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.

 

John Dusenbury Brown

Brown_JohnDusenbury_FamilyBible_Marriages_cropThis week in #52Ancestors I wanted to work on the Brown family, a branch that I discovered, in part due to the family bible digitized by another descendant.  That bible gave me just enough information to go back to census and church records and allowed me to build out this biography.  Along the way, I came across what I think may be 19th century vanity.

John Dusenbury Brown was born 26 August 1788, one of four children born to John (1760-1836) and Jane Dusenbury (1770-1845) Brown: William Henry Brown (?-1881), Sarah Brown (1785-1807), John D. Brown (1788-1875), and Charles I. Brown (1790-1860).

Although the name John D. Brown appears in numerous military and militia records, I do not believe that this John served in any military unit.  On 24 July 1812, he married Mary “Polly” Sleght at the First Presbyterian Church, Pleasant Valley, NY.  They had six children together:

  • John Sleght Brown (1813-1893)
  • Caroline Brown (1818-1878)
  • Martha Jane Brown (1819-1911)
  • Eliza Brown (1821-1875)
  • Ann Brown (twin 1825-1928)
  • Rachel Brown (twin 1825-1911)

In 1827, John D. Brown along with eight other men established the Presbyterian Church of Freedom Plains.  He remained active in this congregation until his death and is buried in the church burial ground.

In 1850, John D. Brown, age 62,  is enumerated in LaGrange NY with Mary age 62, John S. age 36, Jane, age 26 and Eliza age 24.  I think John S. is mislocated because his wife Fanny and daughter Mary E are next door. Jane and Eliza have the correct ages here but not on  the next two Census.

In 1860, John Brown age 71, appears in the Census as a Farmer on $21,000 worth of real estate.  He is living with Jane age 26 and Eliza, age 25.  Living next door is John S. Brown with wife Frances, children Mary E. 10, Ruth 9, and George 7. And yes, I too wondered how Jane and Eliza could be the same age they had been ten years before.  But wait, there’s more!

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1860 US Census

An 1862 deed shows that John D. sold the farm to his son in 1862 with the condition that he could live there until the end of his life, profiting from the produce and livestock raised there.

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1865 New Jersey Census

John D. Brown married for the second time on 31 January 1865 to Hannah Maria Van Dyne (1804-1874), herself a widow of James Dates.  In the 1865 NY census, taken on 7 June 1865, John and Hannah (age 56) and his two daughters Martha Jane (46) and Eliza (44) are living with John S. Brown Jr. in La Grange. However, five years later in the 1870 US Census, John D. Brown appeared living in LaGrange with wife Hannah and two young women Jane, aged 26 and Eliza aged 24!  I know it is the right family because he is living next to John Brown age 50 who with wife Fanny is raising Mary, Ruth, George and Nellie.  But how did his two unmarried daughters suddenly lose 25 years off their lives?  It’s a miracle!

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1870 US Census

31 Jan 1865 m. Hannah Maria Van Dyne b. 11 June 1804 to  Daughter of Garret and Maria (Montfoort) Van Dyne Hannah was the widow of James Dates. whom she married on 18 Jan 1832.  She died 5 Aug 1874

Brown_John_Dusenbury_grave_1875John D. Brown died 20 March 1875, but I am not sure if this happened at La Grange or Poughkeepsie. He is buried in Freedom Plains Presbyterian Church, Pleasant Valley.

In his will, written on 10 August 1874, he makes bequests to each of his children, but not to his second wife as she died 5 August 1874.  Clearly this is a new will but it has several interesting points:  one must be careful not to read between the lines but I would give much to be a bug on the wall of his lawyer’s office during that discussion!  He leaves $1500 to Martha Jane, Eliza, Anne Brown Haviland and Rachel Brown Velie.  A condition then states that if there is not enough to pay these amounts, then what there is is to be divided evenly amongst these four.  Then he states that if there is anything left over it is to be divided between these four and Caroline Brown Tompkins.  He then appoints his son in law, James Haviland and his grandson Samuel D. Tompkins executors.

I understand why John S. Brown is not mentioned, as the farm and all that property have already been sold to John S. Brown.  But why leave Caroline so little?  Was the relationship between the two broken or was there perhaps an earlier transaction?  This is an area where more research needs to happen!

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.

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

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 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.

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.

Elijah Van Syckel

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Kennedy watercolor of 2nd and Market Sts. from the collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania

This week in #52Ancestors I follow the trail of Elijah Van Syckel from Hunterdon County, New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Elijah Van Syckel was the second child of Aaron (1764-1838) and Catharine Opdyke (1762-1851) Van Syckel.  The majority of his siblings stay in the Hunterdon County area but by the time Elijah turns thirty he is in Philadelphia with an established grocery on N. 2nd St. He married Sarah Belinda Smith (1799-1871) of Doylestown on 22 January 1818.  They had nine children:

  • Amanda G. Van Syckel (1818-1902)
  • Robert S. Van Syckel (1820-1855)
  • Mary S. Van Syckel (1822-1892)
  • James Janeway Van Syckel (1824-1858)
  • Emmett Armstrong Van Syckel (1827-1864)
  • Sarah Van Syckel (1829-1897)
  • Catherine Opdyke Van Syckel (1833-1839)
  • Alfred Van Syckel (1838-1839)
  • Helen Van Syckel (1841-1891)

VanSyckel_Elijah_Retirement_1849Elijah appears to have established his grocery and then expanded it to sell liquor.  He then gave up the grocery business and solely sold wine and liquor.  He appears in city directories and merchant listings fairly continuously from 1818 until 1850.  During the 1830’s he was in business with John Garrison but in 1835 this is dissolved and Elijah continues on alone, eventually adding his sons to the concern.  One curious discovery: in 1824, Elijah was granted relief from the US government because three hundred and fifty-two cases of sugar were destroyed in a fire in 1822, upon which $4217 in duties were due.   Elijah apparently appealed for aid in paying the duties as the sugar had not been insured.

Van Syckel_Elijah_politics_The_National_Gazette_Tue__Oct_9__1827_He also appears to have been active in local politics as he has an unsuccessful bid for election to the Common Council in Philadelphia in 1827.  In 1839 he  is appointed to a committee to examine and report on the state of the Schuylkill Bank.

Elijah retired in 1849 and left the business to his sons.  Several sources noted that the business was worth close to one million dollars at that time.

Elijah Van Syckel died on 11 February 1855 and was buried four days later in Laurel Hill Cemetery.VanSyckel_burials_LaurelHillCemetery_crop

Lillie Jones

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Lillie Jones

I like to find ancestors with my birth date. It doesn’t happen very often but this week in #52Ancestors I get to come pretty close with Lillie Jones Weest.  I also got to follow leads presented when the person I was searching for disappeared from one census family and appeared in another.

Lillie Jones was born on 6 August 1867 to Benjamin and Mary Elizabeth Carrell Jones in Pemberton, New Jersey. She was baptized in 1868 at Grace Episcopal Church in Pemberton.

In 1870, she is living with the Jones family in Pemberton but in 1880 she is living with someone who gives me a clue about her mother’s family!!!!

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She is listed with a Joseph and Anna P. “Scraggy” and she her relationship to them is niece.  I don’t know how I missed this the first time around but thank you #52Ancestors!  This time I followed the lead as the Jones family is not linked to the Scraggy family.  It turns out it is the Scroggy family.  And Joseph is a Civil War veteran married to Anna P. Carrel.  Could this be Mary Elizabeth’s sister?   Joseph Scroggy is also enumerated in the 1885 New Jersey census with Annie P. and Lillie Jones.

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I am not sure why Lillie is not living with her birth family but I can’t argue with the records.  She is also with them in 1895.  Thank goodness for state census records!  They really fill the gap caused by the absence of the 1890 Federal Census. And this one presents another clue to the Carrel family: Eliza Carrel (aged over 60) is living with the Scroggy family as well as Lillie!  Mary Carrell Jones’ mother’s name was Eliza.

Now a little sleuthing work because Lillie Jones disappears.  A few newspaper leads on other family members lead me to the discovery that she married a man named George B. Weest.  This name really confounds many database searches which seem to have been programmed to ignore double vowels: I got a lot of unrelated West returns.  Lillie Weest appears in the 1910 Census in Pemberton living with husband George B. and daughter Mary.  They are living with George’s mother and sister.  Mary is noted as born in New York but I view this with suspicion as the record also shows her father is born in New York when two lines up he is clearly born in New Jersey.

Weest_George_advertisement_The_Fair_Haven_Era_Thu__Jun_7__1900_I did find George in the 1900 Census, living alone in the town of Hampton, NY.  This is right across the Vermont border from Poultney where a newspaper search shows that George has acquired a business.  A little more sleuthing unearths the news that 1910 marked the return of the family to New Jersey from Vermont.  In focusing on that I found that Mary was born in 1901 in Vermont according to her death certificate (dated 1957 in Pennsylvania from a brain tumor).

The family settled in Pemberton where George opens a machine shop.  George died in 1937 about a month after their 37th wedding anniversary.  I have yet to find a marriage record but a newspaper story confirms this date.  Jones_Lillie_marriage_The_Fair_Haven_Era_Thu__Feb_8__1900_And the newspaper is one of the best sources of information on Lillie, other than the Census.  Mary was apparently active in the Burlington County community, attending her friends weddings and holding parties.  Lillie is often noted as attending as well.  In the 1940 Census their household consists of Lillie, Mary and a boarder named William Sullivan and in 1941 he married Mary.

Lillie Jones Weest died 2 January 1946 and is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery in Pemberton.

I was able to fill in many blanks as I worked on this entry for #52Ancestors but I still have questions, which is probably why this exercise is so important.  I will continue to search for Lillie but one of my New Jersey relatives probably has several clues that will help fill in the blanks and now with this blog, they know what I want to know:

  • why did Lillie go to live with her aunt and uncle?  Too many Jones mouths to feed? Or was Anna frail and in need of help?
  • did the marriage of George and Lillie occur in NY or Vermont?
  • is there a better death notice than the tiny one that appears in the Philadelphia Inquirer?
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George B. Weest, Lillie Jones Weest and their daughter Mary Weest

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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George Cornell Prince

PrinceConcreteAdvertisementI grew up hearing stories about George Cornell Prince.  Unfortunately, I did not ask the right questions of the people who knew him and I am left with a life story with a few holes in it.  Perhaps one of my cousins will read this #52ancestors essay and can help fill in the blanks.

George C. Prince was born on 23 Mar 1869 in Bradford County, Pennsylvania to George M. and Elizabeth Alma Buttles Prince.  He was one of three children but one of two who lived to adulthood.  George grew up near Potterville, a very small community in Orwell township.

On 9 July 1894, George married Minnie Arabella Hine.  They were both residents of Bradford County at the time, and their first child, George Raymond Prince was born there on 28 April 1895.  However, by the time their second child was born (Philip Hine Prince (3 Dec 1896-31 Oct 1974), the family was living in Camden, New Jersey.

They do not appear on a census until 1910, at which point they have three living children: George R., Philip H., and my grandmother Kathryn Marie (1903-1993).  I learned through the New Jersey birth index that there was a fourth child, Edwin Everett Prince who was born 9 June 1898 but who died 24 Feb 1899.

Prince_Concrete_Courier_Post_Mon__Dec_19__1955_So this is the first mystery:  why did they pull up roots in Bradford County and move down to New Jersey?  Philip is born there as are Edwin and Kathryn but the family does not appear in either the federal 1900 census or the 1905 New Jersey census.  And yet, in a 1955 Camden Courier-Post article, George C. Prince is credited with forming the Prince Concrete Company in 1905.

This article provided clues to George Prince’s public service: he served on the Camden City Council as well as the School Board.  Widening the search to include Philadelphia area newspapers found articles about his election as President of the Camden Baptist Church Extension Society as well as a member of the Bradford County Society of Philadelphia.  One intriguing article talked about the role Prince Concrete played in the construction of the new Camden High School, which opened in 1926.  My father Barclay Gibbs Jones attended that high school.

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George Prince died on 20 December 1959 at the home of Kathryn and Leonard Preston (22 Euclid Ave.).  His wife Minnie preceded him in death on 23 June 1931.  They are buried in the Prince family plot in Bethel Memorial Park in Pennsauken, NJ.  My grandparents Kathryn and Leonard still owned that property when I was a child and my cousin would terrify me with ghost stories about all the relatives who died in that home.  I was too young, and too modern, to realize that being able to die at home surrounded by family was probably the best way to go.

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