Author: Nora
•Thursday, March 26, 2015
So how do you sort out who’s who when there were four men named Edward Bishop living in the Salem, Massachusetts area at the same time?  The challenge is to avoid merging two or more of them into one person.  It’s a puzzle that calls for very close and meticulous analyzing of available records and documents, as well as reading the research and conclusions written by historians and scholars.  The Salem witchcraft histeria and its aftermath have held a great fascination for a multitude of us, and we’re fortunate that there’s a tremendous amount of documentation and research available on the internet, in archives, on microfilm and elsewhere.

I’ve made use of much of this material and have rented and looked at microfilmed records to help with this who’s who dilemma in my Bishop line.  To bolster the conclusions presented in my previous post, “Edward Bishop Times Four”, I’m recommending the works of two historians who have gone the extra mile in researching these Bishop’s.  Dr. David L. Greene and Marilynne K. Roach have written some excellent articles and books (see notes below).

In the previous post, I wrote mainly about the three Edward’s who lived in Salem Village. I’ll continue with what I’ve learned about the Edward Bishop who lived in the town of Salem and married the alleged witch Bridget (Playfer) Wasselbe Oliver.  Not much is known about this man as to where he was from and when he arrived in Salem.  His occupation was that of a sawyer, which partially helps to distinguish him from the other men of this name, who were described as husbandmen or farmers.  And as far as I could tell from the records, he never lived in the village of Salem – only in Salem Town.  Also - a careful scrutiny of those records and all available sources shows that it's doubtful that this Edward Bishop (the sawyer) was closely, if at all, related to the Bishop families in Salem Village.  He probably married Bridget in about 1685-87, several years after her 2nd husband Thomas Oliver died in 1679.  It’s believed that Bridget and Edward had no children together, but Bridget had a daughter with Thomas Oliver by the name of Christian, born in 1667.

Another fact setting this Edward Bishop (sawyer) apart was the way he signed legal documents.  He used a “mark” – that of an “X”.  Here’s an example of the way he signed his name (click to enlarge):
Example of Edward Bishop (the sawyer) mark
Edward Bishop (1st) of the Beverly/Bass River area also used a “mark”, but he signed with ”EB”, his initials.
Example of Edward Bishop (1st) mark
This Edward’s son Edward Bishop (2nd), who could obviously read and write, signed his full name. His wife Sarah signed with her unique “mark”.
Example of Edward Bishop (2nd) signature and Sarah (Wildes) Bishop's mark
Lastly, Edward Bishop (3rd) signed with his full name, while his wife Susannah used a “mark”.
Example of Edward Bishop (3rd) signature and his wife Susannah's mark
Another excellent source I looked at was the record of taxation for Salem, both for the town and the village residents, which was microfilmed and is available through the LDS Family History Library in Salt Lake City (film #968009; also film #877453).  The tax lists begin in the year 1689, and continue well into the 1700’s; so I viewed them up to about 1713.  The great thing about these lists is that the inhabitants were recorded by their various neighborhoods, similar to a census enumeration district.  This way, you can compare the neighborhoods from year to year, noting the close neighbors of each man and analyzing the changes, when one appeared or disappeared from a neighborhood list.

I found that Edward Bishop (sawyer) consistently appeared in the same neighborhood up to the year 1698 – this would have been where Thomas Oliver’s house had been and where his widow Bridget continued to reside after marrying Edward Bishop, up to 1692 when she was hung for allegedly practicing witchcraft.  Their neighbors were Ropes, Horne/Orne, Bly, Gray, Beadle, Epps and others.

The other men of this same name, residing in Salem Village, were also consistently listed among the same neighbors from year to year:  Cornelius Baker, Joshua Rea, Thomas Rayment, John Trask, Joseph Herrick, James Kettle, and Peter Woodberry, for example.

The lists are alphabetical, but through the use of published maps showing the land owners from 1692 and 1700, it’s easy to see who their nearest neighbors were and compare those names to the alphabetical tax lists. One caveat: maps can contain inaccuracies.  A couple of the map creators made subjective decisions about where the various Edward Bishop’s lived, locating Edward (sawyer) and his wife Bridget next to or with the Edward Bishop’s living in Salem Village.  That placement is not supported by any of the land or tax records, nor by the court documents generated by the witch trials of 1692.

In 1694, 2 years after Bridget’s death by execution, Edward Bishop (sawyer) purchased a new lot from Matthew Buttman or Bootman – still in Salem Town, next to Philip English and Benjamin Gerrish.  Another significant fact is that in this new neighborhood lived two men named Becket, John and William.  Edward (sawyer) had been appointed guardian of Bridget’s granddaughter, Susannah Mason, daughter of Christian (Oliver) Mason; in 1711 Susannah married John Becket.  As late as 1757, there was a land transfer from “John Becket of Salem in the county of Essex shipwright and Susannah his wife” to John Becket, Jr. for land which was bordered by “the premises and land formerly of Deacon Benj’n Gerrish…and westerly on land formerly of Phillip English...being the same which Matthew Bootman granted & sold to Edward Bishop as appears by a deed recorded in ye office for ye registry of deeds &/c for said County Libro 10 folio 3”.

Edward Bishop (sawyer) seemed to have delayed his move to the new lot until about 1698.  By the middle to late part of the year 1703, this Edward dropped off of the taxation list.  Edward Bishop (2nd) of Salem Village also dropped off the tax list after 1703; but his move is easily documented by the deeds recorded for him both in Essex County and in Bristol County, Massachusetts Bay Colony.  He and Sarah had removed to the town of Rehoboth in Bristol County in 1703.

Of especial interest is a Rehoboth deed dated the 16th of April in 1711 wherein Edward is referred to as an inn keeper.  This is important because it helps to clear up another confusion regarding the four Edward’s, which really has to do with their wives.  Bridget Bishop has often been mis-identified as the “goody Bishop” who ran an unlicensed tavern in the village and whose behavior and attitude in about 1690 had upset Christian Trask enough to cause her to become ‘distracted’ and to accuse “goody Bishop” of bewitching her.  Trask complained to Rev. John Hale, minister of the church in Beverly, where both Trask and Sarah Bishop were members.  Trask asked Hale not to allow “goody Bishop” to take part in communion and sought his consolation and sympathy for her “distraction”.   But Trask appears to have been conflicted and tormented by her own behavior and attitude toward Bishop.  After about a month of inner turmoil, Trask apparently cut her own throat with a pair of sewing scissors.
When Rev. Hale testified about this tragedy, either he misidentified it as referring to Bridget Bishop, or the court misfiled the testimony and added it to the other accusations and testimony against Bridget.  Bridget wasn’t a neighbor of Christian Trask, neither had she run an inn or tavern.  That would have been Sarah, wife of Edward (2nd).

Confusing enough?  Please see some of the following sources below for more clarification and if you’d like to read more about this tragic and very dramatic time in our history.

Notes and sources:

Greene, David L., PhD, “Salem Witches I: Bridget Bishop”, The American Genealogist 57 (1981): 129-138.
Roach, Marilynne K., “Where Did Accused ‘Witch’ Bridget Bishop Live?”, American Ancestors, Fall 2013, Vol. 14, no. 4, 45-57
Roach, Marilynne K., Six Women of Salem, 2013, Da Capo Press, Boston, Massachusetts
Roach, Marilynne K., The Salem Witch Trials, 2004, Taylor Trade Publishing, Lanham, Maryland