Skeletons in the Closet: The Memorialization of George Jacobs Sr. and Rebecca Nurse after the 1692 Witch-Hunt
Almost two centuries after the 1692 Witch-Hunt, an impressive memorial was constructed near the purported grave of Rebecca Nurse, one of the nineteen innocents executed for witchcraft. However, across town the well-known (but unmarked) grave of George Jacobs Sr., another executed “witch,” was left bare, with no memorial or even a headstone erected to mark the spot.
Worse still, after Jacobs’ body was accidentally exhumed in the 1950s, it spent decades traveling around Danvers, including being kept under a dining room table, in a resident’s bedroom, and as the centerpiece of a display in a high school cafeteria. Jacobs finally received a proper burial in 1992 near the monument to Rebecca Nurse.
This presentation will examine why one witch-hunt victim was memorialized while another in the same town was left in an unmarked grave. What can be learned about how the local community confronted its legacy of the witch-hunt in the centuries after 1692, and why did the remains of a man executed in 1692 do so much traveling?
Daniel A. Gagnon (danielgagnonhistory.com) is the author of “A Salem Witch: The Trial, Execution, and Exoneration of Rebecca Nurse” (2021), and serves on the board of the Rebecca Nurse Homestead Museum in Danvers, Mass. (formerly known as Salem Village).