My youngest sister Lonna, although she loves us and our huge extended family, likes to joke that the stork made a mistake when he delivered her to our home in Idaho. She says he left her in Southeast Idaho with the Mormons when she was destined to be in Southeast Iowa with Methodists. After visiting Iowa and Illinois from her home in Keosauqua, Iowa to research the history of our ancestors, we discovered just how close we all came to that destination. Keosauqua is just an hour’s drive from the old Mormon city of Nauvoo, Illinois.
Mormon settlers moving west from Utah in the late 1800s established the small Idaho community we grew up in. Our grandparents had been early settlers to the area, with our grandmother arriving as a child and our grandfather at the age of 18. Along with most of their siblings they spent the rest of their lives there, so the little town and the farm area around it were full of our relatives. We grew up hearing the stories of our ancestors joining the Mormon church and facing the hardships they endured to stay with the church. If I thought about it at all I assumed everyone in our family were long-standing members. There were just too many of us for it to have been any other way and the church was so intertwined with every part of our lives that nothing else was even considered.
The research trips my sisters and I took to Illinois proved otherwise. We were totally surprised to learn that most of the members of our Tyler family left the church after the troubles in Missouri.
We knew that our ancestor Elizabeth Tyler, along with her husband Andrews and their 10 children had joined the church started by Joseph Smith, in Erie County, Pennsylvania in 1832. (At the time it was called the Church of Christ, but within a few years the name had been changed to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Elizabeth and her family followed the church and its leaders to Kirtland, Ohio and then two years later to Far West, Missouri. When the Mormons were expelled from the state of Missouri they travelled about 200 miles eastward to cross the Mississippi River into Illinois.
Elizabeth’s husband Andrews and her 18 year-old son Comfort died along the wagon trail between Kirtland, Ohio and Far West Missouri. Of the remaining nine children in her family only my great-great-grandfather Daniel Tyler and his sister Almina Tyler Behunin stayed with the LDS church and moved west to Utah and Idaho. Elizabeth’s other children all stayed in Illinois, with the four youngest settling in the town of Richfield. Records of the Richfield Methodist Church show Elizabeth’s family as founding members. Her daughter-in-law Clarissa, widow of Nathaniel, and Clarissa’s brother Alvin Hartshorn, donated the land on which the church, which is still in service today, was built.
Had Daniel Tyler chosen to stay in Illinois with the rest of his family or had we descended from any of the other seven sons of Elizabeth and Andrews Tyler we could indeed have been dropped by the stork with Methodists, either in Iowa or an hour away in Illinois.
Excerpt from Long Journeys:
This excerpt contains a portion of a letter Daniel Tyler received from his niece Polly Tyler Young in 1874 telling him of the death and funeral of his brother Hyram. It also tells about another of our small miracles as Lonna and I met with Carolyn Oitger in Richfield, Illinois.
Richfield Ills. March 28
I have to write to you the sad news that Hyram is no more in this world. He died Wednesday morning (26th) just sun rising. We buried him yesterday after noon – We had his funeral preached in the M E Chapel here by a Duncard minister – an old friend of Hyrams — I did not realize before the friends he had – the largest funeral that has been in this place for years. . . . . While we feel sad and cannot help but mourn we know he is better now in the hands of a merciful father. We know our heavenly father has a home for him – that he is no longer a wanderer and homeless.
Marcia [owner and publisher of the Liberty Bee Times, Liberty, Illinois] phoned the woman’s sister, told her who we were and that we were looking for information on the Tyler family. Amazingly, Carolyn Oitger agreed to meet us an hour later at the Richfield Methodist church.
When Carolyn got out of her car to take us inside the church her hands were full of papers and books. She had copied several pages of information for us before leaving her home. We learned that Clarissa Tyler, Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law, and her brother Alvin Hartshorn had donated the land this little white Methodist church had been built on in 1859 and were among the founding members of the congregation. Across the road from the church is a house that was originally the store her husband Nathaniel Tyler established in 1845 and which Clarissa ran for many years after his death. It had also served as the Richfield Post Office with Clarissa the Postmistress for the community.
We had been in the church with Carolyn for at least an hour looking at pictures, newspaper articles and church scrapbooks when she took us on a tour of the building. As we walked into the chapel (sanctuary), I realized this was where Uncle Hyram’s funeral had been held. Less than a mile away, Carolyn had grown up in a house built by Ira Tyler.
Notes: Polly Tyler Young was the daughter of Nathaniel and Clarissa Tyler and the granddaughter of Elizabeth Tyler. Hyram Tyler was Elizabeth’s son; there is no record indicating he was ever married. M E Chapel is Methodist Episcopal. The Dunkards were early German Baptists. They were called Dunkards because of their belief in baptism by immersion. Ira Tyler was another of Elizabeth’s sons. He was a state senator and for many years served as chairman of the Adams County Board of Supervisors. He married Martha Ann Cook. I find all of this particularly fascinating as Lonna attends a Methodist Church in Iowa and many of my Arkansas friends are members of that denomination.