Adele Briscoe Looscan Collection
Abram and Eliza Van Tuyl Papers, Manuscript Collection: MC068
Eliza Birdsall Van Tuyl was born on September 2, 1799, daughter of Lewis Birdsall and Patience Lee and sister to Jane Harris. Eliza married Dr. Abraham Van Tuyl in New York. He received a medical license from the State of New York in 1819, and in 1823, he was appointed a military surgeon in the New York Militia. The Van Tuyls remained in New York despite the continuous encouragement from family members to join them in Texas. While Eliza desperately wanted to be with her family, lack of money and Abram's refusal to accept the Birdsalls' offer to pay their passage kept them in New York. Eliza lamented that they were no better off in New York, where she must live "subjected to poverty in this aristocratic land." By 1844, she had given up any hope of travelling to Texas to see her family and began urging them to come visit her. However, she may have visited Texas as early as 1845. The Van Tuyls lived in Penn Yan, Waterloo, Bavaria, and Yates County, New York. They had two children, Eliza Jane and Henry. Prior to the Civil War, possibly after the death of her husband, Eliza moved to Harrisburg, Texas, where she lived with her sister, Jane. During the Civil War she gained the reputation of being a skilled nurse to Confederate soldiers. Eliza Birdsall Van Tuyl died within eight days of her sister on August 24, 1869.
The papers are divided into two groups: the papers of Abram Van Tuyl and the papers of Eliza Van Tuyl and consist of correspondence and printed materials. Abram Van Tuyl received letters from his father-in-law, Lewis Birdsall (2), and his brother-in-law, Maurice L. Birdsall (1) writing from Harrisburg, Texas. Printed materials consist of 3 certificates: his medical license from the County of Seneca, New York (1819), an appointment as military surgeon for the New York Militia by New York Governor Joseph C. Yates (1823), and an appointment as commissioner to New York by the Pennsylvania governor, David R. Porter (1840).
Correspondence from family members - Lewis Birdsall (4), Maurice L. Birdsall (7), Patience Lee Birdsall (3), Egbert B. Birdsall, Lewis A. Birdsall, and Lewis B. Harris - to Eliza Van Tuyl documents life in the Republic of Texas, including epidemics, career potential, and family affairs. Of interest is a letter written by Lewis Birdsall to his daughter concerning her mother's death. A letter written by Lewis A. Birdsall to Eliza concerning her daughter's marital problems and intercepted by Eliza Jane's estranged husband Thomas D. Sumper who appended an angry response, demonstrates the control of husbands over their wives in the 19th century. An 1840 letter written by Egbert Benson Birdsall highly praises Texas and attempts to persuade Eliza and "Brom" to emigrate. Eliza's correspondence sent series includes 2 letters to her father (1837, 1840), 1 to "brother," and a letter of introduction (1845) from James A. Brolles to Caleb T. Ives in Galveston attesting to Mrs. Van Tuyl's Christian character.
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[Identification of Item], Abram and Eliza Van Tuyl Papers, MC068, San Jacinto Museum of History, Houston, Texas.
Mr. and Mrs. George A. Hill, Jr., Houston Public Library, Annie Hume, 1939-1940.
Processed by Sandra Eileen Yates, 2002.