Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins

Tompkins_Samuel_Dusenbury_portraitThis week in #52ancestors I celebrate the man who left New York for New Jersey and made it possible for me to spend every spring break of my childhood shopping at the Short Hills Mall.  And the theme for Week 36 is “Work” which I am going to interpret as “creating the family business.”  I still have wooden Smooth On crates in my house which are so useful for so many storage needs.

This is yet another story with a lot of questions, but here is what I have:

Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins was born 12 Dec 1838 in Hyde Park, NY.  He was the oldest child of Abraham Van Wagenen (1816-1869) and Caroline Brown (1818-1878) Tompkins.  They went on to have eight more children, which probably helped with the work on the small farm Abraham owned in Dutchess County.  For several years I have been searching for corroboration of the marriage date of Abraham and Caroline.  The family bible notes that the marriage occurred on 22 Feb 1839.  This makes the date of birth of the first child in 1838 a bit sticky.  Thank goodness for the New York State Historic Newspapers project!  I found a marriage notice in the Poughkeepsie Eagle for 9 March 1838 which names all the right people and gives the marriage date as 21 Feb 1838.

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Samuel’s obituary mentions that he came to Jersey City when he married Gettianna Vreeland, daughter of Nicholas and Elizabeth Van Riper Vreeland.  They were married 2 January 1868 in Bergen, NJ at her parents’ residence by Rev. B. C. Taylor.  The couple had seven children, five of whom lived to adulthood.

  • Grace Elizabeth Tompkins (1869-1964)
  • Vreeland Tompkins (1870-1956)
  • Abraham Van Wagnen Tompkins (1870-1870)
  • Samuel Edward Tompkins (1875-1876)
  • James Haviland Tompkins (1877-1942)
  • Emma Louise Tompkins (1881-1971)
  • Harold Doremus Tompkins (1888-1951)

In fact, the couple lived with Nicholas Vreeland and family in Bergen for the first few years of their marriage.  They are enumerated there in the 1870 Census and Samuel appears in Jersey City directories as early as 1872 with the occupation “storage.”  This aligns with a newspaper article which describes the complete loss of a New York city warehouse in 1872, resulting in the loss of stored cotton, grain and tobacco.  By 1876, Samuel is listed as a real estate broker, although the residence is still listed as Communipaw n Vreeland.  In the 1880 Census, Samuel and family have been joined by brother James L Tompkins, down from Dutchess County, NY.

Tompkins_Samuel_Patent_1885In 1895, Samuel founded the Smooth-On Manufacturing Company to manufacture a chemical iron compound by that name.  I have always been told that Samuel was the businessman and backed the company with his own money and experience, while his son Vreeland was the chemist and the creator of Smooth-On.  Evidence, however,  indicates that he was involved in inventing and designing as early as 1885, as he was the one who filed for a patent for the design for a radiator in 1885 with John Matlock. And in 1905, his patent for a boiler patch states that he is the inventor.  He is also listed in 1895 as the treasurer of the A. A. Griffins Iron Co. in Jersey City.  Diverse holdings makes for good business.

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Samuel Tompkins was active in the Bergen Reformed Church and was listed as deacon from 1912 to 1914.  He was also a member of the Free and Accepted Masons Zeredatha Lodge No. 131.  His grown children were active in Jersey City social events and he, as well as his daughters, entertained regularly according to the Jersey Journal.

Samuel D. Tompkins died at home on 1 January 1926.  His funeral was held at his home, 533 Communipaw Ave.  He was buried in the family plot of the burying ground opposite the Old Bergen Church.  Later, due to the cemetery being demolished, the burials of Samuel and his wife Gettieanna were removed to Arlington Cemetery, in Kearny, NJ.

 

Harold Doremus Tompkins

I never met either my maternal or my paternal grandfathers.  This week in #52Ancestors I attempt to get to know a man about whom I have only heard stories.

Harold Doremus Tompkins was born 17 February 1888 to Samuel D. (1838-1926) and Gettianna Vreeland (1841-1918) Tompkins.  He was the youngest child of seven, 5 of whom lived to adulthood.  As his oldest sister was born almost nineteen years before him, many of the stories I have heard are of the “darling little baby of the family” variety.  Certainly, this picture puts his position in perspective.  His siblings were literally adults by the time he was old enough to know what was what.

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Hasbrouck Institute In September 1893 the Hasbrouck Institute opened at the corner of Crescent and Harrison Avenues, now the site of Lincoln High School, with 305 students. The school first opened at 53-55 Mercer Street when it was founded in 1856. It then relocated to the Lyceum Classical School (1839-59) founded by William L. Dickinson at 109 Grand Street. Washington Hasbrouck (c. 1824-1895) established the private school with the goal to prepare young men in Jersey City for university and later public service. In 1880, the school became coed. The Jersey City Board of Education purchased the Hasbrouck Institute and grounds in 1912 and erected a new high school: Lincoln High School.

Harold was baptized at Lafayette Church in Jersey City, NJ and attended the local public school, and the Hasbrouck Institute for high school.  He took classes at Rutgers University, attending long enough to join Delta Phi fraternity like his older brother Vreeland.  He then went on to study mechanical engineering at Cornell University.  I am not sure how he had time as his senior yearbook also has him playing baseball, football, lacrosse, and being a member of the Mandolin Club.

After college he returned to Jersey City, where he was active in local activities, especially amateur sports.  He served with the New Jersey National Guard in the signal corps and I have seen one mention of his serving in the Mexican Expedition in 1916 but I have not verified that he actually went to Mexico to take part in the US response to Pancho Villa’s Mexican Revolution.

However, his service there does seem to have made it possible for him to get a commission as a lieutenant in Company C, 101th Signal Battalion, 29th Division.  As commonly occured during World War I, companies were reorganized constantly.  I found a mention of Harold in the History of the 29th Division which placed him in Company A, 104th Signal Corp, where he was in charge of the company that set up the communications net used to communicate the news each day.   He served in France and remained there after the war to take classes at the University of Bordeaux.

By 1920, he is back in Jersey City living with his father Samuel and working at Smooth-On.  He is 32 years old at this point and the family tells the story that his older sister told him that he needed to “grow up, get married and get out.”  As the baby of the family, I imagine this was received with due respect (ha, ha) but he managed to meet, get engaged to and marry Katharine Van Syckel Tennant, so he must have taken it to hear.  They were married 4 November 1922.

Tompkins_Tennant_wedding_Jersey_Journal_1922-11-06_8Harold and Katharine Tompkins had three children: Anne Van Syckel (1923-1994), Mary Vreeland (1925- ) and Louise (1928-).  By the 1930 Census, they are living at 132 Bentley Ave., close to family but on their own.  Shortly after 1940, the entire family moved to Summit, New Jersey to a large house at 160 Oakridge Avenue.  Many adventures occurred in this house, but I only knew about the house Granny moved into after he died, on Valley View Rd.

Harold D. Tompkins died on 27 November 1951 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny, NJ.

Vreeland Tompkins

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ca. 1893 The Tompkins clan (from back left: Grace, Louise, Haviland, unknown lady, Vreeland, and Harold)

This week in #52Ancestors I am continuing to build out what I know about the five Tompkins siblings who were the children of Samuel Dusenbury and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins.  Of the five who survived to adulthood, Vreeland Tompkins was the oldest, born 8 December 1870 in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Smooth-On_advertisement_1900Vreeland was educated at Public School No. 12 and the Hasbrouck Institute, in Jersey City.  He graduated from Rutgers University in 1893 and was a member of Delta Phi fraternity.  After graduation he was employed as a chemist at Standard Oil Co., Bergen Port Works.  In 1895, he founded the Smooth-On Manufacturing Company, with his father serving as President and himself as lead chemist.  Vreeland invented the product Smooth-On was an iron cement compound.  I have a childhood memory of bookcases in our house and Louise Tompkins’ house which were made from the shipping containers from Smooth-On.  After Samuel D. Tompkins’ death in 1926, Vreeland assumed the presidency until 1953 and then in retirement served as chairman of the board.

On 18 May 1904, Vreeland Tompkins married Laura Towar of Jersey City.  They had three daughters: Margaret Vreeland (1906-1984), Grace Elizabeth (1909-2010) and Gertrude Vreeland (1912-1944).  In 1907, the family moved into 115 Bentley Ave from the Towar homestead at corner of Bentley and West Side ave.

In 1916, Vreeland compiled a history of the Rutgers College Class of 1893 and from this we glean some interesting details of his life.  He was active in social services in Jersey City, serving the Home of Homeless, Whittier Home Settlement and the Organized Aid Society.   He also served as the Shade Tree commissioner for Jersey City and as Mosquito Commissioner for Hudson County.

JerseyCity-StPaul'sEpisI was fascinated to discover that Vreeland Tompkins’ obituary described him as a life-long Episcopalian, first at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Jersey City, then at Calvary Church in Summit and finally at St. Paul’s in Chatham, New Jersey.  As one, myself, this gives me an extra connection to this interesting man.

Vreeland Tompkins died January 30, 1956, at the Hollywood Hotel in Southern Pines, North Carolina.  According to his obituary, he was living at 74 Oak Ridge Ave in Summit and had been since 1926.  At the time of death, he was listed as the chairman of the board at Smooth-On Manufacturing Co. and as a director of the Joseph Dixon Crucible Co.  He was also a life trustee at Rutgers University, having been a founding member of the College of Pharmacy.

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James Haviland Tompkins

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ca. 1893 The Tompkins clan (from back left: Grace, Louise, Haviland, unknown lady, Vreeland, and Harold)

This week my #52Ancestors post focuses on James Haviland Tompkins, the fifth child of Samuel Dusenbury and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins.  Haviland (apparently his preferred name) was born on 15 July 1877 in Jersey City.

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Clipping from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle 15 June 1900

He graduated from New York Law School in 1900 and opened a commercial law practice in Jersey City.  An interesting side note about New York Law School: it was established in 1891 by a group of Columbia College School of Law faculty, students, and alumni who were at odds with Columbia’s trustees’ desire to interfere with the faculty teaching practices.

In addition to his law practice, Haviland is also listed as the Secretary of the Smooth-On corporation.  He and his brothers all seem to have been involved in the family business in one way or another.

Haviland married Eleonore Heike around 1908.  An engagement announcement is as close as I can get to an exact marriage date as shortly after the engagement is announced, the scandal that rocked the Heike family also breaks.  Charles R. Heike was the secretary of the American Sugar Refining Company was tried and convicted in 1910 of conspiracy to defraud the government in a case of fraudulent weighing.  The sentence was waived when the judge determined that Heike was in such poor health that he would die in prison, and instead he died at home.  His family was terribly affected by it as Eleonore (whose death may have been directly caused by something else) died in 1912 shortly after the birth of her daughter Eleonor Marie Tompkins in 1910.  Heike’s sister later committed suicide and her brother left the country and was later committed to a mental institution.

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367 Woodland Ave. South Orange, NJ

Haviland and Eleonor appear to have moved back to the Tompkins home on Communipaw Ave.  Seven years later, Haviland married Elizabeth Carol Baldwin (1891-1950) of Jersey City on 27 December 1919.  Early on in their marriage they lived at 117 Bentley Ave, which was loaded with Tompkins relations.  Eventually, they made their home in South Orange, New Jersey, where they raised Eleonor and their two children Carol Tompkins (1920-2016) and  James Haviland Tompkins (1922-1995).

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Elizabeth Baldwin Tompkins painting surrounded by Katherine Tompkins, Louise Tompkins, Tom (James Haviland Jr.) Tompkins, Mary Tompkins, Carol Tompkins, Anne Tompkins and Harold D. Tompkins standing holding his box camera.

Sadly, Haviland died suddenly while vacationing in Southern Pines, North Carolina on 4 March 1942.  He is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny, New Jersey.

 

 

Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins

Gettie_Anna_Tompkins_wife_of_Sam_rabbiittt40This week in #52Ancestors Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins is the subject, but her essay would be very brief without a mention of the family surrounding her.  Gettianna, or Gitty Ann as she was sometimes called, was the youngest child and only daughter of Nicholas (1789-1873) and Elizabeth Van Ripen (1803-1889) Vreeland.

Nicholas Vreeland was married twice: first to Annatje Winner (1794-1832), with whom he had one child, a son named Nicholas who lived a year (1816-1817) and then to Elizabet Van Ripen (1803-1889), with whom he had three children.  Of Annatje Winner Vreeland very little detail is known beyond her marriage date of 15 March 1814 and her life dates.

Nicholas and Elizabeth Vreeland had three children: Nicholas Vreeland (1836-1837), John Van Ripen Vreeland (1837-1912) and Gettianna Vreeland (1841-1918).  John V R, as he was known, was educated at Rutgers and appears to have made a living as a florist/gardener.  He moved his family out to Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1887 and is listed in Jersey City directories as a florist and in Cheyenne as a gardener.  He died at the home of his daughter in Los Angeles, CA in 1912 and is buried in Angelus Rosedale Cemetery as is his wife Anna Maria who died in 1915.

Gettianna Vreeland was born 14 March 1841, most likely in Bergen, Hudson County, New Jersey.  She married Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins at her parent’s home on 2 January 1868.  The couple lived with Nicholas and Elizabeth for the next few years, as they are together in the 1870 Census. As Samuel became more established in business, they moved to the house on Communipaw Avenue.  They had seven children:

The Tompkins family was socially very active in Jersey City.  The Jersey Journal rarely went more than a month or two without a mention of a social gathering that included one or more of them.  I also know that Samuel and Gettianna traveled within the United States and than Gettianna accompanied her daughters Grace and Louise to the British Isles.

Vreeland and Tompkins_membersLafayetteChurch_cropSamuel and Gettianna attended Lafayette Church around the 1884-5 period.  This church apparently started off as a Reformed Protestant Dutch Church in 1863 but may have merged with other churches towards the end of the century.

Tompkins_Vreeland_GoldenJubilee_Jersey_Journal_1918-01-09_2Gettianna and Samuel Tompkins celebrated their golden wedding anniversary about a month before she died on 9 February 1918 of pneumonia.  The article in the paper states that this happened in the same house they were married in but this bears further research as even as Jersey City consumed the village of Bergen, the addresses do not match city directories and census records.  It should also be noted that her youngest child, my grandfather Harold Doremus Tompkins was absent from the festivities due to his involvement in World War I.  His military training prior to shipping overseas took him to Camp McClellan, where his great grandson Barclay G. Jones IV also completed some of his extensive military training in 2017-18, about one hundred years later.

Gettianna and Samuel were initially buried in the Old Bergen burying ground but were moved to Arlington Cemetery when the old grounds were demolished.

 

 

 

 

Mary Sleght Brown

2007_03_Mary_Sleght_lock-of-Hair_Magazine-1Mary Sleght Brown is a recent discovery and an excellent reminder to return to people every few years for whom you have had no success.  For some time I knew that Abraham V.W. Tompkins had married a Caroline Brown, but I could find no firm information about where she came from.  Then one day I returned to Abraham, thinking surely by now, someone has put up some record on this family.
I searched Ancestry.com and beautiful digital images of the Brown family bible and the John Sleght family record appeared.  There were also two primers, one of which contained a lock of Mary’s hair.  What a legacy!  And there was Caroline, daughter of John Dusenbury (1788-1875) and Mary Sleght (1785-1856) Brown.
Brown_JohnDusenbury_FamilyBible_Marriages_cropAccording to the bible, Mary Sleght was born on 4 June 1785 and married John D. Brown in 1812.  Oddly, the bible gives detailed dates for all but this event.  The couple then had six children: John S. (1813-1893), Caroline (1818-1878), Martha Jane (1819-1911), Eliza (1821-1875), and a set of twins Ann and Rachel born in 1825.
This information gave me enough ammunition, so to speak, to go looking for church and burial records.  I found death and burial information in the church records of the Pleasant Valley Freedom Plains Presbyterian Church.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Unfortunately the church records do not start until 1827, so still no marriage date.  The bible record and the church record agreed on the date for Mary’s death on 19 September 1856. And I was then able to find an image of the grave marker.
These two family bible records have probably been out there for some time but I did not have the clues necessary to connect all the dots.  It really pays to loop back to ancestors that are not completely fleshed out.  New information and digital documents are being added to archives daily.  This #52Ancestors challenge has been really helpful in reminding me of this!

Samuel Tompkins

LittleCompton_1831_webI have to admit, after the DeWolfe media frenzy about that family’s discovery that they made their money in the slave trade, I was alarmed when I found that multiple generations of the Tompkins family had lived in Rhode Island during the height of the Atlantic slave trade.  Even if they were not involved in shipping, all the ancillary trades that go into supporting the shipping industry are tied to that profit source as well.  So for this week of #52ancestors I picked an ancestor whose life would have touched on this dark period in American history.
Samuel Tompkins, son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Waters Tompkins, was born 24 May 1681 in Little Compton, Rhode Island.  He was a middle child in a family of ten.  He married late for that time, he was almost 31 years old when he married Sarah Coe (1690-1741) in 24 January 1712.
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Samuel and Sarah produced twelve children over the next eighteen years.
  • Joseph Tompkins, b. 26 Oct 1712
  • John, b. 14 Sep 1714
  • Elizabeth, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Christopher, b. 8 Dec 1715
  • Abigail, b. 28 Jan 1717
  • Nathaniel, b. 19 Nov 1719, d. 20 Jan 1724
  • Gideon, b. 19 Nov 1720, d. Mar 1774
  • Micah, b. 20 Jan 1722, d. May 1771
  • Benjamin, b. 26 Jan 1723
  • Augustine, b. 19 Mar 1725, d. 16 Feb 1747
  • Prescilla, b. 6 June 1726, d. 18 Aug 1739
  • William, b. 17 Oct. 1730, d. Nov 1768
Little_Compton_todayLittle Compton and the neighboring town of Tiverton were first established as part of Massachusetts in the middle of the 17th century.  In 1673, the town was plotted and twenty-nine settlers made claims, most of them Puritans.  Later in 1747, the state of Rhode Island formed and the towns became part of that.  A Colonial Census was done at that time and Samuel is listed in Little Compton, New Port County.
I have had a great deal of trouble finding records of Samuel but one of the most useful has been the will and estate papers for his father, Nathaniel Tompkins.  Nathaniel appears to have been a farmer  rather than a mariner, which I have to admit relieves me in many ways as many of the mariners in this part of Rhode Island were involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
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Nathaniel’s will is sent through probate in 1724 and names Samuel as the executor.  There is a very helpful inventory of the personal property held at the time of his death which includes one mare, five cows, one yoke of oxen and fifteen sheep.  There is also mention of one and a quarter acres of land.  This makes me wonder if land has already been given over to Samuel or one of his siblings, as that is too little land to feed all those animals.
I have also read through many years of the Town Records for Little Compton, which are a fascinating glimpse into the daily lives of a Puritan community in the 18th century.  I have found print sources that state Samuel Tompkins died in 1760 but the Town Records did not confirm this.  They did, however, document the response of the community to a small pox break out that year and I wonder if that is what caused Samuel’s death in May.
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But the real answer lies in Samuel Tompkins’ will.  Or does it?  I have reviewed all of the pages in the Town Records covering the Council minutes, the will, and the inventory done in June of 1760.  None of these records mention slaves or indentured servants.  However, my ancestor is his son Benjamin Tompkins, who receives very little in this will (compared to his siblings) and I don’t know if that means that he was given money or property before Samuel’s death and therefore gets little of the estate.  It is possible that Benjamin was given a slave or indentured servants were transferred to him before 1760.  I am not off the hook yet, I need to look hard at the next generation.
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