Tuttle Family Gossip
Written & Researched by Janet Schwarze.
Elizabeth Tuttle was pregnant with another man's child when she married Richard Edwards. Early in life, she showed signs of rebellion and a lack of decorum, often living at odds with the Puritan standards of the day. In later life she was declared insane.
The minutes of "A County Court holden by adjournment at Hartford, 1668" reported:
Richard Edwards and Elizabeth his wife, being called to an account of incontinency before marriage, the Court having considered what hath been presented, with the acknowledgement of the said Richard that he was upon the bed with her at Mr. Wells, his house, before marriage, the best part of one night, and in company with her at New Haven (according to which the child was borne), this Court cannot but judge and declare the child borne of the said Elizabeth to be and be reputed child of the said Richard Edwards, and for their incontinency (premarital sex) before marriage, they are adjudged to pay [as] a fine to the public treasury of the County of Hartford, the sum of five pounds.
July 2, 1689, when Richard learned he was not the father of the first child, Mary, he filed a petition for divorce basing his complaints on the following four reasons: "(1) Her being guilty at first of a fact of ye same nature; (2) Her refusing me so longer together; (3) Her carage having been observed by some to bee very fond and unseemly to some other man than my self; (4) Her often comending on other man with show or ye like words Éhee was worth a thousand of my self." That "other man" may have been one William Pitkin, for he brought suit against Richards Edwards in May of 1691 for using a term in his divorce case that was "derogatory of his (Pitkin's) honor." The records found in "Crimes and Misdemeanors, Divorces, 1664-1732,
Document No. 235" read:
He found, three months after marriage, that she was with child by another (Mr. Randolph), who she accused before 2 magistrates; and her father [William Tuttle] took and brought up the child; which from regard to her and relying upon her fair promises, he [Richard] neglected to take advantage of her, for which he had bitter cause to repent. He lived with her eight or nine years, when she obstinately refused conjugal communion with him, and deserted his bed; and her conduct was so intolerable that by advice, he traveled abroad, hoping by his absence she would relent. On his return, for a while, she behaved herself, but soon, in answer to some question, she said she had committed folly with another man, whom she named, and fell into her old fits of obstinacy; and he renounced her as a wife, and so has since lived. She has caused him intolerable and insupportable afflictions. He enters into a long scriptural argument for divorce and quotes early Christian examples and authorities. She is guilty of adultery, and he prays a release.
Edwards' plea for divorce was denied even though Elizabeth's two oldest children by Edwards, Timothy and Abigail, testified against her, "to the great obstinacy of their mother and to her absenting herself from their father's bed and society."
Two years later, October 1691, a council of "able divines",which included the famous Rev. Thomas Hooker and Rev. Increase Mather, considered the divorce action again. Calling himself an attorney, Richard made a long-winded plea. His affections were focused on Mary Talcott, who he was having sex with and wished to marry. Mary Talcott had already been fined for fornication with him.
On top of all of that, Elizabeth's sister, Mercy Brown, had killed her own son and her brother Benjamin had also been executed for murdering their sister, Sarah. Elizabeth herself was most certainly not in her right mind, and often threatened to murder Richard in his sleep. How could the judges not understand that Richard's fear of Elizabeth. The ministers decided "it is not within the compass of human power to deny him a divorce" and granted the divorce. He then married Mary Talcott and they had six children together.
There is no record of Elizabeth ever marrying again and we don't know when she died. It is entirely possible she committed suicide. Suicide was a grave sin in those times, and anyone who took their own life would be denied burial in a cemetery. Of course, she could have simply died in an area where records were not kept.
It is amazing that Elizabeth Tuttle was the ancestor of a family who probably had the greatest impact on American history. Her son Timothy married a Stoddard, and he became the father of Jonathan Edwards, the brilliant, neurotic minister who has been called the last of the great Puritans who helped fuel the religious revival movement known as the Great Awakening.
Benjamin Tuttle murdered his sister, Sarah for "losing her virginity", and was tried and executed.
"The Grand Jury haveing heard the accusation against Benjamen Tuttell did return that they found the Bill here followes the Indictment: Benjamen Tutle thou art indicted by the name of Benjamen Tuttle late of Stamford that not having the fear of God before thine eyes thou hast most wickedly risen up against thy sister, Sarah the wife of John Slawson of Stamford afoarsayd some time in November last about the 18th day & by smiteing her with an axe or some other instrument of death thou hast slayne her for which according to the law of God & the lawes of this colony thou deservest to dye. The prisoner haveing heard the Indictment read was required to Answer Guilty or not guilty; he Answered not guilty & referred himselfe to be tryed by God & the country. The former Jury being called man by man & the prisoner ordered to look upon them & accept or except against them, he accepting of them the case was comitted to the sayd Jury. The Jury return that they finde Benjamen Tutle Guilty according to the Inditment. The court haveing considered the return of the Jury doe approve of the same. And accordingly did sentence the sayd Benjamen Tutle to be carryed hence to the place from whence he came & at a convenient time to be carryed thence to the place of execution & there to be hanged by the neck till he dyes & then out downe & buryed. This court appoynts that execution be done upon the prisoner according to sentence the 13th of June next & the secretary is appoynted to signe a warrnt to the marshall to see execution done according to the sentance. And the reverend Mr. Nath. Collins is desired & appoynted to preach the lecture that day execution is to be done." Benjamin was hanged at New Haven, June 13, 1677.
Sarah Tuttle was guaranteed her place in history by two separate incidents. At a court held in New Haven, May 1, 1660, Jacob Murline and Sarah Tuttle were prosecuted for "sinful dalliance" and accused of "sitting down on a chest together. He apparently had his arm about her waist and her arm was wrapped about his neck. Apparently, they engaged in this sinful position about half an hour, and then he kissed her and she returned his affections. Witnesses testified they were kissing each other. This complaint was made by Sarah's father, William who sited a law prohibiting anyone to "inveigle or draw away the affections of any maid or maid servant for himself or others, without first obtaining the consent of her parents or guardians." Anyone guilty of such actions was to pay, besides all the damages the parent might sustain, 40 shillings for the first offense, and for the second towards the same person, 4 pounds and for the third, fined, imprisoned and corporally punished, as the Plantation court may direct.
The term "inveigling" appears to have had rather wide implications. There were cases in which the young man charged with this offense had done nothing more than to walk with the girl on a country road. Young women who consented to advances from the men were also looked upon with legal disfavor. Mr. Tuttle pleaded that Jacob had endeavored to steal away his daughter's affections.
Additionally, the Governor declared that "the business for which they were warned to the Court he had heard in private at his house which he related to stand thus; on the day John Potter was married, Sarah Tuttle went to Mr. Murline's for some three hours. Mr. Murline bid her go to her daughters in the other room, where they fell into speech of John Potter & his wife, that they were both lame, upon which Sarah Tuttle said that she wondered what they would do at night whereupon Jacob came in a tooke away or took up her gloves; Sarah desired him to give her the gloves, to which he answered he would do so, if she would give him a kiss, upon which they sate downe together, his arme being about her & her arme upon his shoulder or about he necke & he kissed her & shee him, or they kissed one another, continuing in this posture about half an houre. Mrs. Murline now in Court said that she heard her say, she wondered what they would doe at night & she replied they must sleep, but there was company with her in the roome, and she was in a strait; but it is matter of sorrow & shame to her."
When Jacob was asked about these things, he answered, "yes he was in the other roome & when he heard Sarah speake those words he went in, where shee haveing let fall her gloves, he tooke them up & she asked him for them; hee told her he would if shee would kisse him which she did; further said that he tooke her by her hand & they both sate downe upon a chest, but whether his arme were about her & her arme upon his shoulder or about his neck, he knowes not, but he never thought of it since, till Mr. Raymond told him of it; for which he was blamed & told that it appeares that he hath not layd it to heart as he ought. But Sarah Tuttle replyed that shee did not kiss him; but Sarah being asked if Jacob had inveigled her, she said, no; tho Tuttle said that he came to their house two or three times before he went to Holland & they two were together & to what end he came he knowes not unless it were to inveigle her & their mother warned Sarah not to keep company with him. Jacob denyed that he came to their house with any such intention nor did it appeare so to the Court. The Governor told Sarah that her miscarriage is the greatest that a virgin should be so bold in the presence of others, to carry it as she had done & to speake such corrupt words, most of the things charged being acknowledged by her self, though that about kissing him is denyed, yet the thing is proved. Sarah professed that she was sorry that she had carried it so foolishly & sinfully which she sees to be hateful; she hoped God would help her to carry it better for time to come. The Governor also told Jacob that his carriage hath beene very evil and sinfull, so to carry towards her; & to make such a light matter of it as not to thinke of it (as he had exprest) doth greatly aggravate."
Sarah was viewed by the court as a "bold virgin" who should mend her ways immediately which she agreed to do. Jacob was freed and told to keep a distance from virgins like Sarah. The Court declared, "that we have heard in the publique ministry that it is a thing to be lamented that younge people should have their meetings, to the corrupting of themselves & one another; as for Sarah Tuttle, her miscarriages are very great, that she should utter so corrupt a speech as she did concerning the persons to be married & that she should carry it in such an imodest, uncivil, wanton, lascivious manner, as hath beene proved; & for Jacob, his carriage hath beene verry corrupt & sinfull, such as brings reproach upon the family & place; the sentence therefore concerning them was, that they shall pay either of them as a fine 20 shillings to the Treasurer."
November 17, 1676, Sarah Tuttle died at the hands of her Twenty-nine year old brother, Benjamin who used an axe to slay her after the two quarreled. Part of the account is preserved in the Connecticut State Archives. In it, Benjamin said that he and his sister had had a falling out and he was afraid she would kill him, and that he had no love for her. He and Sarah may have been arguing about the division of their dead father's wealth, or Sarah's remarks about their sister, Elizabeth's rebellious nature and lack of decorum and disregard for the Puritan standards of the day. Benjamin may have reminded Sarah of her own failings and how she'd scandilized the town in her younger years by publicly exchanging kisses with a Dutch sailor, for which she and her lover were both fined.
Whatever started the quarrel, the enraged Benjamin went to the barn, got an ax, returned to the house and struck Sarah, "maulling & mashing her head to many pieces in a barbarous and bloudy maner." Benjamin then hid in the woods, but was later apprehended and tried. He was convicted for the murder May 29, 1677. An official record of the case appears in Crimes, op. cit. Document No. 80:
"A veardet of a Jourey's Inqest in Stamford, novemb'r 18th 1676 one the death of Sarah Slason, wif to Jno. Slason; howe was found barbarsley Slayen In hur one hous, as followeth -
"We hous names are hear undar wretten (of the Jourey) and how a greed undar outh decleare: the body of the womman we found leyeng dead a cros the hearth, with hur head In the cornar of the chem[ney?], wounded after this mannar: the Skull and Jaw, eaxtremly broken, from the Jaw to hur neack, and soo to the crown of the head, one the right Sied of the Same, with part of her brayens out, wich ran out at a hool, wich was Struck through her head, behind the ear. Judgeng the weppon with wich It was dune to be with a narro ax that laye near hur, wich was much bloddy a bout the pooll of the same, and a pone Inqisishon from the children of Jno. and Sarah Slasson, Jno. Slasson, sune to Jno. and Sarah, as a boye aged a bought twelief years, sayeth that, beeng In his fat[her's] hous one Sattarday night, the 18th of this Instant, a bought one houar and half with In the night, his mothar, him self and the rest of the children beeng thare, his mothar beeng at the fiare, Sitteng In a chare, and bengimun tuttell Setteng [at] the chimny cornar near his mothar, his mothar was saying to hur children She was Sorry hur husband was gone to mr. bishops without his Suppar, exspecteng he was gon to watch, for She feard he would be Sick for want of It. Bengiman tuttell replyeng verry Short, that he might have had It befor he went If he would. his mothar ansreng him a gaiene with this reply: (you ned not be Soo short), a pone wich he went out of the dooars, an when he was out his bothar bead his Sistar Sarrah, Shutt the dore, beang It Smockt, and as She went to Shut It, bengiman tuttall came In with Sumtheng In his hand and Spock these words anggarly: (Ile Shut the doar for you) and soo went to his mother and struck her one the right Sied of the heed with that he broght In his hand, but knoes not whethar It was an ax or other weppon; at wich blow She fell and nevar Spock nor groned more; and followd with Sevrell blows aftar She fell, Standeng over hur, a pone wich he rune out of doars and cried [two illegible words]. Just as he struck his mothar the furst blow, bengiman tuttell Sayed (I will tech you to Scold) and a pone thaire criyeng out, bengiman tuttell fled; There beeng no parson In the hous when the mistchef begun, to help them. Sarah Slason, dafter to Jno. and Sarah Slason, was a bout aged a bout niene yeares, declared the same varbattom.
Wee, the Juary, doe declare that the decklaratshon of the boy and the gurl as above was declared befor us by them, and doe Judg that the wund one her heed was the caus of her death, as witnes our hands".
Mercy Tuttle,the eleventh child of William & Elizabeth, was tried for killing her own son. Details from the accusations and the trials say:
"Mercy Tuttle, was born April 27, 1650. When only a young girl of 14 years old in 1664, she was accused, probably unjustly, of stealing and drinking liquor.
She married Samuel Brown in 1667. When she was 41 years of age, Mercy killed her seventeen-year-old son, Samuel, Jr. with an axe in the town of Wallingford. Samuel was wounded on June 23, 1691 and died six days later. The examination of his father, Samuel Brown, Sr., took place June 30, 1691:
1. Who gave the wounds? Ans. His wife. He heard heavy blows, started from his bed, and went to the chamber; found her by the bedside, striking with an axe in her hand. He stopped her and threw away the axe and went to the bed. She again got hold of the axe, and he seized it.
2. What was and had been the state of her mind? As rational as ever. She had attended to her business as usual. She hid the axe at night, under her apron.
Despite Samuel Brown's testimony as to the rational state of his wife's mind, he later added the information that "his poor wife said the day before, she would have the children buried in the barn." He replied, "They are well. Why talk so foolishly?" She replied, "Dreadful times are coming." Samuel and Sarah B[rown], hearing their mother talk so, Samuel asked her if she could kill him. "Yes," she replied, "if I thought it would not hurt you." Samuel Brown also noted that Mercy had "slept but little for two or three nights before."
Her husband stated that he had seen her give the blow with the axe and that he had "thought her sane that day", though he later pleaded in court that his wife's act had not been from malice but from "distraction". Joseph Brown, aged 24, lived in the house with his father, and testified October 2, 1691 that "she threw scalding water at him...he thinks her much out of her head." Simon Tuttle and his wife Abigail "think their sister Mercy was distracted that morning and before." Mary [sic s/b Martha], wife of John Moss, testified that "Mercy came to their house a little before the sad accident and wished Mr. Moss to look after her husband."
John and Mary Beach swore October 6, 1691 that Mercy had come to their house for fire that morning and appeared as usual, but Rachael Beach, aged 16, heard Mr. Beach say, "When she came out with the fire, she went down the hill towards the swamp, and he thought she was distracted." Jonathan Tuttle, Samuel Street, Jr. and J. Westwood thought Mercy "was shaken in her understanding," an opinion shared "by those who carried her to New Haven." Daniel Clark testified that "at times in prison she appeared distracted. About once a week she would exclaim against some person; and of late appears much grieved at giving offense to a person present, of which he was ignorant."
Mercy was tried before the Grand Jury under an indictment dated October 1, 1691. The Jury of Inquest on the body of Samuel Brown, Jr. found three wounds in his head which caused his death. Gerhsom Bulkley was attorney for the defense and Samuel Brown, Sr. was permitted to address the jury. He told the jury that Mercy could have no knowledge of her action, and reminded its members that an asylum was provided for the distracted. The jury's verdict was, however, "She wilfully killed her son Samuel." The judge intoned, "Mercy Brown, ye hath committed a most unnatural act...at the instigation of the divill...for which thou oughtest to die." Many in the towns people were in favor of Mercy's exoneration by virtue of insanity as she was obviously psychotic and delusional.
The appointed governor, Sir Edmund Andros, of the Dominion of New England, had interfered with colonial rights and customs. In 1689 the resentful colonists shipped him to England for trial. Amidst the mass confusion of the law and authority being removed, Mercy (Tuttle) Brown escaped execution and was still alive in 1695.
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