Mary Estey (Towne)

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Mary Estey (Towne)

Also Known As: "Eastey", "Easty", "Mary Easty"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England
Death: Died in Salem Town, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts
Cause of death: Execution by Hanging
Place of Burial: Salem Town, Essex County, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of William Towne and Joanna Towne
Wife of Isaac Estey and Isaac Estey or Easty
Mother of John Esty; Joseph Estey; Sarah Gill (Estey); Isaac Estey; Hannah Abbott and 10 others
Sister of Rebecca Nurse; John Towne; Susanna Towne; Edmund Towne; Jacob Towne and 2 others

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Mary Estey (Towne)

Mary Towne Estey (1634 - 1692) - Mary Towne, daughter of William Towne (1599-1685) and Joanna Blessing (1595-1682), was born 12 August 1634 at Great Yarmouth, Suffolk, England; she was executed for witchcraft on 22 September 1692 at Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts Colony. She married Issac Eastey (1627-1709) about 1647 at Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts; they had seven known surviving children.

Children of Mary and Issac

  1. Isaac Esty (1656 - 1714)
  2. Joseph Estey (2 May 1657 - 25 October 1738)
  3. Sarah Esty (30 June 1660 - 29 June 1749)
  4. John Esty (born 2 January 1661/1662)
  5. Hannah Esty (1667 - 5 Nov 1741); married George Abbot 21 July 1707 Topsfield, Massachusetts
  6. Benjamin Esty (29 April 1669 - 28 March 1750)
  7. Samuel Esty (25 March 1672 Topsfield, Massachusetts - 1708)
  8. Jacob Esty (4 January 1673/1674 - 3 October 1732)
  9. Joshua Esty (2 July 1678 - 25 April 1718)
  10. Mary Esty
  11. Abigail Esty

Biographical Sketch

Born at Great Yarmouth, Suffolk, England on 12 August 1634, Mary Towne was christened two weeks later on 24 August. She migrated with family to Salem, Massachusetts at a very young age, possibly in 1637 aboard the Rose of Yarmouth. Mary was the second wife of yeoman farmer, Issac Eastey, who had two children from his first marriage. She and Issac had eleven more children, four of whom did not survive infancy and childhood.

Accused of Witchcraft

At the time, witchcraft was assumed to be hereditary. After the accusations of her sisters Rebecca Nurse and Sarah Cloyce, Mary (Towne) Easty was virtually certain to be accused as well.

Mary Easty was a resident of Topsfield, a settlement just north of Salem Village. Animosity had festered between members of Salem Village and Topsfield since 1639 when the General Court of Massachusetts granted Salem permission to expand northward in the direction of the Ipswich River, but then just four years later authorized inhabitants of Ipswich to found a settlement there as well. As land became scarcer, quarrels regarding boundaries between the settlements went on for a century.

Considering the bitterness between the Putnams and the Nurse family, it can be no coincidence that the three Towne sisters, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Cloyce and Mary Easty, were all daughters and wives of Topsfield men to be persecuted by Putnam women in 1692 on behalf of Putnam men.

Like her sister Rebecca, Mary was a pious and respected member of Salem. Once accused, however, Mary stood little chance of escaping conviction.

Would You Have Me Accuse Myself?

Her examination on 22 April 1692 followed the pattern of most of the accused witches in Salem. The girls feigned fits and speechlessness. When Eastey clasped her hands together, Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted, imitated the gesture and claimed to be unable to release her hands until Eastey released her own. Again, when Mary inclined her head, the afflicted girls accused her of trying to break their necks.

Magistrate John Hathorne aggressively questioned Easty, or more accurately, tried to lead her to a confession:

"How can you say you know nothing when you see these tormented [girls], & accuse you that you know nothing?"

"Would you have me accuse myself?"

"Yes if you be guilty."

"Sir, I never complied but prayed against [the devil] all my dayes... I will say it, if it was my last time, I am clear of this sin."

In a surprising moment, Hathorne, clearly affected by the convincing manner with which Easty spoke, turned to the accusers and asked, "Are you certain this is the woman?" This question prodded the accusers to release their full energy into tormented fits. Hathorne was now convinced and imprisoned Easty.

The girls, however, seemed not to be fully convinced of their own accusations. Perhaps due to pressure from community around Easty, all of the accusers except Mercy Lewis, began to back off their claims. Easty was released from jail on 18 May. John and Mary Arnold testified that her behavior in the Boston prison was good and that her deportment was sober. She and her family believed she was safe.

Returned to Prison

What happened next provides an undeniable insight into the power of the accusers and the impossibility of obtaining a fair judicial process. After Easty's release, Mercy Lewis fell into violent fits and appeared to be approaching death. Mercy Lewis claimed that Easty was tormenting her, and "said [Easty] would kill [Lewis] before midnight because she did not cleare hir so as the Rest did."

Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam were brought to her bedside in an effort to discover who was tormenting Mercy. Along the path to the Mercy's house, Ann and Abigail explained that they saw Easty's specter tormenting Mercy, strongly suggesting a collaboration effort had already taken place before Mercy began her torments.

Frances Hill in A Delusion of Satan calls this episode a propaganda scheme to show doubting villagers the dire consequences of freeing witches from jail. Mercy and four others cried out against Easty on 20 May. A second warrant was issued that night for Eastey's arrest. She was taken from her bed and returned to the prison. Mercy's fits did not cease until Easty was back in chains and in prison, demonstrating the effective power of the accusers.

Damning Testimony

On 23 May 1692, Mary was indicted. Seventy year-old Margaret Reddington testified that about three years before, she was at the Estey home and talked with Mary about an illness and had and became very sick after that. She said that Mary's apparition appeared and offered her a piece of fresh meat that was not fit for the dogs. When she said she wouldn't have it, the apparition vanished.

Twenty-five year-old Samuel Smith of Boxford testified that about five years before he was rude to Isaac Estey, and Mary said he should not be so rude or he would regret it. That night on his ride home, he received a little blow on his shoulder and a stone wall rattled and frightened him and his horse.

A Plea for Fairness

Mary Town Estey was a devout Puritan who affirmed the existence of witchcraft but strongly condemned the trial proceedings. While in jail awaiting trial, she and her sister, Sarah Cloyce, composed a petition to the magistrates in which they asked, in essence, for a fair trial. They complained that they were "neither able to plead our owne cause, nor is councell allowed." They suggested that the judges ought to serve as their counsel and that they be allowed persons to testify on their behalf. Easty hoped her good reputation in Topsfield and the words of her minister might aid her case in Salem, where she wasn't as well known.

Lastly, the sisters asked that the testimony of accusers and other "witches" be dismissed considering it was predominantly spectral evidence that lacked legality. The sisters hoped that the judges would be forced to weigh solid character testimony against ambiguous spectral evidence. Despite her eloquent petition to the court, on 17 September she was condemned to death. But Easty did force the court to consider its flaws.

No More Innocent Blood

Easty wrote a second petition as a plea that "no more innocent blood may be shed." She concedes saying that the court had the best of intentions, but only more innocent deaths would occur if the court continued its practices, for she like many others could not "belie [their] own soul." She proposes two strategies for the court in to use when determining witchcraft: First, she asks that the accusers be kept apart to see if under such circumstances they would all tell the same experiences. If they were able to give similar credible accounts of their spectral experiences then any doubt would be removed as to the guilt or innocence of the person on trial.

Easty also proposed that all confessing witches be brought to trial as well as those confessing innocence. Rosenthal writes in A Salem Story that in an atmosphere of rising doubt, "for the court to ignore Easty's challenge would be to acknowledge to the critics that the proceedings were fatally flawed - that the hunt was not really for witches after all but for validating the court."

The Lord Above Knows My Innocency

She was imprisoned for a total of about four months before finally being tried, and convicted on 9 September. Three weeks later, on 22 August 1692, she was one of a group of eight hanged for witchcraft, referred to by Salem minister Nicholas Noyes, as the "eight firebrands of Hell". Mary’s parting communications with her husband and children were said by those who were present to have been, "as serious, religious, distinct, and affectionate as could be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present."

Her final statement prior to execution was, "The Lord above knows my innocency then...as on the great day will be known to men and angels. I petition your honours...if it be possible, that no more innocent blood be shed, which undoubtedly cannot be avoided in the way and course you go in. I question not, but your honors do to the utmost of your powers in the discovery and detecting of witchcraft and witches, and would not be guilt of innocent blood for the world; but by my own innocency, I know you are in the wrong way. The Lord in His infinite mercy direct you in this great work, if it be his blessed will, that innocent blood be not shed..."

Aftermath

Her older sister, Rebecca Towne Nurse, had been among the first to be executed, two months previously. Their younger sister, Sarah Towne Cloyce, escaped execution. She was reprieved at the end of the witch hunt, after more than eight months of imprisonment. In November, after Eastey had been put to death, Mary Herrick gave testimony about Eastey. Herrick testified that she was visited by Eastey who told her she had been put to death wrongfully and was innocent of witchcraft, and that she had come to vindicate her cause. Eastey's family was compensated with 20 pounds from the government in 1711 for her wrongful execution.

Mary Towne Estey's Salem Witch Trials Timeline

  • 21 April 1692: Accused by Ann Putnam, Jr. of witchcraft and jailed
  • 22 April 1692: Pre-trial Examination
  • 18 Mary 1692: Released from jail
  • 21 May 1692: Imprisoned on new witchcraft charges by Mercy Lewis
  • 9 September 1692: Tried and convicted
  • 22 September 1692: Executed by hanging

Sources and Further Information

  • Boyer, Paul and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 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.
  • Calef, Robert. More Wonders of the Invisible World.
  • Essex County Archives, Salem - Witchcraft Vol. 1 Page 177
  • 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.
  • Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England. London: Harvard University Press, 1990.
  • Hill, Francis. A Delusion of Satan: the Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials
  • Hill, Frances. The Salem Witch Trials Reader. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2000. Print.
  • Hill, Frances. The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Da Capo, 2002.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Devil’s Disciples: Makers of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996.
  • Horsley, Richard A. “Who Were the Witches? The Social Roles of the Accused in the European Witch Trials.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 9, no. 4 (Spring, 1979): 689 – 715.
  • Carol F. Karlsen, The Devil in the Shape of Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1987.
  • 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.
  • Matossian, Mary Kilbourne. Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics, and History. Yale University Press, 1991.
  • Meyerink, MLS, AG, FUGA, Kory L. Witches in Colonial America. ProGenealogists. Ancestry.com, n.d. Web. 07 Apr. 2014.
  • Miller, Perry. "The New England Mind, From Colony to Province.
  • Morgan, Edmund S. The Puritan Family: Religion and Domestic Relations in Seventeenth-century New England. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. “Essex County Witchcraft.” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, no. 3 (July): 483-488.
  • Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil’s Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.
  • Odrowaz-Sypniewski, BFA, Margaret. [http%3A%2F%2Fwww.angelfire.com%2Fmi4%2Fpolcrt%2FSalemTrials.html 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.
  • Ray, Benjamin C. 2008. “The Geography of Witchcraft Accusations in 1692 Salem Village.” The William and Mary Quarterly 65, no. 3 (July): 449-478.
  • Roach, Marilynne K. The Salem Witch Trials. Lanham, Maryland: Taylor Trade Publishing: 2004.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Records of the Salem witch-hunt. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials. New York: Doubleday, 1989.
  • 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.

Links

Mary Towne Estey was born in 1634 in Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England. She was christened on August 24, 1634 in St. Nicholas church. Her parents were William Towne and Joanna Blessing.

She married Isaac Estey, Sr. before 1656 when her first son was born. Their children and life together are described in detail in the section on Isaac and Mary Estey.

Mary was accused of witchcraft in 1692 when she was about 58 years old. Two of her sisters, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Cloyes, were also accused.

Her examination on April 22, 1692 followed the pattern of most of the accused witches in Salem. The girls feigned fits and speechlessness. During the exam, when Mary clasped her hands together, Mercy Lewis clenched her own hands and did not release them until Mary released hers. When Mary inclined her head, the afflicted girls cried out to have her straighten her neck, because they claimed as long as Mary’s head was inclined their necks were broken.

The magistrate scolded Mary for not confessing her guilt, which he believed proven by the sufferings of the afflicted. "How far have you complied with Satan?" "Sir, I never complied with him but pray against him all my days. What would you have Easty do?" "Confess if you be guilty" "I will say it, if it was my last time, I am clear of this sin."

Mary was committed to prison after her examination. After spending two months in prison, she was discharged on May 18th. John and Mary Arnold testified that her behavior in the Boston prison was good and that her deportment was sober. She and her family incorrectly believed she was safe.

On May 20th, 1692 Mercy Lewis spent the entire day pretending to have severe fits and to be speechless. She said she was being strangled and that Mary was attempting to have her write in Mary's book. Several of the other girls claimed that they could see Mary Estey’s apparition afflicting her. Many believed that Mercy Lewis was near death.

A warrant was issued that same day and Mary was accused of acts against Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcot, and Abigail Williams.

John Putnam, Jr. and Benjamin Hutchinson Jonathan Putnam George Herrick and John Putnam, Jr. Samuel Abby Elizabeth Hubbard Sarah Trask Mary Walcott Seventy year old Margaret Reddington testified that about three years before, she was at the Estey home and talked with Mary about an illness and had and became very sick after that. She said that Mary's apparition appeared and offered her a piece of fresh meat that was not fit for the dogs. When she said she wouldn't have it, the apparition vanished.

Twenty-five year old Samuel Smith of Boxford testified that about five years before he was rude to Isaac Estey and Mary said he should not be so rude or he would regret it. That night on his ride home, he received a little blow on his shoulder and a stone wall rattled and frightened him and his horse.

On May 23 1692, Mary was indicted. Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam testified than when Abigail was going to see Mercy Lewis having her fits, Mary's apparition told her that she was torturing Mercy because she would not clear her and that Abigail herself was also tortured.

Sarah Bibber testified to the fits on August 3, 1692. On August 4 Elizabeth Hubbard, Edward Putnam, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren and Ann Putnam testified that on May 23 during the examination that Mary had tortured her and other girls by twisting and choking them.

That evening a second warrant was issued for Mary's arrest. At midnight, she was woken up by the marshall and taken back to prison and chained. Once Mary was back in prison with chains, Mary Lewis stopped her fits.

On September 5, 1692 Thomas and Elizabeth Fosse testified that Mary was civil and sober while whe was in the Ipswich prison.

Mary was tried and condemned to death on September 9th when she was 58 years old. She was executed on September 22, despite an eloquent petition to the court. She also petitioned with her sister, Sarah Cloyes. On the gallows she prayed for an end to the witch hunt.

Mary’s parting communications with her husband and children were said by those who were present to have been

as serious, religious, distinct, and affectionate as could be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present.

In November, after Mary had been put to death, Mary Herrick testified that she was visited by Mary who told her she had been put to death wrongfully and was innocent of witchcraft, and that she had come to vindicate her cause.

Mary's family was compensated with 20 pounds from the government in 1711 for her wrongful execution.

Photo Courtesy: Carolyn Wood http://www.myhartt.com/graves.php?ID=22&NAME=Mary%20%20Estey

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Mary Estey (Towne)'s Timeline

1634
August 24, 1634
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

Unfortunately, birth records are not available for Mary Towne, only baptismal records. Her actual birth may have been one or two months before her August 24 baptism. She was the last of her family born in England.

August 24, 1634
Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England

Unfortunately, birth records are not available for Mary Towne, only baptismal records. Her actual birth may have been as much as two months before this date. Within three years, her family emigrated to the newly-founded Massachusetts Bay Colony. The date is confirmed by the Towne Family Memorial: http://www.archive.org/stream/townefamilymemor00hubb/#page/n44/mode...

1658
February 5, 1658
Age 23
Topsfield, Essex, MA, USA
1660
June 30, 1660
Age 25
Topsfield, Essex, Massachusetts, United States
1662
January 2, 1662
Age 27
Topsfield, Essex, MA, USA
1662
Age 27
Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts Bay Colony, (Present USA)