TUTTLE, William & Elizabeth

Cliff McCarthy, 2017

The immigrant ancestors of the Tuttle family were William and Elizabeth Tuttle who left for the New World aboard the Planter in April 1635. Upon arrival at Boston, William (26 yrs), Elizabeth (23 yrs), and their children John (3 1/2 yrs), Anna (2 1/2 yrs), and Thomas (8 months) took up residence in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston. Elizabeth joined the First Church in Boston on July 24, 1636. Two more children were born there, as church records indicate that Jonathan and David were baptized in 1637 and 1639, respectively.

The Tuttles were from Ringstead, Northamptonshire, in England. William was described as a “husbandman” on the passenger list, meaning he was a landowner rather than a “farmer” who rented his land. Ava Chamberlain, in her book, The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle, describes the family this way:

“The Tuttles were a family of middling status, neither gentry nor landless poor, but prosperous landowners who made a living farming and raising sheep. The brothers’ father described himself as a “yeoman.” One step on the rural social ladder below the gentry, yeomen traditionally held land in freehold having an annual value of 40 shillings or more. In practice, however, yeomen were substantial farmers who earned incomes that could range anywhere from £40 to £200 a year, trading surplus agricultural products on the growing English commodities market. That the Tuttle patriarch was a freeholder is confirmed by a 1605 list that named him one of seven men of this status in the village of Ringstead. Given that this village had no resident gentry, Simon Tuttle and his fellow yeomen would have occupied a position at the top of the local hierarchy…”

William and Elizabeth came to Boston with two other Tuttle families who were undoubtedly related. Chamberlain claims that the Tuttle contingent on the Planter numbered at least 27 people, including three brothers, their families, their mother Isabella, and servants.

Tuttle Family Tree, from The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle, Illustration by John Luchin

Tuttle Family Tree, from The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle, Illustration by John Luchin

The family of Richard Tuttle, aged 42 according to the ship’s passenger list, remained in Boston. The family of John Tuttle, aged 39, located in Ipswich, Massachusetts. It was with his brother John in Ipswich that William Tuttle and others, owners of a ketch called the Zebulon, applied to the General Court for permission to arm the ship with two guns in order to begin trading guns to “the Indies.” Their application was denied.

In fact, while Elizabeth Tuttle was quickly accepted into the Boston church, William does not appear to have been accepted for admission. Not everyone who attended church services was eligible for “admission” to the church society, but membership was perhaps the most important pre-requisite for social advancement in Charlestown.


William & Elizabeth Tuttle and their children were original settlers of New Haven Colony

During these years, Rev. John Davenport and Theophilus Eaton, temporarily in Boston since 1637, were preparing to settle a new colony at Quinnipiac. William Tuttle joined these pioneers and was among them on the 4th day of June 1639, when the planters of the new colony gathered in Mr. Newman’s barn and signed the Fundamental Agreement establishing a government for New Haven colony, the most theocratic in the New World. Shortly thereafter, in September of 1639, Elizabeth was dismissed from the church in Boston in order to join the church in Ipswich. Likely, Elizabeth and the children stayed with John’s family in Ipswich until William could establish a home in New Haven. She was admitted to the church at New Haven in 1640. Rev. Davenport’s criteria for church membership were even stricter than in Boston, so again, William Tuttle was never granted church membership.

However, we can ascertain that William Tuttle was a very prominent and wealthy man, judging from his landholdings and his seat assignments in the meetinghouse. He was even given the honorable title of “Mister,” then rarely used and only for the most respected of men. He filled many positions of trust and responsibility in the community and was often called upon to resolve disputes, especially boundary disputes. In spite of his standing, he was fined in 1646 “for falling asleep at the watch-house.”

By 1641, William was the owner of a home lot bounded by present-day Grove, State, Elm, and Church streets (see the Brockett Map of New Haven). In 1656, Tuttle purchased from Joshua Atwater a mansion house and barn and 38 acres. This became the Tuttle homestead until Elizabeth’s death. William acquired other lands as time progressed and he has been described as one of the first landowners in East Haven, where there are locations called Tuttle’s Brook and Tuttle’s Hill.

He failed, however, in one of his grandest ventures — the Delaware Expedition. Several times the New Haven colonists attempted to establish a settlement at points on the Delaware river near what are now Salem, New Jersey and New Castle, Delaware. Each time the English settlers were thwarted and driven off by the Dutch and Swedish inhabitants. After an agreement with the Dutch governor at New Amsterdam was signed in 1650, another expedition was undertaken. William Tuttle was heavily involved in this project and when the Dutch reneged and threatened them with harm and imprisonment, the expedition collapsed and many people at New Haven saw great losses. It was a point of tense diplomatic times between the English and Dutch colonists and, in fact, contributed to the need for a defensive wall in New Amsterdam to protect the Dutch from possible attacks. That wall is remembered today by the street that bears its name — Wall Street.

In all, William and Elizabeth raised twelve children beginning with John, born in England in 1631, and ending with Nathaniel who was baptized in New Haven in 1652. It is with the children that the story takes a most tragic turn. William Tuttle died unexpectedly in early June 1673, leaving an estate worth over 500 pounds and no will. He had carefully distributed much of his real estate to his older sons, but there were still four “unsettled” sons. Unlike their older brothers, these young men struggled to marry and establish themselves as independent householders, and lack of paternal guidance was probably a factor.

As the head of a household of two people, widow Elizabeth Tuttle was granted land in the division of December 1680. Elizabeth was living with her youngest son Nathaniel when she passed away on December 30, 1684. Nathaniel presented her will to the court, but it was challenged by her children and it was disallowed. Wrangling continued over the estate until 1709. Both William and Elizabeth were buried on the old Green in New Haven, but the stones were relocated to Grove Street Cemetery in 1821.

William Tuttle’s descendants have been described as “famous for intellectual brilliance and, in some cases, for homicidal insanity.” The story of the Tuttle children is vividly elaborated by Sybil Smith, writing in Ancestry magazine. She postulates that many of the Tuttle children showed symptoms of manic depressive disorder. Another source, a book entitled, The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle, by Ava Chamberlain, also describes in detail the family’s troubles. What follows is a review of the difficulties faced by some of the Tuttle children.

After the deaths of his parents, the above-named Nathaniel Tuttle, the youngest son, was called before the court several times for his profane lifestyle and contempt for authority. He was involved in several fights and seems to have had a violent streak.

Son David was considered “incompetent” and was cared for at home or, later, by his brother Thomas. He died unmarried in 1693. Thomas, David’s caregiver, was a respected cooper in New Haven. He received David’s lands, by agreement, in exchange for his care. It is through Thomas that we are related to the Tuttles.

Daughter Sarah scandalized the family in 1660 by exchanging kisses with a Dutch sailor, Jacob Melyen, an act which was described as “imodest, uncivell (sic), wanton, lascivious,” and for which she and the sailor were fined twenty shillings apiece. She was brutally murdered by her brother Benjamin in April 1676.

Benjamin murdered his sister Sarah with an ax after an argument. He ran away and hid in the woods, but was later hanged for his crime.

Daughter Elizabeth was pregnant with another man’s child when she married Richard Edwards in November 1667. Edwards was first denied and then granted a divorce from her, allowing him to marry his mistress, Mary Talcott. The divorce included ample testimony as to Elizabeth’s “distraction,” a term widely used in those times as a code-word for mental illness. Nothing more is recorded of Elizabeth’s later life. Her son Timothy was the father of the Puritan minister Jonathan Edwards and a more distant ancestor of Aaron Burr.

In her History of Hamden, Connecticut, Rachel Hartley had this to say about Jonathan Tuttle:

“Jonathan Tuttle, son of William who came to New Haven in 1639, was one of the Wallingford ‘covenanters.’ According to the North Haven Annals, he located on the Quinnipiac [River] in 1670 and built a bridge across the river, at which he was allowed to take toll. It is hard to imagine and great revenue accruing to him from the fees collected for crossing his bridge in so sparsely settled a neighborhood. In 1683 he offered to exchange his Third Division land for some nearer the Blue Hills.”

Mercy was charged with, but acquitted of, stealing and drinking liquor at age fourteen. In June of 1691, she killed her own son, Samuel, with an ax. She stood trial for the crime, in which her husband, Samuel Brown, testified as to her “dystraction” and several other relatives supported his testimony. She was deemed insane and was spared a capital punishment, but nothing is known of her ultimate fate.


Children of William & Elizabeth TUTTLE

WILLIAM TUTTLE was born Abt. 1607 in Ringstead, Northamptonshire, England, and died June 1673 in New Haven, CT.  He married ELIZABETH.  She was born 1612 in England, and died 30 December 1684 in New Haven, New Haven Co., CT. The Children of WILLIAM TUTTLE and ELIZABETH are:

i.    JOHN TUTTLE, b. Abt. 1631, Ringstead, Northampton, England; d. 12 November 1683; m. KATTAREEN LANE, 8 November 1653, New Haven, CT.
ii.    ANNE “HANNAH” TUTTLE, b. Abt. 1632, England; d. 9 August 1683, Hartford, CT; m. (1) JOSHUA JUDSON; d. 1661, Stratford, CT; m. (2) JOHN HURD, JR., 10 December 1662, Stratford, CT.
iii.    THOMAS TUTTLE, b. Bef. 1 March 1634/35, Ringstead, Northampton, England; d. 19 October 1710, New Haven, CT; m. HANNAH POWELL, 21 May 1661, New Haven, CT; b. August 1641, New Haven, CT; d. 15 October 1710.
iv.    JONATHAN TUTTLE, b. Abt. 1637, prob. Charlestown, MA; d. 1705, New Haven, CT; m. REBECCA BELL; b. August 1643; d. 2 May 1676, New Haven, CT.
v.    DAVID TUTTLE, b. Abt. 1639, prob. Charlestown, MA; d. 1693, New Haven, CT.
vi.    JOSEPH TUTTLE, b. Abt. 1640, prob. New Haven, CT; d. September 1690, New Haven, CT; m. HANNAH MUNSON, 2 May 1667, New Haven, CT; d. 30 November 1695, Guilford, CT.
vii.    SARAH TUTTLE, b. April 1642; d. 17 November 1676, Stamford, CT; m. JOHN SLAUSON, 22 November 1663, New Haven, CT; d. 16 October 1706, Stamford, Fairfield Co., CT.
viii.    ELIZABETH TUTTLE, b. 1645, New Haven, CT; d. 1688; m. (1) poss.. JOSEPH PRESTON; m. (2) RICHARD EDWARDS, 19 November 1667, New Haven, CT; b. 1 May 1647, Hartford, CT; d. 20 April 1718, Hartford, CT.
ix.    SIMON TUTTLE, b. 22 March 1646/47, New Haven, CT; d. 16 April 1719, Wallingford, CT; m. ABIGAIL; d. August 1722.
x.    BENJAMIN TUTTLE, b. 1648; d. 13 June 1677, Hartford, CT.
xi.    MERCY TUTTLE, b. 27 April 1650, New Haven, CT; m. SAMUEL BROWN, 2 May 1667, New Haven, CT; b. 1645; d. 4 November 1691, Wallingford, CT.
xii.    NATHANIEL TUTTLE, b. 24 February 1652/53, New Haven, CT; d. 20 August 1721, Woodbury, CT; m. SARAH HOWE, 10 August 1682, New Haven, CT; b. 25 January 1654/55, New Haven, CT; d. November 1743, Woodbury, CT.



  • Chamberlain, Ava, The Notorious Elizabeth Tuttle, New York University Press, New York, 2012.
  • Coldham, Peter Wilson, Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987.
  • Cooper, Agnes Thomson and John Bradley Cooper, Beginnings: Thomas Cooper of Springfield & Some Allied Families,  (Gateway Press, Inc.: Baltimore, MD, 1987).
  • Cutter, William Richard, et al, Genealogical and Family History of the State of Connecticut, Vols. 1-4, New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1911.
  • Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, Historical Catalogue of the Members of the First Church of Christ in New Haven, CT,  (New Haven, CT, 1914).
  • Greene, David L., “The Children of Richard Tuttle of Boston,” The American Genealogist, Vol. 56, p. 143.
  • Greene, David L., “The Origin of John Tuttle of Ipswich, MA,” The American Genealogist, Vol. 54, p. 167.
  • Hotten, John Camden, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality, 1600-1700, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986.
  • Jackson, Ronald Vern, Joseph Smith Family,  (Jacksonian Enterprises: Bountiful, UT, 1980).
  • Jacobus, Donald Lines, Families of Ancient New Haven.
  • Jacobus, Donald Lines and Edgar Francis Waterman, Hale, House, and Related Families, Hartford, CT: Connecticut Historical Society, 1952.
  • Jacobus, Donald Lines, “Tuttle, Pantry, Judson, Hurd: An Important Correction,” The American Genealogist, Vol. 30, p. 7-10.
  • MacKenzie, George Norbury, Colonial Families of the United States of America, Vol. IV,  (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore, MD, reprint 1996).
  • Roberts, Gary Boyd, Notable Kin, Vol. 2,  (Carl Boyer, 3rd: Santa Clarita, CA, 1999).
  • Smith, Sybil, “What Is It With Those Tuttles?” Ancestry, Vol. 13, No. 3, May/June 1995.
  • Tuttle, George Frederick, The Descendants of William and Elizabeth Tuttle, Rutland, VT: Tuttle and Co., 1883.

One thought on “TUTTLE, William & Elizabeth

  1. Can anyone tell me about land that Joseph and Elizabeth Tuttle Sold Capt. William Rhodes on June 25, 1698 consisting of a mansion house and home stead of arable land, orcha
    rds etc bounded by Samuel Todd Jr. and John Pain and west by the highway. Was wondering more about the purchase and the property. Thank you.


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