On June 10, 1692, Bridget Bishop was hanged at Gallows Hill near Salem, Massachusetts, for “certaine Detestable Arts called Witchcraft & Sorceries”. Bridget Bishop was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692.
From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft; dozens languished in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts subsided. (Source)
Like most things of magnitude, the Salem Witchcraft had its beginnings in small things— in so small a thing, indeed, as a circle of young girls meeting together, on winter evenings, at each other’s houses, to practice palmistry and such sleight-of-hand as parlor-magic had then attained. Perhaps it was as remarkable a thing as any in the whole occurrences that such meetings were countenanced at all in that place of the Puritan, and more remarkable still, that no connection was suspected between these meetings and the subsequent antics. These young girls were ten in number; three of them were servants, and two of these are believed to have acted from malicious motives against the families where they were employed, one of them afterward admitting that she did so; and Mary Warren’s guilt, as capital witness securing the execution of seven innocent persons, being—unless we accept the hypothesis of spiritualism—as evident as it is black and damning. In addition to these there were the negro-slaves of Mr. Parris, the minister, in whose household all the first disturbances made their appearance, Tituba and her husband.
The town still preserves a few relics of its memorable past; the House of the Seven Gables was standing there a little while ago, together with the Townsend-Bishop house, famous for its share in the old witchcraft transactions, and the Corwin house, at the corner of North and Essex streets, where the Grand Jury sat upon those transactions. There are some handsome churches and public buildings of more modern date, and a stone Court-house, together with a fine Registry of Deeds. There is an interest attaching to this latter structure, not altogether archaeological though concerning itself with antiquities, but an interest in one of the darkest problems ever presented by human nature; for here are kept such documents as have been preserved from the witchcraft days, and among them the death-warrant of Bridget Bishop . Very few indeed are these papers; for, when the frenzy of the period began to subside, those “Salem Gentlemen” who petitioned the Government to grant no reprieve to Rebecca Nurse, a woman who had lived nearly eighty years of a saintly life, were over-taken by remorse and shame, and hastened to do away with all remembrance of their recent action, exhibiting a better sense of the fitness of things than their descendants do who to-day display in a sealed vial a dozen bent and verdigrised and rusty pins purporting to be the identical ones with which their forefathers plagued the witches; albeit, it is said, the fashion of these pins was not known at the time when those poor wretches were tormented.
Source: Frank Leslie’s Weekly, January 28, 1871
About Bridget Bishop
Bridget Bishop, “a singular character, not easily described,” was born sometime between 1632 and 1637. Bishop married three times. Her third and final marriage, after the deaths of her first two husbands, was to Edward Bishop, who was employed as a “sawyer” (lumber worker). She appears to have had no children in any of her marriages.
Although Bishop had been accused by more individuals of witchcraft than any other witchcraft defendant (many of the accusations were markedly vehement and vicious), it was not so much her “sundry acts of witchcraft” that caused her to be the first witch hanged in Salem, as it was her flamboyant life style and exotic manner of dress. Despite being a member of Mr. Hale’s Church in Beverly (she remained a member in good standing until her death), Bishop often kept the gossip mill busy with stories of her publicly fighting with her various husbands, entertaining guests in home until late in the night, drinking and playing the forbidden game of shovel board, and being the mistress of two thriving taverns in town. Some even went so far as to say that Bishop’s “dubious moral character” and shameful conduct caused, “discord [to] arise in other familes, and young people were in danger of corruption.” Bishop’s blatant disregard for the respected standards of puritan society made her a prime target for accusations of witchcraft.