Saturday, September 14, 2013

George Jacobs: Victim of the Salem Witch Hysteria

The hanging victims of the Salem Witchcraft Hysteria suffered in death as they did in life. As if hanging was not a punishment enough, the families of the executed were not allowed to recover the bodies of their loved ones. The "witches" were not allowed a Christian burial, so their bodies were thrown in a mass grave with little fanfare. It is rumored that families risked severe punishment so they could recover the bodies of their loved ones and give them a proper burial. 

One of the accused "witches" was named George Jacobs, Sr. He was an elderly man when he was accused, nearly crippled but armed with a fiery tongue. He was hanged on August 19th, 1692. It is rumored that the relatives of George Jacobs, Sr. went, in the black of some night, to the hanging grave and brought his body home to be buried on the family farm. 

Fast forward hundreds of years, and the Jacobs farm has been sold and the story of George Jacobs' reburial has passed into legend. As unassuming farmer uncovered a body in the area where Jacobs was always rumored to have been buried. The bones are assumed to be his, although there is really no way to tell.

The body was moved to the Rebecca Nurse Homestead cemetery. Rebecca Nurse was a fellow victim of the Witchcraft Hysteria who was executed on the same day as Jacobs, and is also rumored to be buried on her family farm. A new headstone was carved for Jacobs in 1992 to mark his new and hopefully final resting place.

The body in this grave may not belong to George Jacobs. I would almost have to say that it probably does not. This is a matter of small importance, though, in the eyes of those who suffered and those who empathize with the victims today. The victims of the Hysteria were unfairly murdered in the throes of religious zealotry, and their families were not even given the simple peace of being able to bury their beloved remains. The fact that one of the victims was able to be given at least a headstone and a voice to scream across the ages is more than was able to be done for the rest of the victims. The voice of George Jacobs, Sr. still stands in the face of the injustice that took place:

"Well! Burn me or hang me. I will stand in the truth of Christ"

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