STRANGE GH: The legend of Mrs. Tuttle

Oct 3, 2011

If you happen to see the ghost of a woman walking a phantom horse late at night on Buchanan Street in Robinson Township, say “hello” to Mrs. Tuttle. You’ll know when she is coming when the dogs howl. And as she passes by, the hounds will go silent.

Mrs. Tuttle was not shy about entering homes along her twilight path and was said to blow her breath into the face of sleeping people.

Legend has it that Mrs. Tuttle was a witch who lived in the mid-to-late 1800s and had met her end when she was lynched by frightened neighbors.

For the record, no individual has ever been lynched in Ottawa County. 

While the origin of the legend is difficult to trace, the history of a Tuttle family in Ottawa County and their ancestors who arrived in America is fairly well-documented.

A “Mrs. Tuttle” connection to Buchanan Street in Robinson Township can be narrowed to two individuals: Fannie and Delilah Tuttle.

Fannie Tuttle is buried in the Robinson Township Cemetery, which is located on Buchanan Street near the intersection of 120th Avenue. Born Fanny Jarvel in 1872, she married Peolo Marion Tuttle in March 1907. Fannie was hardly a witch, and died of natural causes.

Fannie’s in-laws, James and Delilah Tuttle, lived on Buchanan Street beginning in 1901 on 40 acres of farmland. Delilah Tuttle would have walked and ridden her horse on Buchanan Street during that period. However, she was said to me a simple housewife, not a witch — and died of old age in Holland after 1930.

Delilah’s husband, James, was the great-grandson of William Tuttle, who came to America from England in 1635. Perhaps the “Tuttle” tale actually begins in New Haven, not Grand Haven, as William Tuttle was one of the original founders of New Haven, Conn. He and his wife Elizabeth had 12 children.

One of those children, Mercy Tuttle (Brown), killed her 17-year-old son Samuel in June 1691, using an ax because she wanted to spare him from the agony of the impending rapture. At the murder trial, the presiding judge stated Mrs. Tuttle’s actions were “an instigation of the devil.”

Her estranged husband, Samuel Brown, testified that his wife was “delusional and psychotic,” and prone to “hearing voices” in her head.

A descendant, Hanna Tuttle, one of William Tuttle’s 11 other children, said she believes Mercy Tuttle might have thought she was a witch. The ancestor is a licensed practicing psychiatric nurse.

“Events of the time may have influenced Mercy Tuttle,” Hanna said. “The infamous Salem Witch Trials were about to begin (1692), and in 1688 Cotton Mather had published a sensational account of four Boston witches. If Mercy was having auditory hallucinations, ‘hearing voices,’ she may have thought she herself was a witch.”

Does this have anything to do with the ghost of a “Mrs. Tuttle” seen walking her horse on Buchanan Street? Maybe not, but legends routinely have a trace of truth somewhere. Regardless, a few folks who grew up on or near Buchanan Street still recall being told the creepy tale of the ghost of Mrs. Tuttle when they were kids.

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