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Tyler, Abel, and Sylvia Lewis

Abel Tyler: Early Settler, Clockmaker, Farmer
Birth: May 8, 1785, New Hartford, Litchfield County, Connecticut
Death: January 12, 1876, Vienna, Trumbull County, Ohio
Burial:
Vienna Township Cemetery

Sylvia Lewis Tyler: Early Settler, Diarist
Birth: 1785, Bristol, Hartford County, Connecticut
Death: December 31, 1851, Vienna, Trumbull County, Ohio
Burial: Vienna Township Cemetery

Abel Tyler and Sylvia Lewis Tyler were part of a larger community of Connecticuters who moved to Ohio after the War of 1812. They settled on land that had once been Connecticut’s Western Reserve. Often families moved together—for example, Sylvia’s brother Abraham Lewis also moved, first to Bristol and then to Vienna. (He is buried with his second wife Rachel Plumb Lewis in Vienna Township Cemetery.)

In 1801, at age fifteen, Sylvia began to keep a diary and continued to do so until 1831. Not only does it detail Sylvia's life, it is one of the few chronicles of everyday life in Vienna Township. The various books in which she kept this diary are in the collections of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum’s Americana Collection in Washington, DC. Two years of the diary are missing and other volumes reveal gaps. When she commenced keeping the diary, she was living in Bristol, Connecticut. When she stopped writing, she was living in Vienna, Ohio.

The Tylers had sold their farm in Connecticut in early 1817 and acquired a deed for land in Vienna in “New Connecticut.” They left “old” Connecticut on October 12, 1817. Sylvia’s diary reads:

… went to bed but did not get to sleep before Edward Pitkin came & Mr Munson with him & advised us to quit, we arose put some things together in haste Father Tyler Deacon Pitkin & wife came & with a sorrowfull heart I parted with them all & rode to the East & after wandering in the woods & Mountains Day light appeared we then returned down got onto the road & went on. …

The Tylers had traveled from Litchfield County, Connecticut, to Vienna by first traveling east on the Litchfield Turnpike to the Albany Turnpike, then north to Massachusetts, and then west to New York State, following what is now Route 20 but was then the “Western Turnpike.” They crossed the northwest corner of Pennsylvania to Shenango, then into Trumbull County, Ohio, and finally to Vienna.

They arrived in Vienna on November 20, 1817, and stayed at Sylvia’s brother Abraham’s house. Three days later it snowed. In those three days, however, Sylvia washed and ironed clothes, mended her foster child’s frock, visited some friends and were visited, and on Sunday, read her Bible. It took her another week to unpack, and all her goods were safe except one teacup.

Clockmaking

Abel Tyler, with partner Joel J. Hummason, manufactured wooden-work clocks in Vienna Township.

According to historian Rebecca M. Rogers, the location of the Tyler and Hummason clock manufactory is unclear. Tyler owned property on Warren-Sharon Road at Vienna Center. Hummason owned a water-powered sawmill on Little Yankee Run in the south east corner of Vienna Township close to the Brookfield Township border. If located on the Tyler property, this clockmaking concern may have been restricted to assembly rather than shaping the clock parts and works. No date of the business's establishment is available, though Tyler took out a mortgage on Hummason's sawmill site in October, 1825. The business lasted to 1833.[1]

Tyler's career as a clock manufacturer mirrored in many respects those of other Vienna clockmakers. Overextension of credit through mortgages, reduced demand for clocks, and an economic depression in the early 1830s essentially ended the clockmaking "boom" in Vienna and Trumbull County.

Family
Abel Tyler married Sylvia Lewis (1785-1851) in Bristol, Hartford County, Connecticut, on May 3, 1808. Susan, the third child and the first to be born in Ohio, died two days after her birth on June 2, 1818. (Sarah was pregnant when she traveled from Connecticut to Ohio. The remnants of a gravestone the Vienna Historical Society uncovered in summer 2011 may be the marker for this child.) The couple adopted one child (a girl) and fostered another girl, Hannah Goodwin, for four years.

Abel and Sylvia Lewis Tyler's children were:

Lewis Alderman Tyler (1810-1889)
Ruth Parmalee Tyler Humason
Sally Thompson Tyler Squires
Susan Tyler (died June 2, 1818)
Norman Woodruff Tyler
Abel Royce Tyler, Jr.
Sylvia Amanda Tyler Bushnell
Nathan Bailey Derrow Tyler

Sylvia’s youngest son, born in 1828, would become Vienna gunsmith and postmaster N. B. Tyler. Actually, his full name was Nathan Bailey Derrow Tyler, and he was named for Sylvia’s minister, Nathan Bailey Derrow, who died in 1828 and who had lived next door to the Tylers. Through naming practices we connect one generation to the next, much as Sylvia’s diaries connect us to those who lived in the same place, but nearly two centuries apart.

Everyday Life in Vienna
Sylvia Lewis Tyler not only kept a diary. She kept house. In the pages of these nineteen small volumes, some covered in wallpaper, are entries detailing the daily life of wife, mother, sister, daughter, neighbor, churchgoer, reader, housekeeper, food preservationist, cheesemaker, seamstress, quilter, knitter, and clock face painter in her husband’s clockmaking factory.

Sylvia’s days and diary were filled with chores and social activities that help us to understand how Vienna’s early settlers worked together—and sometimes, worked against each other—to create community from cloth, clocks, and cheese.

In the following years, many of Abel’s days were spent making wire for clocks or assembling clocks, and he, and Sylvia’s brothers Abraham and Levi spend days and weeks away from Vienna, peddling clocks as far away as Canada.

Sylvia was an expert seamstress, and rarely a day goes by that she was not measuring, cutting a pattern, fitting, sewing, or finish clothing, from nightcaps to gowns to great coats, for which she is paid. She knits caps and mittens for family members but also for money. On October 31, 1818, for example, Sylvia “finished a net for Sophrona Clinton”—Sophronia Clinton Reed.

Sylvia was also a member of the Vienna Presbyterian Church, which at this time met in the schoolhouse built on the northeast corner of Vienna Center. Women were often the organizers of religious activities, including benevolent societies to raise monies for specific charities and, in the early nineteenth century, religious tract societies to disseminate materials amongst members. On Monday, September 14, 1818, Sylvia noted in her diary:

I did my house work & wrote some & in the afternoon walked to the Centre there was a number of Ladies there paid in the Money to the Benevolent Society, and then formed another called Vienna Female Tract Society all signed the Constitution and I returned well satisfied we sang & heard two good Prayers. Lavinia Flower boarded with us.

Lavinia Flower was the first child born to one of Vienna's first settlers.

Sylvia also made cheese, usually for her family, and from the milk and cream the Tyler dairy herd produced. Beginning in 1820, however, Sylvia’s diary details an increase in cheesemaking. This is the beginning of the Western Reserve’s cheese industry. At first it was women’s work, made at home. But by the 1830s cheesemaking factories were built throughout the region, and the Western Reserve, for a time, became known as “Cheesedom.” And it became more men’s work than women’s work. By the beginning of the Civil War, 15 million of the 17 million pounds of cheese made yearly in the United States were being produced in the Western Reserve.

Sylvia Lewis Tyler died of typhoid on December 31, 1851. Tyler married Sarah H. Truesdale [Truesdell], the widow of James J. Truesdale [Truesdell] of Vienna, on January 2, 1853. Sarah died on February 20, 1858.

Sources and Links
O'Brien, Alden. "Beyond Words: Sylvia's Diary." Common-place 11:2 (January 2011).
Rogers, Rebecca M. Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1825. Dayton, OH : Sterling Graphics, [1991?].

Contributor: Shirley T. Wajda


[1] Rebecca M. Rogers, Trumbull County Clock Industry, 1812-1825 (Dayton, OH : Sterling Graphics, [1991?]), 23.