Monday, September 29, 2014

Sarah Clark Davis my 9X Great-Grandmother and the Salem Witch Trials

Sarah Clark Davis Rice (1620-1698) - Sarah was born to William and Elizabeth Quicke Clark in 1620. She grew up to marry George Davis, who died at sea in July, 1667. Later she married Nicholas Rice of Reading, Massachusetts. On May 18, 1692 a warrant was issued for her arrest for having committed witchcraft on Mary Walcott, Abigail Williams, and others. She was ordered to be brought to the house of Lieutenant Nathaniel Ingersoll in Salem Village for examination on May 31st. Constable John Parker of Reading complied and delivered her to the examination. She was jailed in Boston and was still there in October when her husband wrote a petition for her release. It doesn't appear that she was ever tried. She died on May 3, 1698 in Reading.

Her daughter, from whom we are not descended, Sarah Davis Cole was also accused. Sarah was born to George and Sarah Clark Davis on October 1, 1651 in Reading, Massachusetts. She went on to marry Abraham Cole, a tailor of Salem and the couple would have seven children. During the witch hysteria, a warrant was issued for Sarah's arrest, as well as Hannah Carroll, on September 10, 1692. Both were accused of having afflicted torture and torment of William Brage, the son of Henry Brage. She was indicted and imprisoned. Her husband was able to bail her out on January 14, 1693 and on February 1, 1693, she was acquitted of all charges. She probably died in Salem, Massachusetts.

Mary Marshall was Sarah Clark Davis Rice's step-niece. On May 28th, an arrest warrant was issued for Sarah, and she was arrested on May 31, 1692. On October 19, 1692 her then husband, Nicholas Rist made a petition to the court for her release. In the petition, he indicates that she has been held at Boston "gaol" since her arrest for witchcraft and that in all that time, nothing has appeared for which she deserved imprisonment or death, and that he has never had reason to accuse of her of any impiety or witchcraft, but to the contrary she lived with him as a good faithful dutiful wife and always had respect for the ordinances of God while her strength remained, and he is concerned for her health stating that "it is deplorable that in old age the poor decrepit woman should lie under confinement for so long in a "stinching gaol" when her circumstances require that a nurse attend her." She died not long after her release.

From the notes of Donald Erlenkotter: Sarah (Clark) Davis Rist (or Rice), was accused, arrested, and imprisoned in the famous Salem witchcraft delusion of 1692 [Eat]. The following warrant for her arrest was issued on 28 May 1692 [Witch]:

Warrant v. Sarah Rice.

To the Constables in Reding.


You are in theire Majesties names hereby required to apprehend and bring before us, Sarah Rist the wife of Nicholas Rist of Reding on Tuesday next being the 31st day of this Instant moneth at the house of Lt. Nathan'l Ingersalls at Salem Village aboute ten of the Clock in the forenoon, who stand charged with having Committed sundry acts of witchcraft on ye Bodys of Mary Walcott and Abigail Williams & others to theire great hurte &c, in order to her Examination Relateing to ye premises abovesaid faile not. Dated Salem May 28th 1692.

P vs. J. Hathorne } Assists.

Jonathan Corwin}


In obediance to this warant I have brought the Body of Sarah Rist the wife of Nicholas Rist of Redding to the house of Leut. Nathanial Ingersons in Salem Viledg the 31 of this instant: May 1692:


Attest John Parker Constable fo Redding.

Abigail Williams, age 11, along with the slave Tituba, lived at Salem Village (now Danvers) in the household of her uncle, Rev. Samuel Parris. The accuser, Mary Walcott, was 16 years old. Lt. Nathaniel Ingersoll was a deacon in the church at Salem Village and keeper of the town's ordinary. John Hathorne, ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jonathan Corwin were members of the General Court and magistrates at Salem Town who conducted hearings in the witchcraft cases [Devil].

Sarah was immediately dispatched from Salem to prison in Boston, according to the following order [Witch]:


To Mr. John Arnold, Keeper of the Prison in Boston, in the County of Suffolk.

Whereas Captain John Aldin (Alden) of Boston, Marriner, and Sarah Rice, Wife of Nicholas Rist of Reding, Husbandman, have been this day brought before us, Joh Hathorn and Jonathan Curwin, Esquires; being accused and suspected of perpetrating divers acts of Witchcraft, contrary to the form of the Statute, in that Case made and provided: These are therefore in Their Majesties, King William and Quen Marys Names, to Will and require you, to take into your Custody, the bodies of the said John Alden, and Sarah Rist, and them safely keep, until they shall thence be delivered by due course of Law; Given under our hands at Salem Village, the 31st of May, in the Fourth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord and Lady, William and Mary, now King and Quen over England, etc., Anno Dom. 1692.

John Hathorn, } Assistants.

Jonathan Curwin, }


Captain John Alden, Jr., was the son of John Alden of the Mayflower. He escaped after having been imprisoned for fifteen weeks, and then was returned and cleared by proclamation in the Superior Court of Boston on the last Tuesday in April 1693.

The final hanging of accused witches took place on 22 Sep 1692. After accusation against his wife, Gov. Phips forbade further commitments on the grounds of witchcraft. By 12 Oct 1692 petitions were being received for the release of those who had been accused but not tried [Devil]. Sarah's husband, Nicholas Rist (or Rice), submitted the following petition to the General Court for her release [Eat]:

"The humble petition of of Nicholas Rist of Reading she weth, that whereas Sarah Rist, wife of the petitioner, was taken into custody, the first day of June last, and hath since lain in Boston Jail for witchcraft, though in all that time nothing has been made to appear, for which she deserved imprisonment or death. The petitioner has been a husband to the said woman above twenty years, in all which time, he had never reason to accuse her of any impietie or witchcraft; but the contrary, she lived with him as a good, faithful, dutiful wife, and always had respect to the ordinances of God, while her strength remained; and the petitioner on that consideration, is obliged in conscience and justice to use all lawful means for the support and preservation of her life; and it is deplorable, that in old age, the poor decrepid woman should lye under confinement in a stinking jail, when her circumstances rather require a Nurse to attend her. May it therefore please your Honors to take this matter into your present consideration, and direct some speedy method, whereby this ancient and decrepid person may not forever lye in such misery, wherein her life is made more afflictive to her than death. And the petitioner shall, as in duty bound, ever pray.

Nicholas Rice


Reading, Oct. 19, 1692"

Soon after, Sarah was discharged from prison. Probably she was charged for the costs of her imprisonment, since this was the practice at the time even for those found to be innocent or or pardoned. She died at Reading on 3 May 1698. In her will, dated 20 Sep 1697 and proved in the court at Charlestown on 16 May 1698, Sarah Rist of Reading mentioned husband Nicholas Rist and referred to bequests given to her by former husband George Davis and son Benjamin Davis. She left five shillings to daughter Hannah Boutell [Clark; Middlesex County Probate Vol. 9, pp 398-399]."

So, we are descended from accused witches, accusers of witches and jurors in the witch trials.

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