An American Family History

Rebecca Towne Nurse

O Christian Martyr who for truth could die
When all around thee owned the hideous lie!
The world redeemed from Superstition's sway
Is breathing freer for thy sake today
John Greenleaf Whittier  

Rebecca Nurse's Home
Children of William Towne
and Joanna Blessing
  • Rebecca Towne Nurse
  • John Towne
  • Susannah Towne
  • Sergeant Edmund Towne
  • Jacob Towne
  • Mary Towne Estey
  • Joseph Towne
  • Sarah Towne Bridges Cloyes
  • Towne Sisters

    "The Towne Sisters" by Yiannis Stefinarkis, ca. 1970
    Plaster statue of Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Estey, Sarah Towne Bridges Cloyes wearing shackles.

    Rebecca Towne Nurse was baptized on February 21, 1620/21 in St. Nicholas Parish, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England..  Her parents were William Towne and Joanna Blessing.

    She married Francis Nurse on August 24, 1644 in Great Yarmouth. Francis was a tray maker who probably also made other wooden household items. Francis was born in 1618 in England. He was Salem's constable in 1672.

    They lived from about 1638 to 1678 near what is now Skerry Street in the city of Salem.

    Their children were John  Nurse (1645), Rebecca  Nurse Preston (1647), Samuel  Nurse (1648/49), Michael  Nurse (1651), Mary  Nurse Tarbell (1657), Francis  Nurse (1659/60), Sarah Nurse (1662), Elizabeth Nurse Russell (1655/56),  Benjamin Nurse (1664/65).

    Rebecca was accused of witchcraft and was executed on July 19, 1692. She may have been targeted because her husband was a prominent citizen in Topsfield involved in the dispute over land along the border of Salem Village on the Putnam family land. Her husband was also an outspoken leader of a committee that believed the Reverend Parris should be removed as minister. The Putnams were the leaders faction supporting Reverend Parris.

    Francis died on November 22. 1695.

    In 1703, 25 pounds was paid to the heirs of Rebecca Nurse. 

    Old Style Calendar
    Before 1752 the year began on Lady Day, March 25th,. Dates between January 1st and March 24th were at the end of the year. Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.) are used to indicate whether the year has been adjusted. Often both dates are used.
    A constable was an elected official who was responsible for keeping the peace. His duties were more limited than the sheriff's. He apprehended and punished offenders, helped settle estates, and collected taxes.

    Learn more about the Towne family.

    The New England Magazine, Volume 5 by Making of America Project

    Rebecca Nurse was born in Yarmouth, England, and baptized there on February 21, 1621. This would make her seventy-one years of age at the time of the witchcraft troubles. She was the daughter of William Towne, and wife of Francis Nurse of Salem Village. Nurse lived from about 1638 to 1678 near what is now Skerry Street in the city of Salem. His occupation was that of tray-maker. In 1678, he purchased the farm in Salem Village then known as the Townsend Bishop farm, now better known as the Nurse farm. . . .

    The Nurses were blessed with eight children, — Samuel, John, Francis, and James, Rebecca, wife of Thomas Preston; Mary, wife of John Tarbell; Elizabeth, wife of William Russell; and Sarah, then unmarried. They dwelt on the farm or near it, and in a short time Nurse divided the larger part among them.

    From all the information that has come down to us, Salem Village contained no more prosperous, happy, and contented family than this. There were others of much greater wealth, but none that promised more enjoyment in old age than that reared and established at Salem Village by Francis Nurse and his wife Rebecca. He had been prominent and honored in the communities where he dwelt. She was an intelligent, pious, devout woman, a veritable " mother in Israel." Against her good name and fair fame no breath of suspicion had yet been uttered. [a description of the land dispute follows]

    Isaac Eastey's wife was sister of Rebecca Nurse. The Townes, John, and Joseph, Jr., were nearly related to her. While most of the inhabitants of the Village took sides against the Topsfield men, the Nurse family supported them. When the Village meeting passed a protest against the Topsfield claim, Samuel Nurse, Rebecca's oldest son, and Thomas Preston, her son-in-law, entered their written dissent. Whether this long and bitter controversy had anything to do with the prosecution of Rebecca Nurse and Mary Eastey is left to conjecture. It is certain that Thomas Preston joined with Thomas and Edward Putnam in signing the complaint against Sarah Good in 1692. Does not this indicate that whatever ill-feelings arose from the Topsfield feud, thirty years before, had been entirely forgotten, or at least forgiven ?

    The Salem witch trials were between February, 1692 and May, 1693.
    William Towne Line
    Mary Towne Estey,
    Isaac Estey,
    Aaron Estey
    Mary Estey Dwinnell
    Israel Dwinnell,
    Isaac Davis Dwinnell, Sr.,
    Isaac Davis Dwinnell, Jr.
    Victoria Zellena Dwinnell
    Robert Wilson Miller, Sr
    Robert Wilson Miller, Jr.


    Bauman & Dreisbach

    ©Roberta Tuller 2015