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Sarah Towne


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Edmond Bridges

Sarah Towne

  • Marriage: Edmond Bridges

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She was charged in the Salem witch trials, along with her sisters, Rebecca (Towne) Nurse and Mary (Towne) Esty. But she escaped from the jail before she could be executed.

Sarah Towne, wife of Peter Clayes, was wrongly accused of witchcraft at Salem in 1692, and imprisoned. She escaped execution and moved to Danforth's Farms (incorporated in 1700 as Framingham). Her sisters, Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Estey, were wrongly convicted of witchcraft, and were hanged.

After Peter and Sarah moved to Danforth's Farms, they were known as Peter and Sarah Clayes. The Sarah Clayes house still stands in Framingham. 

In 1692, Danforth's Farms was owned by Thomas Danforth, one of the magistrates who imprisoned Sarah and deputy governor under Simon Bradstreet. Some historians believe that Thomas Danforth invited Sarah and members of her family to settle on his land as a gesture of reparation.

<i> In 1692, Sarah, along with her sisters Rebecca Nurse and Mary Esty, were accused in the Salem Witch trials. Rebecca and Mary were hanged, but Sarah, who had also been condemned, escaped from the jail in Ipswich. In the spring of 1693, members of the Towne, Bridges, Barton, Cloyes and Elliott families moved away from Salem, no doubt because of the witch trials, and settled in the new community of Framingham, Massachusetts, where Sarah died about 1703. 

"Committed to prison 1 March 16928, Sarah had a long imprisonment in Boston. She was tried, found guilty, and then in August moved to Ipswich, to await execution. Sarah's sisters, Mary and Rebecca, were hung for witchcraft. At Ipswich, the doom desired by the preposterous indictment was barely escaped. In some way Sarah escaped and was concealed by friends until the family's removal to Framingham. Jan 24, 1693, her case was declared ‘ignoramus'. No explanation has been found why she escaped the fate of her sisters. However, by fall of 1692, the witchcraft frenzy had abated and then Gov. Danforth stepped in and stopped convictions by the court. Years later all persons accused of witchcraft were cleared and 3 golden crowns were paid to those accused or their surviving families.

</i>"Sarah's grave has never been found. After the move to Framingham, Sarah and Peter spelled their last name Clayes." 

<b>"Edmund Bridges and a certain William Becket owned part of a wharf on the Salem waterfront. Edmund also procured a license to sell alcholic beverages."  "Sarah became involved with running the waterfront tavern while her husband carried on with his legal practice, often appearing in Salem quarterly courts as attorney, arbitrator and witness."  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
May 1679;  Selectman consented that Edmund Bridges could sit the seat in the gallery of the meeting house vacated by Sargeant Lake.  Sarah could sit in the next seat behind the woman's pew, but of course, as female, was not allowed to speak.  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
September 12, 1682;  "the widow of Edmund Bridges and her children were ordered out of Topsfield by the constable, September 12, 1682.  She was Sarah Town, daughter of William, and had probably returned to Topsfield after the death of her husband which had occured a few months earlier.  She soon became the second wife of Peter Cloyse and was accused of witchcraft but was not executed."  (History of Topsfield)
January 17, 1683;  Petition for settlement of a small estate left the undersigned by their father, who died ten years ago leaving no will, but left his estate in the hands of their mother who was appointed administatrix and the estate remained unsettled until her death, and now they desire that the following division may be allowed: the land to be divided equally to his three sons, Edmond, Jacob, and Joseph and the moveables equally to the three daughters, Rebecca, Mary, and Sarah; also the three brothers to pay all debts now due and what charges shall arise in settlement of the estate to be equally borne by all six.  Signed by Mary (her mark) Towne relict of Edmond, Jacob Towne, Joseph (his mark) Towne, Francis (his mark) Nurse with the consent of Rebecca, Mary (her mark) Esty formerly Mary Towne, Sarah (her mark) Bridges.      Witness: John How, John Pritchet</b> 
<b>Allowed by the court at Ipswich April 10, 1683 (Ipswich Deeds, Vol 4 page 515)

1692;  not attending church.  (Salem Witchcraft Vol II by Upham)
April 3, 1692;  Sunday -  left church during services, slamming door behind herself due to nature of sermon (devils).  (The Devil Discovered by Enders A. Robinson)</b> 
<b>" April the 3d.  Being Sacrament Day at the Village, Sarah Cloys, Sister to Goodwife Nurse, a Member to one of the Churches, was (tho' it seems with difficulty prevail'd with to be) present; but being entred the place, and Mr. Parris naming his Text, 6 John, 70.  Have not I chosen you Twelve, and one of you is a Devil (for what cause may rest as a doubt whether upon the account of her Sisters being Committed, or because of the choice of that Text) she rose up and went out, the wind shutting the Door forcibly, gave occasion to some to suppose she went out in Anger, and might occasion a suspicion of her; however she was soon after complain'd of, examin'd and Committed."  (Robert Calef's - More Wonders of the Invisible World)
April 4, 1692;  Monday - complaint of witchcraft brought against Sarah.  (Salem Witchcraft Vol II by Upham:  The Devil Discovered by Enders A. Robinson) Sarah Cloyes and Elizabeth Proctor were accused of witchcraft by Jonathan Walcott and Nathaniel Ingersoll. A warrant  for their arrest was issued the same day.  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
April 8, 1692;  Warrant issued for Sarah.  (Salem Witchcraft Vol II by Upham)
April 11 - April 12, 1692;  Monday - examination before the highest tribunal in the colony.  Sarah examined first.  Refused to confess - sent to jail at Salem where her sister Rebecca awaited.  Placed in hand and leg irons.  Later was removed to Boston prison.  (Salem Witchcraft Vol II by Upham:  The Devil Discovered by Enders A. Robinson] Sarah was taken to the public meeting house in the town for examination. (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)

"Sarah Towne Cloyce, formally charged alongside Goody Proctor on April 4 and examined with her a week later, was approximately twenty years younger than her sister Rebecca Nurse. Born in Salem, about 1641, she first wed Edmund Bridges Jr. of Topsfield. In the early 1680s, as an impoverished widow with five children, she married the widower Peter Cloyce. Both joined the Salem church, he as an original member in 1689, she the following year. Her second husband had been born in Watertown, but he and several of his brothers moved to Maine, where they lived until fleeing to Essex County during King Phillip's War. Peter remained in Salem Village thereafter, but his brother Thomas returned to Falmouth where he was killed in 1690. Thomas Cloyce's wife Susanna was the sister of Philip Lewis, Mercy's father. In other words, Sarah Cloyce and Mercy Lewis were closely related by marriage; Sarah was the sister-in-law of Mercy's paternal aunt.
</b>Probably for that reason, Mercy Lewis did not take an active rold in accusing Sarah Cloyce, although she did participate in the prosecution of Rebecca Nurse and a third Towne sister, Mary Easty, who was accused later in April." (In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton)

<b>June 1692;  a declaration by John Arnold and wife Mary, prison keepers at Boston reports no ill conduct but only sober and civil behaviors exhibited.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson)
June 6, 1692;  petitioned court with Mary to receive some sort of counsel as none had been allowed, and the right to have people testify in their defense.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson)
Mid June 1692;  Sarah and Mary moved to Ipswich prison.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson)  According to In the Devil's Snare by Mary Beth Norton, Sarah was sent back to Salem prison on June 18, 1692.
July 31, 1692;  Account of blacksmith Robert Lord of Ipswich shows a charge of 1# 20.0 for four pairs of iron fetters and 2 pairs of handcuffs for Sarah, Mary and two others.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson)</b> 
<b>Ittm for making fouer payer of iron ffetters and tow payer of hand Cuffs and putting them on to ye legs and hands of Goodwife Cloys, Estes, Bromidg and Green all att one pound aleven Shillings money"   (History of Ipswich, MA)

From; In the Days of The Salem Witchcraft Trials
August 31, 1692;  "......Brother Cloyse hard to be found at home being often with his wife in Prison in Ipswich for Witchcraft...."  (Danvers Church Records)
September 5, 1692;  Account of John Harris, Deputy Sherriff of Ipswich:  "For providing a jury to make search upon Sarah Cloyce, Mary Easty, Rachel Clinton, Dorcas Hoar, Mary Bradbury, and Corey and his wife...4s" (Records of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA)  "An account from John Harris sherife deputy of sondry charges at ye Corts of Iran terminer held at Sallem in ye yere 1692...Itt. for providing a Jury to make search upon Cori & his wife & Clenton Easty: hore: Cloiss:  & mrs. Bradbury...4 #"  (History of Ipswich, MA)</b> 
<b>Summons for witnesses to testify against Sarah Cloyce, Mary East, Martha and Giles Corey.   (Records of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA)
September 6, 1692;  Mary and Sarah petition court to have some counsel for their case as none has been allowed, and ask that others be able to testify in their defense.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson) The humble Request of Mary Easty and Sarah Cloys stand now before the Honoured court charged with the suspition of Witchcraft, our humble request is first that seeing we are neither able to plead our own cause, nor is councell allowed to those in our condition, that you who are our Judges would please to be of councell to us, to direct us wherein we may stand in neede, Secondly that whereas we are not conscious to ourselves of any guilt in the least degree of that crime, whereof we are now accused (in the presence of ye Living God we speake it, before whose awfull Tribunall we know we shall ere Long appeare) nor any other scandalouse evill, or miscaryage inconsistant with Christianity.  Those who have had ye Longest and best knowledge of us, being persons of good report, may be suffered to Testifie upon oath what they know concerning each of us. viz. Mr. Capen the pastour and those of ye Towne and Church of Topsfield, who are ready to say something which we hope may be looked upon, as very considerable in this matter: with the seven children of one of us, viz. Mary Easty, and it may be produced of like nature in reference to the wife of Peter Cloys, her sister. Thirdly that the testimony of witches, or such as are afflicted, as is supposed, by witches may not be improved to condemn us, without other Legal evidence concurring, we hope the honoured Court and Jury will be soe tender of the lives of such as we are who have for many yeares Lived under the unblemished reputation of Christianity, as not to condemne them without a fayre and equall hearing of what may be sayd for us, as well as against us.  And your poore supplyants shall be bound always to pray ?c.""    (Records of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA:  Essex Co. Court Records)</b> 
<b>Summons for witnesses from Topsfield to testify versus Sarah Cloyce and Mary Easty.   (Records of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA)
"Both Sarah Cloyes and Mary Esty will be shown to have been suspected of bewitching their niece, Rebecca Towne, daughter of their late dead brother Edmund Towne, "  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
September 9, 1692;  "On the following day an indictment was made out against Sarah Cloyes, wife of Peter Cloyes of Salem, in the County of Essex,, husbandman, that 'in and upon the ninth day of the inst September --- in the year aforesaid and divers other days and times as well before as after, certain detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries, wickedly, maliciously and feloniously hath used practiced and exercised... in, upon and against one Rebecca Towne of Topsfield in the County of Essex aforesaid  Rebecca Towne... was and is tortured, afflicted, consumed, pined, wasted, tormented, and also for sundry other acts of witchcraft by the said Sarah Cloyes."  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
"Sarah Cloyes name is not on the list of prisoners at Ipswich in December 1692."  "All three indictments against Sarah are marked 'ignoramus', literally meaning 'we do not know'.  The marking of an indictment ignoramus did not in itself mean that the judges automatically considered the person against whom the indictment was presented was not guilty. In fact, five of the persons executed had ignoramus written against at least one of the indictments against them."  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)</b> 
<b>It is extremely likely that Sarah Cloyes as a prime offender, her two sisters already having been hung, was examined in the early part of the trials in January of 1693 when her brother Jacob was part of the grandjury.  "It is possible that Peter Cloyes may have petitioned for a recognizance for his wife on condition that she stand her trial, and have put down bail for her. There are many such recognizances scattered throughout the witchcraft documents, although Sarah Cloyes' name does not appear among them. The three indictments against Sarah Cloyes are all legal forms written in the same clerkly hand. They are for having performed witchcraft on the body of Abigail Walcott in April and for having performed witchcraft on the body of Abigail Williams during that month.  The third indictment is for a much later date. It is for having performed witchcraft on the body of her niece, Rebecca Towne  of Topsfield on, before and after September 1st.  The words of Sarah Cloyes, wife of Peter Cloyes of Salem Village are evidently written in the same hand." Many indictments were written out in advance with the name of the accused written in later.  "All three indictments against Sarah Cloyes have the word 'ignoramus' written in still another hand on the reverse.  After the word ignoramus, in yet another hand occurs Robert Payne's distincitve signature on all three indictments." Robert Payne was the new jury foreman in January of 1693.  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
January 3, 1693;  Superior Court of Judicature dismisses charges against Sarah.  Peter pays the prison fees for her release.  She and him eventually leave Salem and settle in Marlborough, Mass., then Sudbury.  She spent the 10 years before her death trying to clear her sister's names.  (The Devil Discovered - Robinson:  Daily News Record - 8/19/1993) Tradition says she was conveyed by night to Framingham.  (History of Framingham)
The best description of what happened to the witchcraft cases in early 1693 comes from Reverend John Hale of Beverly, MA;  "Henceforth the juries generally aquitted such as were not tried, fearing they had gone too far before. And Sir William Phips, Governor, reprieved all that were condemned, even the confessors...And the confessors generally fell off from their confessions; some saying they remebered nothing of what they said; others said they had belied themselves and others.  Some brake prison and ran away and were not strictly searched after, some acquitted, some dismissed and one way or another all that had been accused were set or left at liberty."  (Currents of Malice - Persis W. McMillen)
March 2, 1702-3;  A Petition to the Governor and General Court requesting the reversal of Attainder "on thoses Executed and those Condemned in 1692"  was made by "severall of the Inhabitants of Andover, Salem Village, and Topsfield."  Among the signers were Peter Cloyes, senior, Isaac Easty, Isaac Easty, Junior, Samuel Nurse, and John Nurse.  Summons for witnesses from Topsfield to testify versus Sarah Cloyce and Mary Easty.   (Records of the Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, MA)
The General Court on October 17th, 1710 passed an act that "the several convictions, judgments, and attainders be, and hereby are, reversed, and declared to be null and void." Governor Dudley, on December 17, 1711 issued a warrant which gave Isaac Estey ?20 for the loss of Mary. Mary's sister, Sarah Cloyse received 3 gold crowns (a gold coin each worth about a 1/4 of a pound or 5 shillings)."
1957; Massachusetts General Court resolved "that no disgrace or cause for distress" be borne by descendants of accused witches.  (Daily News Record - 8/19/1993)

<u><i>See PBS movie Three Sovereigns for Sarah for the story of Sarah and her sisters.  Available on video</b></i></u>


Sarah married Edmond Bridges, son of Edmund Bridges and Elizabeth or Alice. (Edmond Bridges was born about 1637 in Topsfield or Salem, Essex, Massachusetts.)

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