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Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Quakers Persevere

Salem Witch Trial - Google Image
Salem, a village in the Massachusetts Bay colony, is known for its infamous witch trials during the years of 1692 and 1693. More than 200 people were accused of being witches, and 20 were executed (including two dogs). Eventually, the Massachusetts Bay colony admitted the error in having these trials and compensated the families of those convicted. [1] 

Samuel Gaskill and his wife, Provided Southwick, my children’s 8th great-grandparents, lived in Salem at the time of the witch trials: They were Quakers. 

Quakers did not have the same religious beliefs as the Puritans, and it was not a crime to be a Quaker.  However, they were subjected to persecution and harassment – even to the extent of being considered heretics. Quakers could be flogged, branded, imprisoned, banished, or deported. They faced confiscation of all their property - both real and personal. One Quaker had his ear cut off. A few were executed for “ignoring and defying orders of banishment.” [2] This is the atmosphere in which Samuel and Provided lived - as did their parents.  

Samuel’s parents, Edward and Sarah Parker Gaskill (Gascoyne), emigrated from County Lancashire, England, in 1636, landing in Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, a crown colony. Edward had a “10-acre lot in the Great Cove.” [3] Samuel was born in Salem, June 7, 1639, and died in Salem, October 6, 1720. He married Provided on October 30, 1662, in Salem. 

Provided’s parents, Lawrence and Cassandra Burnell Southwick, also from County Lancashire, England, landed in Salem about 1627. Provided was born on October 6, 1641, and died in Salem, December 4, 1727. 

The Quaker religion first appeared in England between the years of 1642-1651. So, it’s my thought that Samuel’s and Provided’s parents (my children's 9th great-grandparents) became Quakers after arriving in the Massachusetts Bay colony.

Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick were persecuted by John Endicott, Governor of Massachusetts,
Southwick Home/Google Images
for their religious beliefs. Even though it was not a crime to be a Quaker, it was a crime to not attend church, to not observe the Sabbath, to not pay tithes, to criticize the government’s cruelty.

John Endicott/Google Image
The Southwicks suffered: [1] In 1657, Cassandra was jailed for seven weeks and fined 40 shillings. [2] In 1658, Lawrence and Cassandra, and a son Josiah, were jailed for 20 weeks for being Quakers. [3] In 1659, Provided and a brother Daniel were sentenced to be sold as slaves in the Barbados Islands for unpaid fines relating to being Quakers and non-attendance at church. Fortunately, the sentence was not carried out. However, the entire family agreed to leave Salem and went to Shelter Island, New York, where Lawrence and Cassandra died the following year in 1660 within three days of each other. [4] 

Fast forward to 1692. A woman, Abigail Soames, lived with Samuel and Provided. She may have been a relative or a friend; however, she was also a Quaker and per her examination in court, had been bedridden for a year. A warrant for her arrest was issued on May 13, 1692; she was described as a “. . . Single Woman, now Living at the house of Sam’l Gaskill in Salem; who stand accused of Sundry acts of Witchcraft donne or Committed by her Lately on the Body of Mary Warren. . . .” 

Despite all that happened to the Gaskills and the Southwicks, Samuel and Provided remained steadfast in their religious beliefs. When John Procter, the first white male to be accused of witchcraft in 1692 and his wife, Elizabeth, were jailed, Samuel and Provided were among many who signed a petition asking that they be released from jail. [5] 

When I first discovered the story of Samuel and Provided and what the Quakers had to endure in the Massachusetts Bay colony, I was both amazed and appalled. It’s hard to believe what our ancestors had to endure; but I am grateful they surmounted their difficulties and perservered.

[1] Blumberg, J. (2007, October 23). A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials: One town’s strange journey from paranoia to pardon. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://www.smithsonian.com
[2] Mullet, Michael (2004). Curwen, Thomas (c. 1610-1689). Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://www.oxforddnb.com
[3] Anderson, R. C. (2013). The Great Migration: Immigrants to New England, 1634-1635. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://www.ancestry.com
[4] Caller, James Moore (2005). Genealogy of the Descendants of Lawrence and Cassandra Southwick of Salem, Mass.: the original emigrants, and the ancestors of the families who have since born his name. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://www.ancestry.com
[5] Benjamin Ray and The Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (2002). The Salem witchcraft papers, Volume 3: Verbatim transcripts of the legal documents of the Salem witchcraft outbreak of 1692. Retrieved August 3, 2017, from http://salem.lib.virginia.eduss

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