An American Family History

Mary Towne Estey

Mary Estey's Tombstone
Learn more about the Towne family.
Mary Towne Estey was a victim of the Salem witch delusion on September 22, 1692.
Essex County, Massachusetts was created on May 10, 1643 by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when it ordered "that the whole plantation within this jurisdiction be divided into four sheires."

Mary Towne Estey was born in 1634 in Yarmouth, Norfolk County, England. She was christened on August 24, 1634 in St. Nicholas church. Her parents were William Towne and Joanna Blessing.

She married Isaac Estey, Sr. before 1656 when her first son was born. Their children and life together are described in detail in the section on Isaac and Mary Estey.

In 1684, Mary was on the list of members in full Communion at the church in Topsfield when Joseph Capen was ordained.

Mary was accused of witchcraft in 1692 when she was about 58 years old. Two of her sisters, Rebecca Nurse, and Sarah Cloyes, were also accused.

Her examination on April 22, 1692 followed the pattern of most of the accused witches in Salem. The girls feigned fits and speechlessness. During the exam, when Mary clasped her hands together, Mercy Lewis clenched her own hands and did not release them until Mary released hers. When Mary inclined her head, the afflicted girls cried out to have her straighten her neck, because they claimed as long as Mary’s head was inclined their necks were broken.

The magistrate scolded Mary for not confessing her guilt, which he believed proven by the sufferings of the afflicted. "How far have you complied with Satan?" "Sir, I never complied with him but pray against him all my days. What would you have Easty do?" "Confess if you be guilty" "I will say it, if it was my last time, I am clear of this sin."

Mary was committed to prison after her examination. After spending two months in prison, she was discharged on May 18th. John and Mary Arnold testified that her behavior in the Boston prison was good and that her deportment was sober. She and her family incorrectly believed she was safe.

On May 20th, 1692 Mercy Lewis spent the entire day pretending to have severe fits and to be speechless. She said she was being strangled and that Mary was attempting to have her write in Mary's book. Several of the other girls claimed that they could see Mary Estey’s apparition afflicting her. Many believed that Mercy Lewis was near death.

A warrant was issued that same day and Mary was accused of acts against Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcot, and Abigail Williams.

Seventy year old Margaret Reddington testified that about three years before, she was at the Estey home and talked with Mary about an illness and had and became very sick after that. She said that Mary's apparition appeared and offered her a piece of fresh meat that was not fit for the dogs. When she said she wouldn't have it, the apparition vanished.

Twenty-five year old Samuel Smith of Boxford testified that about five years before he was rude to Isaac Estey and Mary said he should not be so rude or he would regret it. That night on his ride home, he received a little blow on his shoulder and a stone wall rattled and frightened him and his horse.

On May 23 1692, Mary was indicted. Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam testified than when Abigail was going to see Mercy Lewis having her fits, Mary's apparition told her that she was torturing Mercy because she would not clear her and that Abigail herself was also tortured.

Sarah Bibber testified to the fits on August 3, 1692. On August 4 Elizabeth Hubbard, Edward Putnam, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren and Ann Putnam testified that on May 23 during the examination that Mary had tortured her and other girls by twisting and choking them.

That evening a second warrant was issued for Mary's arrest. At midnight, she was woken up by the marshall and taken back to prison and chained. Once Mary was back in prison with chains, Mary Lewis stopped her fits.

On September 5, 1692 Thomas and Elizabeth Fosse testified that Mary was civil and sober while whe was in the Ipswich prison.

Mary was tried and condemned to death on September 9th when she was 58 years old. She was executed on September 22, despite an eloquent petition to the court. She also petitioned with her sister, Sarah Cloyes. On the gallows she prayed for an end to the witch hunt.

Mary’s parting communications with her husband and children were said by those who were present to have been

as serious, religious, distinct, and affectionate as could be expressed, drawing tears from the eyes of almost all present.

In November, after Mary had been put to death, Mary Herrick testified that she was visited by Mary who told her she had been put to death wrongfully and was innocent of witchcraft, and that she had come to vindicate her cause.

Mary's family was compensated with 20 pounds from the government in 1711 for her wrongful execution.
Children of Isaac Estey
and Mary Towne
  • Isaac Estey, Jr.
  • Joseph Estey
  • Sarah Estey Gill Ireland
  • John Estey
  • Hannah Estey Abbott
  • Benjamin Estey
  • Samuel Estey
  • Jacob Estey
  • Joshua Estey
  • In the 17th century jails were used as places to hold people accused of crimes until they were brought to trial, but not as places of punishment. A debtor could be held in jail until he paid his debts and political dissidents were also jailed. Punishments included execution, maiming, public humiliation and monetary fines.
    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
  • Mary Walcott was about 17 at the time of the trials. She was the daughter of Captain Jonathan Walcott. She married Isaac Farrar and David Harwood. Her step-mother was Deliverance Putnam.

    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.

    Three daughters of William Towne and Joanna Blessing were wrongly accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem. Rebecca Towne Nurse, Mary Towne Estey, and Sarah Towne Bridges Cloyes were persecuted in 1692. The children of people in the line below are all descendants of Mary Estey.

    William Towne,
    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.

    Many factors led to the witchcraft accusations in Salem.

    The Salem witch trials were between February, 1692 and May, 1693.

    Mercy Lewis was a servant in Thomas Putnam's home. She was born in Maine about 1673 and lost both parents in Indian attacks at a young age.



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    ©Roberta Tuller 2023
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