Faith Tyldsley was born with printers’ ink in her blood. Her roots in Millbrook, N.Y., run deep, dating back to the immigration of her grandfather, William Tyldsley, from Lancashire, England. In 1906, William purchased the Millbrook Printing Company, and thus began the 54-year legacy of a family-run, small-town newspaper. Though the printing business, and with it, The Millbrook Round Table, were sold by Faith’s mother, widowed in 1961, her daughter has chosen to carry on the family story in her new book. Edna in Millbrook is a beautiful tribute to the lady herself, a time bygone, and the town that made it all possible. Faith’s tale references several familiar faces and places through the eyes of one of Millbrook’s most notable families: and her love for her hometown is projected on every page.
Faith’s writerly tendencies stem from both sides of the Tyldsley family: in addition to her heritage with the Round Table, a business her father took over from his father in 1934, her mother Edna was a teacher, the valedictorian of her New Paltz class in 1933. Edna loved poetry and often used it as a tool over the seventeen years she taught first-graders. In addition to an impressive catalog of memorized verse, she also wrote her own compositions, which were much-beloved and oft-requested by the children.
Denny Tyldsley (1940) and Faith (1945) spent their early days at Ridge Acres, built in 1950 on the property of an abandoned farm, and so named for its placement on Chestnut Ridge. Many picnics and glamorous parties were held on the grounds of the contemporary colonial, and Nor’Eastern blizzards were ushered in with a cozy reading of John Greenleaf Whittier’s Snow Bound. Ridge Acres was Edna’s most treasured possession, her “happy place”. In April of 2000, at the age of 87 she writes: “I doubt that anyone enjoys her home as much as I enjoy mine. I get so much pleasure just looking out different windows at the landscape emerging from its winter garb.” In fact, she turned down a small parade of suitors following her husband John’s unexpected death in 1960, a move that Faith attributes to a desire to remain in the home that brought such joy. A journal entry penned by Edna in 2002 suggests another factor that may have influenced her decision: “John would have been 96 today. How I have managed all these years (42 in March) without him I do not know.”
Edna Mae Feely and John Ogden Tyldsley met in 1935 at Grace Episcopal Church, where they were both members of the choir. At the time, Edna was boarding at the Whetherel House, which hosted a flock of young teachers in the center of the village and was located directly across from The Millbrook Press. Copies of Ms. Feely’s teaching contracts, reproduced in full detail in Faith’s book, state in no uncertain terms that “Subsequent marriage makes this contract void.” John was quite insistent, however, proclaiming in a letter dated February 1937: “I have been thinking of a million ways for you to sever your contract and I hope that when I get back we can work some plan out as I want you to marry me in June. Please try and think up some ways of making things right.” With poise and sophistication, it was done, and the two were wed on June 19, 1937.
John Tyldsley recognized that his wife’s education surpassed his own, immediately offering her the mantle of proofreader-in-chief. She reflects: “At that time, we lived in the house next to the Millbrook Press. The business was not as busy then and we managed with one office telephone that had an extension in the house. A buzzer operated from the office informed me if a call was for me. When I had finished a batch of proofs, I would buzz for John or the secretary to come and pick them up.” This depiction is just the beginning of a fascinating portrait immortalizing the process of printing by hand.
In producing her own book with the help of a self-publishing company, Faith looks back with affectionate irony on the similarities. Four rounds of revisions, in which “I would receive corrections only to discover that a new error had mysteriously popped up in the revised manuscript, proofreading their proofreading…” Little did they know that Faith now writes and proofreads for The Granby Drummer. In her younger years, and home on breaks from St. Mary’s School in Peekskill, Faith grew up in the office of The Millbrook Round Table. “We were just kind of a newspaper family,” she says.
Many qualities of Edna are echoed in her daughter, who received her bachelor’s from Wells College, then a master’s and doctoral degree in school psychology and guidance counseling. Faith’s love of history is evident in the carefully ascribed details of her book, including explorations into the influences of the times on Millbrook and its people, as well as a series of maps Faith had commissioned herself.
As one of the town’s most involved elders, Edna was a member of and delivered presentations to the Town of Washington/Village of Millbrook Historical Society. She also headed up the Grace Episcopal Church Archives Committee, formed out of determination that the church’s history be carefully cataloged and preserved. In 1958, Mrs. Tyldsley and Mrs. Blanche Boomer made history as two of the first women to be elected to an Episcopal Vestry in New York State. Today, Faith is a member of both the Village of Millbrook and Salmon Brook Historical Societies.
Edna’s passion for the care of the church historical documents extended, perhaps unknowingly, to other remnants of the era to which she was privy. Edna in Millbrook contains nearly 100 color and black-and-white photographs, handwritten letters, records, excerpts, newspaper clippings, recipes, and my personal favorite: proposals for catering, furniture, wedding photography, dresses and flowers sent to recently announced brides-to-be in 1937.
The Millbrook Round Table may be only a memory, but The Granby Drummer forges ahead — through the commitment of people like the Tyldsley family and all others devoted to small-town stories and the power of the written word. Edna in Millbrook is a light for all those ordinary people living ordinary lives, adding a little sunshine to the world, being kinder than they have to be, inspiring others, and leaving behind a legacy that is more than the sum of its parts.
Sierra Shepard is the publisher of The Hudson Connection.
Edna in Millbrook is available from the author at ftsnouthouse.com