Rev. Samuel Parris


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1. Dorothy Noyes

2. Elizabeth Eldridge

Rev. Samuel Parris

  • Born: 1653
  • Marriage (1): Dorothy Noyes in 1697 in Stow or Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts
  • Marriage (2): Elizabeth Eldridge
  • Died: 27 Feb 1720, Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts at age 67

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Reverend <b>Samuel Parris</b> (1653 '96 February 27, 1720) was the Puritanminister in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials; he was also the father of one of the afflicted girls, and the uncle of another.[1]

His wife Elizabeth died in 1696. In 1699 he remarried, to Dorothy Noyes, in Sudbury.[10]He preached two or three years at Stow. He moved to Concord (1704/05).[4][10] He also preached six months in Dunstable in 1711.[4] He died on February 27, 1720, in Sudbury,[4] where he spent his last years.[10]

Reverend Samuel Parris (1653-1720) - Samuel Parris was the Puritan minister in Salem Village, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials, as well as the father of one of the afflicted girls, Elizabeth Parris, and the uncle of another -- Abigail Williams.

Samuel was born in London, England in 1653, the son of cloth merchant Thomas Parris, who also had interests in the island colony of Barbados. When Samuel grew up, he was sent to Massachusetts to study at Harvard. In 1673, while he was still in college, his father died, leaving the 20 year-old with a plantation in Barbados. After graduating, Parris moved to the island where he leased out the family sugar plantation and settled in Bridgetown. There, he established himself as a credit agent for other sugar planters.

In 1680, after a hurricane hit Barbados, much of his property was damaged. He then left the island, taking two slaves, Tituba and John Indian, with him. He then settled in Boston where he once again tried to establish himself as a merchant. He purchased a wharf and warehouse and attended Boston's First Church, where he met Elizabeth Eldridge. The two would soon marry and would have three children, Thomas, Elizabeth, and Susannah. His slaves, Tituba and John Indian remained a part of his household. Dissatisfied with the life of a merchant, Parris considered a change in vocation and in 1686, he began substituting for absent ministers and speaking at informal church gatherings.

After the birth of their third child, the Reverend Parris began formal negations with Salem Village to become the village's new minister. At this time, Salem Village was known to be a contentious place, described by residents of neighboring towns as quarrelsome. It had also already been through three ministers, who had all departed after having issues with the congregation. Though Parris was aware of the village conflicts that had taken place in the last several years, his Puritan beliefs that each person was responsible for monitoring his neighbor's piety led him to feel that conflict was inevitable.

On June 18, 1689 at a general meeting of all of the villagers, it was agreed to hire Samuel Parris, at an annual salary of 66 and the villagers would provide firewood for both the church and parsonage. At a later meeting, the villagers agreed they would also provide Parris and his heirs, the village parsonage, a barn, and two acres of land. Parris agreed and he and his family immediately moved to Salem Village, settling into the parsonage, and beginning his ministerial duties that same month. To the parsonage, Reverend Parris brought his wife, Elizabeth, his nine-year-old daughter Elizabeth, his 11 year-old niece, Abigail Williams, and his slaves, Tituba and John Indian.

On November 19, 1689, the Salem Village church charter was finally signed and the Reverend Samuel Parris became Salem Village's first ordained minister. His ministry began smoothly; but, as Parris began to reveal his beliefs and traits, a number of Salem Villagers, including a few church members, did not like what they saw. A serious, dedicated minister, he combined his evangelical enthusiasm to revitalize religion in Salem Village with psychological rigidity and theological conservatism.

While the Salem Towne Church and most Puritan churches of the time, were relaxing their standards for church membership, Parris held rigid to traditional strict standards, which required that members be baptized and make a public declaration of experiencing God's free grace to become full members. Most village church members were happy with Parris's traditionalism, which elevated their status by sharply distinguishing them from non-church members. But, a minority dissented and found allies among non-members, who constituted a large and influential part of the Salem Village community.

Salem Village Meeting House
Suddenly, Parris also found himself in the midst of contract disputes with the members of the Salem Village Church council. The council alleged that the contract, which was seemingly never formalized, only provided Parris with the parsonage and lands only so long as he remained minister, rather than Parris' beliefs that the contract granted Parris outright ownership of the house and lands. At the same time, Parris was making plans to refurbish the meeting house, commensurate with its new status as a full church. But, to many, this signaled a church both more intrusive and more expensive than some villagers wished.

By the fall of 1691, only two years after his ordination, Parris's ritual orthodoxy, overbearing disposition, and disputed contract had caused the village and church to once again break into factions. Church attendance fell and village officials refused to provide firewood to warm the church or Parris's house. Matters turned worse when a new Committee of Five was chosen by the village in October, 1691, which announced its refusal to relinquish the ministry house and land to Parris or to collect taxes for his salary, leaving it to the villagers to pay by "voluntary contributions." Parris then called upon church members to make a formal complaint to the County Court against the committee's neglect of the church. The factional fighting also began to play out in his weekly sermons as a battle between God and Satan.

Samuel Parris HomeThat very winter, Samuel's daughter, Elizabeth Parris and her cousin, Abigail Williams, began to undertake experiments in fortune telling, mostly focusing on their future social status and potential husbands. They were quick to share their game with other young girls in the area, even though the practice of fortune telling was regarded as a demonic activity. By January, 1692, nine year-old Elizabeth appeared to be consumed with a secret preoccupation and was forgetting errands and unable to concentrate. She then began to act in strange ways, barking like a dog when her father would rebuke her, screaming wildly when she heard the "Our Father" prayer and once, hurled a Bible across the room. After these episodes, she sobbed distractedly and spoke of being damned, perhaps because of her practice of "fortune telling."

The Reverend Samuel Parris believed that prayer could cure her odd behavior, but, his efforts were ineffective. In fact, her actions got worse. Soon, she was contorting her body into odd postures, consistently spouting foolish and ridiculous speeches, and generally having fits. The Reverend Parris consulted other ministers, who would not explain her actions. But, when he brought in the local doctor, William Griggs, he suggested that her malady must be the result of witchcraft. Parris then organized prayer meetings and days of fasting in an attempt to alleviate Elizabeth's symptoms. But, the frenzy just spread. Soon, Elizabeth's cousin, Abigail Williams, was also having fits, followed by some of their friends, including Ann Putnam, Jr. and Mary Walcott. Since the sufferers of witchcraft were believed to be the victims of a crime, the community set out to find the perpetrators. On February 29, 1692, under intense adult questioning, the Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams named Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba as their tormentors.

Parris' preaching had a major hand in creating the divisions within the village that contributed to the accusations of 1692. During the crisis, he declared the church under siege by the Devil, who was assisted by "wicked & reprobate men." Parris began to draw "battle lines" between those who supported him and those who didn't, who were, no doubt, the very ones he had called "wicked & reprobate." The accusations against the opposing factions of Salem Village began in earnest and soon spread to other nearby towns including Andover, Beverly, Topsfield, Wenham, and others.

When the trials began, the Reverend Samuel Parris would submit complaints, serve as a witness, testify against many of those who were accused, and sometimes, would serve as the record keeper of the events. By the end of May, 1692, more than 150 "witches" had been jailed and by September, 19 people had refused to confess and were hanged, and another had been pressed to death for refusing to make a plea. By October, however, cooler heads began to prevail and the court disallowed "spectral evidence." The affair wouldn't end until May, 1693, when all of the accused were finally released from jail.

Though the hysteria had finally ended, Salem Village was still divided and many were even more dissatisfied with the Reverend Parris. However, in 1695, two years after the end of the trials, Parris still garnered a majority of town support. But, over time, the families of those who had been accused, and especially of those who had been executed, would push him out. Rebecca Nurse's family and others directly accused Parris of providing names to the court, and many people had strong misgivings about his place in the trials. Some villagers brought charges against him for his part in the trials, leading him to apologize for his error. Samuel's wife died in 1696 at the age of 48 and is buried in the Danvers Cemetery.

Despite the intense dislike of many Salem villagers, Parris stayed on until 1697, when hw accepted another preaching position in Stow, Massachusetts. He would later live in Watertown and Concord, where he worked as a trader and a licensed retailer. Somewhere along the line he would marry for a second time to Dorothy Noyes (father Peter Noyes) and the couple would have four children. He began preaching in Dunstable in 1708, which he continued until 1712. From there, he moved to Sudbury, where he worked as a farmer and at times, as a school teacher. He died in Sudbury on February 27, 1720.

Parris was replaced by the Reverend Joseph Green in 1697, a man who genuinely wanted to heal Salem and started the village on the long and uncertain road to recovery.


'In 1683 he set up as a merchant of Boston, N.E., making trade connections with Barbadoes, where his family had extensive plantations. He owned considerable property there himself, having received same as his fathers heir. He is on record in Barbadoes 1680, as owning 20 acres of land, one Negro Slave, and having one hired servant. (List of landowners and of servants and Negros, St. Michaels Parish, Bridgetown, Barbadoes, B.W.I., 1680.)

On the death of his wife Elizabeth in Boston, N.E., he returned thither to claim his dau. Elizabeth; Thomas & Susanna having passed beyond his callousness, into the gentle hands of God. He had all these years left his wife and chldren to their own devices returning only periodically from the West Indies on trading ventures.

In the Salem, N.E. records we get a true picture of this blight on the good name of Parris. Some mercantile connection between Salem and Barbadoes; and no doubt, the fact that his sister Mary, who had married a son of Roger Williams in Salem, resided there also seems to have brought him to Salem Village, where he was installed as pastor in 1689. An entry in the Church records dated June 18, of that year, informs that "it was agreed and voted by general concurrence, that for Mr. Parris his encouragement and settlement in the work of the ministry amongst us, we will give him sixty-six pounds for his yearly salary, ___ one third paid in money, the other two-third parts for provisions, etc; and Mr. Parris to find himself firewood, and Mr. Parris to keep the ministry-house in good repair; and that Mr. Parris shall also have the use of the ministry-pasture, and the inhabitants to keep the fence in repair; and that we will keep up our contributions ---- so long as Mr. Parris continues in the work of the ministry amongst us, and all productions to be good and merchantable. And if it please God to bless the inhabitants, we shall be willing to give more; and to expect that, if God shall diminish the estates of the people, that Mr. Parris do abate of his salary according to proportion." (C.W. Upham, Salem Witchcraft, Vol.1, p. 291)

'This arrangement was far from satisfying to the Rev. Samuel Parris, for it only gave him the use of the parsonage and its pasture lands, whereas he was determined to get a fee simple of both. Another entry in the Parish Book says that it was voted to make over to him that real estate, but this entry is not duly signed by the clerk, and at that time there were parishioners who declared that it must have been put into the book by fraudulent means. Out of these circumstances there grew a quarrel which for utterly ruthless and truculent bitterness has scarcely been equalled even in the envenomed annals of New England parishes. Many people refused to pay their church rates till the meeting-house began to suffer for want of repairs, and complaints were made to the County court. Matters were made worse by Parris's coarse and arrogant manners, and his excessive severity in inflicting church disipline for trivial offences. By 1691, the factions into which Salem Village was divided were ready to fly at each others throats. Christian charity and loving-kindness were well nigh forgotten. It was a spectacle such as Old Nick must have contemplated with grim satisfaction.

'In the household at the parsonage were two colored servants whom Parris had brought with him from the West Indies. The man was known as John Indian; and a half Indian, half Negro woman called Tituba, his wife. Their intelligence was of a low grade, but it sufficed to make them experts in palmistry, fortune-telling, magic, second-sight and incantations. Such lore is always attractive to children, and in the winter of 1691/92 quite a little circle of young girls got into the habit of meeting at the parsonage to try their hand at the Black Art. Under the tuition of the Indian servants they soon learned how to go into trnces, talk gibberish, and behave like pythonesses of the most approved sort. These girls were Mr. Parris's daughter Elizabeth, age nine, and his niece Abigail Williams, aged eleven; Mary Wolcott and Elizabeth Hubbard, each aged seventeen; Elizabeth Booth and Susannah Sheldon, each aged eighteen; Mary Warran and Sarah Churchill, each aged twenty. Conspicuous above all in the mischief that followed were two girls of wonderful adroitness and hardihood, Ann Putnam, aged twelve, dau. of Sergeant Thomas Putnam, and Mercy Lewis, aged seventeen, a servant in his family. Mistress Ann Putnam, the sergeants wife, was a beautiful and well-educated woman of thirty, but so passionate and high-strung that in her best moments she was scarcely quite sane. She was deeply involved in village quarrels; she also supported Mr. Parris in all his demands, and was marked as his paramour by wagging village tongues. A likely truth considering Mr. Parris's character.

'Twas from out this vicious circle the first witchcraft accusations came. (Needless to say, history has covered this terrible delusion more then completely, thus saving me the gruesome task.) Mr. Parris withdrew his dau. Elizabeth early in the proceeding and sent her to stay with friends in Salem Town.

'On second thought; as many of the original examinations have fallen into my hands, it may be of service to represent this affair in a more full and impartial light than it has yet appeared to the world.

'In February, 1691-2, a daughter and a niece of Mr. Parris, the minister of Salem village, girls of ten or eleven years of age, and two other girls in the neighborhood, made the same sort of complaints as Goodwin's children had made, two or three years before. The physicians, having no other way of accounting for the disorder, pronounced them bewitched. An Indian woman, who was brought into the country from New Spain, and then living with Mr. Parris, tried some experiments which she pretended to be used in her own country, in order to find out the witch. This coming to the children's knowledge, they cried out upon the poor Indian as appearing to them, pinching, pricking, and tormenting them; and fell into fits. Tituba, the Indian, acknowledged that she had learned how to find a witch, but denied that she was one herself. Several private fasts were kept at the minister's house, and several, more public, by the whole village, and then a general fast through the colony, to seek to God to rebuke Satan, etc. So much notice taken of the children, together with the pity and compassion expressed by those who visited them, not only tended to confirm them in their design, but to draw others into the like. Accordingly, the number of the complainants soon increased, and among them there were two or three women, and some girls old enough for witnesses. These had their fits too, and, when in them, cried out, not only against Tituba, but against Sarah Osburn, a melancholy distracted old woman, and Sarah Good, another old woman who was bedrid. Tituba, at length, confessed herself a witch, and that the two old women were her confederates; and they were all committed to prison; and Tituba, upon search, was found to have scars upon her back which were called the devil's mark, but might as well have been supposed those of her Spanish master. This commitment was on the 1st of March. About three weeks after, two other women, of good character and church members, Corey and Nurse, were complained of and brought upon their examination; when these children fell into fits, and the mother of one of them, and wife of Thomas Putnam, joined with the children and complained of Nurse as tormenting her; and made most terrible shrieks, to the amazement of all the neighborhood. The old women denied everything; but were sent to prison; and such was the infatuation, that a child of Sarah Good, about four or five years old, was committed also, being charged with biting some of the afflicted, who showed the print of small teeth on their arms. On April 3d Mr. Parris took for his text, 'Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.' Sarah Cloyse, supposing it to be occasioned by Nurse's case, who was her sister, went out of the meeting. She was, presently after, complained of for a witch, examined, and committed. Elizabeth Procter was charged about the same time; her husband, as every good husband would have done, accompanied her to her examination, but it cost the poor man his life. Some of the afflicted cried out upon him also, and they were both committed to prison.

'Instead of suspecting and sifting the witnesses, and suffering them to be crossexamined, the authority, to say no more, were imprudent in making use of leading questions, and thereby putting words into their mouths or suffering others to do it. Mr. Parris was over-officious; most of the xaminations, although in the presence of one or more of the magistrates, were takenby him.
'Samuel Parris, m. 2d. Dorothy Noyes, dau. of Rev. Nicholas Noyes, in Concord, Mass., 1697 [all other sources say she was the daughter of Peter Noyes **map**], she d. Sept. 6, 1719. He d. Feb. 29, 1720, at Sudbury, Mass. After leaving his devils-work at Salem Village by compulsion; he preached at Stow for 3 years, but left and went back into business in Watertown 1700. He soon after set down at Concord til 1705, and there continued in trade unprofitably. He preached a few mos. at Dunstable 1711, and after settled permanently at Sudbury, Mass, where he died, a broken and unhappy man.

'Children by his Second Wife:
'Noyes Parris, b. prob. Stow, Mass., Aug. 22, 1699.
'Dorthy Parris, b. prob. Watertown, Mass., Aug 28, ..., m. Hopestill Brown. 'Samuel Parris, b. Watertown, Mass., Jan. 9, 1702.....Mar. 1st 1702.
'Mary Parris, b. 1703, in Concord, Mass., M. Peter Bent.

'From Giles Memorial, page 22: 'July 2, 1700.

'I Samuel Parris of Newton, and Dorothy, my wife, for 17 pounds convey to John Giles of 'Salem Village' (Since called North Danvers) 'Shoemaker', an orchard in Salem Village, containing about two acres which I purchaded of John Shepard in 1691. Samuel Parris Dorothy (Noyes) Parris
'As a matter of curiosity, though not strictly belonging to the design of this volume, I give the following abstract of the Will of this unfortuante man, as recorded. Mid. Prob. 1646, the Will is not dated, but was proved Mar. 28, 1720.

'Noyes Parris and Samuel Parris minors, Noyes Parris having dedicated himself to learning shell have his father's library, saving such books as are in English, which shall be divided among Testators other children .

'The Testator owns part of a plantation equal to twenty acres in the Island of Barbadoes. He had in that Island an Uncle John Parris, Esq. who was in 1656, attorney to the Testator's father, Thomas Parris of London. He bequeaths to his son, Samuel Parris, his Indian woman Viola.'[9]

Type: Biography

Note: 'Rev. Samuel Parris was given a salary of sixtysix pounds and the ministry house and barn and two acres of land, providing that he continued to be the pastor of the church until his death. His services had begun July 1st before his ordination, which occurred Nov. 19, 1689, when the church was organized.

'The witchcraft troubles naturally created new animosities, and Mr. Parris, as the leader in the prosecution of the tirals, was in the strongest current of unrest, suspicvion and hatred. He had to be among the people of his parish, and preach to them and do as much pastoral work as circumstances permitted. He was called hard and unyielding, and it was probably true, as he was a business man, a Puritan, and a believer in the enforcement of the Hebraic laws, with little of Christian spirit, but a real believer in witchcraft, and was, as some think, proceeding too far and too strenuously in its extirpation, as is natural to a man who has had committed to his care a people whose destruction he believed Devil was seeking.

'Early in the spring of 1692, as the delusion began to develop, Mr. Parris wisely removed his young daughter without the affected area. Mrs. Parris must have realized all too clearly and forcefully the existing antipathies against Mr. Parris and the terrible results of the accusations. Whatever her belief or her wishes, she could only retire from the maelstrom raging about her home. Without the presence of her child and the attention of her husband diverted from his customar life, alone, she chould only think. Weeks passed, and month after month, her neighbors and friends were cruelly and shamefully hung on Gallows' Hill. Would it ever end!

'The terrible episode came to an end, but its effects did not. Her husband was disliked, probably hated for his part in the prosecutions. He was not free to go among the people. He hardly knew who his friends were, if, indeed, he had any. His work as pastor was hindered and practically stopped. His preaching must have been to few persons, and his sermons without force. His influence was gone.

'The church wished for his departure; but he remained. Undoubtedly, both he and his wife wished they were elsewhere; but where? If he went, he would forfiet their home, as it was to be his absolutely if he remained pastor of the church as long as he lived. In April, 1695, the Mathers finally advised him to resign. He waited and waited, irresolutely. He preached there on Sunday, June 28, 1696, but never again; he resigned two days later. His wife had become very sick, and died two weeks later, July 14th, at the age of 48. He wrote upon her gravestone, which is still standing in the Wadsworth burying ground, on Summer Street, in Danvers:

'Sleep precous Dust no stranger now to Rest.
'Thou hast thy longed wish in Abrams Brest.

'He was now alone. He cared not for the parsonage and land; he was free to go. The court appointed Wait Winthrop, Elisha Cook and Samuel Sewall, esquires, as arbitrators, to settle his affairs with the parish, and they decided that the parish pay him the arrears of his salary, amounting to seventy-nine pounds, nine shillings and six pence, and that he give to the parish a quitclaim deed of the ministry house and land.

'Mr. Parris preached in Stow for the next year, and at Dunstable from Oct. 1, 1708 to 1712. For his services at Dunstable, the Province paid him twenty pounds a year, the frontier being too week to pay. He afterwards preached at Sudbury, where he died Feb. 27, 1720. His last years were disheartening with his trouble and poverty.'[10]


Samuel married Dorothy Noyes, daughter of Peter Noyes and Elizabeth Darville, in 1697 in Stow or Concord, Middlesex, Massachusetts. (Dorothy Noyes was born in 1680 in Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts and died on 27 Feb 1719 in Sudbury, Middlesex, Massachusetts.)


Samuel next married Elizabeth Eldridge. (Elizabeth Eldridge was born in 1696.)

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