Sarah Clark (1620 – 1698) is my 10th Great Grandmother.
This story is on my father’s side, so it will be of most interest to the Lindsey / Rawson side of our family.
Sarah Clark was born in 1620 in England. Her father emigrated to “Virginia” in 1624 and I presume Sarah came along with him. She seems to have led a normal life until at 72 years of age we find her up to her neck in the Salem Witchcraft trials.
Sarah married George Davis when she was 22 and had 10 children with him, one of whom was named Joseph. George died in 1667 when Sarah was 57 years old. 4 or 5 years later she married Nicholas Rist. They appear to have had one son, also named Joseph, born in 1680, when she would have been 60 years old. . . Having a child at 60 years old also named Joseph all seems a bit unlikely . . . So while it’s not completely clear, she seems to have had at least 10 children and two marriages.
And then, if 10 children wasn’t enough, in 1692, at the age of 72, she got into real trouble. She was charged with witchcraft and arrested on May 26 and spent 5 months in jail waiting for trial.
The Salem witchcraft trials concluded with the final hanging of accused witches on September 22, 1692. She was, thankfully, not either tried or hanged and her husband Nicholas bailed her out of jail in late October. She died about 5 years later and left a will. We have some small details of that will.
The story about Sarah’s involvement in the Salem witchcraft trials, taken from original documents, follows:
Sarah (nee Clark) Rist Accused of Witchcraft
Sarah married Nicholas Rist after the death of her husband, George Davis. On May 26, 1692, Sarah was accused of witchcraft by Mary Marshall, Mary Wolcott, and Ann Putnam. Mary Marshall was her step-niece. On May 28th, an arrest warrant was issued for Sarah, and she was arrested on May 31, 1692.
On October 19, 1692 her then husband, Nicholas Rist made a petition to the court for her release. In the petition, he indicates that she has been held at Boston “goal” since her arrest for witchcraft and that in all that time, nothing has appeared for which she deserved imprisonment or death, and that he has never had reason to accuse of her of any impiety or witchcraft, but to the contrary she lived with him as a good faithful dutiful wife and always had respect for the ordinances of God while her strength remained, and he is concerned for her health stating that “it is deplorable that in old age the poor decrepit woman should lie under confinement for so long in a “stinching goal” when her circumstances require that a nurse attend her.” She died not long after her release.From the notes of Donald Erlenkotter:
“Sarah (Clark) Davis Rist (or Rice), was accused, arrested, and imprisoned in the famous Salem witchcraft delusion of 1692 [Eat]. The following warrant for her arrest was issued on 28 May 1692 [Witch]:
Warrant v. Sarah Rice.
To the Constables in Reding.
You are in theire Majesties names hereby required to apprehend and bring before us, Sarah Rist the wife of Nicholas Rist of Reding on Tuesday next being the 31st day of this Instant moneth at the house of Lt. Nathan’l Ingersalls at Salem Village aboute ten of the Clock in the forenoon, who stand charged with having Committed sundry acts of witchcraft on ye Bodys of Mary Walcott and Abigail Williams & others to theire great hurte &c, in order to her Examination Relateing to ye premises abovesaid faile not. Dated Salem May 28th 1692.
P vs. J. Hathorne } Assists.
In obediance to this warant I have brought the Body of Sarah Rist the wife of Nicholas Rist of Redding to the house of Leut. Nathanial Ingersons in Salem Viledg the 31 of this instant: May 1692:
Attest John Parker Constable fo Redding.
Abig ail Williams, age 11, along with the slave Tituba, lived at Salem Village (now Danvers) in the household of her uncle, Rev. Samuel Parris. The accuser, Mary Walcott, was 16 years old. Lt. Nathaniel Ingersoll was a deacon in the church at Salem Village and keeper of the town’s ordinary. John Hathorne, ancestor of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jonathan Corwin were members of the General Court and magistrates at Salem Town who conducted hearings in the witchcraft cases [Devil].
Sarah was immediately dispatched from Salem to prison in Boston, according to the following order [Witch]:
To Mr. John Arnold, Keeper of the Prison in Boston, in the County of Suffolk.
Whereas Captain John Aldin (Alden) of Boston, Marriner, and Sarah Rice, Wife of Nicholas Rist of Reding, Husbandman, have been this day brought before us, Joh Hathorn and Jonathan Curwin, Esquires; being accused and suspected of perpetrating divers acts of Witchcraft, contrary to the form of the Statute, in that Case made and provided: These are therefore in Their Majesties, King William and Quen Marys Names, to Will and require you, to take into your Custody, the bodies of the said John Alden, and Sarah Rist, and them safely keep, until they shall thence be delivered by due course of Law; Given under our hands at Salem Village, the 31st of May, in the Fourth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord and Lady, William and Mary, now King and Quen over England, etc., Anno Dom. 1692.
John Hathorn, } Assistants.
Jonathan Curwin, }
Captain John Alden, Jr., was the son of John Alden of the Mayflower. He escaped after having been imprisoned for fifteen weeks, and then was returned and cleared by proclamation in the Superior Court of Boston on the last Tuesday in April 1693.
The final hanging of accused witches took place on 22 Sep 1692. After accusation against his wife, Gov. Phips forbade further commitments on the grounds of witchcraft. By 12 Oct 1692 petitions were being received for the release of those who had been accused but not tried [Devil]. Sarah’s husband, Nicholas Rist (or Rice), submitted the following petition to the General Court for her release [Eat]:
The humble petition of of Nicholas Rist of Reading she weth, that whereas Sarah Rist, wife of the petitioner, was taken into custody, the first day of June last, and hath since lain in Boston Jail for witchcraft, though in all that time nothing has been made to appear, for which she deserved imprisonment or death. The petitioner has been a husband to the said woman above twenty years, in all which time, he had never reason to accuse her of any impietie or witchcraft; but the contrary, she lived with him as a good, faithful, dutiful wife, and always had respect to the ordinances of God, while her strength remained; and the petitioner on that consideration, is obliged in conscience and justice to use all lawful means for the support and preservation of her life; and it is deplorable, that in old age, the poor decrepid woman should lye under confinement in a stinking jail, when her circumstances rather require a Nurse to attend her. May it therefore please your Honors to take this matter into your present consideration, and direct some speedy method, whereby this ancient and decrepid person may not forever lye in such misery, wherein her life is made more afflictive to her than death. And the petitioner shall, as in duty bound, ever pray.
Reading, Oct. 19, 1692
Soon after, Sarah was discharged from prison. Probably she was charged for the costs of her imprisonment, since this was the practice at the time even for those found to be innocent or or pardoned. She died at Reading on 3 May 1698. In her will, dated 20 Sep 1697 and proved in the court at Charlestown on 16 May 1698, Sarah Rist of Reading mentioned husband Nicholas Rist and referred to bequests given to her by former husband George Davis and son Benjamin Davis. She left five shillings to daughter Hannah Boutell [Clark; Middlesex County Probate Vol. 9, pp 398-399].”