“All hope for saving their marriage ended when Sarah decided to become a Roman Catholic.”
While living in Italy, Sarah Hart, became a Roman Catholic. She chose what religion she wanted to follow. It was a Free Country. The right-wing sob over the lie that folks who are not one of them are taking away their Freedom of Religion. Sarah’s divorce attorney was the grandson of a Signer of the Constitution who defended slaves. Sarah must be the Sarah buried in her sister Jannette’s Catholic grave yard. It would be wonderful to see if a black slave is there as well, for here are American Women who were Abolitionists and promoters of a Woman’s Right to choose her Faith. A DNA test is called for.
Sarah and Jannette would want it.
Sarah Hart became a Liberated Woman before she divorced her husband who believed it was his calling to spread his brand of Christianity all over the world. Commodore Hull appears to have employed the Hart sisters in spreading Democracy all over the world. Sarah found out the difference, being, Men of God hate equality and equal rights.
Here is the misogynist rant of Mark Presco who was proud to see Vicki Presco and Heather Hanson in his camp, they proving his point that most women are after men’s money.
Their marriage had all the appearances of an arrangement made in heaven. He was the son of the second Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut, graduate of Yale, wealthy, an ordained and scholarly minister. She was a beautiful and spirited oldest daughter of Elisha Hart, a prominent Saybrook merchant.
And, on a warm summer day in July 1810, the Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis (1786-1851) married Miss Sarah McCurdy Hart (1787-1863) at St. Michael’s Church in Bloomingdale, New York, his first parish.
But, as sometimes happens, this was a mismatch that was made far from heaven.
Samuel has been described as serious, humorless, proud, and extremely stubborn. Sarah as high strung and quick tempered. They soon annoyed, angered and then infuriated each other.
When Samuel told Sarah he would be having a few ministers for tea, he asked her to serve a “light supper.” A few evenings later when they were invited into the dining room, there was nothing on the table but lighted candles. Not funny.
On one occasion, Sarah reported that he punched her several times on the side of her head and that her pain required the attention of a doctor. She was confined to her room for more than a week during which time her husband never spoke to her.
At another time her daughter spilled a drop of ink on her book and Dr. Jarvis grabbed the book and struck the child in the face. Sarah protested the harsh punishment. He then “seized her by the nose, and held and wrung that with one hand, while with the other he beat her violently on the side of the head.”
The physical abuse was not all. A “German female was employed in the family as governess” and Sarah claimed that Dr. Jarvis showed her “a very improper partiality” and bestowed upon her “those civilities which belong only to a wife.” His devotion to another, Sarah said, was “calculated to render of wife broken hearted.”
Sarah was unwilling to take on the role of the minister’s wife, causing some to question his career. After six years at St. Paul’s Church in Boston, Samuel moved his family to Italy.
With the change of scenery marital life was no better. Samuel pursued few pastoral duties. Along with drinking half a gallon of sherry each day he spent most of his time studying, writing, and collecting books for his library.
For Sarah, the excitement of life in Italy, and the preoccupation of her husband, was liberating and exhilarating. But not always.
After a quarrel one night in Sienna, Dr. Jarvis had the cook forcibly drag Sarah toward her room. Her son sprang to her defense but was quickly subdued by Dr. Jarvis and locked outside in the snow.
Terrorized, Sarah sunk beneath a table and when her husband and the cook returned, they each grasped one arm and forcibly dragged her along the floor, through the hall and rooms, until they dropped her in her own room. There she remained sobbing.
About midnight, some three hours later, her husband sent her a message stating that unless she stopped crying her son would not be admitted into the house. A short time later when she was able to control her sobbing her son was allowed back into the house.
After this her husband ordered her to keep her own apartment, and locked her out of the rooms occupied by himself and the family.
All hope for saving their marriage ended when Sarah decided to become a Roman Catholic.
Samuel returned to Connecticut in 1835 leaving his wife and children in Europe, explaining that the children’s health and education required them to stay. He became rector of Christ Church in Middletown where he began renovating a hotel to house his library and art collection.
Sarah returned one year later, having had to borrow money from her father for the journey. When she and the children arrived, he sent them to live with a cousin. Shocked by the reception, Sarah was advised by friends and family to negotiate a separate maintenance allowance, a typical arrangement at that time for incompatible couples in their social sphere.
He refused the arrangement and wrote to a medical friend at the Hartford Retreat for the Insane: “It appears to me therefore that I have only one alternative, either to place her at once under your care, or…to threaten her with such a course and endeavor to frighten her into submission.”
Friends of Dr. Jarvis advised him to establish a separate living arrangement for Mrs. Jarvis but he refused.
Therefore, in January 1839 she took the uncommon step of seeking a divorce. Following the procedures of the day, she filed a petition with the Connecticut State Legislature. Her case would be heard and decided by a committee on divorce.
These “attacks upon her person, her character, and her peace have reduced her to a state of wretchedness which can be endured no longer,” she claimed.
He has accused her with being insane and has kept a separate sleeping apartment for many years, she wrote. He refuses to speak to her except when company is present or to reprimand her.
And while he may be worth more than one hundred thousand dollars, he refuses to provide her with food except for what is placed at the table where she is permitted to sit in silence.
Samuel’s personality called him to contest the divorce and he retained several noted attorneys: Nathaniel Terry, Thaddeus Betts, Calvin Goddard, R.I. Ingersoll and Joshua S. Ferris.
Sarah and her family arranged to have her case presented by Roger S. Baldwin, grandson of the signer of the Declaration of Independence and defender of the Amistad Africans. Others included Roger M. Sherman, W. Hungerford, C.C. Tyler, and her cousin C.J. McCurdy.
Well-known members of both families testified and, in the end, although some members of the legislative committee found Samuel’s behavior inexcusable, they did not think it grounds for divorce.
The permissible grounds included adultery, fraudulent contract, desertion for three years, or prolonged absence with a presumption of death. In 1843 these were expanded to include habitual drunkenness and intolerable cruelty.
Sarah petitioned the State Legislature for divorce again in 1842. Stubborn Samuel again mounted an aggressive defense but this time, with her former counsel Roger S. Baldwin as governor and friends in the legislature, she was granted a divorce and alimony of $600 a year.
Samuel predicted she would be shamed and shunned but that did not occur and she maintained an active social life.
More details about the lives and adventures of the seven beautiful Hart sisters can be found in the fictionalized account provided in “The Splendor Stays” by Marguerite Allis, 1943, still available in many libraries.
Return to Paging Mode