The Towne Putnam feud

An angry Parris immediately accused Cloyce of being yet another witch spreading evil among the good Christians of

Salem. Her defenders asserted, however, she had taken ill suddenly and that a gust of wind had slammed the door as she left in haste. Historians note that Parris clearly had a political motivation for calling Cloyce a witch: she was the sister of Rebecca Nurse. The women were members of the Towne family, longtime enemies of the powerful Putnam clan, who had started the Salem Village congregation for Parris. The feud between the Townes and the Putnams had begun in 1639, when the Massachusetts General Court gave Salem Village permission to expand in the direction of the Ipswich River. Six years earlier, however, the court had also granted the village of Ipswich permission to expand in the same location. The town of Topsfield, which lay between Salem and Ipswich, became the site of conflict that lasted for several decades. At Topsfield four main families competed for the right to mark boundaries on the land they had all been granted by the government. John Putnam, head of the Putnam family, fought against the Howes, Townes, and Eastys. During a dispute over rights to woodlands, Jacob Towne (the father of Nurse, Cloyce, and Elizabeth Proctor) cut down one of Putnam's trees in full view of Putnam himself. In retaliation Putnam returned with a group of his relatives and threatened to cut down all of Towne's trees. Thus began a feud that continued for over fifty years and culminated in the Salem trials, when the Putnams targeted their Towne rivals in a final show of force.

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