Case of Israel Dibble & Deborah Bartlett

This comes from a hand-written document which is part of the Samuel Wyllys papers held in Connecticut State Library. You can see the scanned document online. I have tried to decipher the hand-writing below, but some of it is illigible to me. For my purposes, it gives quite a few relationships within the family of Thomas Dibble, plus perhaps a little about what they felt about each other! It's a good story in its own right. It's a shame that we never heard the verdict...

Page 1 - Accusation

March i 68:69: Benjamin Bartlet did complain to me against his wife that shee had comitted adultery with Israell Dibble.

The same day Deborah Bartlett being Brought before me did confesse that she had comitted adultery with Israell Dibble.

March 1 68:69: Thomas Dibble Senr doth binde himselfe in the somme of one hundred pounds to this consideration that his sonne Israell Dibble shall appeare at the Countie Court at Hartford on Thursday next to answere to such complaints as there shall be made against him.

Acknowledged before me       Henry Wolcot

I gave the Constable Sargeant Blouditr Allford charge of the woman until further order from the Court.

Page 2 - Warrant

Thoise are in his Majesties name to require you to bring before me at my house this day at one of the clock in the afternoon:

Israell Dibble and Deborah the wife of Benjamin Bartlet to answer the complaint of the said Benjamin Bartlet the woman's husband for suspition of adultory faile not

You are allsoe to warne all such parsons to appeare as wittnesses as the said Benjamin shall name unto you.

March the 1:68 Henry Wolcot Assistant
To the Constables
of Windsore or either
of them

Page 3 - Testimony of Samuell Dible and Hephsiba Dible his wife

Samll Dible & Hephsiba Dible his wife testify that ye next day after they were married they were at ye house of their Brother Benjamen Barlet & Benjamen Bartlet went for a botle of syder: & in ye time while he was gone his wife was out of ye house in a litl space of time Israell Dible went out after her & they both continued out about ye space of half an hour: & Benjamen Bartlet coming in and not finding his wife inquired for her & called her But could have no answer. A all space after she came in & a small space after her he came in.

Further Samll Dible testifies that when she came in her husband asked her where she had bin she said at Thomas Fowler & they asked him where he had bin he said at neiburs house & they perceived that his knees had bin in the dirt: and her coat had also ? of dirt by which as allso her light carriage afterward they were suspitious that they had bin uaught together & informed her husband of it.

Hephsiba Dible futher testified that ye next daiy following she had discours with her abut it in Benjamen Barlets chamber & she tould her that she had commited ye act with Israell Dible & her life was in her husband's hand & Samll Dible testifies ye same.

Written sideways in the margin

Samuel Dible says that he cannot say that they went out of the house but only out of the room they were in to another
rest he speaks to: sworn to ye court
May 26 . 69 . Attns John Allyn Secty

Page 4 - Written on back of previous page

This is written of the back of the previous page. It is very hard to read since it is faint and the other side's writing shows through. It is also strange since it does not seem to be a testimony, or signed by anyone, or witnessed by anyone. The first few lines are impossible to read and then it is clearer near the centre. The last few lines seem clear enough, but it might be my imagination running away with me! See the original transcript and see if you can do better!

and as she was waiting her husband came
in and asked for her we tould we could not see
.......... talking together .......... suspitious
.......... The next day ...... told us
Israel took her by the arm & layd her downe
& would have forced her but she said she would cry out
He sayd he would stop her mouth with his Glove

Page 5 is a magnification of page 4

Page 6 - Further testimony of Samuell Dible and Hephsiba Dible his wife

To the Honrabol court, I present for information though our first concern was so as we have already given in, conserning the dirt of his keenes, upon more serious consideration, the cause of that might might be with Drawing of sider in a dirty sillor and the more cause we have to think so by reason of the snow was then so deep on the grownd, and concerning thire going forth of doore we cannot say they went forth of the doore at that time, but out of the roome whoure we ware though thay came in at the doore afterward

Samuell Dibell
Haphzibah Diebll H her mark

Page 7 - faint on back of previous page

Testimony concerning Israel Dible and Deborah Barlet about

? Assistant ?

March 2 1668

Page 8 - Testimony of Thomas Dible (senior) and Ebenezer Dible his son

The testimony Thomas Dible aged 55 years

I do testify that my son Sammel and Hephsibah his wife say that they could not say that their brother Israel went out of the house but out of that room I do further testify that it being demanded why they did not testify to the whole truth when they wer at Mr. Wolcott they sayd they wer not coled [called] to testify for him then but they would testify for ther brother Israel when they were coled fo it

Ebenezer Dible aged 21 years or there about do testify the sam with his father above written

Page 9 - More testimony of Thomas Dible (senior) and Thomas Dible his son

This testimony of Thomas Dible aged 55 years old and Thomas Dible his son aged 21 years testifies that Benjamin Barlet did say that he wrnt out that next morning to see and he further sed he was apt to thinks that which was sed to be dun was not dun where she sed it was but sumwhere else

owned By Ben: Barlet
May 26 69

Page 10 - Testimony of Jone Dible and Mary Ann Dible

Thie testimony of Jone Dible aged 55 years and Mary Ann Dible aged 22 years or there abouts do both testify that we heard Sammuel Dible and Hephsiba his wife say they did think their brother Israel was not gilty of that bisnis about ther sister Deborah

Page 11 - Testimony of Miriam Dibbell

Worshipfull Sirs I doe here testify that the first night after the wedding when my brother Israel came home he pulled off his stockings & they were so wett & dirty that I pind them up by the foot that the knees might be dryed out by the fire and the second night when he came home again I said his stockings were wet & dirty He said that they were now rather worse than the night before because now in kneeling down to bore(?) the barrell lower to draw I overturned a dish that stood under the barrell to save the droppings. This witnesseth

the marks of Miriam Dibbell

This testimony sworn in court May 26 1669
      ? John Asstn Secy

Page 12 - More Testimony of Miriam Dibbell

Mariam Deble sayeth that day a little before night the night she sayeth this act was don, she was ought in the orchard and the snow as fare as she could see was of a great deapth. Mirriam Deble of age 22 years

March 17 68/69       Sworn in court May 26 ? Asst John Allyn Secy

Page 13 - Testimony of Thomas Deble junior

Thomas Deble junior of the age of 21 years about sayeth that about an hower before sonnset that night the woman sayeth the act was don he road into the orchyard to gather a stick for his horse and then the snow was of a great depth as of ? in that orchyard to the best of my remembrance

March 17th 68/69       Thomas Dibel


First we can confirm several names, relationships and ages. I'm just going to use the name Dibble. These documents use various forms of the name.

Thomas Dibble senior is 55 years old. It is 1669, so Thomas is born around 1614, which matches with his age on the passenger list of the boat that brought him over. This certainly links up the Thomas in England, the Thomas in Dorchester and the Thomas in Windsor. Which is nice...

Samuel Dibble is the son of Thomas, senior. He is married to Hephsiba, and Benjamin Barlet is their brother, so this was Hephsiba Barlet. The alleged 'act' was 'dun' the day after their wedding, which was on 21 Jan 1669. This all fits. And explains the snow.

Israel Dibble is the son of Thomas Dibble senior, and the brother of Samuel Dibble (and seems to be causing the family a lot of trouble!)

Ebenezer Dibble is the son of Thomas Dibble senior. He is 21 years old "or there about". This does not match his birth date as we know it. See Ebenezer's page for a discussion of this.

Thomas Dible junior aged 21 years old is the son of Thomas Dibble senior. This fits with our other evidence. By the way, if Ebenezer was 21 as well, then he and Thomas would have to be twins, which seems unlikely!

Mirriam Deble is 22 years old and the sister of Israel and so daughter of Thomas Dibble senior. This fits as well.

Finally, we have a mysterious Jone Dible aged 55 years and Mary Ann Dible aged 22 years. These are very strange! They sound like part of the family, although they do not give any relationship. But to have another 55 year old Dibble would mean someone who travelled from England, and there is no other record of a John Dibble on a ship or in Dorchester. There is a Windsor tax reference of 1675 to "T.Deble Jr, Ebns Debble, Jno. Debble". But you would have though that Thomas Dibble senior would be taxed, and he was alive at the time. And the age of "Jone Dible" is the same as Thomas Dibble in these testimonies. So I really do wonder if this "Jone" or "Jno." is really "Tom", that is, Thomas Dibble senior himself. Then perhaps Mary Anne Dible is Mirriam Dibble. The spellings of these names are very variable in these testimonies, and from the hand-writings they are obviously drawn up by different people. But if you still want to keep a 55 year old John Dibble, born in England, and presumably Thomas' brother, (although hopefully not another twin!) it is certainly true that there are John Dibbles in a generation or two, and names often run in families.

What actually happened?

It seems that the night after Samuel Dibble and Hepsiba Barlet got married, they and Israel Dibble were spending the evening at the home of Benjamin and Deborah Barlet, as the two families were now connected. Benjamin went out for a bottle of cider. When he came back, both his wife and Israel Dibble were not there. They turned up later, and made some lame excuses as to where they had been. Everyone was most suspicious, as they had been gone some time, and Israel had dirt on his knees(!) They thought that Israel and Deborah had been out together. Later Deborah admited to Hephsiba that something had happened and she was afraid of her husband.

The infuriatingly indecipherable page seems to hint that Deborah was accusing Israel of rape. If she was found guilty of adultery, there might be a death sentence (I think) so an accusation of rape might be her defence. But this page does not look like a testimony. It is interesting that there is no testimony of Israel, Deborah or indeed Benjamin.

What seems certain at first, though, is that Samuel and Hepsiba are supporting Benjamin's accusation of adultery.

However, adultery was bad enough, but if it became a case of rape... Thomas Dibble senior had posted bail for £100, a lot of money, so he is obvoously supporting his son. It is easy to imagine that a family meeting of the Dibbles was privately convened, while they tried to work out a defence for Israel. Samuel and Hephsiba could not change their testimony, as that would be perjury, which was also serious. So the family thought hard.

If it was rape, it had to take place outside or they would have heard, and there seems to be a suggestion that Deborah said it had (although we don't have that, unless it's in one of the unreadble bits). But suddenly they remembered that there had been deep snow. You would have more than dirty knees 'doing the act' in that!

Mirriam came up with the explanation of the dirty knees. She said that Israel had told her that he had gone into the cellar to draw cider, and upset the slops dish under the tap.

Then Samuel and Hephsiba said (or were made to say!) that they had not seen Israel and Deborah go outside the house. They had seen them leave the room, true, but not actually go outside.

Now this (imaginary) family meeting had to decide who backed up which story. Then follows all the further testimonies, including Samuel and Hephsiba's quiet back-tracking. Thomas Dibble senior pointed out that their first testimony was for the prosecution. Now, on reflection, they were giving evidence for the defence. Ebenezer, Thomas and Miriam Dibble said their pieces. And Thomas Dibble senior even got Benjamin Barlet tpo agree that the 'act' could not have taken place where Deborah said it would. Benjamin said it happened somewhere else, but everyone seems to have glossed over this possibility. The idea seems to be that by discrediting one part of Deborah's statement, she would be thought to be a liar, and the confession discredited as well.

So what was the verdict? We don't know, but it looks from internet genealogies that not only did Israel and Deborah live after this point, they continued to have children with their partners, so there was no divorce (which did happen in cases of adultery). Perhaps the magistrate really did not want this case. He had to hear it once the accusation was made, but a guilty verdict would split the town apart, especially once Israel Dibble had the support of his family.

Also, I wonder what did happen? Perhaps Israel went down the cellar to help himself to Benjamin's cider (which was where he got his dirty knees). By the time he got back, he found that Deborah had been somewhere as well, and they were both facing accusations of adultery. Deborah lost her head and started talking about rape. Or perhaps they were getting up to something together, I hope consensually!

I do wonder if the Bartlets and the Dibbles ever spoke to each other again!