- Francis Nurse was an early settler, and had lived for some forty years, "near
Skerry's," on the North River, between the main part of the settlement in the
town of Salem and the ferry to Beverly. He is described as a "tray-maker."
The making of these articles and similar objects of domestic use was an
important employment in a new country remote from foreign supply. He appears
to have been a very respectable person, of great stability and energy of
character; whose judgment was much relied on by his neighbors. No one is
mentioned more frequently as umpire to settle disputes, or arbitrator to adjust
conflicting claims. He was often on committees to determine boundaries or
estimate valuations, or on local juries to lay out highways and assess damages.
On 29 April, 1678 Francis Nurse became at one stroke a major Salem Village
landowner by purchasing, on credit, a rich 300-acre farm located near Salem.
Francis Nurse paid off his mortgage right on schedule. His economic rise after
1678 is documented in the Village tax lists; his 1690 tax went up 39 percent
from that of 1681, and in 1695 it rose by another 16 percent.
The house on this land had an interesting history. Before his purchase the
"mansion" or "cottage" was the scene of social intercourse among the choicest
spirits of the earliest age of New England. Here the first owner Allen Bishop
and, after him, Chickering, entertained their friends. Here the fine family of
Richard Ingersoll was brought up. Here Governor Endicott projected plans for
opening the country, and the road that passes its entrance gate was laid out by
him. To this same house young John Endicott brought his youthful Boston bride.
Here she came again, fifteen years afterwards, as the bride of the learned and
distinguished James Allen, to show him the farm which, received as a "marriage
gift" from her former husband, she had brought as a "marriage gift" to him.
Here the same Allen, in less than six years afterwards, brought still another
bride. In all these various and some of them rather rapid changes, it was, no
doubt, often the resort of distinguished guests and the place of meeting of
many pleasant companies. During the protracted years of litigation for its
possession, frequent consultations were held within it; and in 1692, for twelve
years, it had been the home of a happy harmonious and prosperous family,
exemplifying the industry, energy and enterprise of a New England household.
Francis Nurse had been involved during the 1670's in a protracted timber dispute
with Nathanial Putnam over some mutually bounded acreage. He was elected to a
Village Committee which took power at the end of 1691. These were factors that
contributed to Ann Putnam's accusation of Francis' wife of witchcraft.
"Salem Possessed, The Social Origins of Witchcraft", 1974, Paul Boyer & Stephen
Nissenbaum, p 149, 200.
"A Genealogy of the Nurse Family for Five Generations", 1892, John D. Ames, p