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

By Ava Chamberlain | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

In December 1693 Hannah Tuttle, the widow of the fifth Tuttle brother, appeared in New Haven County Court and accused a man named Daniel Sperry of slandering her late husband, Joseph, who had died in September 1690. In the intervening three years another awful providence had been visited upon the large Tuttle clan.1 Once again, a family member had been butchered in a baffling act of intimate violence; once again, a family member had been convicted of homicide. Unlike Benjamin, Mercy had not been executed for her crime. Judged incompetent by the court, she had been sentenced to confinement in New Haven and, after a two-year incarceration in Hartford, had returned to her hometown in the custody of the local magistrates. This scandalous crime surely got tongues wagging, but it was not the only newsworthy event that had afflicted the Tuttle family in recent years. As we have seen, David, having lost his precarious hold on reality, had been placed in the guardianship of his brother, and Elizabeth had lost her home and children after a long and ugly legal battle. Divorced and alone, she also likely found her mental state in decline.

This cluster of tragedies surely shocked the Tuttles’ friends and neighbors. Some may have looked suspiciously upon the family; others likely feared having a criminal lunatic in their town. Hannah’s slander suit, brought in the months following her infamous sister-in-law’s return to New Haven, provides a small clue to community sentiment. She charged Sperry with spreading false reports about the circumstances of her husband’s death. Rumors, as the historian Mary Beth Norton has observed, were part of the “small politics of the neighborhood.” Gossiping about neighbors “played a vital role as community members reached their collective

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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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