House Of John Procter, Witchcraft Martyr, 1692




[A paper read by William P. Upham at a meeting of the Peabody
Historical Society at the Needham house, West Peabody, September 2nd.,

It is now nearly forty years since I assisted my father, the late
Charles W. Upham, in the preparation of his work on Salem Village and
the Witchcraft tragedy of 1692, by collecting what information could
be obtained from the records as to the people and their homes in
that locality. In doing this I was enabled to construct a map showing
the bounds of the grants and farms at that time. On that map is
represented quite accurately the Downing Farm, so called, owned, in
1638, by Emanuel Downing, father of Sir George Downing, and occupied
as tenant, in 1692, by John Procter, the victim of the witchcraft
delusion. When I made the map I knew that John Procter at his death
owned, as appears by the inventory of his estate, fifteen acres of
land in Salem, but I was not able then to locate it with exactness.
Lately, in making a more complete study of the records relating to the
Downing farm and the surrounding lands I have learned the exact
situation of the fifteen acre lot owned by him, and also that he had a
house upon it as early as 1682 and until his death in 1692. It appears
that this lot is the place where he was buried, according to the
family tradition, although the knowledge as to its being once owned by
him seems to have passed out of the neighborhood for more than a

This lot is indicated, on the accompanying map of the locality which I
have drawn for the purpose, by heavy dark lines. It was on the north
side of Lowell Street in West Peabody, just west of the westernmost
line of the Downing Farm and about one hundred and fifty rods east
from the place of this meeting, which is the Needham homestead on the
Newburyport Turnpike, or Newbury Street as it is now called, marked on
the map as then, in 1692, the home of Anthony Needham, Junior.

The discovery that this was John Procter's land called to mind a
conversation I had with Mrs. Jacobs, an aged lady who lived in the old
Jacobs house, now the Wyman place, and of which I made the following
memorandum about thirty years ago:--

"Mrs. Jacobs (Munroe) says that it was always said that Procters were
buried near the bars as you go into the Philip H. Saunders place. Mr.
James Marsh says he always heard that John Procter, of witch time, was
buried there."

Upon inquiring lately of Mrs. Osborn, the librarian of the Peabody
Historical Society, as to what was the family tradition, I learned
that it was said by Mrs. Hannah B. Mansfield, of Danvers, that John
Procter was buried "opposite to the Colcord" (now the Wyman) "pasture,
amongst the rocks." In answer to an inquiry by Mrs. Osborn, Mrs.
Mansfield wrote to her as follows:--"A great aunt took me, when a
little girl, with her to a spot in a rocky hill where she picked
blackberries, and said there was the place 'among birch trees and
rocks where our ancestor of witchcraft notoriety was buried.' It was
on the north side of Lowell Street in what was then called the Marsh
pasture nearly opposite the Jacobs farm which is on the south side of
Lowell Street."

The Marsh pasture from which Mrs. Mansfield's aunt pointed out the
"birch trees and rocks" near by where John Procter was buried was, no
doubt, the pasture conveyed by James Marsh to Philip H. Saunders, 11
June, 1863, and then described as "thirteen acres known by the name of
Bates Pasture." I do not know of any other place near there that would
be called the Marsh pasture at the time Mrs. Mansfield mentions. This
thirteen acre pasture was conveyed by Ezekiel Marsh to John Marsh, 15
Oct., 1819, having been devised to him by his father Ezekiel Marsh. It
had a way leading to it from Lowell Street over the eastern end of the
John Procter lot as shown on my map. This way is still used as well as
the bars opening into it on Lowell Street a few rods east of the
westerly way leading southerly to the Jacobs, or Wyman, place. These
are the "bars as you go into the Philip H. Saunders place" mentioned
by Mrs. Jacobs as stated above, unless we suppose the expression to
mean bars leading from the John Procter lot where the way enters the
Philip H. Saunders place, or Marsh pasture, as Mrs. Mansfield calls
it. Perhaps the latter locality is the most probable since it is high
rocky ground; but which bars were meant is uncertain.

Mr. Daniel H. Felton, who has an intimate knowledge of the history of
all the lands about Felton's Hill, and is himself a descendant of John
Procter, informs me that Mrs. Hannah B. Mansfield some years since
related to him "that she went berrying at the Jacobs farm when she was
a child and that older persons said that John Procter was buried on
the opposite side of the way (among the rocks) from where they turned
off from Lowell Street to go to the Jacobs farm." Mrs. Mansfield lived
when a child on the Newburyport Turnpike opposite the Needham
homestead. It was, I understand, her "aunt Betsey Gardner" who, when
picking blackberries "on a rocky hill" pointed out to her the place
"among birch trees and rocks" where John Procter was buried.

To reconcile these traditions with the known facts, we may suppose,
as related by Mrs. Jacobs and Mrs. Mansfield, that the place of burial
was pointed out to them from the high land on the Jacobs place south
of Lowell Street, where the "rocky hill" and the bars leading into the
Marsh pasture on the north side of Lowell Street could be plainly
seen. Subsequently Mrs. Mansfield's aunt took her to the rocky hill
itself and pointed out the exact spot, probably close to where the
bars lead into the Marsh pasture, now the Saunders place. In going
home from the Jacobs farm they would turn into Lowell Street at the
old way near the house marked "White" on my map, and some ten rods
westerly from the way above mentioned leading from the opposite side
of Lowell Street to the Saunders place. This way from the Jacobs place
is a very old way. Mr. Felton tells me: "I recollect that my father
said over forty years ago that the gate posts of locust were nearly
one hundred years old then."

Two hundred years ago the Saunders place, formerly the Marsh pasture,
was part of the large tract of homestead land owned by Anthony
Needham. This Needham land included eight acres of land conveyed by
Anthony Needham to his son-in-law, Thomas Gould, 26 Sept., 1705, and
conveyed to Thomas Gardner 27 Jan., 1743, by George Gould, the son of
Thomas Gould. The eight acre lot descended to John Gardner and from
him to John Gardner Walcott, and is where John G. Walcott, Jun., now

The land which I find to be identical with the fifteen acre lot owned
by John Procter is on the north side of Lowell Street between the
above mentioned eight acre lot, now the home of John G. Walcott, Jun.,
and the lot marked "Flint Pasture" on my map, the Procter lot being
enclosed by heavy black lines. The westerly part of the Flint Pasture
was conveyed, 17 Sept., 1898, to John D. Dennis, who lives there now.

The uniform family tradition that John Procter was buried in the
locality I have thus described, is confirmed in my mind from a
consideration of certain facts, bearing with more or less definiteness
upon the question, which I will endeavor briefly to recite.

It is well known that the victims executed as witches on Gallows Hill
in Salem, in 1692, were thrown into mere shallow graves or crevices in
the ledge under the gallows, where the nature of the ground did not
allow complete burial, so that it was stated at the time that portions
of the bodies were hardly covered at all. It was natural that the
relatives of those thus cruelly put to death and left practically
without burial, should, where they were able and courageous enough for
the dangerous undertaking, remove the bodies to their homes for
interment. It is the tradition that this was done in several cases,
secretly and during the night, that it might not incur the opposition
of the frenzied and deluded people. This removal was made by the
children of Rebecca Nourse, and a beautiful monument now marks the
spot to which her body was removed. There is a similar tradition in
the Procter family, and there is good reason to believe that his body
was removed in a similar manner. But if so, the necessary secrecy with
which the sad duty was performed has caused the place where he was
buried to be known only by the slender thread of tradition which I
have mentioned.

The boulder inscribed to the memory of John Procter, which was
dedicated this past year at the junction of Lowell and Summit Streets
in Peabody, must be considered to have been placed there not as
indicating the locality of his burial, but because that was the most
suitable and available ground in the near neighborhood of the house
where for so many years and at the time of his death he lived as the
tenant of the great Downing Farm. There was the entrance to the Farm
from Salem, and from that spot one obtains a full view of the farm
house where he lived, believed to be in part still standing on the
same site, and of the fine and far extending tillage land which
probably first attracted the admiration of Emanuel Downing two hundred
and seventy years ago, and is now found so attractive and admirably
suited to the purposes of a golf ground by the Salem Country Club.

What is now known as the Procter Tomb on the north side of Lowell
Street at the southeastern corner of the Downing Farm is of modern
origin. We cannot believe that John Procter's family would have
deposited his body in ground to which they then had no title except as
tenants. At the time of the imprisonment of John Procter and his wife
Elizabeth the family was no doubt broken up and the house stripped of
everything that could be taken away to pay the fees of arrest and
imprisonment. The great farm was no longer their home and they were
not again in a position to return to and occupy it as their own until
nearly a decade had passed, when, through the efforts of Thorndike,
one of the sons of John Procter, the Downing Farm in its entirety was
purchased from Charles, the grandson of Emanuel Downing and son of Sir
George Downing, then deceased.

At the time of his death in 1692 John Procter owned, except what land
in Ipswich he may have inherited from his father, only the fifteen
acres with a house upon it, which, as I have said, was just west of
the Downing Farm on the north side of Lowell Street. This fact alone
would render it entirely probable that when the body was removed, in
1692, it would be carried to this place. In fact, in view of the
peculiar circumstances of the necessity of secrecy and the otherwise
homeless condition of the family, no other place would have been

And now that direct tradition of the descendants, independently of any
knowledge that John Procter owned this land, confirms this view by so
remarkably agreeing with long forgotten records as to the locality,
it may be said confidently that we know with reasonable certainty the
spot where these revered and honored relics were laid so long ago. The
"bars as you go into the Philip H. Saunders place" are still there,
and the way through is still used and marks the place where in 1708
John Higginson 3d and Hannah wife, in conveying to Daniel and Lawrence
Southwick the nine acre lot next east of Procter's lot, reserved the
liberty of a "highway of one pole wide at the western end of said land
to be for ye use of Anthony Needham Sen," "they to maintain a pair of
sufficient bars next ye common highway so long as they use the same."

Anthony Needham, Sen., at that time owned what has recently been known
as the Philip H. Saunders place, and this right of way was for the
benefit of that place. Mr. Dennis now lives at the westerly end of the
nine acre lot conveyed by Higginson, as above mentioned, which was
long known as the "Flint Pasture." The bars and the way are now on the
west side of the wall dividing the Dennis land from the Procter lot
instead of being on the east side; indicating that the dividing line
was at some time changed. This change may have been made without any
evidence of it appearing on record, by Zachariah King, who owned both
lots from 1811 till 1818; and this would account for the apparent
change in size of the two lots as described in the deeds, the westerly
(or Procter) lot increasing while the easterly lot decreased.

On the north side of Lowell Street, about half way between these bars
and the John G. Walcott, Jun., house, is a well on the edge of the
road against a steep rocky hill rising back of it. This, I understand,
has sometimes been called the "Procter well." There seems to be no
room for a house close by it on that side of the road, but it is
possible that the road may anciently have turned more to the south at
this point, though I have not found any evidence in the records to
that effect.

The history of the John Procter house and fifteen acres of land, as
derived from the records, may be briefly stated as follows:--

Before we can understand the meaning of the deeds of the Procter lot
we must know something of the history of the Downing Farm and
particularly of the nine acre lot known formerly as the Flint Pasture,
which is the large area of cleared land on the north side of Lowell
Street, on the west end of which is at present the house of Mr.
Dennis. That this may be better understood at a glance I have marked
on my sketch, by a broken line, the bounds of the Downing Farm, which
included the "Flint Pasture."

It seems that about two hundred and seventy years ago Roger Morey, a
companion and it is thought a relative or connection of Roger
Williams, had a grant of forty or fifty acres, which was located to
the west or southwest of a large tract granted to Robert Cole and sold
to Emanuel Downing before 1638. The Roger Morey grant was on both
sides of what is now Lowell Street, that part on the northerly side
being the same nine or ten acres above mentioned as afterwards known
by the name of the Flint Pasture.

In a deposition by Nathaniel Felton Sept. 18, 1700, he being then 85
years of age, he says: "Soon after Roger Morrey removed from Salem,
which was before 1644, I, this deponent, heard that said Morrey had
sold his land in the woods to Emanuel Downing and I do further testify
[as to?] a parcel of swamp or upland & meadow being a part and
belonging to ye said Morrey, and [it] lyeth at the westerly end of Mr.
Downing's farm"--deponent "has lived about 55 years a near neighbor to
said farm and never heard that said Morrey's land was claimed by
anybody but the tenants living on Mr. Downing's farm." [Reg'y of
Deeds, Salem, B. 15, Fol. 5.] Fortunately for the identification of
this land, a most remarkable bound often referred to in the ancient
deeds is still to be seen marking the exact northeasterly corner of
the Morey grant. It is a high and precipitous rock about twenty rods
northerly from Lowell street just opposite the house on the south side
which was formerly the house of Nathaniel Flint, and a few rods
westerly from the easterly way leading southerly to the Wyman Farm. It
forms the northeasterly corner bound of the "Flint Pasture," and is
marked on my sketch "Morey's Bound," that being the name given to it
in the numerous ancient deeds and depositions.

The return of the settlement of the northwesterly bounds of the
Downing Farm in 1681, recorded in Salem town records, gives the line
from the extreme northwestern corner by Putnam's land as running
"strait on to a white oak called Morey's Bound."

In a controversy which seems to have existed in 1685 and in 1690
between Anthony Needham and the owners of land adjoining his,
presumably the owners of the Downing Farm, Nathaniel Felton testifies
that "about 30 years since" (that is about 1660) "Mr. Thomas Gardner
and Jeffry Massey (who by virtue of a grant of 200 acres due unto Mr.
Bacon[A]) when they went to lay out the said 200 acres I this deponent
went with them, where cominge upon the land neere adjoyning to the
farm called Mr. Downings farme, the first bound they made of the said
two hundred acres was upon a hill being as I conceive about 20 rods on
the north side of the highway[B] leading up to Joseph Pope's farme,
and was a white oak sufficiently marked, ye which white oak the
surveyors affirmed was the northeast corner bounds of [Moreys][C]
farm, from thence they went upon a straight line westward to another
white oak which was marked also upon four sides, and stood neer about
20 rods to the northward of ye said highway which the said surveyors
affirmed to be the northwest corner bounds of the said [Morey's]
farme, and it also was the northeast corner bounds of John Marsh his
farme, which did joyne to ye [Morey] farme; and I doe further testifie
that John Marsh shewed me the said white oake and affirmed it to be
the northeast corner bound of his land and the northwest corner bound
of [Morey's] land."

[Footnote A: There are depositions recorded in Essex Reg'y, B. 11,
Fol. 186-9, by which it appears that Rebecca, wife of William Bacon,
was a daughter of Thomas Potter, Esq., and that her brother, Humphrey
Potter, was the father of Ann Potter, afterwards the wife of Anthony

[Footnote B: Now Lowell Street.]

[Footnote C: In the record it is Massey, evidently a mistake, as shown
by Marsh's deposition, next given.]

In 1685 Zachariah Marsh testifies that "about 25 years since my father
John Marsh, desirous I should know the bounds of his farme took me
along with him, and he then shewed me all the four corner bounds
belonging to his farme, and this I doe testifie that he shewed me a
white oake sufficiently marked standing about 20 rods northward of the
highway leading up to Joseph Pope's by a little swamp the which oake
my father affirmed was the northeast corner bounds of his farme, and
that it was also the northwest corner bounds of Roger More's farme;
and further I doe testifie that when we run the line Anthony Needham
being present owned the said white oake to be the corner bounds of my
father's farme, and this is the bounds in controversy and ye same that
Nath. Felton attested unto, and hath ever been reputed so to be, no
man that ever I know having questioned it, till of late Anthony
Needham." This deposition was again sworn to in 1690. See Reg'y of
Deeds at Salem, Book 8, F. 181.

This controversy was probably between Anthony Needham and John
Procter as tenant of the Downing Farm, as appears by an action at
the Salem Court, Nov., 1685, for damage done to John Procter in
claiming "land belonging to the plaintiff as being in possession of,
and hiring the said land of the Worshipful Symon Bradstreet Esq.,"
said land being part of a farm "formerly belonging to Mr. Emanuel
Downing"--Bradstreet married the daughter of Downing.

The bounds described in these depositions are those of the "Flint
pasture" and have remained substantially unchanged to the present day,
as is evident to the eye, for, in passing along Lowell Street one can
see plainly the old and venerable looking stone wall beginning at
"Morey's Bound" on the top of the high rock and running along in a
westerly direction at about twenty rods distance northerly from the
street. In the deed of the Downing Farm to Thorndike Procter 13 Sept.,
1700, the two bounds testified to by Felton and by Marsh are mentioned
as follows:--the line of the Downing Farm running from the northwest
corner bound "southwestward unto a white oak tree standing on the
Rocks, and from thence northwestward unto a swamp white oak stump
standing about 20 poles on the northerly side of the way leading to
Anthony Needhams" etc. In the deed by Thorndike Procter to his brother
Benjamin, in 1701, of that portion of the Downing Farm now owned by
Daniel Brown, the Morey bound is described as "a dead white oak Bound
Tree standing on the Rocks."

The portion of the Downing Farm marked on my sketch as the Flint
Pasture, being about nine or ten acres, was conveyed with other
portions by Thorndike Procter to Samuel Marble, in 1701, the two
bounds above mentioned being described in the same words. Samuel
Marble the next year conveyed the same to Samuel Gardner. Hannah, the
wife of John Higginson 3d, mentioned above as conveying this lot to
the Southwicks in 1708, was a daughter of Samuel Gardner. Daniel
Southwick, Jr., conveyed the same to Jonathan Flint in 1729 and he
conveyed it to John Jacobs in 1738. John Jacobs left it by will to his
son Daniel, who conveyed it to Zachariah King in 1775. By him it was
divided between his daughters Desire Procter and Mary Upton, in 1818,
and its history is thus brought within the knowledge of those now

West of this Flint Pasture was the Procter fifteen acre lot, the
description of which in the deeds and depositions we can now
understand. How John Procter became owner of this fifteen acre lot
does not appear upon record, but as John Marsh appears, by the
depositions of Nathaniel Felton and Zachariah Marsh given above, to
have been the owner there originally, we may conjecture that the
title came from him by some unrecorded deed or otherwise.

The following deed, dated 5 Nov., 1681, and recorded Book 6, Fol. 48,
may throw some light on this question, as it apparently conveys the
eight acre lot which, as above mentioned, was conveyed by Anthony
Needham to his son-in-law Thomas Gould, in 1705, where John G.
Walcott, Jun., now lives.

Joseph Procter of Ipswich conveys to Anthony Needham of Salem "a
certain tract of land being the third part of twenty three acres of
land (formerly the land of John Herod) lying and being in ye towne of
Salem aforesaid, the said twenty three acres of land being bounded on
ye northerly side with ye land of ye said Needham, on ye south with ye
highway, on ye west with ye land of ye said Anthony Needham, and on ye
east with ye land now in ye occupation of John Procter."

Supposing this third part of the twenty-three acres to have been the
eight acre lot referred to above, being the only locality that would
agree with the description, the land in the "occupation of John
Procter" on the east side of the whole "twenty three acres" would be
the "Flint Pasture," part of the Downing Farm, which was then, in
1681, in the occupation of John Procter, as tenant. It is therefore
quite probable that the "fifteen acre" lot which John Procter owned
was the other two thirds part of the "twenty three acres," and that he
became possessed of it in the same way that his brother, Joseph
Procter, became possessed of the third part, perhaps in the division
of an estate. What the estate was may be ascertained by future

The first we know positively of the lot in question as being John
Procter's is through the record of an action which he brought at the
County Court, in 1685, against Steven Fish for nine pounds ten
shillings due for rent. Procter was nonsuited. Fish at the same time
sued Procter for non delivery of land hired of him by lease March 1st,
1681, (1681-2). The jury found for a delivery of the land according to
the lease.

In 1689 John Procter "for my love and parental affection unto my
beloved wife Elizabeth Procter and all her children" conveys to
certain trustees for their benefit "all my estate for their supply and
maintenance and make over and give to them my house and land lying in
Salem bounds containing fifteen acres, more or less, bounded with ye
land of Anthony Needham northwest and east southerly[D] and south and
west with ye common road or highway in part and partly alsoe with land
of John Marsh and some land of Thomas Gardner Sen. that comes within
the highway." The last words in this description are puzzling and
perhaps indicate that the road at the westerly end of the lot ran
further to the south than it does to-day.

[Footnote D: This probably refers to the way which Needham had to his
land over the western end of the lot lying next east of the Procter

The next information is obtained from a deposition by Anthony Needham,
Thomas Gould and Isaac Needham, in 1730, taken "in perpetuam rei
memoriam" and recorded in the Registry, Book 54, Leaf 246, as
follows:--They testify that "they very well knew that Mr. John Procter
late of Salem, deceased, possessed in his own right for several years
before and untill ninety two[E] a certain tract of land situate in
Salem aforesaid containing about 15 acres, butting easterly on land
now in ye possession of Jonathan Flint, southerly and southwesterly on
the highway leading to Joseph Popes,[F] northwesterly and northerly on
land of the deponent Thomas Gould and northeasterly on land of Thomas
Needham. That the said John Procter had a house upon the abovesaid
land which he leased to one Stephen Fish[G] since let to one Lincoln
and to one Bates, who improved it under and in right of the said John
Procter. That Benjamin Procter son of the said John Procter possessed
and improved ye above described parcel of land from the year 1692
untill his decease which happened about fourteen years since. That
Mary the widow of said Benjamin Procter and her son John Procter have
possessed and improved the same right from the time of his decease
untill this day." The deposition is dated Jan. 7, 1730. The name of
"Bates pasture" applied to the Philip H. Saunders place in the deed
from Marsh, in 1863, suggests the thought that it may have been
derived from the Bates mentioned in the deposition as one of the
tenants of the John Procter house.

[Footnote E: 1692.]

[Footnote F: Now Lowell Street.]

[Footnote G: See above, the suit against Fish for rent.]

It only remains to trace the title of the John Procter lot to the
present time. It appears from various deeds and other records that the
title descended from John Procter to his son Benjamin, and then to his
son John, the grandson of the first named John Procter. From him it
passed to his son Benjamin, and then to this Benjamin's sons, James
and Francis Procter. Francis gave a deed of it to James April 19,
1802. Desire Procter, widow and administratrix of James Procter,
conveyed it to Zachariah King Aug. 9, 1811, describing it as "a
certain piece of land called the upper pasture situate in said Danvers
containing sixteen acres, be the same more or less, and is bounded as
follows, viz.--southerly on the highway, northwesterly and northerly
on land of John Gardner, Jr., northeasterly on land of Ezekiel Marsh,
and southeasterly on land of the said Zachariah King to the bound
first mentioned." Zachariah King conveyed the same to his daughter,
Desire Procter of Danvers, widow, Feb. 18, 1818.

From Desire Procter the title descended to Rebecca P. Osborne, her
granddaughter, and others who, in 1889, conveyed the lot to Harriet A.
Walcott, wife of John G. Walcott, the description being as follows:--"a
parcel of land in that part of Peabody called West Peabody, containing
about seventeen acres and two fourths and formerly called the Upper
Pasture, bounded southwesterly by Lowell Street about ninety two rods
and eleven links, northwesterly by land of Walcott, formerly of John
Gardner, about thirty eight rods, northeasterly by land of Walcott,
formerly of Gardner, and by land of Philip Marsh, formerly of Ezekiel
Marsh, about seventy six rods and nineteen links, southeasterly by
other land of the grantors, formerly of Zachariah King, about seventeen
rods and fourteen links."

John G. Walcott and Harriet A. Walcott, wife, conveyed the same to
Mary E. Collins, wife of William F. M. Collins, by deed dated June 27,