1692 Salem Courthouse

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Everything you need to know about the Salem Courthouse of 1692 in a minute-long video! Keep scrolling past the video for a full transcript and much more information.

Welcome to the Salem Spotlight, a series in which I tell you everything you need to know about attractions, restaurants, hotels, witch shops, tours, and a bunch of other locations in Salem, Massachusetts. Today we’re having a look at the Salem Courthouse from 1692.

History of the Salem Courthouse

The old Salem Courthouse came into being in 1677 and stood in the middle of Washington Street, for forty years. Of course, 1692 brought what were likely the building’s darkest days: the Salem Witch Trials. During that time, the courthouse was located on the second floor of the Town House.

In may of 1692, Governor William Phips created The Court of Oyer and Terminer in an effort to get to the bottom of the witchcraft problem. The court initially consisted of Chief Justice William Stoughton and other eight prominent citizens. Among the most noted were Jonathan Corwin, Bartholomew Gedney, and John Hathorne.

The building unfortunately no longer exists. However, in its location, you will find a plaque that memorializes the old courthouse.

Connection to the Witch Trials

This was the place were those accused of witchcraft were tried and condemned to death. To sum up, there were nineteen people sentenced to death by hanging by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The best known of the trials was the one of Giles Corey who refused plead “guilty or innocent” and thus was pressed to death with heavy stones.

The executions ended in September of 1692. Shortly after, Governor Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer. However, as more than 50 of the accused were still in jail, additional trials were held during 1693. Three of the convicted were actually still found guilty but all of them were reprieved by Phips.

Location

The site of the Salem Courthouse: 70 Washington St, Salem, MA 01970

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