Rare Salem Witch Trial Document Sold for $26,000

A rare document from the Salem Witch Trials sold for $26,000 last week at a New York auction house.

The document was a court indictment for Margaret Scott, an elderly Rowley woman who was one of the last victims of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

The document was a part of the Eric C. Caren Collection and was purchased by an undisclosed buyer. According to an article in the Salem news, this was the first Salem Witch Trial document to be sold in almost 30 years.

Margaret Scott was accused of witchcraft in July or August of 1692 by a local teenager named Mary Daniel. Scott was found guilty on September 17 and hanged on September 22 along with Martha Corey, Alice Parker, Ann Pudeator, Mary Easty, Samuel Wardwell, Wilmott Redd and Mary Parker. These were the last hangings of the Salem Witch Trials.

A month after the September 22 hangings took place, Governor Phips forbade any further arrests and many of the remaining accused were released from jail.

Born in England in 1615, Margaret Scott’s maiden name was Stevenson. She married Benjamin Scott in 1642 and had seven children, although only three of them lived to adulthood.

Her husband Benjamin died in 1671, leaving Margaret a poor widow. Due to her lack of finances, Margaret often begged for money and food.

All of these factors made her an easy target for a witchcraft accusation. According to court documents, Margaret Scott’s neighbors suspected her of being a witch for many years prior to the Salem Witch Trials but never officially accused her until the hysteria of 1692.

In 1711, the Massachusetts legislature passed a resolution clearing the names of the convicted witches and offered financial restitution to their descendants. Margaret Scott’s family did not wish to be named in the law and did not seek restitution.

In 1957, the Massachusetts legislature formally apologized to the victims of the Salem Witch Trials but only cleared the name of  “Ann Pudeator and certain other persons.”

Finally, on October 31 in 2001, the Massachusetts legislature amended the apology and exonerating five of the victims not mentioned in the previous resolutions: Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott.

“Session Laws.” The 187th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2001/Chapter122
Dalton, Tom. Rare Witch Document Expected to Sell For Thousands. Salem News, Eagle Tribune Publishing Company, 14 March. 2012: www.salemnews.com/local/x1511614329/Rare-witch-document-expected-to-sell-for-thousands
“Salem Witch Trials Document Sells for $26,000.” Boston.com, Boston Globe Media Partners, 16 March. 2012, www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/03/16/salem_witch_trials_document_sells_for_26000/
“Margaret Scott, Executed September 22, 1692.” The Salem Witchcraft Papers, Volume I, University of Virginia, salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/swp?div_id=n119&term=Margaret%20Scott&name=