I am learning that amazing connections come from #52ancestors and putting my stories out there online so that people can add to them. Enter my newest discovery: Eleonore Heike’s wedding date and picture. I can’t thank my cousins enough for sharing these treasures with me!
It’s February and the stores are filled with heart shaped boxes of candy, so romance in on my mind as I select this weeks’ #52ancestors and #52familyphotographs. I don’t know when it was taken but I think the location is the back porch of James Haviland Tompkins‘ house in South Orange, NJ. This is Joseph Fairfield Poland and Eleonor Marie Tompkins. If it is courtship, then it is pre-1935 wedding.
I always wondered what it would have been like if my father and Joe Poland could have communicated more easily (email, whathaveyou) as their careers intersected in so many ways. Joe was an early force in the field of engineering geology and had a world wide reputation, known by Italians as the “savior of Venice” for his research on why that city was slowly becoming a puddle. Back in the states, he was instrumental in helping California deal with some of its many water issues.
I know far less about Eleonor, the grown up. I know that after her mother’s early death, Eleonor lived with the Tompkins clan in Jersey City. Haviland depended on his sisters Louise and Grace to take care of the little girl while he worked. It was a sad day for them when he married for the second time to Elizabeth Carol Baldwin and set up a new household which included Eleonor and two new children. The family story is that none of his children could leave Jersey City until Samuel D. Tompkins died. It bears out as shortly after his 1926 death, Haviland and family moved to South Orange.
Joe and Eleonor lived in Sacramento and had five children, who will not be named here because they are still alive and this is the internet after all.
Apparently my grandfather was a genius at photographing children. In both of these photographs you see the joy in each person for the other. #52ancestors #52familyphotographs
Jean Van Syckel was born on 28 July 1875, probably in Flemington, New Jersey, to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. She was the youngest of their four children and the Flemington, She never married but the Flemington, Jersey City and Detroit, Michigan newspapers tracked her visits with her brother and sister. Louise Tompkins tells stories about the house and garden at 182 S. Main St. where she “vacationed” as a child. Mary and Jean kept a large garden and small orchard in the back yard of that house. Mary succumbed to dementia on Christmas day in 1952.
This week of #52Ancestors and #52Familyphotographs I am going back to an image I used last year but failed to identify all the characters. It’s not cheating, it’s added value! This image has several generations, as well as folks who rarely got photographed together. I do not know what the occasion was.
There are actually several versions of this photograph, each one taken by a different man so that the couples could be photographed. This is the one Granny gave to my mother which shows both Harold and Katharine Tompkins.
Below is the one Granny gave to Louise Tompkins.
In this image the people are a little less posed.
The back row is Jean Stubenbord, William Stubenbord Sr., Helen Tennant, Katharine Tompkins, George Tennant Jr., and Ethel Hodsdon.
The front row is Anne V. S. Tennant, Anne V. S. Tompkins, George Tennant Sr., Louise Tompkins, Eliza Tennant Hodsdon, Mary Tompkins and Grace Tompkins.
This week in #52ancestors, I successfully resolved the questionable legitimacy of Samuel D. Tompkins by finding the correct marriage date of his parents, Abraham Van Wagnen and Caroline Sleght Brown Tompkins.
Abraham Van Wagnen Tompkins was born on 24 December 1816 in Dutchess County, New York to Michael and Rachel Schryver Tompkins. I know very little of his early life and schooling.
On 21 February 1838, he married Caroline Sleght Brown (1818-1878), the daughter of John Dusenbury (1788-1875) and Mary Sleght (1785-1856) Brown. It pays to keep asking the same question of different types of documents: I was able to more accurately pinpoint this marriage date which conflicts by a year and a day with the Velie family bible. The Poughkeepsie Eagle printed a marriage notice for Abraham and Caroline on 9 March 1838 which made a huge difference in the legitimacy of their first child!
Abraham was a farmer. Our branch of the family has very little documentation on him and I know of no object that was owned by him in the family holdings. I did find him in the 1850 Agricultural census (Dutchess County, NY, 19 August 1850) which shows that he owned 100 acres of improved land and 27 acres unimproved. The cash value of the farm was $7000, with an additional $300 worth of farm equipment. He owned an unsurprising mixture of livestock and he was growing rye, corn, oats, potatoes, buckwheat and hay. His dairy herd produced 400 lbs of butter, which was at the low end compared to other farmers in the area.
In the 1860 federal census, Abraham had $10,000 worth of real estate and $1300 in property, which could show an improvement in his circumstances. His eight surviving children are living in the household and they employ a woman named Mary Purdy, an African American domestic servant. Also living in the house is a Catharine Sleight, aged 66, but I am not sure of her relationship to Caroline. She is possibly an aunt, as her mother had a sister named Catharine.
Abraham died 7 January 1869, which is too early to get included in the 1870 mortality schedule. It would have been nice to know who was living where at that point. I await with bated breath the digitization of the Guardianship records for Dutchess County for 1869-1870, as these may answer some questions. As nearly as I can piece together, the children are scattered among the family, with one going here and another going there. That is a puzzle for another day.
Abraham was buried 10 January 1869 at Freedom Plains Cemetery. Caroline Brown Tompkins appears in the 1870 census to reside in the state asylum in Oneida and is still there in 1875. She dies 1878 and is buried beside her husband.
This week in #52Ancestors brings me to my namesake, Louise Tompkins. Emma Louise Tompkins was the youngest daughter of Samuel D. and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins. She was born 11 October 1881 in Jersey City, New Jersey. She lived with her parents at 533 Communipaw Ave. and there are many newspaper articles describing her participation in family trips and Jersey City social events. She may also have been something of a singer, as there is a Louise Tompkins who is listed as soloist for various church and social gatherings. She appears to have preferred Louise to Emma when she had the choice but occasionally there will be a record that refers to her as Emma. All the family stories I heard growing up referred to her as “Aunt Lou.”
One such record is her marriage to John J. Voorhees on 23 November 1918. John J. or Jack as he was called, took over his father’s company, the Voorhees Rubber Company. He was born on 9 April 1876 and had been educated in Jersey City at the Lafayette College. He married first Florence Eliot Voorhees (no relation) who was the daughter of Abraham and Martha Voorhees of New Brunswick, New Jersey. They had one daughter, Florence Eliot Voorhees (1908-2000). Florence died tragically in a carriage accident on 16 July 1910. The family was traveling in a horse drawn carriage when a train rattled through on the tracks below the street. The horse bolted and dragged the carriage over the embankment. Florence was killed and her husband and daughter were both injured.
Louise and Florence lived together after the death of Jack on 23 December 1948. At some point they moved out of the house on Duncan Ave. and moved across the street to the apartment building on the opposite corner. Louise Voorhees died 13 February 1971 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery.
This 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.
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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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 brother 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.
Harold 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.
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.
Vreeland 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.
I 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.