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

By Ava Chamberlain | Go to book overview

[ 4 ]
A CRIMINAL LUNATIC

A year after Mistress Tuttle’s death, the estate contest that had split her family was finally settled. Although her property was “equally divided between the children,” the administrators agreed to grant two significant additional bequests. The youngest son was awarded £39 “for his improvement of the said Estate,” indicating that his argument had proved persuasive. The court also ruled that David Tuttle “in consideration of his weakness is to have four pounds above either of the rest.”1 “Weakness” is an ambiguous word. It suggests that the fourth son suffered from a disability that required extra expense but provides no information about the nature of the affliction. Pursuing this small mystery reveals that in the years following the murder several fresh trials struck the Tuttle family. Benjamin’s wicked deed had many victims. His brother David’s weakness was not a chronic ailment or physical infirmity but a debilitating mental illness likely exacerbated by his experience of sudden and baffling loss. And the damage did not end there. Two of David’s younger sisters also broke down sometime after this tragedy. Mercy’s commission of a second shocking murder destroyed her household, while Elizabeth’s marriage experienced a lingering decline as she became increasingly unable to fulfill her spousal duties.

David Tuttle’s early life appears to have followed an ordinary course of development. As a young man he became a proprietor of the new village of Wallingford, receiving a home lot on its main thoroughfare and the right to shares in future divisions of its outlying lands.2 This acquisition of property signaled his intention to marry and start a family, but he never achieved this crucial marker of manhood. Because marriage was a prerequisite for household independence in colonial New England, few men failed to find a wife.3

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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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