Despite what a lot of people think, the victims of the Salem witch trials were hanged, not burned at the stake. However, in the history of Massachusetts, two women were executed by burning them at the stake, one in 1681 and another in 1755. If witchcraft was a crime against both the state and God, what crime could be worse in Puritan Boston? A note about the content this week. We frankly describe acts of brutal violence, and we at times use the racial language of our 17th and 18th century sources. If you usually listen with children, you might want to listen to this episode alone first and decide if it’s appropriate for them.
Burned at the Stake
(yes, at one point we say “1777” when we mean 1775, and “architecture” when we mean architect. This episode was already exhausting enough, and we didn’t go back to fix those flubs.)
- The Case of Maria, in the Court of Assistants in 1681, a paper presented at the Massachusetts Colonial Society in 1900. (Note: in original sources, the name of Mariah is spelled many ways, including Maria, Marja, and Mariah. We consider Mariah the most likely)
- The Trial and Execution of Mark and Phillis in 1755, a paper published by the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1883. This paper also has useful information on the earlier case of Mariah.
- Slavery, Freedom, and Dependence in Pre-Revolutionary Boston, 1700-1775, a 2014 dissertation with a useful description of the Diego case.
- New England Bound, on slavery in early New England.
- Paul Revere’s letter to Jeremy Belknap, in which he uses Mark’s gibbetted body as a landmark.
- Ben Franklin’s World 125: Death, Suicide, & Slavery in British North America
- A rumor of a slave uprising in British Antigua in 1736 led to 77 being executed by fire.
- A 1741 arson conspiracy by enslaved people in New York City led to 13 being burned at the stake.
- An enslaved man in South Carolina is sentenced to death by burning in 1830, and the practice is outlawed in 1833.
- A 1916 lynching in Waco, Texas in which a black man was beaten, castrated, chained to a tree, doused in kerosene, and burned alive.
This Week in Boston History
- The image above is a depiction of the May Pole at Merrymount being cut down.
- In 1775, the wife of a captured British soldier writes, “my husband’s leg is broke, and my heart is broke.”
- The story of Boston’s “new” City Hall, and some proposed designs.
- A loyalist implores his kids to “die by the sword rather than be hanged as Rebels.”
- Cy Young pitches the first perfect game in the modern major league.
- Mayor Kevin White announces a project to restore Faneuil Hall Market.
- Scrapbooks kept by the crew of the USS Constitution on its 1931 – 1934 cruise.