As the conflict between England and her American colonies developed, most southern coastal planters were loyal to England, which was the market for their crops. Most plantation owners were members of Anglican churches, the same religion as in England. These plantation owners would travel back and forth to England, with business ties on both sides of the Atlantic.
John William Llewellyn II, was an Anglican loyalist, a plantation owner and a cousin of Charles Cornwallis, the leader of the British forces in North America. Determined to save North Carolina from the rebels, Llewellyn started a secret society with the goals of the capture of a rebel munitions magazine, the protection of patriot army deserters and the death of “all the heads of the Country”. An oath of fidelity to King George III was required before joining the society.
Llewellyn’s secret society had something for everyone. Loyalists to the crown were the first to join, but Llewellyn played up the notion that North Carolina’s willingness to ally itself with France meant that the rebels would make the Roman Catholic faith the state religion. The conspirators also opposed the proposed draft, which had no support from any of the planters since North Carolina’s economy depended upon the uninterrupted harvesting of crops.
Llewellyn’s secret society had identification signals for members – a small stick with three notches cut into it. Fellow members could identify each other by alternating recited letters, spelling out B-E-T-R-U-E together, rubbing the left forefinger over the right arm, nose or chin before spelling out the society’s motto. Members usually took new recruits and held meetings in a gourd patch away from prying eyes, so the loyalist conspiracy was also called the Gourd Patch Conspiracy.
In the summer of 1777, the Llewellyn’s plans fell apart when a conspirator was arrested. Names were named and William Tyler Sr. was one of the first people identified, as was our Peter Tyler, who had been tasked with assassinating Llewellyn’s Baptist neighbor, the rebel Nathan Mayo. Fortunately for all involved, Nathan Mayo did not travel the road that day. Mayo pleaded for a pardon which resulted in sparing Llewellyn’s life and both lived to see one of his Mayo sons marry one of Llewellyn’s daughters.
Our Peter Jordan Tyler, along with his father, William Tyler Sr., and brother, William Tyler Jr., were convicted of misprision of treason, punishable by confinement and confiscation of one-half of one’s property. They received much harassment for their involvement in the Conspiracy.
By 1780, (William) Edward Tyler Sr., who some genealogists believe to be the father of our Peter Jordan Tyler, bought a land grant in what became Louisville, Kentucky. I have questions on if this (William) Edward Tyler Sr., one of the founders of Louisville, is really our Peter Jordan Tyler’s father. (William) Edward’s oldest son, Robert had an illustrious career helping Daniel Boone’s brother, Squire Boone, establish the first white settlement in Shelby County, named Boone’s Station, and serving as a captain in the Revolutionary War. Both President Harry Truman and Vice President Dick Cheney escended from this Robert Tyler. Peter Jordan is not listed in the Truman genealogy. Also of concern to me in this linage is the fact that William, a son called Walking Billy, went to Louisville with the rest of the Tyler family and another William stayed with Peter Jordan in North Carolina, moved with him to Kentucky and then they moved onto Arkansas together. Typically, there would not have been two living sons named William in one family unit. There were three Tyler families in the area at this time – it may take DNA testing or more research to ever sort out this family tree.
Robert Tyler, who could be the first Tyler in our family line, arrived in Maryland about 1650. He was a planter, probably tobacco. In his will in 1674, he had over 1000 acres of land and the slaves required to farm tobacco. His son, also Robert Tyler, married very well and increased the land holdings. The third generation, Edward, died at 30 years of age, leaving several small children, including William Edward Tyler, Sr., who may have guaranteed a bond for a sheriff and lost his money, moving to the western frontier of Virginia by 1756.
It looks like our Peter Tyler was a captain with the British forces in the Revolutionary War. After the war, he stayed in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, where he was continually harassed, losing a court case against his harassers. Records indicate Peter and his brother William moved to Logan County, Kentucky where Peter was supervisor of a road crew and his brother served as a sheriff. After that, they were some of the first settlers in Arkansas, with Baker Tyler, one of twenty children born over thirty five years, was born in 1793.
Family research indicates Peter Jordan may have had up to three wives after his initial marriage to Rachel Wolfe. His last will and testament names Rachel as his wife, along with all the children. There is nothing to indicate the Rachel named in the will is the same Rachel Wolfe he married prior to 1776.
The family settled in Searcy County, Arkansas, where their reputation may have followed them. Hoyt Young, a genealogist, has the courtship papers of his grandfather Wm S. Moore to Agnes Jane Tyler, where he states that he was told he should not be involved with Tylers. His comment “he would make his own decisions”.
Most genealogists agree our Peter Jordan Tyler was involved in the Llewellyn Conspiracy, through the process of elimination since the date, name and facts fit together. I’m much less certain on his parents, but the lineage from Peter Jordan, to Baker to Peter Adams Tyler is very certain. See the Peter Adams Tyler story in the Civil War section for more information on this family line.
- Draft material from Colleen Norman, March 25, 1999.
- “The Loyalist Experience in North Carolina”
- Loyalists in the Southern Campaign, Pay Abstract, No. 172, Vol 1, p 153. Public Records Office of London, England, Treasury Papers, PRO T50.
- Bertie County, North Carolina Deed records.
- Edgecombe County, North Carolina various records.
- North Carolina Historical and Genealogical Register, Vo 2. Pp 209-217.