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Estate of George Corwin House

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Estate of George Corwin House, and Estate of George Corwin and Jonathan Corwin Lots. These three lots contained four acres, and were a pasture belonging to Rev. Hugh Peter, the pastor of the First church in Salem, and subsequently a regicide, early in the settlement, probably having been granted to him by the town. After his return to England, he conveyed this pasture, by his attorney, Charles Gott of Wenham, to Capt. George Corwin of Salem, merchant, July 1, 1659.1

Captain Corwin died Jan. 3, 1684-5, aged seventy-four. This pasture was divided between his son Jonathan and the heirs of his son John, who had died July 25, 1683, the former taking the western end of the pasture to the division line shown on the map, which he owned until his decease June 9, 1718. Jonathan was the judge who lived in the “witch house,” having succeeded his father there, and who sat upon the bench during the witchcraft trials. The heirs of John had the portion east of the division line. He was the older son, and probably at the time of his marriage, about 1660, his father erected for him the ancient house that stood where the Washington House is now located on Washington street. Apparently the title to the house and land remained in the father until his decease.

By agreement of the heirs of George Corwin, March 31, 1685, the northern portion of the premises was assigned to John’s widow Margaret, and the southern half with the house to her elder son George, who spent the remainder of his life in it.2 Margaret probably died in 1691-2, and the northern part was in the possession of her son Samuel Corwin for several years, and in the occupation of Capt. Walter Price Sept. 13, 1709, when it was conveyed by Elizabeth Corwin, gentlewoman, Lucy Elliston, widow, both of Boston, Peter Thacher of Weymouth, clerk, and wife Hannah, Thomas Smith of Boston, brazier, and his wife Mary, and Margaret Corwin of Boston, gentlewoman, to Joseph Flint of Salem.3

Captain George Corwin was the sheriff of the county, and but twenty-six years old when he hung the witches, being but thirty when he died in 1696. Even then the feeling against him was so strong that his friends were for a long time afraid to deposit his remains in the family tomb, a few rods in the rear of the house, and they were buried in the house cellar until the excitement had subsided.

Capt. Corwin married two daughters of Hon. Bartholomew Gedney, and by a declaration made March 17, 1691-2, a few months after he had acquired the title to the premises he conveyed the house and lot, after his decease, to his children.4 His widow died Dec. 23, 1700; and the estate came into the hands of his son Bartholomew Corwin.

Bartholomew removed to Westerly, R. I., and, as soon as he became of age, conveyed the estate, for one hundred and sixty pounds, to Col. Samuel Browne of Salem July 5, 1714.5

Colonel Browne was wealthy, and resided in what is now Derby square, dying possessed of this house and lot June 21, 1731, and having devised the same to his son Benjamin, a boy of sixteen. Benjamin died, unmarried, Aug. 12, 1737, at the age of twenty-two. His heirs were his brothers, Cols. Samuel and William Browne. Samuel died Nov. 26, 1742, leaving two children, Hon. William Browne, a judge, and subsequently governor of Bermuda, and Abigail, who was afterward the wife of Joseph Blaney.

April 9, 1759, Benjamin’s brother William, of Beverly, esq. (father of William Burnet Browne), released his half interest in the lot to his brother Samuel’s children William and Abigail;6 and the last named William, of Salem, for two hundred and sixty-six pounds, conveyed his interest in the land, which he called two-thirds, to his sister Abigail’s husband, Joseph Blaney, of Salem, gentleman, Oct. 5, 1762.7

Mrs. Blaney died Dec. 24, 1776, and her husband conveyed the premises, including the house, warehouse and land to Joshua Ward of Salem Aug. 11, 1781.8

Mr. Ward removed the old house, and built a large and fine brick residence upon the same site before 1789. When Washington visited Salem in his tour east, in 1789, this was the house in which he spent the night he stopped in Salem, October 29.

Source: The Essex Antiquarian May 1899

Footnotes

  1. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 1, leaf 60. 

  2. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 9, leaf 28. 

  3. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 65, leaf 254. 

  4. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 9, leaf 60. 

  5. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 27, leaf 26. 

  6. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 105, leaf 235. 

  7. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 114, leaf 152. 

  8. Essex Registry of Deeds, book 138, leaf 264. 

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