Elizabeth & Mercy Tuttle

Mercy Tuttle, the eleventh child of William & Elizabeth, 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 for murder 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." Yet many in the town spoke in favor of Mercy's being exonerated, albeit by virtue of insanity. It is fair to say that Mercy was delusional and psychotic.

Sir Edmund Andros, who had been appointed in 1686 as governor of the Dominion of New England, had interfered with colonial rights and customs. In 1689 the resentful colonists deposed and arrested him and in the following year shipped him to England for trial. In the confusion of the law and authority resulting from the removal of Sir Edmund from office, Mercy (Tuttle) Brown escaped execution. She was still living in 1695.

Elizabeth Tuttle, the eighth child of William & Elizabeth Tuttle, married Richard Edwards November 19, 1667. Elizabeth early on showed signs of an impetuous nature and lack of decorum which was quite at odds with the Puritan standards of the day.

From the minutes of "A County Court holden by adjournment at Hartford, 1668" came this note:

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 [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.

Richard subsequently learned that he was not the father of the first child, Mary, and on July 2, 1689, he filed a petition to divorce her. He rather plaintively based his divorce action 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 wordsÉhee 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 mo. 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 despite the fact that Elizabeth's two eldest 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, in October 1691, a council of "able divines" (including the famous Rev. Thomas Hooker and Rev. Increase Mather) were assembled to consider the divorce action again. At that time Richard Edwars made a second, more long-winded plea. By then he was calling himself an attorney, though he was self-taught. Besides, he needed to be free to marry Mary Talcott, with whom he was having sex. In fact, Mary Talcott had been fined for fornication with him.

On top of that, Mercy Brown, Elizabeth's sister, had killed her son the previous spring and her brother Benjamin had been executed for murdering their sister, Sarah prior to that. It became clear that Elizabeth herself was, at times, not in her right mind, and often threatened to murder her husband while he was asleep. Surely the judges would understand that Richard's fear of Elizabeth was not unfounded. The upshot of this second plea was that the ministers decided "it is not within the compass of human power to deny him a divorce." Edwards was granted the divorce and eventually married Mary Talcott, with whom he had six children.

After the divorce, there is no record of Elizabeth ever marrying again. Nor was the date of her death recorded, which leads one to believe that she may have been leading a marginal existence by the time she died. It is possible, too, that she committed suicide. Suicide was a grave sin in those times, and a person who had committed suicide could not be buried in a cemetery. Perhaps she had wandered to another, wilder part of the country and died in an area where records were not kept.

Ironically, Elizabeth Tuttle was the ancestor of a family that was to have an amazing 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. Jonathan Edwards married a Pierpont. His descendants went on to be influential ministers, college presidents, financiers, surgeons and judges. Perhaps the most famous descendant was Aaron Burr.


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See lineage of Tuttle Family

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's bizarre sister, Sarah Tuttle

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's father, William Tuttle

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's grandfather, Symon Tuttle

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's great grandfather, Richard Tuttle

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's great, great grandfather, Thomas Tuttle

Read the Biography of Elizabeth & Mercy's brother, Simon Tuttle

Read the Biography of Simon's son, Timothy Tuttle

Read the Biography of Simon's grandson, Simon Tuttle

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