The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder, and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards

By Ava Chamberlain | Go to book overview

PROLOGUE

On the morning of the last Tuesday in May 1690, Richard Edwards was perhaps carefully planing the edge of a pipe stave or tamping a hoop into place around a finished cask. He would not, however, spend this day working in his cooper’s shop. Having more important business, he took off his apron, set aside his mallet and driver, picked up a thick bundle of papers, and set out for Sandford’s Inn, where the Connecticut Court of Assistants met for its twiceyearly sessions.1 As he entered the court chamber, Edwards likely felt confident that his case was strong. He had obtained two witnesses to substantiate his charges, having persuaded his oldest children to testify in a sworn deposition to their mother’s “great obstinacy and averseness against our Father.” He had also solicited the support of several local divines, who judged that the “Scriptures seem to allow a Husband Some (limited) personal power in putting away his wife.”2 His petition, which had been composed almost a year earlier, filled more than eight closely written quarto-sized pages. When his case was called to the bench, he submitted this lengthy document to the Assistants and presented his argument. In the petition he describes a long train of abuse that he claims his wife began in the early days of their marriage and continued with only a few periods of remission for almost twenty-three years. He also includes an extended exegesis of several New Testament texts to demonstrate that scripture permits divorce for “Any Esencyall Breech of the marage Bond.”3 Despite these weighty evidences and arguments, however, the court postponed its ruling.

This delay gave the Assistants additional time to consider the defendant’s response to her husband’s allegations. As a young woman, Elizabeth Tuttle had married and moved from New Haven to Hartford, where the Edwards

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The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle: Marriage, Murder, and Madness in the Family of Jonathan Edwards
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Note on Sources xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Prologue 11
  • 1- Hardy Puritan Pioneers 13
  • 2- Three Struggling Patriarchs 35
  • 3- A Brutal Murder 61
  • 4- A Criminal Lunatic 85
  • 5- A Messy Divorce 109
  • 6- The Inheritance 139
  • 7- Blood Will Tell 159
  • Conclusion 191
  • Notes 201
  • Index 247
  • About the Author 258
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