1030 Thomas Oliver
b. About 1601
Possibly in Yarmouth or Norwich, Norfolk, England
d. 1679
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA

Mary Leman

b. About 1603
d. Before 1666
Relationship Events:
29 Jan 1626 Marriage Thomas Oliver to Mary Leman at Saint Andrew, Norwich, Norfolk, England
26 Jul 1666 Marriage Thomas Oliver to Bridget Playfer Wasselbe in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
  Thomas Oliver b. 1626 - 1634 in England


  John Oliver b. 1626 -1634 in England
  Three Unknown Daughters b. ?
Ancestor Leaf 930 David Oliver b. 1645 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Grace Parker in 1670 in Georgetown, Maine. Two Children: Thomas and David Oliver
  Chrestian (Christian) Oliver b. 8 May 1667; d. in 1693.
Thomas Mason
One Child: Susanna Mason
What We Know


Contributed by Eliot Chandler:
Georgetown, Maine
(Formerly Parker's Island)

THOMAS OLIVER of Norwich, Norfolk, England was born circa 1601 (Batch #F505218, Source Call #1553254, Type Film, Sheet  60) (Possibly born in Yarmouth, Norfolk, England). His occupation according to the ship's manifest when he sailed from England was "calenderer". A calender was a machine in which paper or cloth was made smoothe and glossy by being pressed through rollers.

Thomas Oliver was married 29 January 1626 in Saint Andrew, Norwich, Norfolk, England to Mary Leman, who was born in approximately 1603.

(Batch #M109761, Dates 1558-1812, Src Call #0993970, Type Film,  Printout Call #6907192).

Thomas and Mary Oliver had at least two children before leaving England in 1636, Thomas Jr. and John.

Mr. Chandler wrote about the history England which contributed to the emigration of the Olivers from England.

" King James I, 1602/3-1625, and his son, King Charles, 1625-1648/49, had no respect for the Puritan movement in England and made it very difficult for those who professed to belong to the movement. These  growing difficulties with the King were creating an increased sense of urgency among the Puritans. They all saw the black clouds on the  horizon, and feared an impending disaster.

A new Council ruling had been passed prior to 1632 "not permitting  ships and passingers to pass from hence for the Bay of Mattachusetts  without Licence first had from the President & Councell..." This was  inadvertently canceled by the King in 1632, but was re-installed a  few years later in attempts to block the Puritans from migrating to Mass Bay. Thus the following report:

"When in the reigne of Charles I an endevour was made to supresse the  Puritans, a ship call'd the Mary Anne was fitted out at Yarmouth, by a merchand named Payne, for the conveyance of the persecuted to New  England..."

Perlustrations in Yarmouth, England Vol. III )

(Permissions to depart from England are recorded in the Public Record  Office in England and copied in Hotten's "Early American Emigrants,"  page 293. In it those boarding the Mary Anne at Ipswich, England were " desirous to go for Salam, in New England, and there to inhabitt...")

Thomas and his wife Mary sailed on the Mary Anne of Yarmouth from Ipswitch England in May and arrived in Boston in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on 20 June, 1637. Thomas was listed on the ship's manifest as age 36 of Norwich, Norfolk, England, bound for Salem. Accompanying him on the Mary Ann were his wife Mary Oliver, aged 34, their two children, Thomas Oliver, Jr. and John Oliver; a servant Thomas Doged, aged 30, and girl named Mary Sape, presumed to be a servant in spite of her listed age as 12.

Thomas Oliver and his family fled to Massachusetts Bay apparently because wife Mary "had the faculty of speech to an unpleasant excess,  and had suffered in England for neglect of some custom of trifling importance in the solemnities of the church." This would have been the Church of England.

A third son, David, (our direct ancestor) was born in Salem in about 1645. Thomas accumulated property in Salem, but Mary's tongue did not improve once she arrived in New England, and her constant and unpleasant comments, especially her support of Roger Williams, caused her to be punished as early as 1638. She was punished for "berating our elders as late as 1646." Thomas and Mary were exiled from the Colony in 1648 or 1649 because of his unwillingness or inability to control his wife, leaving behind a considerable amount of real property. At this time according to Charles W. Upham in "Salem Witchraft and Kindred Subjects", Frederick Unger Pub. Co, 1978, they had three sons and at least three daughters. Mary died in England some years later and Thomas returned to Salem. By 1670, he was recorded in office as a "measurer of wood" in Salem.

Following Mary Oliver's death, Thomas married again on 26 July, 1666 in Salem a woman by the name of Bridget Playfer (perhaps Playford) Wasselbe, the widow of Captain Wasselbe. Bridget Bishop was born in England about 1640 and emigrated to Salem in 1660. Bridget was well known for her argumentative ways and her sharp tongue. On one occasion, Bridget and Thomas were required to stand in the town square back to back and gagged because of their disruptive fights.

Thomas and Bridget Oliver had a daughter Chrestian (Christian) born 8 May 1667.

Rumors circulated among the townsfolk that Bridget's "spirit" or "specter" could be seen wandering about. A black servant of the Putnam family claimed to have seen her specter in the rafters of the Putnam's barn. He also claimed that the apparition threw pears and apples at him. Thomas Oliver died in 1678 or 1679 in Salem, and an accusation of witchcraft was leveled against his widow. The circumstances surrounding his death led people to believe that she might be practicing witchcraft.


She was tried by the Court of Assistants, and it is speculated that the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. After her husband's death, Bridget found herself destitute. Thomas had left her with the house and land, but any money left to her was taken by his creditors. She was forced to petition the town for relief.

In about 1687, Bridget married a well-respected man named Edward Bishop, a prosperous sawyer whose family lived in Beverly, Massachusetts. Many people thought their marriage was strange, and like the first two, did not escape heated conversations and violent arguments.

In 1692, she was again brought to trial for witchcraft. Bishop was accused of bewitching five young women, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam, Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard on the date of her examination by the authorities, 19 April 1692.

William Stacy, a middle aged man in Salem Town, testified that Bishop had previously made statements to him that other people in the town considered her to be a witch. And when he confronted her with allegation that she was using witchcraft to torment him, she refused to deny it.

Another local man, Samuel Shattuck, accused Bishop of bewitching his child and also of striking his son with a spade. He also testified that Bishop asked him to "dye lace," which apparently was too small to be used on anything but a poppet, or primitive voo-doo doll.

John and William Bly, father and son, testified about finding poppets in Bishop's house and also about their pig that appeared to be bewitched, or poisoned, after a dispute with Bishop.

There were also allegations that Bishop's specter appeared in the rooms of several men while they slept and attacked them. This, along with the fact that she had worn red outfits, has been used to suggest that the good Puritan men of Salem feared Bishop's sexual prowess. However, as has been noted, red was not an unusual color for Puritan women to wear, Bishop would have been about 60 years old at the time of her trial and was not likely the most attractive woman in town. These incidents bear more of the hallmarks of sleep paralysis where the victims likely did imagine that Bishop really was there and was attacking them.

All of this together with Bishop's conflicting statements and spiteful attitude during her examination made the case against her appear to be very strong to the jurors and judges.

Bridget was the first person to be executed for witchcraft in Salem. She was executed by hanging on 10 June 1692.

Bridget's death did not go unnoticed in Salem. The court took a short recess, accusations slowed down for a time, more than a month passed before there were any more executions, and one of the judges, Nathaniel Saltonstall resigned, having become dissatisfied with the court's methods. Even Governor Phips had doubts about the method of the court and went to Boston to consult the ministers there as to what should be done with the rest of the accused. Unfortunately for the eighteen others who would be hanged as witches (in addition to one pressed to death and the several who died in prison), the ministers decidedly and earnestly recommended that the proceedings should be "vigorously carried on", and so they were. Less than a year after her death, Bishop's husband married Elizabeth Cash, and several of those who had testified against her, in deathbed confessions, claimed that their accusations were "deluted by the Devil."

Nothing is known of what became of Thomas Oliver's sons Thomas Jr. and John nor the three daughters by his first marriage. It was surmised in scholarly 19th century examinations of Court records that that Bridget Bishop's claims on Thomas Oliver's estate were posited as the real reason for her being charged of witchcraft. One of the police officials involved in her arrest was married to one of her in-laws. (

Christian Oliver married Thomas Mason and had a daughter Susanna in approximately 1686. Susanna is listed as the recipient of her mother's portion of Thomas Oliver's estate resolved in 1693, so it is assumed that Christian herself had died by this time.

Our direct ancestor, David Oliver married Grace Parker in Georgetown, Maine sometime before 1670.


Vital Records from New England Historic Genealogical Society:


Google Books: The Felt genealogy?: a record of the descendants of George Felt of Casco Bay, p. 81-85.

Bridget Bishop, previous to her marriage to Edward Bishop, some time before 1680, was the widow of Thomas Oliver. They had one child, a daughter, Christian Oliver, born May 8, 1667, who married Thomas Mason and died in 1693, leaving one only child, Susanna, born Aug. 23, 1687, who married John Becket in 1711, and was the grandmother of Susannah Becket. "Bridget Bishop was a singular character not easily described. She kept a house of refreshment for travelers and a shovel board for the entertainment of her guests and generally countenanced amusements and gayeties to an extent that exposed her to some scandal. . . . She was charged with witchcraft and actually brought to trial on the charge in 1680, but was acquitted, the popular mind not being quite ripe for such proceedings as took place twelve years afterwards."— Uf1ham's SalemWitchcraft.

In 1692 she was again accused of practising the arts of a witch, and, upon such flimsy and ridiculous evidence as was then deemed conclusive, was condemned and executed in June of that year.

From Ancestors of Gertrude Matilda Hitchings

Christian Oliver was born in Salem on May 8, 1667. She married Greene estimates 1686, Thomas Mason. Since Greene estimates that, the record must bemissing or he couldn't find it. She had one daughter, Susanna Mason, b Salem, 23 Aug 1687. Oliver the husband of Bridget and father of Christian died intestate and Bridget was made administrator of his estate, which got her accused of witchcraft (the first time), as we all know. The estate was not yet settled when Bridget was executed in 1692. It finally was settled in 9/11/1693, when the court ordered the disbursement of Thomas Oliver's estate. The order specified 9 pounds to Edward Bishop "for disbursements on ye house", and 9 pounds to Christian Mason, which suggests she was living. That turns out to be a mistake on the part of the court. In the new administrator's request ofr disbursement of the estate, Susan Mason was listed instead of her mother to receive the 9 pounds. Greene concludes that probably Christian was dead and the administrator knew it, being in a better position to know her status than the court was, and the court order was mistaken. On November 1, 1693, Thomas Mason took a second wife, Abigail (Curtice) Greenslade. So she definitely was dead by 1693, and, as importantly, Thomas Mason was still living.

In 1666, the widow Bridget Wasselbe married Thomas Oliver and had a daughter named Christian. This marriage was less than idyllic. In 1678, Bridget was accused of calling her husband names on the Sabbath, and both she and her husband were sentenced to stand gagged in the market place for their offenses. In January 1679, Bridget and Thomas were both sentenced to be whipped for fighting. It was not unusual for Bridget's face to be battered during her marriage to Thomas Oliver. In 1680, she was accused of witchcraft. This accusation could have been facilitated by Thomas' claim that "she was a bad wife . . .the devil had come bodily to her . . . and she sat up all night with the devil." (Charles Upham, Salem Witchcraft). This accusation occurred after her husband died without leaving a will, and seems to be the classic case of a vulnerable, propertied woman being accused of witchcraft. She posted bond, and there is no record of any punishment. In 1687, she was charged with stealing brass objects. Her record then remains clean until she is brought up on witchcraft charges again in April 1692. 

On April 19, 1692 at her examination, Bridget Bishop began her testimony with courtesy and deference. This deferential attitude soon gave way to anger as she realized that denying her involvement was not an effective strategy. The afflicted girls were in the courtroom swooning in response to the imagined spectral advances of Bridget Bishop. Magistrate John Hawthorne unleashed his loaded questions, asking, "How is it that your specter hurts those in this room?" Bridget replied, "I am innocent to a witch. I know not what a witch is." Hawthorne turned this answer to his advantage by asking, "How can you know, you are no witch, and yet not know what a witch is." She replied, "I am clear: if I were any such person you should know it." Although it is not clear what Bridget meant by this comment, Hawthorne clearly took it as a veiled threat and replied, "You may threaten, but you may do no more than you are permitted" (Salem Witchcraft papers). No one can know for certain if this bold interchange earned Bridget Bishop the distinction of being the first hanged on the gallows.

On May 27, Phips established a special court of Oyer and Terminer to try those accused of witchcraft. On June 2, Bridget Bishop was the first person tried in the new court, perhaps because her previous witchcraft accusation made her a likely candidate. In her trial, spectral evidence was given an unprecedented status. She was charged with "tortur[ing], afflict[ing], pin[ing], consum[ing], wast[ing]: & torment[ing] her victims," Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr., Mercy Lewis, Mary Walcott, and Elizabeth Hubbard. Bridget vehemently denied the charges at her trial, believing that to be the only way to avoid execution. She did not realize that her only hope lay in confessing to witchcraft. When Cotton Mather wrote of the evidence against her in his book Wonders of the Invisible World, he included preposterous stories that could best be called gossip. One such story recounts that Bishop cast a glance upon Salem meeting house, while walking under guard. This "look" caused a board, which had been fastened with nails, to be removed to another portion of the house. Her case served as a model for future cases to come, following a very predictable pattern. The "afflicted" persons made their accusations, which were denied by the accused; members of the community told of past acts of witchcraft by the accused; and one or more confessors validated the claim of the accusers. The court used spectral evidence as the primary legal basis to convict Bridget Bishop. Hanged on June 10, her death warrant emphasizes only the harm done to her accusers, primarily on the day of her examination, as the legal justification for the execution.

"On June 10, 1692, High Sheriff George Corwin took [Bridget Bishop] to the top of Gallows Hill and hanged her alone from the branches of a great oak tree. Now the honest men of Salem could sleep in peace, sure that the Shape of Bridget would trouble them no more" (Upham). Bridget Bishop was the first person to be hanged as a result of the infamous Salem witchcraft trials.

David Green, "Salem Witches I: Bridget Bishop," The American Genealogist, Vol. 57, No. 3. 1981: 130-138.

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