Sarah Tuttle was merely a flirt, but two separate incidents have guaranteed her place in history. At a court held in New Haven, May 1, 1660, Jacob Murline and Sarah Tuttle were prosecuted for "sinful dalliance". They were accused of "sitting down on a chest together, his arm about her waist and her arm upon his should or about his neck, and continuing in this sinful position about half an hour, in which time he kissed her and she kissed him, and they kissed one another", as the witnesses testify. This complaint was made by Sarah's father under a law that whosoever should 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, should 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."
Jacob was asked what he had to say to these things; to which 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 characterized by the court as a "bold virgin" who had better mend her ways. She said meekly that she would. Jacob was set free and told to shun such virgins as 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."
Sarah Tuttle died at the hands of her brother, Benjamin on November 17, 1676. Twenty-nine year old Benjamin made his family's name in history with that rather indelicate instrument, the ax. That night he began quarreling with sister, Sarah. A fragment of paper preserved in the CT State Archives contains a statement by Benjamin.
In it he said that he was with his sister, that they had had a falling out, that he was afraid she would do to him what he had done to her, and that he had no love for her. He and Sarah may have been arguing about the division of their dead father's considerable property, or perhaps Sarah made a disparaging remark about their sister, Elizabeth, who was showing signs of an impetuous nature and lack of decorum which was quite at odds with the Puritan standards of the day. Benjamin may have reminded Sarah that she was no angel; she had scandilized the town in her youth by publicly exchanging kisses with a Dutch sailor, for which she and the sailor were fined.
Whatever the quarrel was about, Benjamin resolved it in a terrible, final manner. He went to the barn, got an ax, returned to the house and struck Sarah on the head, "maulling & mashing her head to many pieces in a barbarous and bloudy maner." Benjamin then ran away and hid in the woods, but was later apprehended and tried and 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.
"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 Tutle late of Stamford that not haveing 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.
Sources & Further Reading
* Tuttle Family in America, Descendants of Symon of Ringstead, Eng. Vol III - From "Tuttle-Tuthill Lines in America" compiled by Alva M. Tuttle, Edited by Gwen Campbell, Solo Press, Keno, Oregon
* What Is It With Those Tuttles?; Sybil Smith; Ancestry Magazine, Vol. 24, No. 3, May/June 1995
* The Descendants of William and Elizabeth Tuttle; George Frederick Tuttle; Rutland, VT, 1883
* New Haven Town Records, pp. 450 - 452
* Connecticut State Archives, pp. 68 - 69
* The Way Our People Lived; William E. Woodward; Washington Square Press. 10
They had nine children. 9