Near 3 Centuries After the Fact, Last Salem 'Witch' Finally Pardoned

salem witch trial
Lithograph by George H. Walker of Salem's third witch trial.Getty

Elizbeth Johnson Jr. was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death in 1693.

It took 329 years, but justice was finally served in the Salem witch trial of Elizabeth Johnson Jr.

The 22-year-old woman was convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death in 1693, at the height of hysteria-driven trials of young women in the young colony of Massachusetts.

Johnson was never executed, but she is the last of 20 people accused of devilry in Salem and surrounding settlements. One man was crushed to death with rocks and 19 women where killed in the frenzy that began in 1692. Johnson had no children and was not married, which may have led others to view her as less worthy of exoneration. This also meant she had no descendants to work to clear her name.  

Thanks to a curious eighth-grade class, Johnson was formally pardoned this week.

Legislation introduced by state Sen. Diana DiZoglio, a Democrat from Methuen, was added to a budget bill and approved Thursday.

"We will never be able to change what happened to victims like Elizabeth but at the very least can set the record straight," DiZoglio said.

Legislators reconsidered her case last year after a civics class at North Andover Middle School championed her case and learned how to pursue the legislative steps to clear her name.

Teacher Carrie LaPierre issued a statement praising her dedicated students.

"Passing this legislation will be incredibly impactful on their understanding of how important it is to stand up for people who cannot advocate for themselves and how strong of a voice they actually have," she said.

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