Salem witch trials end with Esther Elwell, from Gloucester, Sarah Jessica Parker’s ancestor

Sarah Jessica Parker season 1 episode 1 NBC Who Do You Think You Are tv show_ ancestor ESTHER ELWELL one of 3 women from Gloucester was accused of witchcraft.jpg

In the tv show, Who Do You Think You Are? (March 5 2010), produced by Lisa Kudrow, season 1, episode 1, Sarah Jessica Parker learns that her tenth great grandmother, Esther (Dutch) Elwell, was found guilty of witchcraft in 1692. Her arrest was the last formal accusation recorded during the Salem witch trials. The grisly court was dissolved days prior to her sentencing because spectral evidence was banned. Esther lived to be 82 years old. Parker visited Danvers to meet with historians and inspect the original records, and then on to Salem to pay respects.

Did Sarah Jessica Parker come to Gloucester?

Well, not according to the final edit. The show could have filmed here.

Witches of Gloucester

Beckoned to Gloucester, Salem teenager and accuser, Betty Hubbard, officially confirmed the false suspicions in 1692. And just like that three women from Gloucester– Esther Elwell, Abigail Rowe and Rebecca Dike– were arrested for killing Gloucester resident, Mary Fitch, by witchcraft. Historians determined that nine women from Gloucester were caught up in the witchhunts, jailed, and released (by the spring of 1693). Accused were more often than not related and at odds with accusers, well off, and/or “trouble”.  Collaborating institutions and collections have gathered and digitized 17th century documents. You can peruse them here: http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/17docs.html

Later history of witches in Gloucester revolve around Dogtown. In the 1896 book,  In the Heart of Cape Ann, Charles Mann described Gloucester’s Dogtown as “practically the only ruined city in America.” By then Dogtown legends persisted about “witches” like Tammy Younger (died 1829), her aunt Luce George, Peg Wesson, and Judy Rhines.  Percy Mackaye’s 1921 poem Dogtown Common acknowledged Mann’s book, “curious reader may learn many strange, half fogotten facts concerning the old Puritan life of that region…”  Here’s the eerie opener setting a fitting scene for Halloween.

Inland among the lonely cedar dells
of old Cape Ann, near Gloucester by the sea,
Still live the dead–in homes that used to be.
     All day in dreamy spells
They tattle low with toungues of tinkling cattle
     bells,
Or spirit tappings of some hollow tree,
And there, all night–all night, out of the
     dark–
They bark–and bark.

eerie opening Dogtown Common 110 page poem by Percy Mackaye 1921.jpg

 

Apparently, when Sarah Jessica Parker starred in Hocus Pocus (1993), she did not know this family history. Some of the movie was filmed on location in Salem and Marblehead.

3 thoughts on “Salem witch trials end with Esther Elwell, from Gloucester, Sarah Jessica Parker’s ancestor

  1. Yes, it’s amazing what one can find if one does some genealogical research. I, too, found a tenth great-grandmother from Rockport who was accused of witchcraft and locked up in Ipswich for a month… her name was Elizabeth Austin Dicer and she was the mother-in-law of Richard Tarr, the first settler of Rockport. Numerous letters and testimonies finally got her released to a very anxious (and relieved!), family! Another ancestor, Clement Coldham of Goose Cove was called as a witness against an Elizabeth Hubbard. He could not have been too convincing because Ms Hubbard (fortunately!), was acquitted.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting!! 🙂

    Reminds me a lot of genealogy testing using the DNA results which may be surprising in ancestry this opens lots of doors for some, and surprises other’s not so happy. Sometimes you want to complete the circle of life connections. With the new technology and testing it also opens many doors a lot farther back than before. Interesting post! Thanks Catherine! Emit Smith said it! 🙂 Dave & Kim 🙂

    Like

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