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Rebecca’s descendants include former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, *Scrubs* actor Zach Braff, and *I Love Lucy* star Lucille Ball.
“The majority of the people that come in day to day are ancestors and even sometimes [they] find out that the same people visiting are from the same line and they’re cousins,” Kathryn shared.
Kathryn also tries to provide historical context for those horrified by what occurred during that time. “I think as modern people, we really want to villainize them and make them into these bad people,” she said.
“But they were people reacting to a very real threat in their village,” she noted, explaining that Puritans genuinely believed witchcraft in their community could keep the whole community from entering heaven.
Historians have discovered that Rebecca held no ill will toward anyone who accused her. Instead, she turned inward and tried to figure out what it was about herself that was leading people to make these accusations against her.
“She even offers to pray for the afflicted girls to hope that maybe whatever is afflicting them will pass,” Kathryn noted.
“She was just very gracious about the whole thing and very accepting of what was about to happen, knowing that she would be executed very likely.”
Rebecca’s story stays alive with her large number of descendants, who gather for a reunion at the museum each year. The Towne Family Association started in 1980 as a small group of 25. Decades later, there are over 500 members of the organization.
Many of Rebecca’s descendants continue to live in the Salem area. They’re proud of their connection to the history.
“You kind of get hooked on it,” one of the descendants, Arthur Towne, told Wicked Local.
“Your ears are up all the time listening for anything that might be related to it.”
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Massachusetts state Senator John Keenan is another descendant who feels intrinsically tied to this history.
“I am a descendent of one who was wrongly prosecuted and wrongly executed,” he said.
“It is through that connection that I want to remind this body that now legal process that involves humans can ever be infallible.”
Nothing can change what occurred at the Salem witch trials, but it is incredible to see how the story still holds relevance today. So many people feel connected to this era of persecution. It’s fascinating to see the impact it has today through descendants, history buffs, and those living in Salem in the present day.