Depravity Hits County - 1842

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The depravity of man and the frailty of woman was described in detail in "'The History of Marion County, published in 1884.

The "good old days" were not wholly free from scandals and social horrors," wrote R. I. Holcombe. "Men have been vile and unprincipled, and women weak and frail in all ages of the world and it dreaded that they will always be."

These words were about a Marion county couple who eloped in 1842. Newspapers of that day reported curious details when Mrs. Susan M. Tull, the wife of William B. Tull of near Palmyra, deserted her husband and eloped with Dr. William P. Torrence. He was described as a botanic or "Indian" physician.

"Mrs. Tull was at the time only 21 years of age, and was an intelligent, accomplished and handsome woman, belonging to a highly respectable and well connected family. She left behind two children."

Dr. Torrence was a native of Pennsylvania who lived in Palmyra for five years before the elopement. "He was a well-informed man, of good address, insinuating manners, and at the time of his elopement was a deacon in the Christian Church. He was about 35 years of age, and deserted a wife and two children, leaving them in a distressed condition."

The two escaped their marriages on horseback. Accounts reveal that Mrs. Tull took with her certain silk dress patterns, which she purchase on her husband's account, and other items described as attractive in their nature and costly in their value.

"Riding swiftly away one balmy night in May, they crossed the Mississippi at Marion City and set out along the route of the fugitive slaves, apparently for Canada."

Mrs. Tull's husband did not accept his wife's departure graciously, "He paraded his shame in the newspapers, advertising the elopement, with all of its disgusting particulars, and describing his wife as of "fair complexion, but open and very free in her manners." Other newspapers were asked to print the same information.

The authorites of the Christian Church were forced to take action against their erring deacon, Dr. Torrence. A committee composed of J.L. Peake, Jacob Creath and E. Hooton published his transgressions in full in the Palmyra Whig, describing him as pronouncing the word "women" as "weman", and declaring that he was traveling "under the mask of a sheep's coat with a real prairie wolf under it."

While the couples' actions were discussed by the press, they rode across the Illinois prairies amid roses and raptures, and without seeming regret or remorse, Holcombe wrote.

After extensive-travels, their money was nearly exhausted, Dr. Torrence sold his horse to defray their expenses to Detroit. Some months afterward, bedraggled and sorrowful , penni1ess and penitent, the erring woman returned to her family and friends - owning her weakness, her evil behavior.

"Her husband forgave her, took her to his heart and home again and they lived "happily ever afterward." They removed to Memphis, Scotland County, where they kept a hotel about the year 1860, and had a numerous family of children.

Soon after Mrs. Tull returned home, Dr. Torrence came into Palmyra afoot, having walked from Marion City. He too was remorseful and repentant, and he too was forgiven. He became reunited with his wife and they lived agreeably until her death. The doctor went into business at Palmyra, and remained there until sometime during the war, when he moved to Quincy, Illinois.