Margaret Scott

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Margaret Scott (Stevenson)

Also Known As: "Salem Witch Trial", "Margaret Stephenson"
Birthdate: (76)
Birthplace: England
Death: September 22, 1692 (76)
Gallows Hill, Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts (Hanged after being convicted of witchcraft.)
Place of Burial: Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Edward Stevenson and Margareta Stevenson
Wife of Benjamin Scott, of Cambridge & Rowley
Mother of John Scott, of Roxbury; Benjamin Scott, Jr.; Sarah Scott; Mary Decker and Samuel Scott

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Margaret Scott

Margaret Stevenson Scott (1616 - 1692) was the only person to be accused of being a witch from Rowley during the Salem trials. The daughter of Edward Stevenson (born circa 1592) and Margareta Dunn (born circa 1596), Margaret was born in 1616 in England. The date of her emigration to the Colonies is unknown. She married Benjamin Scott (1611 - 1671), leaving a small estate insufficient to support her in a long widowhood.

Marriage and Children

  1. Benjamin Scott, married 28 July 1642, recorded at Boston
    1. Joseph Scott (1644 - 1644)
    2. Benjamin Scott (1646 - 1724)
    3. John Scott (1648 - 1715)
    4. Elizabeth Scott (1650 - 1650)
    5. Mary Scott (1651 - 1700)
    6. Samuel Scott (1655 - 1655)
    7. Sarah Scott (1656 - 1660)

Accusations, Conviction, Execution

She was executed as a result of a suspicious reputation, the combination of spectral and maleficium evidence against her, the close relationship among her accusers, and the timing of her trial. Her downfall resulted from a series of misfortunes that she could not avoid. Impoverished and isolated by her long widowhood, Scott's shady reputation made her an easy target for witchcraft suspicions. Her accusers' depositions describe many typical beliefs about witches in early New England, which built up over a prolonged period of time. Margaret Scott simply could not avoid the key factor in her condemnation; her profile as a "usual suspect".

Unlike many of the other accused before the court, Scott was faced with an equal amount of spectral and maleficium evidence. The proponents of the court saw the opportunity to use Margaret Scott to their advantage. Her case showed the court relieving a community of a long-believed witch and distracted attention from other defendants who were convicted on much more questionable evidence.


Until recently, the story of Margaret Scott, executed September 22, 1692, as part of the Salem witch trials, was a mystery. With the discovery of depositions related to her trial, it is now possible to use the names, places, and events mentioned in the court records to finally discover Margaret Scott’s story. The information yielded by these documents shows that Margaret Scott was a victim of bad luck and even worse timing. These two aspects, more than any supernatural forces, led to the demise of Margaret Scott.

Margaret Scott fits the stereotype of the classic witch identified and feared for years by her neighbors in Rowley, Massachusetts (a small town to the north of Salem). Margaret had difficulty raising children, something widely believed to be common for witches. Her husband died in 1671, leaving only a small estate that had to support Margaret for years. Margaret, who was thus forced to beg, exposed herself to witchcraft suspicions because of what the historian Robin Briggs has termed the "refusal guilt syndrome." This phenomenon occurred when a beggar’s requests were refused, causing feelings of guilt and aggression on the refuser’s part. The refuser projected this aggression on the beggar and grew suspicious of her.

It also appears that when Margaret Scott was formally accused, it occurred at the hands of Rowley’s most distinguished citizens. Formal charges were filed only after the daughter of Captain Daniel Wicom became afflicted. The Wicoms also worked with another prominent Rowley family, the Nelsons, to act against Margaret Scott. The Wicoms and Nelsons helped produce witnesses, and one of the Nelsons sat on the grand jury that indicted her.

Frances Wicom testified that Margaret Scott’s specter tormented her on many occasions. Several factors may have led Frances to testify to such a terrible experience, including her home environment and its relationship with Indian conflicts. She undoubtedly would have heard first-hand accounts of bloody conflicts with Indians from her father, a captain in the militia. New evidence shows that a direct correlation can be found between anxiety over Indian wars being fought in Maine and witchcraft accusations.

Another girl tormented by Margaret Scott’s specter was Mary Daniel. Records show that Mary Daniel probably was a servant in the household of the minister of Rowley, Edward Payson. If Mary Daniel, who received baptism in 1691, worked for Mr. Payson, her religious surroundings could well have had an effect on her actions. Recent converts to Puritanism felt inadequate and unworthy and at times displaced their worries through possession and other violent experiences.

The third girl to be tormented spectrally was Sarah Coleman. Sarah was born in Rowley but lived most of her life in the neighboring town of Newbury. Her testimony shows the widespread belief surrounding Margaret Scott’s reputation.

Both the Nelsons and Wicoms also provided maleficium evidence—a witch’s harming of one’s property, health, or family—against Margaret Scott. Both testimonies show evidence of the refusal guilt syndrome.

However, what sealed Margaret Scott’s fate was the timing of her trial and its relation to the witchcraft crisis. Evidence from the girls in Rowley coincided chronologically with important events in the Salem trials. Frances Wicom initially experienced spectral torment in 1692, "quickly after the first Court at Salem." Frances also testified that Scott’s afflictions of her stopped on the day of Scott’s examination, August 5. Mary Daniel deposed on August 4 that Margaret Scott afflicted her on the day of Scott’s arrest. The third afflicted girl, Sarah Coleman, testified that the specter of Margaret Scott started to afflict her on August 15, which fell ten days after the trial of George Burroughs and Scott’s own examination. Additionally, the fifteenth was only four days before the executions of Burroughs and other accused witches who were not "usual suspects" and thus brought considerable attention to the Salem proceedings.

By the time that Margaret Scott appeared in front of the court, critics of the proceedings had become more vocal, expressing concern over the wide use of spectral evidence in the Salem trials. The court probably took the opportunity to prosecute Margaret Scott to help its own reputation. Margaret Scott’s case involved not only spectral evidence but also a fair amount of testimony about maleficium. Scott exhibited many characteristics that were believed common among witches in New England. The spectral testimony given by the afflicted girls further bolstered the accusers’ case. To the judges at Salem, Margaret Scott was a perfect candidate to highlight the court’s effectiveness. By executing Scott, the magistrates at Salem could silence critics of the trials by executing a "real witch" suspected of being associated with the devil for many years.

Hanged as a witch. Later exonerated.


From link to The History of Rowley, Page 15

September 17. Nine more received sentence of death. viz. Margaret Scott, of Rowley; Goodwife Reed, Marblehead; Samuel Wardwell, Mary Lacy, Ann Foster, and Mary Parker, of Andover; also Abigail Falkner, of Andover, who pleaded pregnancy; Rebecca Eames, of Boxford; and Abigail Hobbs, of Topsfield. Of these sentenced September 9th and 17th, eight were executed, September 22d, viz.. Martha Cory, Mary Easty, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Margaret Scott, William Reed,. Samuel Wardwell, and Mary Parker. The following are true copies of the indictments against Margaret Scott, and of the evidence upon which she was convicted viz. "Indictmt . agst Margaret Scott, for bewitching Frances Wijcomb. 15

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Margaret Scott's Timeline

July 2, 1646
Age 30
Cambridge, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Colonial America
July 5, 1646
Age 30
Cambridge, Middlesex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, Colonial America
January 16, 1651
Age 35
Rowely, Essex Co., Ma, Nabc
November 1, 1656
Age 40
September 22, 1692
Age 76
Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts
Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States