Monument in the Hinterland

The following article was originally posted in the Hinterlander, Vol. 2 No. 1, July 1958

 

Casey B. Tyler and His Library

by Mathias P. Harpin

 

A man with a name that combined something deeply Irish and something steeped in the deep soil of America was born in Moosup Valley, Dec. 28, 1819. He stayed in Moosup Valley for a while, then left and came to the Pawtuxet Valley. But though he left his boyhood grounds he never forgot them and on his death gave to his birthplace something of inestimable value – a library. I refer to the Casey Bowen Tyler Library that stands by the Moosup Valley Church, across the road from the hall of the Moosup Valley Grange and Moosup Valley School.

Diogenes, Greek cynic philosopher, said that “Education is adornment in prosperity and a refuge in adversity” and there is no doubt that Casey Tyler found it so.

Casey Tyler was the son of John and Nabby (Potter) Tyler. As a small boy he was of a studious nature, always searching out books and burying himself in them. It was so that he educated himself sufficiently to teach school a few terms at Moosup Valley, combining this work with service in his father’s store, a business he finally inherited and conducted for several years. But the lure of distant places overpowered him, and he decided that a store located in Clayville which was then prosperous with its mills booming was more deserving of his business ability. Therefore he moved away.

However, even in Clayville he was not satisfied in business, and having a chance to work in the Benedict Lapham store in Centreville, he took over the work and carried it on for a number of years, finally retiring to his home that stood on Warwick Avenue, on the site of the home of Mrs. Allen Henry.

And here, as he had done since his boyhood, he collected books from everywhere. He subscribed to many magazines and saved them all. He wrote for many pamphlets and went to auctions and every time a box of books was brought out everybody knew that Casey Tyler would buy them and take them home. He saved note books, maps and every printed thing imaginable.

At all events, Casey Tyler had the most extensive, the most thorough private library in the entire central Rhode Island. People came from everywhere for information from him and everybody recognized him as an exceedingly smart man. He was a scrivener and wrote deeds and wills for a living and when a special poem was needed by some young man incapable of such artistic expression in courting the local best girl, Casey Tyler could turn his hand at that also, as he did so many times.

Folks got to know him as “Uncle Casey”, a name which might be taken as a hint of the love and affection which his neighbors had for him. “Uncle Casey” had a passion for facts and an unbounded memory.

He married his cousin Betsy Jenkis in August, 1848 and she died Dec. 3, 1887. In 1899 ‘Uncle Casey” followed her and in accordance with his last wishes, he was taken back to Moosup Valley, back there to that pleasant little vale where life passes on so dreamily, and he was buried in a grave by the side of his beloved, close to the library.

In accordance with his wishes also, all of his books were packed in boxes and carried in wagons down to the Valley and there the good folks of Moosup Valley got together and built the library building where today you can step inside and spend a quiet hour perusing through antique volumes of newspapers, the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner, that gem of Central Rhode Island journalism; volumes of Evening Bulletin extending back into the 1860’s and 1870’s.

The land for the building was given by Mrs. Matilda Tyler Rathbun, a niece of “Uncle Casey”.

“Uncle Casey” obtained his first name from his grandmother Eunice Casey, who married Nehemiah Potter.

The library has retained the charm of a rural library with its pot-bellied stove in the center of the room and back of this the desk that “Uncle Casey” had, containing his ink well, his personal papers and ever so many little things, which, added together, paint the man as he truly was.

And so there may have been other men in Moosup Valley who did a great deal to earn the everlasting recognition of the folks in the Valley, but it remained for a man like “Uncle Casey” with a firm and definite idea to remain away from his native soil most of his life, then to go back for an everlasting stay and be remembered more enduringly than those who had helped to till the soil and keep the Valley populated.

 


The pot bellied stove may be gone, but the library remains. Still next to the Grange, across from the church.

View the Tyler Free Library website HERE.