Today my focus is on Jeannette Brookings Tuttle
Although Jeannette Tuttle was not a member of the Delord family, she had a major impact on it’s story, and that of the Plattsburgh community in general. Here’s today’s Woman in History!!
Maria Jeannette Brookings was born in Athol, Massachusetts in 1864. She counted at least 30 prominent colonial figures among her ancestors and was a member of a dozen history organizations. Jeannette graduated from the State Normal School at Salem Massachusetts with a degree in teaching. In 1889, Jeannette married Plattsburgh businessman George Fuller Tuttle. They made their home at 9 Cumberland Avenue, next door to Fannie and Frank Hall.
Mrs. Tuttle was the quintessential early 19th century wife of a prominent businessman in Plattsburgh. Women were not supposed to work outside the home, but their comfortable life also precluded doing housework. That left them to seek other means to use their education, wealth, and ambitions. Civic causes, the poor, orphans, and history were among the crusades that were the recipients their beneficence. During her time in Plattsburgh, Mrs. Tuttle focused her energies to work with the Saranac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), the Physician’s Hospital Ladies League, and the Daughters of 1812 as well as a number of other organizations.
In addition to fundraising for the local orphanage, the hospital, the Red Cross, and other local charitable causes, Mrs. Tuttle raised awareness of the importance of the history of Plattsburgh and the North Country. She was responsible for researching and writing a comprehensive history of the North Country, Three Centuries of the Champlain Valley, 1607-1907, published for the celebration of the Champlain Tercentenary. Maybe it was this love of history that drew her to the Kent-Delord House.
Numerous articles appeared in the local newspapers that chronicled Mrs. Tuttle’s efforts to promote the value of the history of the Kent-Delord House. College classes and high school students were invited to a tour of the house guided by Mrs. Tuttle. Then the essays written about their visit by these students were published in the paper. Visiting physicians were taken on tour of the KDH, especially to get a look at a valuable copy of Wm. Beaumont’s famous medical book on digestion. The Ladies’ League of Physician’s Hospital held its annual tea (using the historic China!) in the dining room of the KDH. Mrs. Tuttle encouraged soldiers from Plattsburgh Barracks to tour the historic home.
As Regent of the Saranac Chapter of the D.A.R., Mrs. Tuttle was able to work toward her goal of making the KDH a museum. Meetings were held in the house, and for a while it became the official home of the local chapter. Raising money for the upkeep of the house became one of the Chapter’s causes. They opened the house as a museum and charged 50¢ for a tour! But even Mrs. Tuttle knew that the old house needed more care. She was able to convince local philanthropist, William H. Miner to contribute $1000 a year toward the upkeep of the house. She even solicited help from George Eastman, but he declined. She knew more was needed.
It was her dogged insistence that finally convinced Mr. Miner to purchase the house in 1924. Then he set out to repair, restore, and create a Board that allowed the Kent-Delord House to be chartered as a museum and educational institution. Jeannette B. Tuttle and her husband George were appointed to be charter members of the newly created Board of the Kent-Delord House Trust. Even then, Mrs. Tuttle did not stop working on behalf the new museum. She continued to organize, research, and promote the historic value of the Delord family contribution to the development of Plattsburgh.
In 1932, Jeannette Brookings Tuttle left Plattsburgh to live with her daughter in Scarsdale, NY. After her many years in Plattsburgh as a civic activist and local historian, Mrs. Tuttle was slowed by health. An editorial in the April 5, 1932 Plattsburgh Sentinel listed in detail her accomplishments in the community. More importantly it expressed a deep gratitude and respect for the woman who gave so much to Plattsburgh and especially the Kent-Delord House.
“In no place will Mrs. Tuttle be more greatly missed than at the historic Kent-DeLord House on Cumberland avenue. This is a veritable treasure house of historic lore, old furniture, portraits, books, relics of the Battle of Plattsburgh, together with mementoes of the Kents, the DeLords, the Swetlands, and the Halls, who at one time or another lived in this picturesque old mansion and left their impress upon much of that which is in the house today.
There is not a nook or cranny in the old house which Mrs. Tuttle does not know. Every piece of rare old china, every bit of lace and embroidery, every picture has its history and it is an open book to Mrs. Tuttle. It is here that her gracious personality alone the best, for she delighted in escorting visitors through the old house and calling their attention to some of the beautiful treasures it contains.” (Plattsburgh Sentinel, April 5, 1932)
Jeannette Brookings Tuttle was returned to Plattsburgh at her death in 1938. Her body lay in state at the Kent-Delord House (a poignant honor for the woman who dedicated a good portion of her life to the Kent-Delord House and its history) prior to the funeral service at the Presbyterian Church. Interment was in Riverside Cemetery during a private ceremony.
“It remained for Mrs. Tuttle to collect all the historical facts concerning these treasures and to add to them in every possible way. The outstanding part of her life work was to arrange, add to, catalogue and place in a proper setting the invaluable collection she found and the manner in which she aroused the interest of others until the Kent-Delord House stands today as a treasure house unique of its kind and one that is known far and wide. Mrs. Tuttle saw all the possibilities of this old house and she never rested until these possibilities were made facts. She has left a work that will cause her to be remembered as long as the house itself exists. Plattsburgh owes her a debt of gratitude which should keep her memory warm as long as there are hearts that beat with love for the old town and its glorious past.” (Plattsburgh Sentinel, Jan. 24, 1938)
The Kent-Delord House Museum as well as the whole community is indebted to this extraordinary woman whose determination and drive helped to preserve our historic treasures!