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Collection John Tyler Papers

1790-1815

A chronology of key events in the life of John Tyler (1790-1862) from birth to his election to the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • 1773, Mar. 29 

    Born, Greenway estate, Charles City County, Va., one of eight children of John and Mary Armistead Tyler.  The Tylers were slaveholders who operated a large tobacco, corn, and wheat plantation and raised thoroughbred horses. Father John Tyler, Sr., was a powerful politician, judge in Virginia’s General Court, and later governor of Virginia.

    Birthplace of John Tyler, Greenway, Charles County, Va. , c. 1930-1970. Hirst Dillon Milhollen, photographer.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-99512
  • 1797

    Mother Mary Armistead Tyler died.

  • 1802

    Entered, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va., his father’s alma mater. Studied Ancient history and was impressed by the theories of economist Adam Smith and the teachings of school president Rev. Bishop James Madison.

  • 1807

    Graduated, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Va. Gave commencement speech on the merits of female education, which enraged his mentor Rev. Bishop Madison.

  • 1809

    Mentored in law by his father and cousin Samuel Tyler. Worked with College of William and Mary alumnus and former U.S. attorney general Edmund Randolph, though he disagreed with Randolph’s Federalist viewpoints favoring the supreme authority of the federal government. Admitted to the Virginia bar. Began criminal law practice in Virginia. Father became governor of Virginia.

    William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va.  Engraving, n.d.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  LC-USZ62-48862
  • 1809, Oct. 21

    Former president Thomas Jefferson, an acquaintance of Governor Tyler’s from their earlier study of law, dined at the governor’s residence in Richmond. Nineteen-year-old John Tyler met Jefferson for the first time during the visit.

  • 1811

    Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, as his father had been before him.

  • 1813, Jan.

    Father, then judge in the U.S. Circuit Court of Richmond, Va., contracted pneumonia, died, and was buried next to his wife on the Greenway plantation. Virginia state legislators wore black mourning badges for thirty days in the former governor’s honor.

  • 1813, Mar. 29

    Married first wife Letitia Christian (1790-1842), daughter of Percilla and Robert Christian of Cedar Grove, a plantation estate in New Kent County, Va. The wedding took place at Cedar Grove, and the newlyweds took up residence at Mons-Sacer, a farm that was part of the Greenway estate.

  • 1813, May

    British troops attacked Hampton, Va., and defeated the city militia.

  • 1813

    Captain, Charles City County, Va., Volunteer Militia (Charles City Rifles), in the War of 1812. The militia joined the 52d Regiment of the state militia and marched on Williamsburg, where they housed at the College of William and Mary campus. Did not see action in the war.

  • 1815

    Member, Virginia Executive Council.
    Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
    First child, Mary (1815-1848) born, first of eight children with first wife Letitia Tyler.

    Letitia Tyler Semple (1821-1907), daughter of President John Tyler.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-25818
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