Master of Arts (M.A.)
Hiroshi X. Kitamura
Joshua A. Piker
Giles Corey as Man, Myth, and Memory Giles Corey is remembered today as the man who suffered the singular fate of being pressed to death during the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. Corey was neither the first, nor the only, man killed during the trials, yet has captured the public imagination where others have not. His refusal to stand before the court is depicted as a testament to his principled moral commitment, idealizing him as a hero ahead of his time. An examination of seventeenth-century records, however, reveal Corey engaging in illegal behavior, heckling his neighbors, alienating members of his own family, and generally inspiring dislike. How, then, did the glorified popular image of him originate, and why? Surveying the earliest works focused on Corey reveals him as a mythic construction of late nineteenth century. Authors recast his story out of shame for the 1692 executions and a general nostalgia for the agrarian past as a foil for the turmoil and corruption they saw in the present. Through these revisions, Corey entered American cultural memory as a symbolic caricature of preindustrial virtue and small-town values. Family, and Tradition in the Lives of George Robert Twelves Hewes, Robert Twelves, and Boston’s Old South Church George Robert Twelves Hewes, familiar to scholars of the American Revolution as the central figure of Alfred Young’s The Shoemaker and the Tea Party, had an unusually long name. Middle names were rare at the time of his birth, and multiple middle names rarer still. Why did Hewes’ parents bestow such an unwieldy name on him? Although Hewes shared his name with his father and uncle, another namesake, Robert Twelves (a distant relative, who built the original Old South Church), provided valuable social capital. However, the ties commemorated by the name did not remain transparent, and its meaning evolved over time. Just as Robert Twelves faded from memory in the Hewes family during the late nineteenth century, the caretakers of the Old South Meetinghouse revived his name to serve a new purpose. In saving the church from the threat of demolition, they reimagined its role in the nation’s founding and attached it to a version of the past that celebrated great men, including its purported builder. Exploring the intertwined histories of Hewes, his namesakes, and the church where his family worshipped illuminates both the varied purposes a name could serve and the role of memory in reconstructing the past.
© The Author
Schwartz, Kaila Knight, "Giles Corey as Man, Myth, and Memory / Identity, Family, and Tradition in the Lives of George Robert Twelves Hewes, Robert Twelves, and Boston’s Old South Church" (2017). Dissertations, Theses, and Masters Projects. Paper 1516639675.
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