Tyler Arboretum History

Tyler’s history dates to 1681, when Thomas Minshall, an English Quaker, bought property in Pennsylvania from William Penn.

Part of that land deed included the land that Tyler Arboretum sits on today. By 1707, Thomas Minshall had transferred his Middletown Township holdings of 500 acres to his youngest son, Jacob, who married Sarah Owens that same year.

Jacob and Sarah had at least six children. In 1734, Thomas Minshall II, son of Jacob and Sarah, inherited the property from his father. He married Agness Salkeld and they became the first of the family to live in Lachford Hall. In 1777 – Jacob Minshall II, the son of Thomas II and Agness, marries Ann Heacock of Middletown. In 1800 – Hannah Minshall, the only child of Jacob II and Ann, married Enos Painter.

Hannah and Enos raise a family of seven children, including Minshall, born 1801, and Jacob, born 1814. An immensely acute business-person, Enos buys back much of the original land which had been sold off over the years. He turns extensive real estate holdings into profit making enterprises and invests capital wisely. By 1817, Enos, inherits the property from Jacob II through his wife Hannah.

By 1825, Enos and Hannah’s bachelor sons, Minshall and Jacob Painter begin the systematic planting of more than 1,000 plants for study and enjoyment. Their collection becomes locally known as the Painter Arboretum. The brothers continue a lifelong pursuit of knowledge while managing the family farms. In 1834, Enos Painter builds a massive stone addition onto the western end of the existing barn to house livestock (this is the same barn that was extensively renovated in 2017).

By 1850, the Painter family was managing four farms and a sawmill on the property. Enos Painter died in 1857 and his sons Minshall and Jacob inherit the property. In 1863, Minshall and Jacob Painter build the Painter Library for their growing natural science collections and equipment.

In 1876, Ann Tyler, the youngest child of Enos and Hannah, inherits the property after the deaths of her brothers Minshall and Jacob. Her son, John J. Tyler, manages the property for his mother.

John J. Tyler inherits the family estate in 1914 and makes Victorian alterations to Lachford Hall and adds a new wing. By 1930, after John Tyler’s death, his wife Laura Hoopes Tyler arranged for the property to be left in trust as the John J. Tyler Arboretum. John and Laura had no children and when Laura died in 1944, the homestead became a non-for-profit public garden.

In 1946, the renowned horticulturist Dr. John C. Wister became Tyler Arboretum’s first director. Dr. Wister planted the collections magnolias, cherries, crabapples, lilacs, conifers, and rhododendrons we see today He also laid out the routes of the hiking trails.

Between 1997 and 2013 the Stopford Family Meadow Maze, deer fence, Scenic Loop, pathways, tree houses, Butterfly House are installed.

By 2014 and 2019 Tyler had celebrated its 70th and 75th anniversaries as a public garden and arboretum.

Many of the trees on the site predate the Painter brothers, while other trees were planted as part of the brothers’ experiments and endeavors.

Today Tyler Arboretum is non-profit organization. Our mission is to preserve, develop and share our diverse horticultural, historic and natural site resources in order to stimulate stewardship and an understanding of our living world.

Tyler fulfills its mission through high quality educational programs, extensive horticultural collections and displays, preservation of its historic buildings and stewardship of 650 acres of woodlands, meadows and stream valleys.