Salem Village Meetinghouse // 1673

Salem Village (now known as Danvers) was settled as an agricultural area in the late 1630s as a part of Salem. By the 1660s, the population of the village was large enough that villagers wanted a minister and a meetinghouse of their own, rather than constantly traveling the many miles to the meetinghouse in Salem Town. Salem Town granted the villagers that right, and an acre of land near the corner of Forest and Hobart Streets in present-day Danvers was selected as the location of the new meetinghouse In November 1672, the local clerk wrote on a vote for a new meetinghouse which was erected shortly after. The meetinghouse was built of massive oak timber of post and beam construction and featured small diamond pane windows to allow light into the building.

In 1688, the village hired minister, Reverend Samuel Parris to run the meetinghouse. With Parris, came his family including wife Elizabeth, daughter Elizabeth “Betty”, niece Abigail Williams, two other small children, and two slaves, Tituba and John Indian. The events which led to the Salem witch trials in 1692 began when Parris’ daughter, Betty, and her cousin, Abigail, accused Parris’ slave Tituba of witchcraft. This followed the phenomena of women and girls suffering from “scary fits” believed to have been begun by the Devil. Parris beat Tituba until she confessed herself a witch, and John Indian, her husband, began accusing others (likely for his own safety). The delusion spread, many were apprehended, most of whom were imprisoned. Within 16 months, over 19 people were hanged, and one was pressed to death by stones.

In 1702, the meetinghouse was abandoned and a new structure was built. The former structure eventually collapsed into the ground and Salem Village’s dark past was quickly covered up. In the mid 1980s, a new docu-series on the Witch Trials, “Three Sovereigns for Sarah”, constructed a replica of the old meetinghouse on the grounds of the former Nurse Homestead, which is now a great visual representation to see the kind of structure that the infamous trials began.