It is always interesting when your writing can be based on personal experience. Recently Ilene and I discovered an intriguing story in this way.
Because of COVID, we sometimes do our daily walk safely in Forest Hills Cemetery, located a few blocks from home. Because of my long interest in the Tyler family’s genealogy and history, I recently checked with the cemetery office to see if there were any Tylers buried there. They took out a map and indicated four Tyler gravesite locations, not counting our own. One site we knew about; the other three were harder to find.
One of the sites was located in Block 56, Lots 7 & 8. We strolled to this location and looked at every stone in the block. Not finding anything, we wondered if they had given us the wrong information. Fortunately, I was stubborn enough to kick some dirt away from a small area of a mostly-buried flat stone and exposed what was obviously a gravestone. Kicking away a little more dirt, we began to see lettering, and eventually were able to decipher the name, David Tyler. This photo shows what it looks like at this point, before we go back with brushes to clean it off properly.
Returning home, I looked through our three volumes of Tyler Genealogy and found a Doctor David Tyler who in 1830 moved from “Tyler Hollow” in Marcellus, New York, to Ann Arbor. Wow! I had found one of my relatives through this unique circumstance. I found information on him in Washtenaw County’s online history and on the genealogy web site, WikiTree.
Doctor David Tyler turned out to be an upright Ann Arbor citizen and an officer in the local Masonic Lodge. His brother was Comfort Tyler, also from Marcellus, a notable who had many distinctions as one of upstate New York’s early settlers. My special interest in Comfort had been established earlier when I wrote about him in my Tyler history book titled, 15 Generations of American Stories: Notable Descendants of Immigrant Job Tyler. It seems Comfort had foolishly become right-hand man for Aaron Burr when Burr tried to establish a new nation in the Louisiana Purchase with himself as head of this new government. When their small band of rebels was caught, both Burr and Comfort Tyler were put on trial before Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court. The historic Burr Conspiracy, written about in many books, resulted in both men being freed simply because their “actions” had never been realized. Comfort returned home, but with a sense of disgrace.
So I was connected with an interesting family and some fascinating history. Ilene pointed out that David Tyler was a contemporary of Robert S. Wilson, who built our own historic Greek Revival style house. The supreme irony would be to discover that David and Robert knew each other back in mid-19th century in Ann Arbor.
All in all, it was a wonderful example of how stories can come from anywhere. As writers, we should be able to find drama in the most innocent of instances; maybe even from brushing a little dirt from a stone.