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Comfort Tyler
Born (1764-02-22)February 22, 1764
Ashford, Connecticut, United States
Died August 5, 1827(1827-08-05) (aged 63)
Montezuma, New York, United States
Occupation Early settler, surveyor and engineer, instrumental in the development of Onondaga County
Spouse(s) Deborah Wemple (died 1785)
Elizabeth "Betsey" Brown (died October 21, 1827)

Comfort Tyler (February 22, 1764 - August 5, 1827), one of the original settlers of modern Syracuse, New York, brought his family in the spring of 1788 to what became the hamlet of Onondaga Hollow on the future Seneca Turnpike, south of the city's center today. He joined Asa Danforth and Ephraim Webster, the first whites to settle there, who had obtained permission to live there from the Onondaga. Tyler built the more ambitious house in Onondaga Hollow and contributed his engineering skills to the development of Central New York.

History[edit | edit source]

Comfort Tyler was a major figure in the early development of Onondaga County.

Early life[edit | edit source]

He was born on February 22, 1764 in Ashford, Connecticut, and was fourth of seven brothers.[1]

In the year 1777, at age 13, he resolved to enlist in the Continental Army as a soldier in defense of his country.[1] At age 14, he entered the army with his father's consent and served in the American Revolutionary War[2] with most of his duty in and about the fortress of West Point.[1]

Comfort Tyler memorial plaque, Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse, New York

In 1783, he became a surveyor and school teacher at Caughnawaga, New York on the Mohawk River.[1]

Family[edit | edit source]

His first wife was Deborah Wemple (died 1785), half-sister of General Nicholas Herkimer. She died soon after they married, leaving one daughter, Deborah Tyler, who married Cornelius Longstreet, and was the mother of Cornelius Tyler Longstreet of Syracuse, New York. Comfort Tyler married a second time to Elizabeth "Betsey" Brown, who died on October 21, 1827, at age 58 not long after her husband.[3] Together, they had a daughter named Mary Tyler Olmstead who settled in Cohoes, New York.[1]

His brother, Job Tyler, came to Onondaga County at an "early day" and died March 10, 1836, at age 69, leaving two sons, Orin Tyler and Asher Tyler.[3]

Surveyor[edit | edit source]

General James Clinton arrived in 1784 when he came up the Mohawk River with a surveying party, for the purpose of establishing the boundary line between New York and Pennsylvania.[1] Tyler accompanied the expedition and the party transported their bateaux and baggage from the Mohawk River to Otsego Lake, and thence down the Susquehanna River to the New York State line. This was the same route taken by General Clinton in 1779 in the expedition against the western Indians. On this surveying expedition, Tyler first made acquaintance of Moses DeWitt, another early settler in Onondaga County. Both were about the same age and were closely associated until the time of DeWitt's death.[1]

Tyler assisted in surveying the Military Tract and surveyed the Cayuga Reservation. His efforts were a part in all the early improvements in Onondaga County. He was active in "opening roads, improving streams and establishing schools and churches."[3]

Lessee company[edit | edit source]

In the winter of 1787-1788, at age 22, Tyler joined the famous Lessee Company composed of John Livingston, Caleb Benton, Peter Ryckman, John Stephenson, Ezekial Gilbert and Benjamin Birdsall, a total of 68 men.[3] The constitution of New York State forbade the purchase of lands of the Indians to private individuals, reserving this right to the state alone. An association of influential men was formed for the purpose of purchasing lease-hold estates of the Indians, for the term of 999 years and for annual rent of 2,000 Spanish milled dollars and some privileges of hunting and fishing. On their way up the Mohawk River, they met Tyler and offered him participation in the enterprise, which he accepted.[1]

The party proceeded as far as Canandaigua, New York, where a treaty was held with the Indians on the banks of the Canandaigua Lake with the chiefs and head men of the Six Nations. As far as the group could tell, their purpose was accomplished.[1]

New York State authorities soon interfered and the whole "affair" was invalidated. By these operations, the lessees failed to establish their title to the "fertile country of Western New York." They petitioned the New York State Legislature for relief and on February 4, 1793, an act was passed authorizing the Commissioners of the Land Office to direct a quantity of the vacant and unappropriated lands, equal to 10 miles (16 km) square, to be set off for their use and benefit.[1]

This land was finally located on township No. 3 of the old Military Tract, amounting to about 64,000 acres (260 km2).

Onondaga county[edit | edit source]

Comfort Tyler came to Onondaga in 1788 at age 23 in company with Major Asa Danforth Jr., son of early settler Asa Danforth, and was one of the first white settlers in the county. The two joined up with the elder Danforth at Webster's Trading Post.[3]

He felled the first tree in the area, assisted in manufacturing the first salt, and constructed the first piece of turnpike in New York State west of Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York.[3]

He was a favorite with the local Indians and they named him To-whau-ta-qua, meaning "one capable of work and at the same time a gentleman."[3]

In the summer of 1793, he was bitten by a rabid dog. The wound was instantly treated with salt. He immediately arranged his affairs, bade forwell to his friends, and "with the most melancholy feelings, and the prospect of terrible and certain death before him, set out in quest of a celebrated physician, who professed to cure this horrible malady."[1] He did succeed in finding the doctor and submitted to a severe course of treatment and a few weeks later returned home "restored to health and usefulness." The dog was finally killed after it attacked several swine and cattle in the neighborhood who died "with all the symptoms and horrors of that most dreadful of maladies."[1]

In 1794, the first post office in Onondaga County was established at Onondaga Hollow with Comfort Tyler as first postmaster. Mail was distributed as late as 1812 to local communities such as Camillus, Lysander, Manlius, Marcellus, Pompey, Spafford and Otisco.[3]

During the 1790s, Tyler kept the tavern at Onondaga Hollow which stood on the site where a hotel was later constructed. The road was a tollroad for many years and "in early days presented a scene of great activity and was long the chief thoroughfare between Albany, New York, and Buffalo, New York."[3]

Tyler was appointed as sheriff in 1797[3] and was one of the county's first coroners.[2]

From 1799 to 1802, Tyler held the office of the county clerk.[3]

Political life[edit | edit source]

Tyler was appointed as justice of the peace in the town of Manlius, New York, in 1794, a position he held until 1798.[3]

In 1798 and 1799, he represented Onondaga County in the New York State Legislature.[3] During 1799, he was appointed the first supervisor of Manlius, a position he held for four years, until 1803.[2]

In April 1802, Tyler was the Federalist candidate for Congress in New York's 16th congressional district but was defeated by Dem.-Rep. John Paterson.

Burr conspiracy[edit | edit source]

His connection with the "so-called conspiracy" of Aaron Burr in 1805 not only impaired his private life, but "forever destroyed his prospects as a public man."[3] He had made the acquaintance of Burr which led to his connection with the "celebrated" southern expedition. This affair created "great excitement" across the United States at that time, and Tyler was a "prominent actor in the scene."[2]

The affair started when Baron P. N. Tut Bastrop contracted with the Spanish government for 30 square miles (78 km2) of land near Nachitoches. Consequently, Colonel Charles Lynch. made an agreement with Bastrop for an interest in this purchase. Aaron Burr then purchased from Lynch about 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) of this land, lying between the Sabine and Nachitoches and paid $50,000.[1]

Bastrop's grant contained roughly 1,200,000 acres (4,900 km2), and 60% of that was conveyed to Colonel Lynch of which Colonel Burr "became interested" in 50% of Lynch's share, "for the consideration named above."[1]

In the spring of 1805, Aaron Burr passed through Pennsylvania to the Ohio Valley and down to New Orleans, Louisiana. Here he visited the beautiful island of Herman Blennerhasset.[1] His actions were not fully understood, but it was "supposed by man that his final object was the possession of New Orleans, the conquest of Mexico and the formation of a new Republic."[1]

Many "principal" men of New York and Ohio where "drawn within the influences of his plan" and joined their fortunes with his. Burr had previously made acquaintance with Comfort Tyler when they both served on the New York State Legislature in 1798 and 1799.[1]

The great southwest expedition commenced. On December 6, 1805, Tyler landed at Blenerthasset's Island with four boats laden with similar freight as had "previously passed." The government was suspicious and the militia of Ohio was called out. An act of the Ohio Legislature, and President Thomas Jefferson's proclamation, against those suspicious movements, ended the whole affair and the expedition dissipated upon the arrest of the principal mover, Aaron Burr.[1]

Burr was arrested and later tried for treason in 1807 and acquitted. Other indictments were made including Generals Adair and Dayton, Blenerhasset, Swartwout, Tyler, Smith, Bellman and Ogden. Burr and Blenerhasset were the only ones tried. The indictments were founded on the allegation that Col. Comfort Tyler, with some 30 men, stopped at Blenerhasset's Island on their way down the Ohio River with a view of taking temporary possession of New Orleans on the way to New Mexico, "such intent being considered treason."[1]

Process was served on Tyler at Natchez, Mississippi. He came to Washington D.C. with Col. Pike, (later General Pike), and who was killed at Little York in 1812.[1]

The affair greatly impacted Tyler's private fortune, and such was "popular prejudice" against the participators in this enterprise that it forever destroyed his political aspirations. "Whatever the expectations of these men, they were sadly disappointed, and the result proved that they had been woefully misled."[1]

The accompanying estrangement between Comfort Tyler and Aaron Burr was never reconciled.[1]

Salt manufacturer[edit | edit source]

The first two men involved in salt production at the salt springs were early settlers, Asa Danforth and Comfort Tyler. Both men arrived at the salt springs during 1788 and began salt production in 1789 when Danforth carried a five pail kettle from his residence at Onondaga Hollow to Onondaga Salt Springs Reservation. He placed his coat on his head, inverted the kettle, and is said, "carried it the whole distance without taking it off to rest."[4] Danforth noted that the first time he made salt he used a 15-gallon kettle and in nine hours he had "boiled down" about 30 pounds (14 kg) of salt.[5]

Comfort Tyler accompanied him, carrying an axe, chain and other necessary implements for the purpose of making a "suitable erection to boil salt." They set up two crotches and suspended their kettle on a chain around a pole between them. After a sufficient quantity was made, they would hide their implements in the bushes until needed again. The practice continued for another year.[4]

In 1811, Tyler moved with his family to Montezuma, New York in Cayuga County, where he took up an interest in the Cayuga Manufacturing Company which had been organized for the purpose of making salt.[3]

He resided for two or three years in Hoboken, New Jersey, and superintended the draining of the salt meadows in that vicinity.

War of 1812[edit | edit source]

During the War of 1812 he rose to the rank of Colonel[2] and served as assistant commissary-general during the years 1812 to 1815.[3]

Comfort Tyler memorial pyramid, Oakwood Cemetery, Syracuse, New York

Later life[edit | edit source]

After the war, the Erie Canal policy "engaged his most ernest attention." He was an early advocate along with Judge James Geddes and Judge Joshua Forman, founder of Syracuse.[1]

Comfort Tyler died in Montezuma, New York, on August 5, 1827, at age 63 and was buried there.[2]

Recognition and memorials[edit | edit source]

In June, 1885, Tyler's remains were moved to Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse by the 3rd generation of his descendants where the Comfort Tyler Memorial Pyramid was constructed in his honor.[6]

The Comfort Tyler Park in Syracuse was named for him in 1951.[2] It was formerly called Colvin - Comstock Playground and is located on the southwest corner of East Colvin Street and Comstock Avenue, bounded by Vincent Street.[7]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 1.20 1.21 1.22 "Oakwood Cemetery". Yahoo! Inc., 2010. https://www.flickr.com/photos/jade19721/2787714021/. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "Know Your City Parks". Baltimore Woods Nature Center, Marcellus, New York, 2010. https://web.archive.org/web/20110725035452/http://www.baltimorewoods.org/Data/Documents/Morningside.pdf. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 Crowell, Kathy. "History of the Town of Onondaga". Dwight H. Bruce, Onondaga's Centennial. Boston History Co., 1896, Vol. I, pp. 836-866.. https://web.archive.org/web/20150924133816/http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nyononda/ONONDAGA/HISTORY.HTM. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Joshua Victor Hopkins Clark. Onondaga, or, Reminiscences of earlier and later times, Volume 2. Stoddard and Babcock, Syracuse, NY, 1849. https://books.google.com/books?id=-SgVAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=%22asa+danforth%22&source=bl&ots=RjO8TgqG8a&sig=FM0LYZyrzN4ToOH_zeo7FXNIqjk&hl=en&ei=jXqFTKT7AYqksQPa2KT3Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CCcQ6AEwBzgo#v=onepage&q=%22asa%20danforth%22&f=false. Retrieved September 6, 2010. 
  5. Bell, Valerie Jackson. "The Onondaga New York Salt Works (1654 - 1926)". Science Tribune, October 1998. http://www.tribunes.com/tribune/sel/bell.htm. Retrieved November 5, 2010. 
  6. "Comfort Tyler Memorial Pyramid". Groundspeak, Inc., 2010. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM3KMC. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  7. "Comfort Tyler Park". City of Syracuse, Department of Parks, 2008. http://www.syracuse.ny.us/parks/comfortTylerPark.html. Retrieved 2010-08-03. 

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