Calvin Castine's Notes & Info:

New Yorker Calvin Castine and I became acquainted in 1999 while he was putting together a TV show about movie cowboy Tom Tyler for his weekly OUR LITTLE CORNER cable TV series. His show on Tom Tyler first aired on October 31, 1999.

To provide more details about the early life of Tom Tyler, I asked Calvin if he would jot down his investigative efforts to date, including the information he has received from Moriah historian, Joan Daby. I thank Calvin for the following info.

About Port Henry, New York --- Tyler's birthplace:

The Town of Moriah is located in Essex County, New York. If you look at a map of New York State, the northeastern tip is Clinton County, this is the border with Quebec to the north and Vermont to the east. Immediately below Clinton County is Essex County. It's on the western shores of Lake Champlain, and the easternmost part of the Adirondack Mountains. As the crow flies, I'd guess that Port Henry is about 60-65 miles south of the Canadian border, and 20 miles due north of historic Ticonderoga (also located in Essex County).

The Town of Moriah contains one village, Port Henry, and four hamlets (Moriah Corners, Moriah Center, Mineville and Witherbee). Iron ore mining took place in Mineville, for the most part. Some mining was done in the early and mid 1800's in Cheever (northern area of the Village of Port Henry). The village of Port Henry is generally listed as the birthplace of Tom Tyler (but I would imagine that he was actually born at home in Witherbee back in 1903). Over the years Mineville and Witherbee have almost been interchangeable, although they are a mile or two apart.

Witherbee-Sherman Company owned the mining area before Republic Steel Corporation, who leased it in 1938. Company houses were built for the workers and their families. As far as moving from one house to another - the shafts were not that far apart to warrant moving. If they lived in Port Henry, for instance, the L.C.&M.R.R. (Lake Champlain & Moriah Railroad which was built in 1869) was used to transport people, as well as transporting the iron ore to the lake shore area for further transport by rail and ore boats or to the furnaces below the railroad station, where Van Slooten Marina now stands. The L.C.&M.R.R. wound around the incline to Mineville for seven miles. There was also a bus from Belden & Edwards Garage in the 1940s that traveled from Ticonderoga to Mineville picking up the miners and delivering them home. In the old days, perhaps they had horse and wagons or the old fashion mode of travel --- they walked.

To the best of my knowledge the Markowskis spent their entire tenure in that house in Witherbee that we featured at the end of our video. Hopefully, we'll be able to shed a little more light on this with the interviews we plan for this summer.

The population of the Town of Moriah has dwindled a little in the past 30 years with the closing of the mines. The centralized school district is classified as a Class D school, which puts its grades 10 through 12 population at less than 250 students total. So this is small town rural America.

A little side note on the Moriah area. I had always assumed that baseball star Johnny Podres was its most famous native. He grew up in Witherbee and graduated from Mineville High School. Fresh out of the service, he won two games in the 1955 World Series, including the clincher, to give Brooklyn its only World Series title. I was only eight years old at the time, and a Yankee fan, but I can still remember the excitement. The Moriah Central School athletic field is named 'Johnny Podres Field'.

The Markowski Family:

The Markowski family included five children: Frank, Vincent (Tom Tyler), Joe, Molly and Catherine (or Katherine with a K). The latter three lived in the Detroit (Hamtramck) area. Tyler's obituary states that he was living with his sister Katherine Slepski at the time of his death in 1954.

Most of the early church and mining records from the Town of Moriah were destroyed in separate fires years ago. Town historian Joan Daby provided me with the following info which has been uncovered thus far from existing records:

• Town records show Joseph Markowski born 11/18/1908, parents Frank Markowski and Helen Montvilos
• Town records show Valvina Markowski born 12/24/1906, parents Frank Markowski and Helen Montvilos
• St. Peter and Paul's Catholic church records (Mineville) show Joseph Markowski born 11/18/1908, baptized 11/25/1908, father Frank Mark, mother Helen Montville Mark(owski)
• St. Peter and Paul's Catholic church records (Mineville) show Maliane Marko born 12/24/1906, baptized 12/30/1906, father Frank Marko, mother Helen Montville Marko
• The Witherbee-Sherman and Republic Steel Corporation records (Essex County) show: Frank Marko Jr., age 16, Polish Laborer at 3 mill; started work June 25, 1917, left September 11, 1918, and a lay-off date of April 5, 1919.

In the Fall of 1999 and again, in December, 2000, I communicated with Tom Karkoski, whose father was a friend of Tyler. In summary, Tom writes:

"My father became a boyhood friend of his when my father, sister and their parents immigrated to this country in October, 1907. We know that they made their first communion together around 1908-10 in a small church in Mineville. Evidently the Markowski's moved to Detroit not much longer after that. My grandfather was a shoemaker in Mineville during that period. They too moved their family to Detroit around the same era as the parents of Vincent did. When he decided to go to Hollywood for fame and fortune he talked my father into going with him. They worked their way across the country, making a stop in Denver, where, as the family story goes, my father lost his wallet and evidently his nerve or desire to become a movie star and returned home to Detroit. He later moved back to the Mineville area, met my mother who was from Vermont, got married and started a family. At one point in time, Tom Tyler did ask my father to come to Hollywood, however love prevailed and he remained in the area. He passed away in 1963."

In Summary:

Based on this information, as well as info from Mike Tyler (Frank Tyler's son), following is a summary of the Tyler family.

• Tyler's family is listed as being Polish
• his parents were Frank Markowski Sr. and Helen Montvilos
• his brothers were Frank Jr. (who changed his name to 'Tyler' because he worked in Hollywood and everyone knew him as Tom Tyler's brother); and Joe, who went by the surname of 'Marko'
• his sisters were Katherine (Slepski), and Maliane (aka Molly)

Lisa Bulger's Notes & Info:

... as for the family being listed as 'Polish' (i.e., Frank, Jr. appearing as a 'Polish labourer' in the records of the steel company) when other sources have them as Lithuanian, I may be able to throw some light on this:

Poland and Lithuania were united from 1386 to 1795, at which time most of the country was annexed by Russia; from 1569 on, after the signing of the Lublin Union, Poland and Lithuania formed the Commonwealth. And Mike Tyler told me that Tom's father was Lithuanian, and that his naturalisation papers listed him as being a citizen of East Prussia. So, although the family has a Polish-sounding surname, they were Lithuanian.

One piece of information which I do have has more to do with Port Henry than with Tyler himself. Are you aware that Port Henry had its own film studio? From January 1919 on, the Artic (sic) City Studios was located in Port Henry. It was rented out to independent producers, and its chief attraction was a large zoo of trained animals. Edward Small was its agent. Now, according to Buck Rainey, Tyler's family stayed in Port Henry until his graduation from high school, which goes against what one usually reads, that the family moved to Detroit circa 1913. If Rainey is correct and the family DID stay in Port Henry until Tom finished high school, then the very interesting possibility arises that Tom had exposure to the film studio and got the acting bug there from.

The married surname of Tom's sister Molly is Redge.

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