President John Tyler, the father of our country….or darned near

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?”

Classic Week Logo(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.”)

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???? 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!)

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 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.

FiredUp - CoverHere’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.

My blog                     My website

Website | + posts

Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

45 thoughts on “President John Tyler, the father of our country….or darned near”

  1. Oh Mary, you crack me up. It is 1:21 am and you had be laughing the whole time I’ve read this. I might not even be able to go to sleep for remembering your (Extra) little comments. LOL LOL LOL If laughter is good for you, well I just had a double dose. Maybe triple even. : ) If Tyler still has grandchildren, they must be GG, GGG, or more. I already have 19 greats. Back in those days a lot of couples had a large number of kids. (after all they had no TVs or computers to occupy their time , remember) My folks had 8 kids and an great-aunt had 15 at least. If I had of had to give birth to that many, I might have shot myself. And I too have to question that never being downstairs. Did she never go to any event with the President. After you really waking me up good, I think I deserve to win your book. Sounds good.
    Somehow I kept missing too many of these contest. Tho’t had been on every day. : ( Maxie mac262(at)me(dot)com

  2. Forgot to answer your question. No special ways to tell my husband I was pregnant, except with the first. Must have got that way the very first night. (not in my plans) Tho’t he knew what he was doing but what he got didn’t work. I was only 16 so didn’t get to finish school. And, the last time was my last hubby. I was 42 and he was 58, so had him wait until he was in the bed, (in case he
    fainted) But, guessed it wasn’t in GOD’s plans for had a missed abortion. So, thats my story. Maxie

  3. Have to agree with you, Maxie – Mary had me laughing so hard, just glad I live alone – or would have awakened everyone! But – you’re pretty funny, yourself, Maxie!

    I have to agree with Mary – can’t get past the 15 kids part, although my uncle (now deceased) had 20 siblings! Apparently, his parents had no TV either, Maxie!

    I’ve always heard that truth is stranger than fiction – this is a perfect example. Can’t imagine the reason behind Letitia only coming downstairs once!

    Thank you for starting my morning off so joyfully, Mary!

  4. Telling the hubby about impending fatherhood…I liked to begin the sentence a shouted ‘Good News!’ To this day, my husband shudders a little when he hears ‘Good News!’

    The grandchildren are still alive?! Wow!

  5. Well, if Tyler married a very young woman, maybe he was still having children right up to the day he died at 72 and if he died mid century (I’m not looking it up) they might’ve been born in 1850. And if those kids kept having kids until THEY were 72 they’d’ve had kids in … (math, NOT my thing!) 1925. So Tyler could have grandchildren who are a mere 75 years old today.

  6. Oh. My. Goodness. Hiding under the floorboards, indeed. By his picture, it had to be more than looks going for him, cuz he ain’t someone I’d give a second look to. I’m thinking the kids were hidden from the second wife. I picture a surprise on their wedding day “hey honey, surprise, come meet your new 8 children.”
    My grandma was one of 12 and they were all very close. I grew up telling everyone I was going to have 10 kids. I kept saying that until my first one came. Then with each kid it dropped by 2. 😉 I now am content with 4.

  7. And see, I was so spellbound by the 15 children (and her hiding from him) that I forgot to answer your question. Sadly I cannot remember the first time I told my hubby – but I’m pretty sure he always figured it out. He seemed to know when I was supposed to have lady time and would say something to the sort of “uh, are you preggo?” and I’d say “oh, maybe.” So yeah. If you were expecting some fun story – it won’t come from me!

  8. HAHAHAHAHA!! Hiding under the floorboards. He didn’t look all that handsome either. I’d hide from him too. And that gold digger must have wanted the title “First Lady” bad enough to marry someone 30 years older than herself. Can we say “wrinkled” much?

  9. I have four children. To be honest I don’t remember how I told him about the first pregnancy. I think we just knew it because I was tired and I had morning sickness.

    I can’t imagine having 7 or 8 children.

    How did he ever find the time to be President?

    Loved your comments!

  10. I’m one of eight and my mom (bless her heart) just loved babies. What a sweetheart.
    My mom does tell the story of the time she told her rather cantankerous mother in law she was pregnant with her third child in three years. Grandma lived three miles from her and was always at the house farming with my dad, utterly and totally involved in their lives.
    Well Mom says to Grandma she is pregnant and my grandma says, “Oh, you’re not are you?”
    Not exactly ‘Congratulations.”
    Of course that third child is ME!
    Good old Grandma. But she loved us and honestly, I kinda see her point.

  11. When I got married my husband and I used to tell people we planned to have six kids. I was going to have the first three and he was going to have the second three.
    We ended up with four…..but I had to have them all.

  12. I keep thinking ‘coming downstairs’ had to mean something different to us than it did to them. I mean she had to come downstairs. Did it mean like…..officially? Coming downstairs to take part in official governmental events? Surely she had friends. Surely she went out to shop. Didn’t most rich people leave Washington DC during the hot summer months back then, go to the beach?
    So by ‘coming downstairs’ well, who knows, but it just sounds weird and she doesn’t sound all that happy to me. Was she old? If Tyler remarried right away and he had children older than his new wife, then maybe his wife was like fifty or even older and he was, too. I could look all this up but facts are so much less fun than guessing.

  13. Fun interesting post! When I took a home pregnancy test and got a positive, my husband was dumbfounded. I to take two more before he would believe it. Not because he was hoping I was not pregnant but because he was 36 and gave up the idea of being a daddy.

  14. Love this post, Mary. You are too much!!!!! John Tyler was quite an interesting man, wasn’t he? And Busy!!!!!! I had my first child nearly thirty six years ago so things were a lot different than they are now. I can remember like yesterday….my husband took me to the doctor and I came out of the doctor’s office after hearing the news grinning like a Cheshire cat! He knew immediately that a baby was on the way and we both grinned all the way home.

  15. You are just to funny, Mary! Loved the post! I wasn’t very imaginative at telling my husband we were having babies! When we got married, we planned on having 6 kids but that changed! We had 3 and that was lucky! I had good pregnancies but terrible deliveries – emergency C-sections where either the baby or I almost died so my OB said, “I don’t think this is working for you….better not have anymore babies”!!! The last one nearly did me in so I decided it was better for my kids to have a mother 🙂

  16. Mary, what a great post! I love this–you had me laughing, and it’s EARLY for that…LOL I always love your posts–your humor is infectious. I was the youngest in a family of three girls–MUCH younger…in fact, I’m pretty sure I was the biggest surprise of my parents’ lifetime. My sisters were 10 and 12 when I was born. As for telling my husband, we’d been married for 8 years before we decided to have a baby, and he was happy–he always knew it was going to be a girl, and even had her first name picked out–Jessica.
    My son, Casey, was born three years later and by then he was saying, “I’m too old!” LOL (He was 38.) My thought was, if I can HAVE a baby at 32, you can be a father at 38! LOL Now they’re both grown up, and I am glad I stopped at 2–Gary had 2 from a previous marriage. My mom was the eldest of 11 kids. I don’t know how my grandmother did it.

  17. As always, Mary, I love your commentaries! Hiding under the floorboards, indeed. Maybe she should have come downstairs more!

    We have three precious children and my husband always suspected before the “official” announcement. We did have fun telling my parents by wrapping a sonogram picture for them to open!

    Thank you so much for bringing a smile to my face this morning and for the opportunity to win a copy of FIRED UP!

  18. No pregnancy stories.. but I do hate when relatives or relatives announce before they have passed the first trimester.. especially on Facebook!

    Too early to announce it to anyone other than your husband, imo.

  19. Hi Mary – my first pregnancy test was a false negative. We’d been trying for a few months and it was a little disappointing, but I actually WAS pregnant at that time. So when I had a doctor confirmed YES, we both jumped for joy. We both found out at the same time, but it was very welcome news!!

  20. Both of my mother’s parents came from big families… I can not imagine sharing a house with all of them… my two nephews’ are enough to handle for a short time… I still would not mind having kids of my own, but that is not in the cards right now.

  21. Colleen, I am firmly in the middle of the baby boom so I guess having eight kids in the family didn’t seem that odd. The restrained neighbors all had only four kids back then. Our neighbors across the road had seven. My Cowboy is from a family of seven. His cousins who lived really close had seven. I’ve got a sister in law from a family of nine and another from a family of 13. It just happened a lot. And these are with ONE WIFE.
    It was also really common to have a couple of wives and a bunch of children with each. The first wife would have a bunch of kids and finally die in childbirth then here would come another wife and another passel of kids.
    Strange really. You’d think they’d learn some restraint, or at least some birth control! Even back then.

  22. I loved your post thanks! So my husband and I were just 3 months married when I found out I was pregnant! So at first I didn’t think anything of it, you know my time of the month being a little late. I never really paid much attention to it when it came. Anyway I did notice though that I was getting very tired and that I was late. So one day I thought well it would be fun to try one of pregnancy test things. but here is the kicker, I was on birth control and knew the test would come up negative. As I was waiting for the results I thought to myself that I was just being silly. Anyway I picked up the test and saw two lines! which for this test meant I was pregnant. I thought something was wrong with the stick. it must be old I told myself. so I took another one in the morning and sure enough it had two lines!

    I didn’t know what to do. I was on birth control and hadn’t missed a pill. I started to freak out a little hahah. I knew I was excited and scared to tell my husband of only 3 months. Now just to give you a little background on my husband. he is so wonderful, never angry and very loving but all the same I was scared to tell him. I asked him to come into our room and made him sit on the bed. I told him I had something to tell him. He just said ok and smiled at me with those killer dimples. Then before I knew I felt like I had the strength of ten men and blurted out we’re pregnant. His smile started to slip a little and he just sat there. At this point I started to cry because I thought great 3 months into our marriage I ruined it hahha. I asked him if he was mad at me. Then he came back to and said, ” Honey I could never be mad at you for something like that. I’m just a little shocked. are you sure? you were taking your pills right?” I answered yes to both questions and then at the point he got up form the bed and hugged and kissed me. And two kids later we are still very happy that it happened when it did and are looking forward to at least one more child.

  23. Great Post Mary! You are just to funny. I didn’t have but one child. He is the joy of my life. I was older when I had him so my husband was really excited about having a child. I just told my husband straight out and he was very happy about it.

  24. The coolest way that I’ve heard someone tell their husband that the were pregnant would be when she was just sitting there pouting and he came up to her and said whats wrong babe. She just smiled and said oh nothing, nothing at all. Got up and walked away, and he followed her. She went straight to their room and slightly closed the door behind her. When he got to their bedroom door, he pushed it open and seen tons of baby things, from baby bottles to clothes. All he said was are we? And she said yes!! That would be the coolest way someone has told her husband. 😀

  25. Mary, As usual you have made me laugh. I love your posts. Even this one with all the humor gave interesting historical facts but kept me laughing all the same.

    My hubby of five months was the one who figured out the pregnancy first. Me…I thought I had a kidney infection! He also told me when our son was due. He missed by one day. The doctor missed by 10. All four of our children were born one day after my hubby said they would be and ten days after the doctor said (no ultra sounds back then). By the fourth one he said I was just being stubborn and wouldn’t have the children on the day he picked!

  26. Loved your asides. Funny stuff. My great grandfather had 7 kids, then his wife died. He then married her sister, who was about the same age as his oldest daughter (my grandmother). He then had 7 more children. So, his second family was born about the same time as his grandchildren. Makes for fun family reunions, trying to figure everything out.
    I don’t really remember how I told my husband I was pregnant. We had been trying to have a baby for quite a while, so it wasn’t unexpected.

  27. Mary, I love your posts. I always finish with a smile on my face.

    Our first pregnancy I announced with a telegram – “Congratulations, Father – To – Be.” We had been married 5 weeks when he was shipped back to Vietnam. I found out a few weeks later I was pregnant. We seemed to have no trouble getting pregnant. I had a serious fall and lost that pregnancy. My husband returned home and within a month or so I was pregnant again for daughter #1. A few months later he was back in Vietnam. He went back again when she was 6 months old. I got pregnant for daughter #2 the night he got home. I knew I was ovulating, but its hard to say “Not tonight, Dear.” when he has been gone for 3 months. Pregnancy #4 was before our 4th anniversary. That one was announced with a wrapped gift box containing a condom pierced with a hatpin. A serious bout of the flu terminated that pregnancy (actually I had the flu before I got pregnant and the virus killed the fetus at some point. The “pregnancy” still lasted 5 1/2 months). There were two more pregnancies, but at least they were 8 years later. We had our son in Colorado, pregnancy #6.

    I’m thinking the Tyler’s chaste courtship was probably a good idea. If they had done much more than that one kiss, the wedding would have been much sooner or baby #1 would have preceded the wedding. It seems we both had fertility problems, as in overly fertile. We were accused of being rabbits by a neighbor, but I think it was just those strong Irish genes. We tried to space them a bit, but military assignments seem to interfere. The crew members on the B-52 my husband flew on all had children about the same age, born a few months apart.

    Thanks again for an enjoyable post.

  28. We waited 15 yrs. before starting our family. We had only been trying for a month. I had taken one of those pregnancy tests that took like 6 to 8 hours so he was anxious by that time lol. I should ask my niece since they have 7 kids.

  29. Patricia, wow, you had some hard times with losing those babies. I’m sorry for that. Love the condom/hatpin announcement, though.
    My mom always got pregnant with ZERO trouble. They were married after a two week engagement, they’d been dating a year and a half and when Dad got his orders to report to Korea he came to where Mom was working and said, “I want to get married before I go…in a month.”
    So they did. Had a two week engagement. A one week honeymoon. She went with him to the train and waved him off to Korea, crying her head off. She still can’t watch a plane take off without crying.
    And somehow she managed to NOT get pregnant. She saw him after boot camp I think and managed to NOT get pregnant then he was gone for about 15 months to Korea.
    And she pretty much never managed to go 15 months without getting pregnant again. Eight kids in eleven years.

  30. My grandfather’s first wife died having their second child. He remarried, my mom’s mom. They had four kids.

    My grandfather’s sister died after having two kids. My grandfather’s OTHER sister more or less moved in and raised those two kids, at least she cared for the kids, but no marriage, nothing improper between her and her sister’s husband. She may have just taken the kids to her home, not sure the details.

    Then suddenly, that man marries someone else, and takes the kids and moves far away.

    My mom said the caretaking/babysitting sister was devastated. She really thought her sister’s husband would marry her.

    But mom said that babysitting sister was a nasty old bat and she thought the father of those kids was running for his life and made a lucky escape.

  31. I had the first grandchild on my side of the family. So with eight kids, my mom’s first grandchild, it was a pretty big deal.
    My husband and I agreed, he’d tell my folks and I’d tell his.
    So he would NOT tell. The brat. I waited and waited and finally the day he was supposed to tell we went home and I wanted to STRANGLE him because I wanted to tell my MOTHER!!!!
    So we got home, and I was fuming and finally he called her. She was about halfway done getting ready to go to something at church.
    And she told me later she forgot what she was doing and just went on to church and when she got there she realized she’d stopped getting dressed so she had the pants on from one outfit and the shirt on from another. So brown stripes on her bottom half and blue plaid on top.
    She hid in the kitchen, pouring coffee over a countertop all night.

  32. My present husband and I do not have children together. When I was younger my mother kept telling me that she was too young to be a grandmother. She was 17 when she had me. So when I was stationed in Germany I called her and told her that even though she was too young she didn’t have a choice. She was going to be a grandmother. She was thrilled and her only complaint was that she couldn’t be there with me when I had my son. She died when he was 5.

  33. Mary, you always make me laugh, thanks. One thing about being married to a stockman he figures things out like pregnancy about as fast as you do. I didn’t have to tell my husband I was pregnant, he already knew, all three times.

  34. I do not and won’t be having any children by getting pregnant, but I do have an odd story. When I was 19 years old, I worked for a hospital in the accounting department. My stomach didn’t feel well that morning, but I went to work. As the day went by, I became very sick and my supervisor told me to go to the ER. I saw a residency doctor and he wanted a pregnancy test. I told him no because I was not pregnant for obvious reasons. He kept telling me over and over that he felt sure I was pregnant. I finally left ER, told my supervisor and left work to see my physician. I had a severe stomach virus and was so dehydrated that my doctor admitted me to the hospital. Later I looked up my medical records and the residency doctor wrote that I left without permission, refused testing and receiving treatment for my condition that I was pregnant. It was a one of a kind experience. Looking forward to reading your book. Thank you for the opportunity to win your giveaway.

  35. Wasn’t it proper back then to not be seen in public pregnant? So the comment only coming downstairs once fits because she was always pregnant.
    I have 4 kids, the oldest 32,then 29 and 26 and my youngest 13. It was my oldest sons senior year in high school and telling the kids at dinner one night, my husband and I just kept smiling and giggling. My son just looked up and starting shaking his head saying, “NO, NO your not! Really, no, not now!” He was so afraid he’d never get to know him that well with leaving the following year.
    Here I was at 40 pregnant after 13 years and how I found out is I crossed my arms one day and it hurt. Immediately I thought my chest only hurts like this when I’m pregnant! Oh my!!!

  36. Great post, Mary

    I always like reading about presidents’ wives. History doesn’t give them the respect they deserve. I understand why Mrs. Tyler didn’t come downstairs. You know how vicious politics can be.

    This is how I told my husband. As we were leaving our wedding reception, I told him we couldn’t sell his house since my daughter in college would need it for awhile. (You were thinking one of those asides, weren’t you?) Yes, he already knew about the daughter, but I think that was the first time he knew he was a father. We decided to have just cats and dogs.

  37. Mary, That gave me a chuckle or two this morning. I would have hid too. What did she do all day? Did they send her meals upstairs? Oh My! Can’t answer your question because I didn’t have children nor a husband. Most of my friends were not forthcoming on telling how they broke the news and the guys I worked with didn’t tell those things. Therefore, I have no stories for you but I would like to win your book.

Comments are closed.