Bridget Bishop: First Salem Witch Execution, 1692

First Person Executed in the Salem Witch Trials

Bridget Bishop Hanged at Salem
Bridget Bishop. Briggs. Co. / George Eastman House / Getty Images

Bridget Bishop was accused as a witch in the Salem witch trials of 1692; the first person executed in the trials.

Why Was She Accused?

Some historians speculate that a reason Bridget Bishop was accused in the 1692 Salem witchcraft "craze" was that her second husband's children wanted property that she had possession of as an inheritance from Oliver.

Other historians classify her as someone who was an easy target because her behavior was often disagreeable in a community that valued harmony and obedience to authority, or because she violated community norms by having associated with the wrong people, keeping "unseasonable" hours, hosting drinking and gambling parties, and behaving immorally.

She was known for publicly fighting with her husbands (she was in her third marriage when accused in 1692). She was known for wearing a scarlet bodice, considered a bit less "Puritan" than was acceptable to some in the community.

Previous Accusations of Witchcraft

Bridget Bishop had earlier been accused of witchcraft after her second husband's death, though she was acquitted of those charges.  William Stacy claimed he'd been frightened by Bridget Bishop fourteen years before and that she had caused the death of his daughter. Others accused her of appearing as a specter and abusing them. She angrily denied the accusations, at one point saying "I am innocent to a Witch. I know not what a Witch is." A magistrate responded, "How can you know, you are no Witch ... [and] yet not know what a Witch is?" Her husband testified first that he'd heard her accused before of witchcraft, and then that she was a witch.

A more serious charge against Bishop came when two men she'd hired to work on her cellar testified that they had found "poppits" in the walls: rag dolls with pins in them. While some might consider spectral evidence suspect, such evidence was considered to be even stronger. But the spectral evidence was also offered, including several men testifying that she had visited them -- in spectral form -- in bed at night.

Salem Witch Trials: Arrested, Accused, Tried and Convicted

On April 16, 1692, the accusations in Salem first involved Bridget Bishop.  

On April 18, Bridget Bishop was arrested with others and taken to Ingersoll's Tavern. The following day, magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin examined Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Giles Corey, and Mary Warren.

On June 8, Bridget Bishop was tried before the Court of Oyer and Terminer on its first day in session. She was convicted of the charges, and sentenced to death.  Nathaniel Saltonstall, one of the justices on the court, resigned, probably because of the death sentence.

Death Sentence

While she was not among the first to be accused, she was the first to be tried in that court, the first to be sentenced, and the first to die. She was executed by hanging on Gallows Hill on June 10.

Bridget Bishop's (assumed) stepson, Edward Bishop, and his wife, Sarah Bishop, were also arrested and charged as witches. They escaped the jail and hid until the "witchcraft craze" had ended. Their property was seized, however, and later redeemed by their son.

Exoneration

A 1957 an act of the Massachusetts legislature exonerated Bridget Bishop of her conviction, though without mentioning her by name.

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Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Bridget Bishop: First Salem Witch Execution, 1692." ThoughtCo, Aug. 31, 2017, thoughtco.com/bridget-bishop-biography-3530330. Lewis, Jone Johnson. (2017, August 31). Bridget Bishop: First Salem Witch Execution, 1692. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/bridget-bishop-biography-3530330 Lewis, Jone Johnson. "Bridget Bishop: First Salem Witch Execution, 1692." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/bridget-bishop-biography-3530330 (accessed January 20, 2018).