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 Sarah <I>Towne</I> Clayes

Sarah Towne Clayes

Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Death 1703 (aged 65–66)
Framingham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
Burial Unknown
Plot Possibly in Church Hill Cemetery, aka Old Burying Ground, Framingham, Middlesex, MA
Memorial ID 49981410 · View Source
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The Sarah Clayes House Trust is winning the long struggle to save the home of Peter and Sarah Clayes. To learn more and help, visit

Name may be indexed as Sarah Towne, Sarah Bridges, Sarah Clayes, Sarah Cloyce, Clayce, Cloys, etc. She is called Sarah Cloyce in Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown."

For very nice bios from Find A Grave contributors DKMac and Ken Smith, please scroll down to the section in italics.

"Then Sarah Cloyse asked for water, and sat down as one seized with a dying fainting fit, and several of the afflicted fell into fits, and some of them cried out, 'Oh! Her spirit is gone to prison to her sister Nurse!'"
—"The Witchcraft delusion of 1692," NEHGR v 24, p 396

Sarah Towne, wife of Peter Clayes, was wrongly accused of witchcraft at Salem in 1692, and imprisoned. She escaped execution and moved to Danforth's Farms (incorporated in 1700 as Framingham). Her sisters, Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Estey, were wrongly convicted of witchcraft, and were hanged.

After Peter and Sarah moved to Danforth's Farms, they were known as Peter and Sarah Clayes. The Sarah Clayes house still stands in Framingham.

In 1692, Danforth's Farms was owned by Thomas Danforth, one of the magistrates who imprisoned Sarah and deputy governor under Simon Bradstreet. Some historians believe that Thomas Danforth invited Sarah and members of her family to settle on his land as a gesture of reparation.

The third of three indictments against Sarah Clayes (Cloyce):

Essex in the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England ss// Anno RR's & Reginae Gulielmi & Mariae Angliae &c Quarto Annoq'e Domini 1692

The Jurors for our Sover' Lord and Lady the King & Queen doe present that Sarah Cloyce Wife of Peter Cloyce of Salem -- In the County of Essex Husbandman -- In & upon the Ninth Day of the Inst September -- In the yeare aforesaid and Divers other Days and times as well before as after Certaine Detestable arts called Witch-craft and Sorceries Wickedly Mallitiously and felloniously hath used practised and Exercised At and in the Towne of Salem in the County of Essex -- aforesaid in upon and against one Rebeckah Towne of Topsfeild in the County of Essex aforesaid Single Woman -- by which said Wicked Acts the said Rebeckah Towne the Day & yeare -- aforesaid and divers other Days and times both before and after was and is Tortured Aflicted Consumed Pined Wasted and Tormented, and also for sundry other acts of Witchcraft by the said Sarah Cloyce -- Comitted and done be fore and Since that time against the Peace of our Sov'rn Lord and Lady the King & Queen theire Crowne and Dignity and the forme of the Stattute In that case made and Provided.

*Robert Payne

(Suffolk Court Records Case No. 2677, p 8)


David Glaeser, The Ancestry of Asahel Chilson, Nov. 2005

The University of Virginia has excellent online records of the trials:

NEHGR v 8 pp 163, 252; v 11 pp 131, 134 (Danvers church records); v 21, p 21; v 23, p 24; v 24, pp 394-396; v 29, p 67

Thanks to DKMac for the following:

"In early 1692 Sarah was accused of witchcraft. She was a sister to Rebecca Nurse and Mary Esty, who also had been accused; as well as their mother, Johanna. Her brother-in-law was John Bridges (from her first marriage), whose wife and daughters were also imprisoned for witchcraft. Her step son-in-law, Daniel Elliott, testified against Sarah's sisters, but not her. Daniel had married Peter's daughter Sarah. It was strongly believed that witchcraft ran in families.

"Committed to prison 1 March 16928, Sarah had a long imprisonment in Boston. She was tried, found guilty, and then in August moved to Ipswich, to await execution. Sarah's sisters, Mary and Rebecca, were hung for witchcraft. At Ipswich, the doom desired by the preposterous indictment was barely escaped. In some way Sarah escaped and was concealed by friends until the family's removal to Framingham. Jan 24, 1693, her case was declared ‘ignoramus'. No explanation has been found why she escaped the fate of her sisters. However, by fall of 1692, the witchcraft frenzy had abated and then Gov. Danforth stepped in and stopped convictions by the court. Years later all persons accused of witchcraft were cleared and 3 golden crowns were paid to those accused or their surviving families.

"Sarah's grave has never been found. After the move to Framingham, Sarah and Peter spelled their last name Clayes."

Thanks to Ken Smith for this biography:

"Sarah was the fourth child of William Towne and Joanna Blessing of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England, and Topsfield, Massachusetts. She was their first born in New England, on January 11, 1638, in Salem, Massachusetts, and baptised there on September 3, 1648, along with some siblings. Later, the family moved to Topsfield, Massachusetts, where Sarah married, on January 11, 1659/60, Edmund Bridges, Jr., the son of Edmund Bridges and his wife, Elizabeth. Edmund was born about 1637. Sarah and Edmund had three children in Topsfield by 1667, then moved to Salem, Massachusetts, before 1669, where they had two more children, including Hannah. Edmund died about 1682 in Salem. After the death of Edmund, Sarah married Peter Cloyes of Salem Village, and apparently had 2 children, Benoni, baptised September 2, 1683, and Hepzibah, who married February 3, 1708, Ebenezer Harrington. In 1692, Sarah, along with her sisters Rebecca Nurse and Mary Esty, were accused in the Salem Witch trials. Rebecca and Mary were hanged, but Sarah, who had also been condemned, escaped from the jail in Ipswich. In the spring of 1693, members of the Towne, Bridges, Barton, Cloyes and Elliott families moved away from Salem, no doubt because of the witch trials, and settled in the new community of Framingham, Massachusetts, where Sarah died about 1703. Information for this biography from the privately published book, The Bartons, by Ray Barton Jr.; NEHGR, v. 84, 'The Bartons of Oxford, Massachusetts'; New England Marriages Prior to 1700, by Torrey; Genealogical Dictionary of New England, by Savage; Early Settlers of Rowley, Massachusetts (1933), by Blodgett & Jewett, pg 42; the vital records of Ipswich, Topsfield, Salem and Framingham, Massachusetts."

Family Members


See more Clayes memorials in:

  • Created by: Mrs. Bee
  • Added: 20 Mar 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 49981410
  • Matthew J. Bridges
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Sarah Towne Clayes (11 Jan 1637–1703), Find A Grave Memorial no. 49981410, ; Maintained by Mrs. Bee (contributor 47112547) Unknown.