Late last night, I couldn’t sleep, I decided to do a bit of digging on some hew “hints” on my Ancestry.ca site and take closer look into my DNA profile.
A while back I posted a blog called “On Genealogy: My Quaker Connection; Descendant of John Milk, British Colonial America, 1662” which traced my roots back to colonial America. I had an inclination based on that research that were was going to be a lot of interesting genealogical & historical facts and significance coming out of this line – and there it was – I found my first nugget. A connection to the Salem witch trials.
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts (The Massachusetts Bay Colony) between February 1692 and May 1693. They say that between 150 and 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the Devil’s magic. As a wave of hysteria spread throughout the Puritan colony, a special court convened to hear the cases. Assembled on the bench were “people of the best prudence and figure that could be pitched upon.” Examinations took place in Salem Village (present-day Danvers, Massachusetts). The trials resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. Five others (including two infant children) died in prison.
Most of the convictions and executions were grounded on testimony of spectral evidence. Spectral evidence is evidence based on visions and dreams of the actions of a witch’s spirit or specter, i.e. the testimony about what an accused person’s spirit did, rather than actions of the accused person in the body. Opposition by the contemporary clergy to the use of spectral evidence didn’t mean the clergy did not believe that specters were real. They believed, rather, that the devil could use specters to possess and get them to act against their own will. That Satan possessed a person was not evidence that the person had consented. Crazy to think of in this day and age, isn’t it??
In terms of my relation – in late January/early February of 1693, the Court sat in Charlestown, Middlesex County, and held grand juries and tried five people: Sarah Cole (of Lynn), Lydia Dustin & Sarah Dustin, Mary Taylor and Mary Toothaker.
List of the Afflicted
Elizabeth WESTON (9th Great Grandmother)
John MILK II
Job MILK II
Job MILK I
The Afflicted: Elizabeth Weston
From the linage tree above, you probably noticed that my ancestral connection lies with Elizabeth Weston, daughter of John Weston of Reading. She accused Sarah Dustin of tormenting her and was held for trial.
Her father, John Westing was born
|Place of Burial:||His gravestone in the graveyard shows that he was one of the founders of the church (the First Church of Salem, MA).|
|Immediate Family:||Son of John Weston, II and Martha Weston
Husband of Sarah Weston
Father of John Weston; Sarah Milk; Mary Weston; John Weston; Samuel Weston
Brother of Henry Weston, I; Thomas Westonand Francis Weston
|Occupation:||Owned Sailing Vessels, 1644 emigration (Stow Away), Fought in King Phiilips’ War|
I will write separately on John Weston in another blog as HE is the IMMIGRANT ancestor of this line and researching this has lead me to discover other interesting facts about Mr. Weston.
Accused of Witchcraft: Sarah Dustin
Lydia Dustin/Dastin (approx 1626 – March 10, 1693), was a resident of Reading, Massachusetts, she was arrested on April 30. She was examined on May 2 by magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne, on the same day as Sarah Morey, Susannah Martin, and Dorcas Hoar were examined. She was then sent to Boston’s jail.
Lydia’s daughter Sarah Dustin was the next in the family accused and arrested, followed by Lydia’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Colson. Lydia’s daughter Mary Colson (Elizabeth Colson’s mother), was also accused; she was examined but not indicted.
Sarah Dustin was the unmarried daughter of Lydia Dustin. Her father was Joshia Dustin, who had been one of the founders and leading land owners of Reading, Massachusetts. She was arrested for witchcraft and for tormenting and afflicting Elizabeth Weston, the daughter of John Weston of Reading.
Both Lydia and Sarah were found NOT GUILTY by the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize and General Gaol Delivery in January or February, 1693, after the initial trials had been suspended when criticized for their use of spectral evidence. However, they could not be released until they paid jail fees. Lydia Dustin died still in jail on March 10, 1693. Because of this she is included on lists of those who died as part of the Salem witchcraft accusations and trials. Sarah, must have found a way to pay and was released. Nothing more is known of her.
Sarah Dastin of Reding in the County of Midlesex being Indicted by the Jurors for our Soveraigne Lord & Lady the King and Queen upon their Oathes by one Indictment That is to say. For that the said Sarah Dastin of Reding in the County of Midlesex single woman on or about the month of May in the year 1692 And divers other dayes and times as well before as after certain detestable arts called Witchcraft and Sorceries wickedly mallitiously & feloneously hath used practised and Exercised at and in the Towne of Reding in the County of Midlesex aforesaid upon and against one Elizabeth Weston of Reding daughter of John Weston of Reding by which wicked Arts the said Elizabeth Weston the day and year afores’d and divers other dayes and times as well before as after was afflicted tortured tormented pined and wasted against the peace of our Soveraigne Lord & Lady the King & Queen their Crowne and dignity and the Lawes in that case made and provided. Upon the aforesaid Indictment the said Sarah Dastin was then and there before the Justices of our Lord and Lady the King and Queen aforesaid Araigned & upon her Arraignement she did then and there the day and year aforesaid plead to the said Indictment Not Guilty and put her selfe upon Tryall by God and the Country.
Mr Samuel Hunting, Samuel Whitmore, Nathaniel Bassam, Stephen Willis, Henry Green, James Lowden, Nathaniel Cooledge, Thomas Welch Jun’r, Daniel Dean, Samuel Jenison, Joseph Willson, Josiah Convers
A Jury being called Samuel Hunting foreman and accordingly sworne no exception being made by the Prisoner The Indictment being read together with the evidences And the prisoners defence being heard The Jury went out to agree upon their verdict Who returning did then and there in open Court deliver their verdict That the said Sarah Dastin was Not Guilty of the felony by witchcraft for which shee stood Indicted in and by the said Indictment.
The Court Ordered the said Sarah Dastin to be discharged paying her fees.
Anno RR’s et Reginae Gulielmi et Mariae Quinto At a Superiour Court of Judicature Court of Assize & General Goal Delivery held at Boston for the County of Suffolk on the 16930425 25’th day of Aprill 1693
Present: William Stoughton Esq’r Chief Justice, Thomas Danforth Esq’r, John Richards Esq’ & Samuel Sewell Eq’r
“He wondered at the atrocities human kind was capable of committing. The majority of those housed below were ill, mentally or physically, not witches. Most were poor victims–the outcasts of society; or the opposite, people so blessed, others coveted their lives.” ― Brynn Chapman,
I find it an interesting familial connection to this dark piece of American history. The Salem witch trials remain a profoundly important chapter in American history. Over 300 years after the final hanging took place, I plan on driving down to Boston & Salem this coming Summer to see, in person, the remnants of Salem’s dark summer of 1692. Of course, I will blog of my adventures & research there – stay tuned …