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!

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!

Eugene Tompkins

Well, it took three weeks but I finally got Research Scope Creep.  You know what I mean.  That moment when you completely ignore the #52Ancestors project criteria (find one new thing on one person on your family tree) and gleefully go down the rabbit hole, gathering bits and pieces as you go.  Three hours later, you are banging your head against the desk and crying “I know I found three new census records, his marriage record and four city directory entries, but I WANT his obituary!”

It wasn’t pretty folks, but I pulled back, hunkered down and entered what I had into RootsMagic and called “time.”  So here goes:

Tompkins_Eugene_portrait2Eugene Tompkins was born in 1855 to Abraham Van Wangenin and Caroline Brown Tompkins.  Abraham and Caroline lived in Dutchess County, New York, on a farm outside of Hyde Park.  This family is another source of genealogical frustration for me as the Tompkins are rife in Dutchess County and the surrounding area and each generation named their children after their favorite siblings, creating confusing swirls of Michaels, Rachels, James, Anns, Gilberts and Johns.  To make it even more frustrating, Abraham dies at a relatively early age in 1869, and his children are dispersed throughout the Tompkins clan.  So I found Eugene easily enough in the 1860 and 1870 Census but I had let the search drop several years ago in the face of easier quarry.

My initial task for the #52Ancestors challenge was to find Eugene Tompkins in the 1880 Census.  I re-searched on Dutchess County with no luck.  I then broadened the search to include surrounding counties.  After weeding out all the wrong Eugenes, I was left with the question “did the census taker really get his information that wrong, or is he just not in New York?”  I went back to the sibling list and followed his oldest brother, my great, great grandfather Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins, to New Jersey.  At the time of the 1880 Census, Samuel is living in Jersey City, NJ with his wife and three children and his youngest brother James Tompkins.  But no Eugene.  So I followed one of Amy Johnson Crow’s “5 Online Search Strategies…” and searched on Eugene Tompkins, born NY in 1855, living anywhere and BINGO.  Top of the list is a guy living in Colorado.  Who knew?

Well, it turns out that several of Abraham’s sons went west to Colorado, but that is a story for another day and another blog.  This story is going to wrap up what I now know about Eugene.  Which is not everything I want to know but THAT IS NOT THE EXERCISE.

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I found Eugene living in Denver in the 1900 Census with his wife Arizona.  They have two children, Mabel and Percy both of whom are born in Colorado.  And potentially, they appear to be living with Arizona’s parents.  Mabel E. Tompkins was born in August of 1883, so I looked for a marriage in 1882 and found an entry in an index for 1882.  Eugene is employed as a shipping clerk, which was probably a good job to have on the frontier, as Denver still was in 1900.

By 1910, the family has added some new strings for me to follow up on:  Eugene is the  manager of a wholesale fruit company, Arizona and Percy are at home, Mabel has married and buried a husband named Warhurst and Arizona’s mother has moved in with them.  Ancestry coerced me into clicking on one of their leaves and I found a potential death date through a Find A Grave entry and most interesting of all, a city directory listing for Eugene and Mary A. Tompkins as President and vice president of a brokerage firm “Tompkins Brokerage Co.”

The Denver Public Library has an awesome newspaper obituary index up on their page and through this I was able to glean obituary information on Eugene.  He died at home on 26 October 1927 and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery.  Interestingly, Mabel is listed as Mabel E. Stewart, so perhaps another husband?

So many links and possibilities.  But time has been called.  I did not find Eugene in the 1880 Census.  I have some really good leads on where to go next and maybe next year I will do #52Ancestorfollowups but this year I am stopping now.  Happy Birthday, Eugene Tompkins!

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