Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thomas Durfee

"Thomas Durfee when about 21 had an affair with Ann Hill (about 33), who was married to Peter Tallman, (about 42.) After Tallman divorced Ann in 1665, she and Tom continued their relationship. While she was very likely the mother of his eldest son Robert Durfee, born around the time of the divorce trial, she may or may not have been the mother of his subsequent five children. They very likely never married."

-- c/o Rick Durfey Balmer

"In 1664, Peter Tallman brought suit against Thomas Durfee, complaining that Durfee's attitude toward Tallman's wife, Ann, was disrespectful. Tallman said that Durfee's insolent carriage placed him in danger. The court sent for Durfee and advised him to behave. They were too discreet to reveal whether Durfee was gossiping about Ann Tallman, saying rude things to her or courting her attention. The last is doubtful as Peter's son Benjamin married Patience Durfee, Tom Durfee's daughter, in 1708. Tallman would never have permitted the marriage of his son to the daughter of a man who seduced his wife. Of course, that was the year that Peter Tallman dies so the possibility cannot be ruled out completely. The reason the situation with Durfee seems significant is that about seven months later, in May 1665, Peter filed for divorce from his wife , accusing her of adultery. In the Puritan colonies, adultery was a capital offense, though seldom punished to the full degree of the law. In Rhode Island, as well, adultery was a serious offense, but it was not punishable by death. According to the testimony in court, Ann Tallman wrote a letter to Peter Tallman informing his that her youngest daughter was not his. After hearing the letter read to her, Ann confessed to adultery. The court sentenced her to a fine of ten pounds and ordered that she be whipped. She was to receive fifteen lashes in Portsmouth, and the following week, fifteen lashes in Newport. She requested mercy of the court. In considering her petition, the Assembly asked if she was willing to reconcile with her husband, 'to which her answer was, that she would rather cast herselfe on the mercy of God if he take away her life, than to returne' That certainly makes Tallman sound as though he were hard to live with. With Tallman's frequent travel to New Amsterdam for business and the other host cities of colonial government, Newport, Warwick and Providence; it is clear that Ann Tallman was home alone a good portion of the year. This may have loosened her marriage bonds enough to risk the significant dangers of adultery. Ann Tallman was sent to jail to await the carrying out of her sentence, but she escaped and fled to her brother in Virginia. In 1667, she returned to the colony and a warrant was issued for her arrest. Rather than being punished for her escape, she was rewarded. Her fine was forgiven and her sentence was cut in half. Instead of fifteen lashes in Portsmouth and Newport, she would only be whipped in Newport..."


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