Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer

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The Burying Ground of the Painters and Tylers

Philadelphia and the surrounding region is known for its historic and scenic cemeteries.  So which cemetery is the final resting place for the founding Minshall/Painter/Tyler families of Tyler Arboretum?  A quick review of the History of Tyler Arboretum webpage will get you up to speed on the names of the family members that owned the Arboretum property for eight generations and the ones I’ll be focusing on in this post.

The earliest documentation I can find for a burial of a Minshall family member is for Hannah Minshall (1782-1838).  Hannah, married to Enos Painter and mother of Minshall and Jacob Painter, is said to be buried in an unmarked grave in the Middletown Meeting Burying Ground (also referred to as Middletown Preparative Burying Ground and Friends Hicksite Cemetery, located here on Route 352/Middletown Road).  Many well-known Delaware County names can be found on the hand-written burial lists, such as Baker, Sharpless, and Darlington.  This property is surrounded by a stone wall and is across the street from the Penn State Brandywine campus.

Sign outside of Cumberland CemeteryThis area had an immediate need for a burial site for “non-demoninational harmony” (as the Middletown Quaker Hickstie and Orthodox congregations that separated in 1827 both found their own burying grounds no longer adequate, suffering from graveyard overcrowding).  Interestingly, Minshall Painter’s written papers for May 5, 1859, mention a visit to his neighbor Thomas Pratt. Minshall had stopped at the Pratt farm, which included the land between the two Quaker cemeteries, as Thomas was “laying out a piece of ground for a cemetery laying adjoining the Middletown [Friends] grave yard.”  Bordering that stone wall and between two Quaker burying grounds was the establishment of Pratt’s Burying Ground, what is now expanded and named Cumberland Cemetery on Route 352.

The new burial ground was documented in the May 13, 1885 issue of The Chester Times (see below, and notice a familiar name in the list of purchasers in the third sentence):

A new place of sepulture, know as the Cumberland Cemetery, is a very finely located burial ground. It is situated in Middletown Township, and is part of the estate of the late Thomas Pratt. In February last Townsend F. and Horace P. Green of Media, James M. Smith, John J. Tyler and Thomas Sharpless, of Middletown, purchased the farm consisting of seventy acres and then sold all but eighteen of them, which they reserved for the new cemetery. A charter was granted by the court on April 6. The property will be laid out in lots, with avenues running to all portions of the grounds. The front of the cemetery will be embellished by a stone wall, on which an iron fence of suitable pattern will be mounted. It is thought this place will soon be come popular as a place of interment. It is on high ground, commands a fine view, and will make a fit spot for the living to place their dead. It is only a short distance from Chester. The officers of the association are J. M. Smith, President, T. J. Sharpless, Treasurer, Horace P. Green Secretary.

Minshall and Jacob Painter are both buried in “Pratt’s Burying Ground” (as they passed away before Cumberland Cemetery was officially incorporated in 1885).  Papers document that Jacob Painter designed his own grave marker, as sketches for his grave and drafts of the poetry engraved on both his own tomb and on his brother Minshall’s tomb are found among Jacob’s papers.  I have seen stories online that Minshall and Jacob wanted to be buried right next to the stone wall, so they could be buried close to their mother Hannah who was buried on the other side.

Tyler at Cumberland Cemetery

The final resting spots of Minshall (left) and Jacob (right) Painter. Note that both tombs are next to the stone wall of the Quaker burying site of their other (the meeting house can be seen above Jacob’s grave marker). If you visit this site, take a peek over the stone wall – you will be surprised to see more than tombstones within the stone wall!

The short text below is the only mention I have found of the cause of death of Minshall Painter:

Screen Shot 2013-12-26 at 8.47.28 PMThe image above is a screenshot from the article “Some Old Gardens of Pennsylvania” by J.W. Harshberger in the 1924 publication The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 48, No. 4, available online through the Penn State Libraries.

Ann Painter, the youngest sibling of Minshall and Jacob who inherited the property after the passing of her brothers (which contradicts the above article), is also buried in Cumberland Cemetery – but on the complete opposite side of the property in the Tyler mausoleum (described below).  She lived from 1818-1914 and was the wife of William Tyler and mother of John J. Tyler.  It was John J. Tyler that managed the property for Ann.

Tyler at Cumberland CemeteryJohn J. Tyler (1851-1930) was married to Laura Hoopes (1859-1944) and is buried in the only mausoleum in Cumberland Cemetery.  The structure is located on the one road that bends through the cemetery, named Tyler Memorial Driveway (as pictured to the left).  The beautiful and simple mausoleum has a stained glass window in the back and a small marble bench on a granite floor with six tombs inside.  When peering through the windows of the door, you will see John J. Tyler in the middle on the right, with Laura at rest below him.  To the left is Ann Tyler in the middle, William Tyler on the bottom, and their son William at the top who died in 1873 at the age of 25.

Tyler at Cumberland Cemetery

The Tyler Mausoleum at Cumberland Cemetery. Note Middletown Monthly Meeting in the background to the right, along with the Quaker cemetery.

If you want to further your exploration of Cumberland Cemetery, I strongly encourage you to read the undergraduate honors thesis of Eileen Fresta, who earned her B.A. in American Studies from Penn State Brandywine in Spring 2013.  Her thesis, titled “A Study of the Cumberland Cemetery in Middletown Township, Pennsylvania,” is freely available online as a PDF file.  I believe you will find Chapter 5, Middletown Township Quakers in the Nineteenth Century, of particular relevance and interest.  Visitors are also allowed to walk through Cumberland Cemetery during daytime hours.

RANDOM FACT  —  Perhaps the most well-known person resting at Cumberland Cemetery is Joshua Pusey, the inventor of the paper matchbook! There is a historical marker detailing this accomplishment along Route 352.