"For one thing, the hill was steep, and the thought of the accused being transported to the top in a cart, as it is known they were, seemed ludicrous upon having ascended the hill myself. Also, I had learned that Benjamin Nurse had rowed a boat from a creek near the Nurse Homestead, out into the North River, and then to the base of Gallows Hill to recover his mother’s body. It only took one look to see that there was no waterway contingent to the North River at the base of the hill I was standing on. There was no water at or even near the base of the hill The closest water was a canal over a quarter mile northeast. "
Trento's Gallows Hill
"So off I went in July of 2003 to locate this hill. I found it easily enough south of the playing fields in Gallows Hill Park, and about 200 yards Southwest of the water tank. It is a low grassy hill sloping down on its southern end. The north end was a knoll with a crevasse just over the side (history tells us the bodies were dumped in such places). The hill even had easy cart access up the south side from Colby Street, which looked liked it may have been a road back in the hanging times. "
"So I went back to the books and refreshed my grasp of the known facts. Several things immediately invalidated the Trento site. First, he says the footing stones for the gallows are still visible. I have seen the stones he talks about, but the problem is that the accused were not hung on a gallows. Rather, they were hung from the branches of trees. Researchers have combed the meticulous records of the trial era, and not one mention was found of a gallows, and more tellingly, there is no record of the cost to purchase wood and construct such a gallows. "
Upham's Gallows Hill
"Historians and officials have followed his lead ever since, even though in Upham’s own words, 'There is no contemporaneous nor immediately subsequent record that the executions took place on the spot.'"
"By the time of Upham’s writing, the actual site, wherever it was, had dropped from public consciousness. The entire hanging episode was an acute embarrassment and shame to the community, and although the site was known to people, it was not publicly proclaimed or celebrated. Rather, the subject, and therefore the location, was avoided and a kind of collective amnesia occurred in regards to the location. People simply wanted to forget, and thus the location was 'forgotten' too. "
The Perley Hypothesis
"Perley did discover a number of important clues. He was able to reconstruct the landscape and land ownership of Salem at the time of the hangings, making a number of maps. A final and composite map of Salem circa 1700 drawn from his work was assembled by William Freeman and published in 1933."
"Perley was able to locate the house Symonds was born in and found that it was impossible to see the supposed hanging site on the southern end of the hill, let alone Gallows Hill. Ledge Hill completely blocks the view. However, a nearer lower hill that better fits the facts of the circumstance was well in view."
"First, it is over the town line. Second, it is easily accessible by cart. Third, the hill was of sufficient height that Salem was observable from it, a noted fact. Forth, at the time, the North River extended in a large bay all the way to Town Bridge. The modern canal is simply all that is left of the bay after it was filled in. In 1692 the Town Bridge crossed a small arm of the North River bay called Bickford’s Pond. Bickford’s Pond abutted the small hill. This fits with the story that Benjamin Nurse was able to row his boat all the way to the base of the hill. Fifth, the small hill supported substantial trees, whereas Upham reports of the official Gallows Hill site that the "scattered patches of soil are too thin to tempt cultivation." Thus no trees, and recall that there is no evidence of an actual gallows erected - so how were they hung, then? Sixth, the hill may be plainly seen from John Symonds’s birthplace, exactly as his nurse said. "
John Adam's Account of Locust Trees
"Somebody within a few years has planted a number of locust trees over the graves, as a memorial."
This minor detail proves to be a great clue to Perley as Daniels goes on to say:
"Adams was incorrect about them being a memorial, however the clue of the locust trees led Perley to inquire of the owner of the small hill if locust trees had ever grown there. Indeed they had, although recently cut down. No locust trees or memory of locust trees were found on Upham’s choice of Gallows Hill."
Rowing from Rebecca Nurse's House
"The route Benjamin would have taken started from Crane Brook on their property, passing east under Hadlock’s Bridge, then further east under the Crane River Bridge on Ipswich Road, and out into the Crane River proper, a tidal bay. He would have continued rowing east to where the Crane River joined the Wooleston River, another tidal bay. He would have turned South into the North River near Skerry’s Point in Salem Town were they original lived before buying the farm in Salem Village. Down the North River, a tidal bay, he rowed, then under Town Bridge and into Bickford’s Pond. "
"Proctor Street occupied the 20 foot wide flat between the pond and the hanging hill, which rose about 30 feet high. Rebecca’s body was dumped in a crevasse on the face of the hill. He would have retrieved her body from the crevasse and rowed back to the homestead where his older brother Samuel (who had adjoining property) and father Francis buried her in an unmarked grave. "
Daniel Visits the Perley Site
"On November 19, 2006, I visited the Perley site. It is located at the junction of Boston, Bridge, and Proctor Streets. This intersection was actually Town Bridge three hundred years ago. From here, turn onto Proctor Street. Today Proctor Street curves up behind the hill, but back in 1692 it curved in front of the hill. In any event, the hill is behind the Walgreens and the parking lot butts up against it. Proctor Street used to curve along it face between the hill and the pond. Walgreens is where the pond used to be. The Witch Hill GPS coordinates are: 42.5180N, -70.9100W."
"The hangings took place on the flat of the hill directly behind and overlooking the parking lot near the hill’s northeast end. This area is now a small grove of young trees in a Proctor Street resident’s backyards."
Here is the same location seen from the extreme far left of the above picture:
"The crevasse is further down the length of the hill, near where Pope Street turns left past the Walgreen's parking lot. The actual location appears to be in someone’s side yard."
Have a great trip!