The Devil Appeared to Her like a Colt

Rebecca Eames headstone, Mount Vernon Cemetery, Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts.

You.. can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes!  You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars. Now.. you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You.. have never paid taxes’?”  Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!”

Steve Martin, Saturday Night Live, 21 Jan 1978

Rebecca (Rebekah) Blake Eames (Ames, Eams), unfortunately, was born too long ago to have received Steve Martin’s sage advice. Otherwise, she would have said: “I forgot witchcraft and sorceries are illegal.” Instead, she confessed to these crimes during the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

Rebecca lived in Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts. On 19 Aug 1692, from a nearby house, she witnessed the hanging of five persons, convicted of witchcraft, at Proctor’s Ledge in Salem. While there, “the woman of the house” felt a pin stuck into her foot, and Rebecca was pointed out as the one who did it. [3]

The accusations grew quickly—two indictments, “covenanting with ye Devil” and “for bewitching Tim Swan,” were ultimately issued—and Rebecca was examined before Salem Magistrates later that day. [3]

Rebecca confessed in detail to the indictments, and much more: [1, 2]

She owned she had bin in the snare a monthe: or 2: and had bin perswaded to it: 3 monthes: & that the devil: apeared to her like a colt. very ugly: the first: time: but she would not own: that she had bin baptized by him. she did not know but that the devil did perswade her: to renounce god & christ & folow his wicked wayes & that she did take his Counsell: and that she did afflict Timo: Swan: she did not know but that the devil might ask: her body & soul: & she knows not but that she did give him soul & body: after ward she s’d she did do itt & that she would for sake god & his works: and the devil promised her: to give her powr: to avenge her selfe on them that offended her afterward she s’d the devil apeared to her 7 year agoe: & that he had tempted her to ly and had made her to afflict persons but she could not tell their names that she first afflicted:

Q who came w’th the devil when he made you a witch

A: a ragged girl: they came to gether and they perswaded me to afflict: & I afflicte mary warin & an other fayr face: it is abo’t a quarter of a year agoe: I did it by sticking of pins.

(Q) but did you afflict Swan:

(A) yes but I am sorry for it:

Q where had you your spear

A I had nothing but an all

(Q) but was it with yo’r body or spirit you came to hurt these mayds:

A with my spirit:

Q but can you ask them forgivnes:

A: I wil fall down on my knees: to ask it: of them:

She would not own: that she signd the devils book when he askd her body & soul: but he would have had her done it nor. to a burch Rign: nor nothing: she s’d the devil was in the Shape of a hors when: he caried her to afflict: but would not own any body went with her to afflict but the afflicted s’d her son Dan’ll went with her: to afflict:

Examination of Rebecca Eames and Mary Lacy Sr., 19 Aug 1692. Note: The above confession is taken verbatim from the court record. The semi-colon was used at the time as we now use the comma.

At her second examination on 31 Aug, Rebecca repeated her confession, went on to say that the Devil baptized her son, Daniel Eames (Ames), and signed the court record of the confession as the truth. She confession also implicated widow Margaret Toothaker and Abigail Faulkner as fellow witches.

On 15 Sep, three neighbors, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren, and Ann Putnam, gave testimony that Mary Walcott had been afflicted by Rebecca.

On 17 Sep, Rebecca was tried, convicted, and condemned to death by hanging along with nine others. Four of the ten were hanged on 22 Sep. Rebecca remained in the Salem prison—why we do not know.

The Salem Witch Trials hysteria reached its peak. By the end of the year, the Governor put a stop to any new witchcraft trials in Salem, disbanded the special Court of Oyer and Terminer that was set up in May 1692 to hear the witchcraft cases, and set up a new Superior Court to be presided over by the Deputy Governor.

Still in prison after four months, on 5 Dec 1692, Rebecca submitted a petition to Governor Phips retracting her “false and untrue” confession, saying she had been “hurried out of my Senses” by two of her accusers, Abigail Hobbs and Mary Lacey, who had said she would be hanged if she did not confess.

Rebecca Ames’ petition for a pardon, from Salem prison, 5 Dec 1692 [1].

In Jan 1693, the Superior Court prohibited the use of spectral (based upon dreams and visions) evidence in the witch trials. In Feb 1693, the Governor wrote to the Earl of Nottingham, Secretary of State for King William and Queen Mary, informing them of the recent changes in the court.

On 15 Apr 1693, Queen Mary issued a royal letter to Governor Phips ordering he stop all witchcraft trials.

In May 1693, Governor Phips received instructions from England to end the trials and all proceedings, although these instructions were apparently not in response to his letter, as he did not receive the Queen’s royal letter until the end of Jul 1693. He then issued a proclamation stopping all further court proceedings against accused witches and pardoned the remaining accused in prison.

Rebecca remained in prison for a total of seven months, and was released in Mar 1693, before the Governor’s pardon. In 1711, Rebecca and 21 others were named in an act of the Massachusetts legislature providing them compensation and restoring their civil rights. She received £10, worth about $2,000 today.

Rebecca lived out her life in Boxford, where she died in 1721.

Much less is known of how Daniel’s case played out. He was accused by at least four persons. When he was brought into court, all of the afflicted fell to the floor as if struck. He denied all of the charges, but was imprisoned for at least a time. He is known to have lived until at least 1695. Daniel’s wife, Lydia Wheeler Eames was also accused—nothing is known of her outcome either.

We have found DNA matches between our line and two other descendants of Rebecca’s son John Eames (Ames).

If you are interested in learning more about Rebecca, Reference [1] provides images of the original legal records, and Reference [2] provides transcriptions of the records. A novel has also been written about Rebecca:

Rebecca Blake (1641-1721) is 10th great-grandmother of MKS in the Watne branch.

Daniel Eames (1663-aft. 1695) is 10th great-uncle of MKS in the Watne branch.

John Eames (1670-1724) is 9th great-grandfather of MKS in the Watne branch.

[1] People Accused of Witchcraft in 1692—Rebecca Eames of Boxford, A Guide to the On-Line Primary Sources of the Salem Witch Trials.
[2] Salem Witch Trials—Documentary Archive and Transcription Project—Rebecca Eames.
[3] The History of Boxford, Essex County, Massachusetts, by Sidney Perley, 1880.
[4] The “Witches” of Massachusetts – E,
[5] Timeline of the Salem Witch Trials,