John Tyler–the father of our country–or darn near

HeartSongs10.inddYou just never know, when you’re doing research, what little tidbit is going to jump out at you and make you say, “What? Really?”

(a sneaky aside, read the post carefully for a chance to win my newest release, Black Hills Blessing. I just got my authors copies of this 3-in-1 collection of short sweet romances set around a buffalo ranch in South Dakota. It’s western-y, but contemporary. Sweet romantic comedy with a buffalo stampede.)

I read things here on P & P all the time that I’ve never heard of before. Such was my reaction to the fun fact that President John Tyler, who became president after the death of William Henry Harrison, had fifteen children.

Was the White House over crowded or WHAT?

He killed off his first wife having eight kids. (Okay, I admit that’s my spin. . .I’m sure she was thrilled every time she found out she was pregnant. . .I’m sure she’d come to John in her negligee and say, “I want another baby, darling, please.”)

Yeah right.

And she didn’t die having a baby, that’s just me being snippy.John_Tyler

President Tyler lived 72 years, was vice president and president, was the son of the governor of Virginia, served in the military during the War of 1812 (though he saw no action), was elected to the House of Representatives and later the Senate and was the first vice-president to ascend to the presidency through the president’s death, which set a whole lot of precedents we still follow today.

Out of all of that, what interested me was those 15 kids.

How many bedrooms are there in the White House anyway. Yeesh.

They were probably as crowded as I was growing up with seven brothers and sisters in a Nebraska farm house. His first wife—mother of eight—died while he was president.

Here are some quotes about Letitia Tyler:

Letitia was shy, quiet, pious, and by all accounts, utterly selfless and devoted to her family. (Mary here-they just don’t make wives like this anymore.)

1st wifeShe met John Tyler, then a law student, in 1808. Their five-year courtship was so restrained that not until three weeks before the wedding did Tyler kiss her — and even then it was on the hand. (Mary again–the man clearly came uh…uh…let’s call it…un-restrained later…thus the eight children)

The most entirely unselfish person you can imagine…Notwithstanding her very delicate health, mother attends to and regulates all the household affairs and all so quietly that you can’t tell when she does it.” (Mary with more to say–they owned slaves–it’s not like the woman was doing any heavy lifting.)

Their 29-year marriage appears to have been a singularly happy one. (Mary–I’m glad for them–except if the woman was so shy and quiet how SURE are they about her happiness. But fine, whatever, they were ecstatic)

As First Lady, she remained in the upstairs living quarters of the White House; she came down just once, to attend the wedding of her daughter (Elizabeth) in January 1842. (Me again–??? Excuse me? She only came DOWNSTAIRS ONCE????)

Pardon me while I wonder if she was, by chance, hiding from her husband and potential baby #9. Perhaps she was under the floorboards upstairs, waiting quietly, hoping he’d fall asleep for once in his freakin’ life.

After his first wife’s death, Tyler remarried within a year, to Julia Gardiner. You really can’t blame the guy, I mean c’mon, he had eight kids to take care of. These days, that’ll get you your own reality show. Please insert your own Jon & Kate Plus Eight jokes here.

Julia_TylerHere are a few words about Julia Tyler. She began seeing Tyler in January 1843, a few months after the death of the First Lady while he was president. (Mary wonders if she’d heard about the eight kids. Such things could be hushed up back then)

One of Tyler’s daughters, Letitia, never made peace with the new Mrs. Tyler. (Gotta go with Letitia here)

She was thirty years Tyler’s junior and it would be simple to make trophy wife and gold digger comments, but honestly, she had seven children with the man. No doubt she was hiding from him after a while, too. Crowded under those floor boards. In fact, that’s probably where the first Mrs. Tyler was.  Alive and well and in hiding.

His second wife was YOUNGER than four of his children.

And I found this particularly fascinating. . .two of Tyler’s grandchildren are STILL ALIVE. Doesn’t that strike you as weird? Tyler lived at the same time as John Quincy Adams. He served in the War of 1812. Think of that! Tyler was the first president born after the constitution was ratified. He goes back almost all the way to the beginning and he’s still got LIVING GRAND CHILDREN!!!????

That makes me feel really strongly connected to the past. It’s still a very young country in some ways.

Tyler also brought Texas into the union, so—as writers and lovers of western romance—we all gotta give him snaps for that.

Here’s your chance to win Black Hills Blessing. Leave a comment telling me how you told your husband you were expecting…or if you haven’t had that HeartSongs10.inddparticular experience, name the most interesting, intriguing, terrifying, funny ‘there’s a bun in the oven’ story you know.

I wrote a while back about a woman, still alive, who’s husband served in the Civil War. You can read that HERE.

All of this American history seems so distant and yet here we are with people living who’s lives were directly touched by people who go way back to the beginning, or very nearly.

I like that.

Not enough to have 15 children, but I like that.

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46 thoughts on “John Tyler–the father of our country–or darn near”

  1. Hello Mary, I’m up late and laughing out loud as usual when I read you! Your account reminds me just a tad of visiting Paul Revere’s adorable but small house in Boston. He had 16 kids (two wives, too) but Gramma Revere got the whole entire upstairs bedroom to herself. Go figure.

    My bun in the oven story is kinda gross, really. It happened several eons before at-home pregnancy tests. I was “late” and feeling a tad puny, so my brother (who was a biologist in a hospital laboratory) took a little jar of my wee-wee in a paper bag just like his lunch, to work and did a pregnancy test on it. So he knew I was even before my hubby or I. (That was our son. He did it for our daughter, too.)

    Ah, those were the days.

  2. Almost fell off my chair laughing, Mary. Sounds like Tyler was a busy man. Unbelievable that he has living grandchildren.
    Your book cover is beautiful, and I know you stories will be filled with your warmth and wit. Whoever wins your book will be one very lucky reader!

  3. I just love the information I get here on this blog. Boy I’m glad I live in the era of birth control, I mean I love kids, but 15, NO WAY. How I let my first husband know I was expecting was by giving him a present to open and it had a pair of booties and a pacifier in it. We had been trying a long time so it was a wonderful surprise for him.

  4. There wasn’t anything special about telling my hubby about expecting. he knew I had a doctors appointment so when got home he inquired about results. Pretty boring. i know. But I’d love to win your book. SD is our neighbor here. Thanks. Interesting post.

    ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com

  5. I enjoy the info I get here at P and P, too.

    My daughter’s former daycare provider has 17 brothers and sisters, same parents, no second marriage, and only 2 of those kids were twins! Their family had a picture taken a few years ago and it took months to organize it to make sure everyone could be in it. So, from the parents down to the latest great-great grandchild, there were 110 people in their family photo. Wow.

    I had done several home tests and finally, after thinking I had the flu for a week or so, I had a lab test done at the doctor’s office. The nurse called me within 15 minutes of the test with the results! I couldn’t wait, so called my husband on my break and I think he shouted “Woo hoo” for a good 15 seconds are so.

  6. Hi Mary! Thanks for the laughs! 15 kids! Yowzers!
    I have two boys. No great pregnancy stories. The stories started when they turned into teenagers 🙂

    Have you ever seen the First Ladies Dresses at the Smithsonian? I’m pretty sure there’s a bunch of stuff about the second Mrs. Tyler. She made quite an impression back then!

  7. Hello,
    I love when you say ‘That makes me feel really strongly connected to the past. It’s still a very young country in some ways.’ I totally agree with you, while Europe have thousands of years of history and all, we (American and Canadian) are part of our history, we will be history in the making this beautiful continent.

    Alright, there were the native american and south american, but as a country with ‘white people’ we are still very young and our histroy our ours to make. while in Europe, yes, they are making history, but really their glorious history is past (sorry for the European reading, but that is what I think.)

  8. 8 kids and 7 kids? Ouch. LOL I would not have been a good “frontier” wife. Son #1 would have literally killed me even 50 years ago so I’m glad I live in the era I do~modern medicine saved my life. Figuring out I had a blood clotting disorder made son #2’s birth less dangerous, but again so many years ago we would never have know about the disorder so….

    I love your editorial comments Mary, they had me laughing out loud!

  9. Bah, I forgot to tell about letting the hubby know. We had decided to start trying so he knew right about the time I’d be taking the home test. I took it before he got home from work, then showed it to him when he got home. Not terribly creative!

    With #2 I took the test on our 6th anniversary, so I included the test in the card I gave him.

  10. My mom is fond of telling this story about when she knew she was expecting me.
    I was the third child in three years. Third daughter, too. I’m sure they were giddy with excitement. Yeesh, I’m lucky they didn’t lose me in a stack of girl cloths, forget exactly how many babies they had and just let me grow up in the barn with the puppies.

    But that’s a story for another blog.

    When my mom told her very cranky mother in law–good old grandma, she was one tough cookie–that she was pregnant with me. (keep in mind Mom had an 11 month old and a three month old when the announcement came) my grandma’s reaction was, “Oh, you’re not are you?”

    I’ve often wondered if my mom didn’t keep getting pregnant just to spite her mil. Neener, neener, neener. Mom did love babies though. She said she always wanted another one.

  11. Really enjoyed reading your column. I laughed out loud and felt sorry for his wives. ugh Raising just a couple of kids is a chore at times. I can’t imagine what they went through.
    I told my husband we were expecting with a funny card I sent to his workplace. Not very original, but it was effective at the time.

  12. Well as a mother of nine I have a different view, I think. 🙂 But I always enjoy your writing; it makes me laugh.
    Even though I’ve had plenty of opportunity, I’ve not managed to be creative in telling my husband I’m expecting. Maybe because he’s always asking, lol. The first was a surprise. We were in the Air Force and I had my annual weigh in. I was over the limit by a few pounds and they did a body-fat test. That was over too. So they sent me to the doctor for more tests. The first test they did was for pregnancy. We went home and got a call later that afternoon. They said I was not eligible for the diet program because I was pregnant. Keep in mind that we were working nights and they had woken us up with the phone call. My husband said, “Who was that?” I said, “The doctor. I’m pregnant.” That woke him up. He said, “What?!” I reaffirmed the news, went to the bathroom, and went back to bed. I got excited when I had more sleep. 🙂

  13. Great post Mary! He was one busy man! Years ago people did have more children! My grandmother on father’s side had 12 children. Myself I had only one. My husband new we were trying to have a baby and as soon as I found out, I told him, nothing fancy just said we are pregnant! I’m not sure how women did it back then! They had to work hard anyway and to add 15 kids to take care or and feed is something else. It seems to me that all you would be doing is cooking, cleaning up after kids and doing laundry. Back then you didn’t have washers and dryers, you hung the clothes on the line and washed by hand or a ringer washer. My mother used a wringer washer for many years because I have used one. Thanks for sharing this great info with us. This book sounds great and I love a good western!

    ghurt110 AT bellsouth DOT net

  14. What I see is how many women died having babies. Tyler’s first wife did NOT.
    But my grandfather was one of nine children. His father married twice and have five with one wife and four with another.
    My mom’s father had five children. One with his first wife, who died having his second (the baby died, too) and four with his second wife.

    This just happened all the time. Having babies was a high risk business. And yet, they just kept having them. That old biological urge was alive and well.

  15. Walk through the old part of a cemetary sometime and see all the first wives, who died young and the second wives.

    My mil said women would get a fever after they gave birth and die, just BAM. Happened all the time. So it’s not just a baby who won’t deliver correctly or bleeding.

    She had her second baby during WWII and she got a fever afterward they tried this ‘experiemental’ drug on her. Penicillin. She’s ninety now and since my husband is her sixth son I’m glad she made it. 😀

  16. Mary, you always come up with the most amazing off-the-wall stuff. I needed that laugh for the day! I always look forward to your blogs. I know it’ll be something unique. I hate that I don’t have a “bun in the oven” story to share. I’ve lived a very boring life.

  17. Oh, I forgot to add….have you heard about the Duggar family? They have John Tyler beat. They have either 18 or 19 kids. I lost track. I know they recently added one to the brood. And this is all from the SAME woman! I shudder to think how many more they’ll have before the good Lord takes pity on her and sends her into menopause. Also if I remember correctly none of these were multiple births.

  18. No bun in my oven… would love to have kids even though my two nephews are beyond being handfuls! For my youngest nephew, my sister’s pregnancy had problems… she had high blood pressure and the doctor ignored it for months… finally my mother convinced her to see another one and good thing she did… the doc put her in the hospital and that night she bled out… had an emergency C section… I love the little guy…

  19. After I missed my period I became nauseated. Everyone knew, I didn’t have to say anything. I went to the doctor (this was in 1962 before all these tests) and it was so soon the doctor would not even examine me because he said it was to soon. I continued being nauseated for nine months until she was born. So I didn’t have to say anything, just throw up all throughout the day.

  20. The Duggars, 19 and Counting. Yikes.

    I suppose, at some point, it hardly matters if you have another one. 🙂

    My first child was soooooo colic-y she didn’t take a nap for the first six weeks. The only time she’d sleep was while she was nursing. She finally mostly quit with the crying around six months old and then she just turned into a little sweetie. 🙂

    My second one I had morning sickness. Just out of control. I didn’t do much but vomit for the first four months. Lost a lot of weight, but gained it all back. Lucky me! 🙁

  21. No spectacular stories about baby announcements!
    I worked on the postpartum floor of the Obstetrics
    Department of a hospital in our hometown. When I
    determined I was late, I talked to an obstetrician
    whom I’d known since he was a resident there in the department. I then made an appointment, we went in, had an exam and tests, and Honey found out at the same time I did! Multiply by three and that was our family until my sister passed away. We added her 3 1/2 y/o daughter to our family to
    make four. BTW, both sets of grandparents: ten
    children each, maternal grandparents added in
    four children when relatives died; my parents had
    nine children, seven still living.

    Pat Cochran

  22. Dear Mary: Just found you via Ree’s The Pioneer Woman. No personal bun in the oven story: but it makes me think of Rizzo and Kenicky (sp) from Grease (the movie). The scene at the drive-in where gossip traveled from car to car that Rizzo “had a bun in the oven”. I thought that was hilarious the first time I saw it and I still do. Huge fan of Stockard Channing…..what a name Channing would be for a little ‘un.

  23. Well, I’m definitely not in the position to have children! maybe one day in the next 6 years! 😉

    My mother lost her only son when he as three. She had 2 more girls (my sister and me). When I was 4 she found out she was pregnant and went to the doctor. She wasn’t supposed to have anymore children after me but they wanted a boy. Well, they found out they were going to have twins and a month later they found out they were both boys! I always heard that God got so tired of them wanting a boy that he gave them two!

  24. Telling my husband was no big deal, we had been trying for a year and a half. What was funny was when the doctor told him I was going to have Twins.

  25. No funny pregnancy stories – we were never blessed in that way.
    It’s good to remember that not so very long ago, before the pill and women’s rights, women had very little choice in the sad and scary circumstance of multiple pregnancies. Fifty years ago when I was young, families of 8 to 18 children were not uncommon. Fortunately by then modern medicine had cut the risk of death in childbirth.
    Love your writing Mary! You never fail to fascinate me.

  26. I’m from a family of 8, my husband from a family of seven. I’ve got inlaws from families of 13, 9, 9, 9 (yes, THREE nine child families) 6, 5, 4, and 3…what’s up with that? 3? Not very normal now were they?

  27. I really love your “snarky” humor roflmao. My husband and I purposely waited 15 yrs. to have kids (he was an only child and it took some convincing). In retrospect I wish I hadn’t waited for him to make up his mind. We have two daughters – one recently married and the other in college. My sister already has 7 grandchildren by one daughter – two oldest are 16 and the youngest is 2. She may make 8 like Tyler lol.

  28. I never had to tell my husband. I had morning, noon and night sickness from the moment of conception(well, it seemed like it). Kind of hard to hide all that barfing.

  29. I don’t have kids, and really don’t know any bun in the oven stories, but I LOVE the info I find out here. I love genealogy myself, and it is amazing how quick men remarried back then, but with a passel of kids, it was no wonder!!
    Great post!

  30. oh mary–you make me laugh!
    love your writing style–i’m totally with you 🙂

    i have three–#1 was a shocker–so i blurted it out (after i told my mom of course 🙂
    #2-#1 took the pregnancy test to daddy to show him
    #3, #1 and i drew a picture with mommy and a baby in her belly
    he didn’t get it for a while…

    thanks for the chance at your book!

  31. Well, I guess it’s okay there aren’t too many wild stories about a bun in the oven. Most of you had nice partnerships with your husband and he was all the way into it.

    I knew a woman who fainted in a grocery store once, at age fifty, and when they took her to the doctor she found out she was pregnant. After many years of marriage and no baby and trying everything and giving up.

    I suppose that was a dramatic moment. 🙂

  32. Mary, I love your blogs. They never fail to make me laugh. I never got the chance to tell my husband that I was pregnant….he told me! Better still he told me within 24 hours of when they would be born. My doctor was off by 10 days with all 4 of them. This was before home tests. With the first, he figured the time as about the same time as this heifer he had recently had bred….yep a young cow!! He didn’t tell me that for awhile.

    I am really looking forward to your book and love the cover!

  33. I LOVED this post. Am printing it so my husband and daughters can read it.
    Pregnancy announcements. Had several. The first one, we were married 5 weeks before my husband was sent back to Vietnam (it was 1972). I found out I was pregnant a few weeks later. Not only did I not feel like a bride, I felt like an unwed mother. I sent him a telegram – “Congratulations, Father-To-Be.” The third or fourth time I just gave him a little gift box. Inside was a condom with a large pin through it.
    Mary, I love your sense of humor. I have two of your books on my TBR shelf and really need to get to them.

  34. Showed your post to my husband. His first comment -” Are you going to tell her about the condom with the pin in it?” At least he remembered it, it has been over 30 years. Men don’t always appreciate little things like that. I’m so lucky I have a good one!

    I come from a long line of large families – my Mother was one of 9 and Dad was one of 7. The grandparents also were from large families. My mom’s siblings all had 5 or 6 each, some with multiple spouses. I lost track of cousins at 65. On my Dad’s side I was the oldest of 6 with only 4 cousins. Large families have their advantages, but who can afford them in today’s economy? Not many of us can get a corporate sponsor.

  35. Mary, astonishing facts. I never liked history in school but I would have if you have been the teacher. You can make anything entertaining. I laughed so much Dave asked what I was reading.

    Here’s my bun in the oven story: I was a back to school mom of 29, in my last year of college, soon to student teach. I wasn’t feel well, not morning sickness, just stomach pain. My husband thought I probably had an ulcer from all the stress. I went to the doctor and was told that my ulcer would be fine in a few months as it developed into a growing fetus. So that is what I told my husband when he asked, “What did the doctor tell you?” So on May 12 we had our son by c-section and on May 18 I walked up the aisle and received my degree.

  36. My gosh, Denise. Your life is like a SONG.

    I can bring home the bacon.
    Fry it up on a pan.
    Change the diapers with one hand.
    Accept the diploma with the other.

    (okay it doesn’t rhyme…sue me)

  37. Just remembered one story: #1 daughter & SIL were
    married 8 years, trying for a baby, no luck in
    all that time. They decided to “adopt” a Great Dane puppy and gave us a “granddog.” Two months later, they gave us the good news that they were pregnant! Their pup, Dakota, was 11 months old when Scott was born and she spent all her time guarding him. She would lick the baby’s head as if Scott was a puppy. She thought she was his mother and she kept watch over both Scott and brother Mason until the day she died.

    Pat Cochran

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