Elizabeth Parris (Betty Parris)

Salem Witch Trials - Key People

Salem Village Map from Upham
Salem Village 1692. Public Domain Image, originally from Salem Witchcraft by Charles W. Upham, 1867.

Elizabeth Parris Facts

Known for:one of the early accusers in the 1692 Salem witch trials
Age at time of Salem witch trials: 9
Dates: November 28, 1682 - March 21, 1760
Also known as: Betty Parris, Elizabeth Parris

Family Background

Elizabeth Parris, nine years old at the beginning of 1692, was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Parris and his wife Elizabeth Eldridge Parris, who was often ill. The younger Elizabeth was often called Betty to distinguish her from her mother.

She was born when the family lived in Boston. Her older brother, Thomas, was born in 1681, and her younger sister Susannah born in 1687. Also part of the household was Abigail Williams, 12, described as a kinswoman and sometimes called a niece of Rev. Parris, probably a household servant, and two slaves Rev. Parris had brought with him from Barbados, Tituba and John Indian, described as Indians. An African ("Negro") boy slave had died a few years before.

Elizabeth Parris Before the Salem Witch Trials

Rev. Parris was the minister of Salem Village church, arriving in 1688, and had been embroiled in considerable controversy, coming to a head in late 1691 when a group organized to refuse to pay him a significant part of his salary. He began to preach that Satan was conspiring in Salem Village to destroy the church.

Elizabeth Parris and the Salem Witch Trials

In mid-January of 1692, both Betty Parris and Abigail Williams began to behave strangely.

Their bodies contorted into strange positions, they reacted as if they were being physically hurt, and they made strange noises. Ann's parents were leading members of the Salem Village church, supporters of Rev. Parris in the ongoing church conflict.

Rev. Parris tried prayer and traditional remedies; when that didn't end the fits, about February 24, he called in a doctor (probably a neighbor, Dr. William Griggs), and then a neighboring town's minister, Rev.

John Hale, to get their opinions on the cause of the fits. The diagnosis they agreed on: the girls were victims of witches.

A neighbor and member of Rev. Parris' flock, Mary Sibley, on February 25 advised John Indian, perhaps with the help of his wife, another Caribbean slave of the Parris family, to make a witch's cake to discover the names of the witches. Instead of relieving the girls, their torments increased. Several friends and neighbors of Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard, had also started to have similar fits, described as afflictions in contemporary records.

Pressured to name their tormenters, on February 26, Betty and Abigail named the Parris family slave, Tituba. Several neighbors and ministers, likely including Rev. John Hale of Beverley and Rev. Nicholas Noyes of Salem, were asked to observe the girls' behavior. They questioned Tituba. The next day, Ann Putnam Jr. and Elizabeth Hubbard experienced torments and blamed Sarah Good, a local homeless mother and beggar, and Sarah Osborne, who was involved with conflicts around inheriting property and also had married, to local scandal, an indentured servant. None of the three accused witches were likely to have many local defenders.

On February 29, based on accusations of Betty Parris and Abigail Williams, arrest warrants were issued in Salem for the first three accused witches: Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, based on complaints of Thomas Putnam, Ann Putnam Jr.'s father, and several others, before local magistrates Jonathan Corwin and John Hathorne. They were to be taken for questioning the next day at Nathaniel Ingersoll's tavern.

The next day, Tituba, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good were examined by local magistrates John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin. Ezekiel Cheever was appointed to take notes on the proceedings. Hannah Ingersoll, whose husband's tavern was the site of the examination, found that the three had no witch marks on them, though Sarah Good's husband, William Good, testified later that there was a mole on his wife's back.

Tituba confessed and named the other two as witches, adding rich details to her stories of possession, spectral travel and meeting with the devil. Sarah Osborne protested her own innocence; Sarah Good said that Tituba and Osborne were witches but that she was herself innocent. Sarah Good was sent to Ipswich to be confined with her youngest, born the year before, with a local constable who was also a relative. She escaped briefly and returned voluntarily; this absence seemed especially suspicious when Elizabeth Hubbard reported that Sarah Good's specter had visited her and tormented her that evening. Sarah Good was jailed at the Ipswich jail on March 2, and Sarah Osborn and Tituba were questioned further. Tituba added more details to her confession, and Sarah Osborne maintained her innocence. Questioning continued another day.

Now Mary Warren, a servant in the home of Elizabeth Proctor and John Proctor, began having fits, as well. And the accusations widened: Ann Putnam Jr. accused Martha Corey, and Abigail Williams accused Rebecca Nurse; both Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse were known as respectable church members.

On March 25, Elizabeth had a vision of being visited by "the great Black Man" (the devil) who wanted her to be "ruled by him." Her family worried about her continuing afflictions and the dangers of "diabolical molestation" (in the later words of Rev. John Hale), Betty Parris was sent to live with the family of Stephen Sewall, a relative of Rev. Parris, and her afflictions ceased.

So did her involvement in the witchcraft accusations and trials.

Elizabeth Parris After the Trials

Betty's mother Elizabeth died July 14, 1696. In 1710, Betty Parris married Benjamin Baron; they had 5 children, and she lived to the age of 77.

Elizabeth Parris in The Crucible

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, one of the main characters is based loosely on the historical Betty Parris. In Arthur Miller's play, Betty's mother is dead, and she has no brothers or sisters.