrish; Anna Bridge; Lydia Beamon; Rev. Samuel Danforth and 1 other

Occupation: Deputy Governor of Massachusetts and judge in 1692 Salem Witch Trials, Magistrate - Bought Maine
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Judge Thomas Danforth, Salem Witch Trials


Thomas Danforth (1622 – November 5, 1699) was a judge for the 1692 Salem witch trials in early colonial America. As a character in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and the 1996 movie by the same name directed by Nicholas Hytner, he is portrayed as a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. (more on this below)

He was born in Framlingham, Suffolk, England as the eldest son of Nicholas Danforth (1589-1639) and Elizabeth Symmes (1596-1629). Danforth immigrated with his father, brothers Samuel Danforth and Jonathan, and sisters Anna, Elizabeth, and Lydia to New England in 1634 on the ship the Griffin; Anne Hutchinson was also aboard ship. The family along with the 200 or so other passengers aboard left to escape persecution for their Puritan beliefs. (Archbishop William Laud had begun his persecution of Puritans in England in 1633).

Personal life and careers

Soon after his arrival in the colonies he acquired great influence in the management of public affairs. Bancroft speaks of him as the probable author of the report on natural and chartered rights, made by Simon Bradstreet, Increase Mather, John Norton, and others in 1661. In 1643 Danforth was admitted a freeman of New England. He was named as Treasurer of Harvard in the Harvard Charter of 1650. From 1659 to 1678 he was an assistant under the Massachusetts government, becoming Deputy Governor in 1679. In the latter year he was elected president in the Province of Maine, then independent of Massachusetts which he served from 1680 to 1686, then again 1689 to 1692. He opened his court at York, and granted several parcels of land. He held the offices of Deputy Governor and president until the arrival of Sir Edmund Andros in 1688. Meanwhile he had also been made a judge of the superior court, and in 1681, with Daniel Gookin, Elisha Cooke and others, opposed the acts of trade and asserted the charter rights of the country.

Thomas Danforth married Mary Withington in 1644. The couple had 12 children, however only 2 daughters survived to adulthood; 6 of their children died before the age of 3.

Danforth owned 15,000 acres (61 km2) about 15 miles (24 km) outside of Boston known as Danforth's Farm. Danforth's Farm would later become the town of Framingham, Massachusetts, which Danforth named after his home town in England.
Thomas Danforth was an advocate of Christianized Indian rights as were his brothers and were supporters of John Eliot in his mission work. They were highly criticized for this.

Fictional character in The Crucible

As a character in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, and the 1996 movie by the same name directed by Nicholas Hytner, he is portrayed as a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. Public opinion and his reputation are most important to him. He seems to secretly know that the witch trials are a lie, yet will not release any of the prisoners because he is afraid of being viewed as weak and having his theocratic reputation undermined. When John Proctor, an accused, defies his authority at the end of the play by refusing to lie and sign a public confession saying that he is a witch and accusing others, he is mercilessly sentenced to hang by Danforth, along with other prisoners including Rebecca Nurse.

Arthur Miller in The Crubible uses the name Samuel Danforth who wasn't there but his brother Thomas was, however Thomas was not a judge at this trial.

Sir William Phips was appointed Governor of Massachusetts just prior to the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692. Phips created the special witchcraft Court of Oyer and Terminer, and subsequently dismantled it after the Boston ministers and the general public turned against the trials. It is difficult to dismiss the view that he might have stopped the trials sooner had he overseen the court more closely, instead of leaving it entirely in the hands of his zealous deputy Govenor William Stoughton, the chief justice of the court.

Lieutenant Governor William Stoughton was appointed Chief Justice of the court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692. He ruled over the trials with the determination to eradicate all witches from Massachusetts Bay Colony - heavily influenced by his conservative religious convictions. When the court was dissolved, Stoughton continued to enjoy political success and never apologized for his role in the trials.

Born into a well-established Salem family on August 5, 1641, John Hathorne became a local Salem magistrate and was chosen by Governor Sir William Phips to be a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. During the trials, Hathorne took on the role of a prosecutor rather than an impartial judge. Hathorne's questioning always began with a presumption of guilt rather than innocence, and he appeared to be on the side of the accusers. Hathorne altered the tradition of previous witch trials by encouraging those under examination not only to confess to witchcraft but also to name others who might be witches - a move that accelerated the number of accusations. He died in Salem on May 10, 1717, and was later a prominent target of criticism by his own great-grandson, Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Born in England in 1652, Samuel Sewall moved to America at the age of nine and obtained two degrees from Harvard before marrying into a wealthy family. As a prominent member of the merchant class, Sewall was selected by Governor Phips to sit as a judge for the witchcraft trials on the Court of Oyer and Terminer. Five years after the trials concluded, Sewall issued a public confession demonstrating personal remorse, taking in his words the "Blame and Shame" for his part in condemning innocent people. He was the only judge to do so.

Other people present: Jonathan Corwin Thomas Danforth Bartholomew Gedney John Richards Nathaniel Saltonstall Peter Sargent Stephen Sewall Wait Winthrop


Carlota Alexandrina Jouvin-Poetzscher Danforth


  • New England, The Great Migration and The Great Migration Begins, 1620-1635. “Nicholas Danforth.” Page 283. AncestryImage


interesting... participated in the Salem Witch Trials! I've added this Uncle due to his interesting life and history

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Judge Thomas Danforth, Salem Witch Trials's Timeline

April 20, 1623
Framlingham, Suffolk, United Kingdom
November 20, 1623
Framlingham, England
November 20, 1623
Saint Michael's, Framlingham, Suffolk Co, Massachusetts
Age 10
Immigrated from England to USA
May 10, 1643
Age 20
Massachusetts Colony, Massachusetts, USA
Age 19
Freeman 10 May, Massachusetts Colony, MA
November 11, 1646
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States
July 26, 1650
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Colonial America
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States