You 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, Fired Up.)
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.”)
And she didn’t die having a baby, that’s just me being snippy.
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.)
She 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???? Again with the dubious ecstacy.)
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. (Mary sez…Right here, folks, this is clearly identified as a P & P Classic post, because THIS JOKE clearly does NOT apply!)
Here 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 GRANDCHILDREN!!!????
That makes me feel really strongly connected to the past. It’s still a very young country in some ways, I mean let’s face it, not a single one of Julius Caesar’s grandchildren are even CLOSE to alive. And don’t don’t get me started on Moses’ grandkids, they are DUST, baby.
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 Fired Up. Leave a comment telling me how you told your husband you were expecting…or if you haven’t had that particular 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.
And to add one more bit of intrigue, I will have you know that I once shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of a man who shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln. And that’s the truth. Unless he was lying. But Pastor Gradwald had an honest face, so I think it’s true. I’ve washed my hand since, but still…………….
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.