In 1692, in Salem, Mass., the Putnam and Nurse families were on opposite sides of the Salem Witch Trials. The Putnam family accused Rebecca Nurse, the family matriarch, of witchcraft.
Both families lived in the northeast section of Salem Farms. The Putnams had lived in the area since the 1630s, but were not as socially prominent as they had been a few years earlier. The Nurses moved in as renters and worked their way to prosperity. Often, Nurse and Putnam property interests clashed, and the Nurses argued with the Putnams over logging rights in the region.
When 12-year-old Ann Putnam, Jr. became one of the "possessed" girls in Salem, 71-year-old Rebecca Towne Nurse was among the first people she accused of witchcraft. The elderly woman was unable to properly defend herself in court as she was mostly deaf and was hanged on July 19, 1692. The Putnams also accused Rebecca's two sisters, Sarah Towne Cloyse and Mary Towne Easty. Mary was hanged as well.
Rebecca Nurse was noted for her grace and faith during the hanging. Though she, like the other victims of the Salem Witchcraft Trials, was buried in a shallow grave near the gallows, her family secretly removed her body the evening of her execution and buried her properly on its land. Her grave and monument can still be visited in Danvers, Mass.