Genealogy of the Bridges Family (version July 15, 2018)
Please email corrections to Mike Clark
Edmund Bridges Sr (c.1612-1684/85), the immigrant ancestor of this lineage, was born somewhere in England, possibly in Yorkshire or the surrounding area, as that is where many of the followers of Reverend Ezekiel Rogers came from. Edmund sailed as a young man to New England, where he cast his lot with Reverend Rogers' followers, and settled with them about 1840 or so on a house lot they gave him in their newly settled town of Rowley in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Here he was the town blacksmith for a few years, until he left Rogers' congregation and moved on to Topsfield, which in those days was an outlying community on the north side of Salem. We have some additional information on Edmund during his time in Rowley that we present elsewhere in a history on the "Founding of Rowley, Massachuestts".
There are many family histories on the internet that trace back to him. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these make unfounded assumptions with little to no evidence about his wives and children. The passage that follows is based on Cutter (1908), which we consider a far more reliable source than most of these internet "histories".
"Edmund Bridges, immigrant ancestor, was born in England in 1612. He came in the ship "James" in July, 1636, giving his age as twenty-three. He settled at Lynn and followed his trade as blacksmith. He was admitted a freeman, September 7, 1639, and was one of the proprietors of the town. He removed to Rowley and was living there in 1641 when he had a suit at law at Ipswich. He was a proprietor of Rowley. The general court, May 26, 1647, ordered him to answer at the Essex court for "neglect to further public service hy delaying to shoe Mr. Symonds' horse when he was about to come to the General Court." That was before the days of labor unions and strikes in America. He deposed in 1658 that he was aged about forty-eight years. He removed to Ipswich and was a subscriber to the Denison fund in 1648. He was a commoner of Ipswich as early as 1664 and a voter in 1679. He administered on the estate of his wife's third son, John Littlehale, November 25, 1675. He removed finally to Topsfield. He died January 13, 1684. His will is dated January 6, 1684, and proved March 31, 1685. The inventory amounted to two hundred and thirty-five pounds. He married (first) Alice; (second) Elizabeth, who died December, 1664; (third), April 6, 1668, Mary Littlehale, who died October 21, 1791, and was widow of Richard Littlehale."
Edmund had several children, whom we list below. He survived his son and grandson, both of whom were also named Edmund, and both of whom died in 1682 in nearby towns. Naturally this causes much confusion in many family histories. Our list below of the children of the elder Edmund contains only those children of his who are named by Cutter (1908) and Anderson (1995). Most family histories try to attribute most or all of these children to a wife with the maiden name of Elizabeth Manwaring. However, the evidence for her surname is lacking. One researcher whom we consider to be more reliable than the rest writes the following.
"An Edmond BRIDGES married 17 Sept 1639 Hackney, St. Johns London England Elizabeth MANWARING (24) and presumably had a child in London 12 Aug 1640 (24). This Edmond apparently is different from the one in New England but seems to be the source of the surname MANWARING. Edmund and Elizabeth had 8 children (fg). He married third 6 Apr 1665 [Alice LITTLEHALE]."
The above notes by Clyde M. Senger (1986, 1993) no longer seem to be available on the internet.
Hachaliah Bridges (c.1638) was born about 1638, probably in or near Lynn, Massachusetts. He was accused on Sept. 30, 1656 and Sept 1657 of getting first Sarah French, then Mary Quilter pregnant, and was whipped and discharded from the town after the latter event. He drowned on Dec. 23, 1671 at Gay Head, which is located south of Cape Cod, and just off the island of Martha's Vineyard.
Mehitable Bridges was born on March 26, 1641 in Rowley, Masschusetts. There is no further record of her.
John Bridges was born about 1643, probably in Rowley, Massachusetts. He married his first wife Sarah How on Dec. 6, 1666 in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and they had at least two children. She died, and he married his second wife, a widow named Mary Post (neé Tyler) on March 1, 1677/78 in Andover, which is near Ipswich. He was a constable and blacksmith. Mary (b. c.1644) was accused of witchcraft on July 28, 1692 in Andover and imprisoned. Other members of her family were accused as well. She was found not guilty on Jan. 12, 1693 and eventually released. John and Mary had at least four children, in addition to those from his first marriage.
Faith Bridges was born about 1645, probably in or near Rowley, Massachusetts. She became pregnant and married Daniel Black, who settled at York, Maine.
Obadiah Bridges was born about 1646 or 1647, probably in or near Rowley, Massacusetts. He married his first wife Mary Smith on Oct. 25, 1671 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She died, and he married his second wife Elizabeth. Obadiah died about 1677, afterwhich Elizabeth married Joseph Parker.
Bethia Bridges was born about 1649 in or near Rowley, Massachusetts. She married Joseph Peabody on Oct. 26, 1663 at either Boxford or Topsfield, Massachusetts.
Josiah Bridges was born about 1650, probably in or Rowley, Massachusetts. He married his first wife Elizabeth Norton on Nov. 13, 1676 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She died, and he married his second wife Ruth Greenslip on September 19, 1677 in Ipswich.
Mary Bridges, the daughter of Edmund Bridges and his wife Mary, was born on April 14, 1667 in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Edmund Bridges (c.1637-1682), the son of Edmund Bridges and either Alice or Elizabeth, was born about 1637, probably in or near Lynn, Massachusetts. He lived at Topsfield and Salem, and married Sarah Towne (c.1648–1703), the daughter of William and Joanna Towne, on Jan. 11, 1659/60 in Massachusetts. Essex County land records for Salem presented in the Essex Antiquarian (1906, p.30-31) show that just before Edmund Jr died, which would be about 1682, he gave some of his property to his eldest son Edmund III, upon the latters marriage to Elizabeth Croade. Edmund Jr died later the same year, with his remaining portion of the estate being inherited by Edmund III, which left his mother Sarah with nothing. A short time later the same year the younger Edmund died as well and all of the property once owned by Edmund Jr then went to his son's widow Elizabeth Croade, again leaving Sarah with nothing. Almost immediately she married her second husband Peter Cloyes of Salem, thereby avoiding becoming destitute. Sarah was subsequently accused in 1692 of being a witch at the Salem witch trials. The charges against her were ultimately dropped in January of 1693, and she and her husband moved to Salem End (West Framingham), where they changed their last name to Clayes. Sarah died sometime in 1703, but the details of her death and burial appear to have been hidden by her family due to the notoriety of the witch trails she endured ten years earlier. Edmund and Sarah had several children, and Sarah had children as well with her second husband Peter. We give precedence in the list below to those children of Edmund and Sarah whose existence can be documented in the vital records of Massachusetts. The existence of the other children is questionable.
children - BRIDGES
Edmund Bridges III (b. 1660-1682), the eldest child, was born on Oct 4, 1660 in Topsfield, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Croade, and Essex County land records indicate that he died the same year (1662) as his father. When Edmund III died both his and his father's estates in Topsfield were ultimately settled on his widow Elizabeth. This effectively left Edmund's mother Sarah penniless. Edmund is listed in Temple (1887) as one of the children of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne.
Benjamin Bridges (1664/65-1725) was born on Jan. 2, 1665/65 in Topsfield, Massachusetts. He moved to nearby Framingham in the spring of 1693, and worked there as blacksmith. He married a woman named Elizabeth, with whom he had several children. He died on Aug. 28, 1725 in Framingham, and he is probably the Capt. Benjamin Bridges who is buried in the Church Hill Cemetery. However, only the name "Cap[t] Benjamin Bridges" can be read on the tombstone, which is very worn, and no other information is discernable. He is listed in Temple (1887) as one of the children of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne.
Mary Bridges (b. 1667) was born in April 1667 in Ipswich, Massachusetts. She is listed in Temple (1887) as one of the children of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne.
Hannah Bridges (1669-1727) was born on June 9, 1669 in Salem, Massachusetts. She married Samuel Barton (c.1662-1732) sometime in 1690, probably in Essex County, Massachusetts. She died on March 3, 1727 in Oxford, Massachusetts, where she is probably Hannah Barton who is buried there in North Cemetery. She is listed in Temple (1887) as one of the children of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne.
Alice Bridge (1680-?) is shown in many family histories as a child of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne, but this is not known for sure. A Salem baptism record that is dated Sept. 1680 does exist, but it does not identify her parents. Although the record indicates she died, presumably as an infant, her age is not given.
other possible children of Edmund Bridges and Sarah Towne who are shown in various family histories include an Elizabeth Bridges (b. 1662) and a Sarah Bridges (b. 1672). However, neither girl is listed in Temple (1887), there appears to be no birth records for either one, and no evidence for them is provided in any of of the family histories we have found. One possibility is that Elizabeth is acutually wife of Benjamin Bridges, and Sarah is perhaps the wife of his uncle John Bridges, who may be the man below.
Many family histories also list a John Bridges as one of the sons of Edmund and Sarah. However, he is not listed as such in Temple (1887), and he is probably being confused in these histories with the John Bridges who is actually the son of Edmund Bridges Sr and his wife Elizabeth in the previous generation.
Caleb Bridges (1677-1737?), the son of Edmund Bridges Sr and Sarah Towne, was born on June 3, 1677 in Salem, Massachusetts. He moved to Framingham about 1697, where he worked as a brick layer, and married Sarah Brewer (b. 1677/78) on Nov. 26, 1700, Sarah being the daughter of John and Elizabeth Brewer. There is a private dwelling called the Caleb Bridges House (circa 1700) 31 Gates Road in Framingham. Caleb and Sarah evidently lived, and possibly died there, but we do not know any details. There are many family histories which show that Caleb died on June 6, 1737, but we have yet to find one that provides any evidence for this date. All of the children we show below are also listed in Temple (1887).
children - BRIDGES
Bathsheba Bridges (1703/03-1739) was born on Jan. 19, 1702/02 in Framingham, Massachusetts; and she died there on Nov. 1, 1739 a spinster.
Caleb Bridges (1708-) was born on Aug. 24, 1708 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married Elizabeth Stanhope on Sept 23, 1731 in Framingham, Massachusetts.
Martha Bridges (1710-1807) was born on March 28, 1710 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married Abraham Ball (1707-1786) on Jan. 13, 1732 in Framingham. She is probably the Martha Ball who died on May 20, 1807 at he age of 97 in Spencer, Massachusetts, as that is the same town in which her husband died.
Bethia Bridges (1712/13-) was born on Feb. 14, 1712/13 in Framingham, Massachusetts; and married Benjamin Nurse on Nov 22, 1749 in Framingham.
Benjamin Bridges (1714-1739) was born on Sept. 19, 1714 in Framingham, Massachusetts; and died on Oct. 6, 1739 in Framingham. So far as we know he never married.
Sarah Bridges (1716-1739) was born on Aug. 26, 1716 in Framingham, Massachusetts; and died there a few weeks after brother Benjamin on Nov. 18, 1739 as a spinster.
David Bridges (1719/20-), twin of Jonathan, was born on March 19, 1719/20 in Framingham, Massachusetts. He married Keziah Drury (1723-1755) on April 25, 1750 in Framingham, and settled in Leicester, Massachusetts.
Jonathan Bridges (1719/20-1720), twin of David, was born on March 19, 1719/20 in Framingham, Massachusetts; and died there a few days later on April 4, 1720 at the age of 16 days.
Hachiliah (Hackaliah) Bridges Sr (1705-1739), the son of Caleb Bridges and Sarah Brewer, was born on May 30, 1705 in Framingham, Massachusetts. He married Sarah Rugg (1705-1805), the daughter of Jonathan Rugg (1680) and Sarah Newton (1679-1910), on Nov. 11, 1728 in Framingham, afterwhich Hachiliah and Sarah moved to Southborough, Massachusetts, where all of their children were born. He died on Sept, 27, 1739 in Southborough, where he is buried in the Old Burial Ground. We do not Hachiliah and and Sarah had several children who appear in the list below. We include only the names of those children whose names appear in the birth register for the town of Southborough.
children - BRIDGES
James Bridges (1729-1805) was born on Sept. 18, 1729 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married Mary Brown on April 15, 1751 in Southborough. Temple (1887) writes that, "he lived on the Nathan Bridges place (family of Nathan, who married Patty Temple, daughter of Thomas, Jr.)".
Jonathan Bridges (1730-1736) was born on Feb. 18, 1730 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and died there on Nov. 23, 1736, just 6 years old.
Nathan Bridges (1733-1809) was born on Feb, 13, 1733 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married Sarah Parker on Feb. 4, 1755 in Southborough. He died on July 21, 1809 in Southborough.
Sarah Bridges (1735-1753) was born on Sept. 3, 1735 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married John Chamberlain on April 26, 1752 in nearby by Hopkinton.
Benjamin Bridges (1739-1814) was born on Nov. 26, 1739 in Southborough, Massachusetts; and married Esther Parker (d. 1819) on Oct. 11, 1764 in nearby Holliston.
Hachiliah (Hackaliah) Bridges Jr (1737-1792), the son of Hachiliah Bridges Sr and Sarah Rugg, was born on Oct. 11, 1737 in Southborough, Massachusetts. He married Elizabeth Underwood (1746-1835), the daughter of Joseph Underwood (1716-1759) and Jemima Leland (b. 1722), on Nov. 29, 1769 in Holliston, Massachusetts; and served in the American Revolution as a constable, and a member of the committee of inspection, safety and correspondance for the town of Holliston (DAR Patriot Ancestor #A014262). He also served as a soldier under several commands - his service record summarized as follows.
Private in Capt. Seth Newton's company, Col. Abijah Stearns's regiment
enlisted on April 1, 1778; and discharged on July 2, 1778
served for 3 months and 2 days, with guards at Roxbury
Private in Capt. David Moore's company, Col. John Jacobs's (Light Infantry) regiment
marched on Sept. 14, 1779; and discharged on Nov. 16, 1779
served for 2 months and 6 days, at Rhode Island; roll sworn to at Bolton
Private in Capt. Job Sumner's company, Col. John Greaton's (3d) regiment
enlisted on July 30, 1780; and on the muster roll for October, 1780
enlisted for 6 months
Private in Capt. James Cooper's company, Col. William Shepard's regiment
enlisted on March 3, 1781; and on the muster roll for May, 1781, dated in West Point
enlisted for 3 years; and reported on quarter guard
Corporal in Capt. Lebbeus Drew's company, Col. Shepard's (4th) regiment
on the muster rolls for June and July, 1781, dated in Phillipsburgh
reported as promoted to Corporal on June 1, 1781; and discharged on July 26, 1781
Hachiliah died on April 29, 1792 in Holliston. He and Elizabeth had at least fourteen children who survived to adulthood. There may have been more children, but we include in the list below only those whose names appear in the birth records for the town of Holliston. Any others are undocumented.
children - BRIDGES
Millie Bridges (1765-1837) was born on July 29, 1765 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married James Holbrook (1762-1829) in Holliston, and they had several children. She died on Jul 26, 1837 in Sherborn, Massachusetts, where she and James are buried with some of their children in the South Sherborn Cemetery.
Jonathan Bridges (1767-1825) was born on May 15, 1767 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He died on Feb. 24, 1825 in Warren, Massachusetts; where he is buried in the Pine Grove Cemetery. We have not found any evidence that he was survived by a wife or children.
Jemima Bridges (1768-?) was born on Dec. 30, 1768 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married Ezra Thayer (1768-1818?) on Nov. 27, 1768 in Mendon, Massachusetts, and they moved at some point to Swanzey, New Hampshire, where several of their children were born. She probably died in Swanzey, as her husband is likely to be the Ezra Thayer who died there in 1818, as indicated by probate records.
Betty Bridges (1770-?) was born on June 23, 1770 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She is shown in a DAR lineage book as having married Siles Holbrook and had issue, but we can find no records to confirm this, and suspect that it is not accurate.
Sampson Bridges (1772-1846) was born on Feb. 12, 1772 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He married his first wife Anna Rockwood (1777-1843) on May 21, 1795 in Holliston, and they moved to nearby Hopkinton, where some of their children were born, including a son Dexter Bridges (1813-1880). She died, and Sampson married his second wife Hannah Greenwood (1793-1848) on May 1, 1844 in nearby Hopkinton. Sampson died on April 6, 1846 in Hopkinton, where he is buried with both wives and his son Dexter in the Mount Auburn Cemetery.
Ruth Bridges (1773-1821) was born on Aug. 12, 1773 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married Ebenezer Chamberlain (1779-1854) on April 26, 1795 in nearby Hopkinton, and they at some point moved there, as some of their children were born in Hopkinton. She died on Nov. 21, 1821 in Hopkinton, where she is buried in the Main Street Cemetery.
Elijah Bridges (1775-?) was born on April 15, 1775 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He might be the Elizah Bridges who married Patience Adams (b. 1781) on Sept. 22, 1799 in Medway, Massachusetts, but this is not known for sure. We have not seen evidence of any children from this marriage, and nothing more is known of Elijah.
Ede Bridges (1777-1860) was born on Jan. 18, 1777 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married Thaddeus Spring (1764-1834) on March 24, 1798 in nearby Hopkinton; and they appear to have moved to Vermont, where some of their children were born. Ede died on Oct. 6, 1860 in Chester, Vermont, where she is buried with her husband in Brookside Cemetery.
Ziba Bridges (1778-1837) was born on Nov. 11, 1778 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He married Betsey Smith (1778-1842) on Nov. 27, 1800 in Holliston, and they resided intially in Holliston, as several of their children were born there. Later they moved to Hopkinton, where at least one more child was born. Ziba died on Aug. 11, 1837 in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, where he is buried with Betsey in Waterton in the Common Street Cemetery.
Urania Bridges (1780-1832) was born on April 4, 1780 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married Martin Bridges (1779-1845) on Dec. 2, 1801 in Holliston, and they moved to Leicester, Massachusetts, where several of their children were born. Urania died on Nov. 5, 1832 in Leicester, where she is buried with Martin in the Rawson Burial Ground.
Calvin Bridges (1783-1830) was born on Oct. 29, 1783 in Holliston, Massachusetts; and he married Achsah Smith (1781-1855) on Aug. 19, 1802 in Holliston. He and Aschah appear to have had a number of children, but it seems that at this point in time the documentation for these children is lacking. Calvin died on April 3, 1830 in Hopkinton, where he is buried with Achsah in the Main Street Cemetery.
Alpheus Bridges (1785-1825) was born on Dec. 23, 1785 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He married Susanna Fisk of Swanzey, New Hampshire on Nov. 25, 1821 in Holliston, and they had at least two children. He died four years later by hanging himself on Oct 6, 1825 in Holliston. He is buried in the Old North Cemetery, where the inscription on his tombstone refers to him as Capt., which implies that he had a military career.
Sarah (Sally) Bridges (1787-1864) was born on Dec. 9, 1787 in Holliston, Massachusetts. She married Daniel Whiting (1786-1875) on Aug. 12, 1804 in Holliston, where they had several children. She died on Dec. 14, 1864 in Holliston, where she and Daniel are buried in the Lake Grove Cemetery.
Luther Bridges Sr (1782-1830), the son of Hachiliah Bridges Jr and Elizabeth Underwood, was born March 20, 1782 in Holliston, Massachusetts. He married Abigail (Nabby) Lovering (1785-1871), the daughter of Jesse Lovering (1746-1820) and Mercy Jennings (1750-1800), on Aug. 15, 1803 in Holliston. He died on July 12, 1830 in Palmer, Massachusetts, where he is buried in the Palmer Center Cemetery. Luther's wife Nabby is easily confused with another Nabby Bridges, born Abigail Stone (1781-1848), who married Luther's cousin Nathan Bridges (1772-1844).
children - BRIDGES
Hachaliah (Hackaliah) Bridges III (1803-1862) was born on Dec. 19, 1893 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and married Sarah Lovering (1803-1887) in Phillipston, Massachusetts. He died on June 2, 1862 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, and he and Sarah are buried there in the North Cemetery.
Elizabeth Bridges (1805-1884) was born on May 14, 1805 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and married Amasa DeWolf (c.1801-1859) on March 12, 1822 in Warren, Massachusetts. She died on April 23, 1884 in Mansfield, Massachusetts.
Lawson Bridges (1807-1881) was born on Jan. 3, 1807 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and married Nancy Tyler (c.1806-1892) on March 13, 1836 in Warren, Massachusetts. He died on Nov. 27, 1881 in Warren, and is buried there with Nancy in the Pine Grove Cemetery.
Sally Bucklin Bridges (1808-1872) was born on Dec. 25, 1808 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts; and married Henry Ward Durant (c.1799-1868) on March 17, 1829 in Palmer, Massachusetts, They generally lived in Warren, Massachusetts. Sally died on July 4, 1872 in Warren, and she is buried there in the Pine Grove Cemetery.
Luther Bridges Jr (1813-1881), the son of Luther Bridges Sr and Nabby Lovering, was born in 1813 in Palmer, Massachusetts. He married Emeline Stebbins (1815-1880), the daughter of Ebenezer Stebbins (1773-1826) and Elizabeth Bliss (1781-1831), on Nov. 24, 1837 in Windsor County, Connecticutt. Luther and Emeline moved soon after their marriage to Warren, Massachusetts, where their two children were born, and where Luther made his living as a blacksmith. Emeline died on Oct. 7, 1880 in Warren, and Luther died there on July 20, 1881, less than a year after Emeline.
James Luther Bridges (1848-1898) was born on Nov. 10, 1848 in Warren, Massachusetts; and married Fannie A. Curtis (1850-1889) on Dec. 25, 1871 in Warren. He died on March 15, 1898 in Warren.
Martha Emeline Bridges (1841-1906), the daughter of Luther Bridges Jr and Emeline Stebbins, was probably born on or about May 31, 1841 in Warren Massachusetts, based on her recorded age at death of 64 years, 10 months, and 21 days. She married her father's blacksmith apprentice, who was a young man named James Lord Weeks (1842-1923), on Aug. 19, 1862 in Warren. He was the son of John Weeks (1806-1882) and Amanda Lord (1810-1890), and he was born on March 1, 1842 in Brighton, Maine. Martha and James had three children, but only one survived to adulthood. Martha died on April 21, 1906 in Hampden, Massachusetts. When James died there also on Jan. 29, 1923, his occupation by then had become that of a farmer. Both he and Martha are buried in Hampden in the Prospect Hill Cemetery. For the children of Martha and James, please see the WEEKS GENEALOGY.
Sarah Cloyes and the Salem Witch Trials
Sarah Towne (c.1638–1703) was the daughter of William Towne (d. 1673) and Joanna Blessing (d. 1682), who about 1635 sailed with several of their children from Great Yarmouth, England to Salem, Massachusetts. Sarah, who was baptized on Sept. 3, 1638 at the First Church Salem, was probably the youngest of at least eight children born to William and Joanna, and likely the only child of theirs born in New England. Although Jan. 11, 1637/38 is widely quoted as her birth date, we have never seen any evidence to confirm this. She married her first husband Edmund Bridges (c.1637-c.1682) on Jan. 11, 1659/60 in Topsfield, Massachusetts; and they had six children. Edmund died about 1682 in Essex County, Massachusetts; afterwhich Sarah married a widower named Peter Cloyes (1640-1708), with whom she had three or so more children, the first of these being baptized in September 1683, probably in Salem, Massachusetts.
Sarah and her family were living in the Puritan town of Salem in January of 1692 when 9-year old Betty Parris, and Betty's cousin 11-year old Abigail Williams - the daughter and niece of Reverend Samuel Parris - began to convulse unexplainedly and complain of being pinched and pricked by pins. These fits were said by some to be the work of demons, and resulted in three older women being accused of using witchcraft to torment the girls. One of these women was a South American Indian slave named Tituba, who belonged to Reverend Parris. When brought before the authorities on March 1, 1692 to answer charges of witchcraft, Tituba eloquently confessed to consorting with demons, and claimed that others like her were doing the same. This let loose a flurry of accusations that resulted on March 19, 1692 in Rebecca Nurse (neé Towne), the pious and respected 71-year old sister of Sarah Cloyes, being accused as a witch.
Rebecca's accusers were the brothers John and Edward Putnam, whose family held a grudge against Rebecca's family. When Topsfield was incorporated into a town in 1650, the boundaries between Topsfield and neighboring Salem were poorly defined. This led to a boundary dispute between the allied Towne and Easty families of Topsfield versus the Putnam family of Salem, in which each accused the other of trespassing and stealing timber from the land in question. When a land court in 1687 officially defined the boundary between the two towns, the ruling was to the benefit of the Towne and Easty families and the detriment of the Putnams. However, the feud between them continued even after the ruling, and the Putnam brothers may have used their accusations of witchcraft to seek revenge against Rebecca and her siblings.
When Reverend Parris on Easter Sunday, March 27th delivered a sermon in the Salem meeting house on the "dreadful witchcraft broke out here", Sarah supported her accused sister by walking out on the sermon, and slamming the church door behind her - which was unheard of in Puritan times. She then spoke on April 3rd in defense of her sister, only to find herself accused of witchcraft the next day. She was named in warrants, and arrested and jailed in Salem on September 8th and 9th "for certain detestable arts called witchcraft and sorceries, wickedly, maliciously and feloniously hath used practiced and exercised... in, upon and against one Rebecca Towne of Topsfield ... and also for sundry other acts of witchcraft." The so-named Rebecca was Sarah's niece, the daughter of her late brother Edmund Towne. There other accusers, including 12-year old Ann Putnam, a niece of the above-mentioned Putnam brothers, and 16-year old Mercy Lewis, whose paternal aunt was Sarah's sister-in-law Susanna Cloyce. Some of these girls reportedly had been reprimanded a time or two in the past by either Sarah or her sisters.
Sarah on April 11th was brought before the court to answer to charges of practicing witchcraft, but she refused to confess, and facing one of her accusers called him a "grevious liar" - the accuser being John Indian, husband of the accused witch Tituba. Sarah was sent that night to a Boston prison, where her sister Rebecca was already being held. Even though Sarah was locked in a cell ten miles away, two of her accusers - Reverend Parris' niece Agibail Williams, and Abigail's cousin Mary Walcott - claimed that images of Sarah's spirit came to them in visions to torment them and others. This form of testimony was known as "spectral evidence", and it was very controversial as many recognized that such visions might be imagined or faked. Sarah and Rebecca were soon joined in prison by their sister Mary Easty, who was arrested and examined on April 21st for bewitching their niece Rebecca Towne - spectral evidence being the basis of the accusations against Mary.
Rebecca Nurse was excommunicated from the church, and executed by hanging on July 19th, afterwhich her sisters Sarah and Mary petitioned the court to present evidence to support their innocence, and for the exclusion of spectral evidence (i.e., testimony that a vision of someone's spirit could torment another from afar). However, nothing came of their requests, and the court on September 22 executed Mary by hanging. Sarah remained in prison awaiting her fate, until December 1692 when the indictments against her were declared "ignoramus", meaning the evidence was insufficient to try her. Then the court on January 3, 1693 dismissed all charges against her. However, her husband Peter still had to pay the fees for her release, as was customary for those days. Sarah and Peter immediately relocated to Salem End (West Framingham), where they changed their last name to Clayes, presumably to escape the stigma of the witch trials.
There is a story that once circulated among the residents of Framingham that Peter Clayes never actually paid for Sarah's release from prison, but instead engineered her escape with the help of Thomas Danforth, who was Deputy Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the early months of the Salem witch hysteria. Temple (1887, p. 125) writes that,
"In August, she [Sarah Cloyes] was committed to the jail at Ipswich, to await execution. Her husband was allowed to visit her in prison, and spent much of his time there. And in some way she found means to escape, and was concealed by her friends, till the removal to Framingham, the next spring. As the witchcraft frenzy abated in the fall of 1692, probably the authorities were not anxious to recapture the fugitive."
Because Tituba, the star witness of the witch trials, had confessed to witchcraft, she was never tried. And when the witch hysteria began to die down, she recanted her testimony, saying that Reverend Parris had beaten her and told her to confess. Her examiners subsequently refused to indict her, writing “ignoramus" on her paperwork, meaning as before that there was insufficient evidence to try her. Reverend Parris, angry that she recanted her confession, never paid the fees for her release, so she languished in prison many months more before someone, probably her husband John Indian, paid the court in the Spring of 1693 to release her. So the first to confess, was the last to be freed.
The court by the Fall of 1693 banned the use of spectral evidence, which made most of its past accusations and judgements baseless. This soon brought the witch trials to an end. Reverend Parris, whose sermons encouraged the trials and endorsed spectral evidence, found charges brought against him by his parish for his role in the trials. Forced to account for his actions, he presented an essay in November 1694 titled Meditations in Peace, in which he apologized for what he had done. Nonetheless, his congregation ultimately ceased to pay his salary, and eventually forced him to resign. He relocated in 1697 to Boston, and died in 1720 in nearby Sudbury, much despised by many, yet vindicated by a few.
Sarah spent her remaining years trying to clear the names of her sisters, but she did not succeed in her lifetime. She died about 1703 in Sudbury, Massachusetts, exactly when is not known, and her place of burial has never been found, the family choosing to keep it secret. Ann Putnam, one of the more active accusers of Sarah and her sisters, recanted her testimony not long after Sarah's death by publically confessing in church on August 25, 1706 that, "I was a chief instrument of accusing of Goodwife Nurse and her two sisters [including Sarah Cloyce]. I desire to lie in the dust, and to be humbled for it, in that I was a cause, with others, of so sad a calamity to them and their families." Outcry against the witch trials continued to grow in the following months, and both of Sarah's sisters in time were declared innocent. The Salem Towne Church in 1712 also reversed its sentence of excommunication on Sarah's sister Rebecca, as they no longer wished "to reproach her memory nor give grief to her children". The family is said by some to have reconciled with Ann Putnam, but never forgave Reverend Parris.
Bridges Family Genealogy
The documentation for many of the dates and places listed in this history are found in the Ancestry.com online databases (subscription required).
Grave and burial locations where known are listed with tombstone photos (when available) on
Senger, Clyde M. (1986, 1993), "Notes on Edmund BRIDGES of Massachusetts and Some Descendants", compiled Nov 1986 and Sept 1993, and appeared April 2001 on the internet at Genealogy.com. These notes still existed in 2012 on the internet, but they no longer seem to be available.
Towne Family Association has been around since 1980 and has a website with lineages contributed by subscribing members. This includes lines of descent from Edmund Bridges (d. 1682) and Sarah Towne (d. 1703). However, a subscription is required to view anything of interest, and it seems like a lot of the information in these lineages is unverified. Last accessed 30 June 2018.
Sarah Cloyes and the Salem Witch Trials
Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice (2011), "History of the Salem Witch Trials" online article at History of Massachusetts Blog, www.historyofmassachusetts.org, August 18, 2011. Last accessed 30 June 2018.
Brooks, Rebecca Beatrice (2012), "The Trial of Rebecca Nurse", online article at History of Massachusetts Blog, www.historyofmassachusetts.org, November 5, 2012. Last accessed 30 June 2018.