Tag Archives: 17th Century
The First White Men in the Shenandoah Valley

The First White Men in the Shenandoah Valley

On a summer’s day in the year 1716, Governor Alexander Spotswood, with a party of twenty or thirty horsemen, set cut from Williamsburg, the capital of the Virginia colony, to ascertain for himself what sort of country lay west and north of the great “Blue Mountains.” There was good reason to believe that several Indian tribes of uncertain friendship might be found there; and who else or what else nobody seemed quite certain, save the ignorant and superstitious, who declared that there were monsters and mysteries numerous and dreadful enough.

The Governor may have had predominantly in mind objects much more commonplace and practical than the simple clearing up of superstitions and mysteries. Doubtless the elements of romance and danger afforded a considerable stimulus toward a jaunt; but he must have been seriously in earnest about something, to undertake an expedition of nearly two hundred miles up country, past the very frontiers and into the wilderness.

The full-text search capability of the American County Histories database permits the student/researcher to explore all the publications of a particular county by using a single query. In addition, those wishing to read or browse the text on a page by page basis may do so in the original format merely by scrolling down the screen and then continuing to the next chapter.


Bridget Bishop Hanged at Salem’s Gallows Hill

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

Frank Leslie’s Weekly, published from 1855 to 1922, was an American illustrated news publication started by publisher and illustrator Frank Leslie. While only 30 copies of the first edition were printed, by 1897 its circulation had grown to an estimated 65,000 copies.

About Bridget Bishop

Bridget Bishop

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.

Source: The Bridget Bishop page at Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692.

American County Histories

County Land Records Bridge Gaps For Families

Sharon Tate Moody, board-certified genealogist, explains how land transfer records can really make a difference for researchers and family historians looking to solidify time lines and relationships when birth, marriage, and death records are lost or destroyed. In Land record treasures are far from ho hum she gives several examples where records of land transfers were able to not only confirm a marriage but also to establish a trail for a family from one county to another.

Accessible Archives lets you search the full text of its American County Histories collection where you can find a wealth of information for counties in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. To see if your family could benefit from a look in the archives check this list of counties in American County Histories Collection.

Most of these large county volumes were compiled and published between 1870 and 1900 and have long formed the cornerstone of local historical and genealogical research. They are encyclopedic in scope and virtually limitless in their research possibilities. To get an idea of how much time is covered, the counties of Delaware volumes cover 1609 to 1888.

From the Archives

In New Castle County, Delaware you will find gems like this:

The place known as “Cowgill’s Corners,” near Little Creek Landing, was, prior to 1760, in the possession of Joshua Clayton, who, by will January 21, 1761, devised it to his granddaughter, Eunice Osborne. He had previously conveyed to his daughter Sarah, widow of Thomas Cowgill, eighty-eight acres, a part of “Willingbrook,” May 11, 1750. The other tract was known as “Higham’s Ferry,” on which was the mansion-house. Eunice Osborne left the property to her children,— Elizabeth, wife of Henry Cowgill; Mary, widow of Israel Asten; Eunice, wife of Peter Edmonson; and Tabitha, wife of Jabez Jenkins. The latter sold to Henry Cowgill, January 3, 1794, one undivided quarter-interest in the lands of Eunice Osborne. He settled at the Corner, which took his name. Jabez Jenkins, November 12, 1711, bought of Richard Richardson one hundred and eighty-eight acres of land, a part of a large tract called “St. Andrew’s,” adjoining the land of John Clayton, and which was northwest of “London.” This tract of “St. Andrew’s “ is now owned by D. Mifflin Wilson. Jabez Jenkins’ land passed to his son, Timothy, and from him to his son Jabez, who, August 7, 1815, sold it to Sarah, wife of John Turner and Jonathan W. Mifflin.

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