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I fear that this will be the last time you will ever hear from me. In fact, by the time you get this, I will probably be dead. You see, I live in Topsfield , but in the nearby town of Salem, the Salem Witchcraft Trials are going on. The Salem Witchcraft Trials are a series of trials of accused witches. Some people have already been hanged and I have recently been accused of witchcraft. You see, on March 21st, 1692, I was accused of putting young girls under spells by Ann Putnam Sr. and Abigail Williams. I was also accused by many other young girls, and even some older, married, seemingly sensible women. I believe that Ann accused me of this ridiculous crime because of the land dispute in our town. For over fifty years, the Nurse's and the Putnam's have been fighting over one piece of land. My father and Ann's father started this feud in 1639 and this is Ann's way of ending it. Also, us Nurse's are resented because we keep mostly to ourselves. Throughout the whole witchcraft accusations, our family has been staying away from the "bewitched" girls. The townspeople thought this was rude and that it proved my guilt. As you know, my dear mother was accused of witchcraft many a year ago, and two of my sister's have been accused before as well. The people in this town seem to have the notion that this craft is passed down through generations. In addition to this, the Putnam's head the Pro-Parris committee- they think that our minister should stay. But, my husband, Francis, is very much an outspoken member of the church. He leads the Anti-Parris committee. This is another reason why Ann is making up these ridiculous charges. I think that the people in this town are just looking for a scapegoat, or a person to blame things on when in reality it has nothing to do with that person. On March 24th, I was questioned by the authorities and I told them that I was praying for the victims, and that the other women accused were innocent. Well, I don't think they liked what I had to say, because they sent me to a jail in Boston. When I got there, I underwent an examination to look for a mark that would mean I was a witch. While I was being held in the jail, I learned that my lovely neighbors back in Topsfield, the Porter's, had written a formal letter proclaiming my innocence.
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Rebecca Nurse was hanged just five days later, on July 19th, 1692, along with the other four women she had stood at trial with. At first she was buried in a shallow grave, but was later reburied on her family's property with the following inscribed on her tombstone (written by John Greenleaf Whittier)-
Yarmouth, England, 1621
O Christian Martyr for who truth die,
When all around thee laid hideous lie,
The world redeemed from Superstition's sway,
Is breathing freer for thy sake today.
In 1699, the Nurse family was welcomed back to church, and in 1707, the excommunication was revoked. In 1711, the Nurse family was compensated by the government for Rebecca's wrongful death. But, Rebecca Nurse was only one of the first accused witches of Salem. By the time the chaos of the witchcraft had ended, 19 women and men had been hanged for witchcraft. One man had even been pressed to death with large stones. The Salem Witchcraft Trials are just one of many events in history that show just how quickly government can lose control, and chaos can ensue.