January 8, 2016

George Jacobs - Accused Witch

Images: Salem State University Archives & Special Collections

The popular narrative of the Salem Witch Trials tends to focus on the women and girls who were accused during the hysteria of 1692, although many men were also charged with witchcraft and five were hanged. George Jacobs, Sr. was one of the men accused and executed.
Jacobs was a well-known, prosperous farmer, whose homestead was located between Salem Town and Salem Village (present day Danvers). In May of 1692, Jacobs was arrested and examined. Jacobs was accused by his own granddaughter, Margaret, who had also been arrested and who had confessed to witchcraft. Margaret, along with a servant of the Jacobs' family, claimed that George had solicited them to sign the devil's book. George strongly denied the allegation, stating “I am as innocent as a child born tonight." Jacobs was found guilty and hanged on August 19, 1692.
Prior to Jacobs' execution, Margaret visited him in jail and asked for his forgiveness, which he granted. At the time, those who confessed to witchcraft and offered up names of accomplices would be spared from the hangman’s noose. By confessing and accusing her grandfather, Margaret was spared.
Once a person was hanged, their bodies were placed in shallow graves near the execution site. It was said that Jacobs' grandson managed to remove his body during the night and give him a proper burial at the family homestead. The house fell to ruins around 1938 and in later decades was sold to developers, who discovered remains assumed to be George’s. The remains were exhumed and relocated to The Rebecca Nurse Homestead; Nurse was a fellow victim of the witch hysteria who was hanged on the same day as George.





*This article was written by Jen Ratliff for use by Salem State University Archives and Special Collections.
                                                                   

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