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From Margaret B. Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University of Missouri Press, p. 44-45.

From Margaret B. Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University of Missouri Press, p. 44-45.

. . . In "Alice Doane's Appeal," Hawthorne again sees Burroughs as an innocent: "I watched the face of an ordained pastor, who walked onward to the same death; his lips moved in prayer, no narrow petition for himself alone, but embracing all, his fellow sufferers and the frenzied multitude: he looked to heaven and trod lightly up the hill" (CE 11:279). This description does not square with the testimony given at the trial. George Burroughs seems to have been a strange sort of Christian saint. He could not remember when he had last taken communion, did not have his children baptized, and he seems to have trifled with magic. Richard Gildrie holds that "there was strong evidence" that the minister had been "dabbling in the occult and that he had made claims to magical powers in order to intimidate others, particularly his wives and their friends and relatives." Charles W. Upham in his lectures on witchcraft in 1831 says of Burroughs that there was "something very dark" about him.31 Surely Salem memories were long enough to remember the quarrels Burroughs had had with his church members.

The most telling testimony concerned the fate of his first two wives, who were known to the Salem community. His first wife died while he was minister at Salem Village. His second wife was Sarah Ruck, daughter of merchant John Ruck of Salem and widow of Captain William Hathorne, brother to Justice John. Her father-in-law, Major William Hathorne, made a special provision for her in his will. After Captain William's death (circa 1678), she married George Burroughs by 1683. One of the afflicted girls, Ann Putnam Jr., swore on April 20, 1692, that the apparition of Burroughs had appeared to her and "he tould me that his name was George Burroughs and that he had had three wives: and that he had bewitched the Two first of them to death." Later she said that the second wife "tould me that Mr. Burroughs and that wife which he hath now[,] kiled hir in the vesselle as she was coming to see hir friends because they would have one another." Susannah Sheldon deposed that the two wives of George Burroughs appeared in their winding sheets to her and said that he had killed them. George Burroughs denied that he had made his wife Sarah swear that any letter to her father, John Ruck, should be examined by him before she sent it. This testimony was found, according to Boyer and Nissenbaum, among Judge Hathorne's papers on August 8, 1843, which probably meant that it had special meaning for him. On August 3, 1692, Mary Walcott spoke also of seeing the first two wives in winding sheets "whom I formerly well knew; and tould me that Mr. Burroughs had murthered them." 32

Judge Hathorne was present at all of these trials. One can imagine his feelings when he thought he was learning the fate of his former sister-in-law. Thus, both his sister's disbelief in the guilt of Rebecca Nurse and his sister-in-law's alleged fate at the hands of her accused witch husband must have made his position difficult indeed. Nathaniel Hawthorne seems to buy into Upham's thesis that the accused were all innocent when he describes the martyrs on the "blighted path" to the gallows. On the other hand, in "Young Goodman Brown," a minister is definitely among those acquainted with the Shape of Evil, and he, too, as Burroughs was accused of doing, met with the witches in the dark wood.

31. For Burroughs, see Salem Witchcraft Papers, 1:152-78; Nathaniel Ingersoll Bowditch, "The Witchcraft Papers," 31-37; Richard Gildrie, "Visions of Evil: Popular Culture, Puritanism, and the Massachusetts Witchcraft Crisis of 1692," 26. For a different slant on Burroughs, see Bernard Rosenthal's Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692.
32. McMillen, Currents of Malice, 296-97, 299; David L. Greene, "The Third Wife of the Rev. George Burroughs," 43; Probate Records of E5sex County, 3:422-23, will of William Hathome, 1681; Salem Witchcraft Papers, 1:153, 154.

Source: Moore, Margaret B. The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1998.

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11914/

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