George Grant Tennant and Anne Van Syckel

This week in #52Ancestors I took the opportunity to put several people into context, as George Grant Tennant is one of the few Tennant children who lived to adulthood.

AVTAlbum8_GeorgeGTennantGeorge Grant Tennant was the son of Thomas and Hannah Cardiff Tennant, born 1 Feb 1869 in Jersey City.  He was baptized at St. Mark’s Chapel, Jersey City.  George was educated in the public schools, namely Public School No. 1 and later the High School, from which he graduated in 1888.  He graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1891 and was admitted to the New Jersey bar in 1892 as an attorney and as a counselor in 1895.  He went into practice with John W. Queen.

Tennant_McBurney_wedding_Jersey_Journal_1893-06-02_3George Tennant married Zora McBurney (1863 or 1869-1895) on 1 June 1893.  She died shortly after the birth of their son Donald McBurney Tennant (5 June 1895-22 January 1896).  Both mother and child are buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

George married again on 12 April 1898 in Jersey City to Anne Van Syckel daughter of Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel.  Anne Van Syckel was born 23 Aug 1870 in Flemington, New Jersey and baptized in 1883 at Flemington Baptist Church.  She attended Vassar College and graduated in 1893.  We have wonderful photographs of her playing a part in a Greek play, which I have now learned was Antigone.

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Front row: Anne VS Tennant, Anne VS Tompkins, George G. Tennant, Louise Tompkins, Mary TOmpkins is the little girl on the right, Harold and Katharine Tompkins are back row, second and third from the right.

 

VanSyckel_Anne_VassarPlay_The_Inter_Ocean_Sun__May_28__1893_George and Anne Tennant had three children: Katharine Vansyckel Tennant (1899-1972), George Grant Tennant Jr. (1900-1982), and Jean Cardiff Tennant (1905-1990).

George Tennant was a member of the New Jersey House of Assembly from 1900 to 1902.  His candidate bio in the Jersey Journal in 1899 stated that he was one of the most popular young Democrats in the Ninth Ward.  At that time he attended the First Presbyterian Church, where he taught Sunday School.  A year later, when he ran again, the paper was a little less supportive, as an article appearing in the Jersey Journal of 1 November 1900 spent two columns shredding Tennant and everything he had stated in print that year.  He served as the president of the Jersey City Board of Education from 1908 to 1913.

Tennant was a friend of Jersey City Mayor H. Otto Wittpenn and assisted in the nomination of Woodrow Wilson for President in 1912.  In 1913, George Tennant was appointed a Common Pleas judge by Governor James F. Fielder, serving from 1913 to 1918.  Towards the end of his lift he became a member of the Old Bergen Reformed Church and was active in the Everyman’s Bible Class there.  He was also a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite.

Anne Tennant was active in the Jersey City College Club and was a member of the Odd Volumes Club, a sort of social book club to which many of the Tompkins women also belonged.  George and Anne vacationed in Dorset, Vermont.

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Dorset, VT

Anne died at home (613 Bergen Ave.) on 9 March 1938 and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  George died at Lea Haven, a nursing home in Madison, NJ while recovering from an appendectomy on 3 February 1948 and is also buried in Green-Wood.

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Katharine T. Tompkins and Anne VS Tennant

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.

 

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.

 

 

Daniel Vreeland

This week in #52ancestors I am simply trying to fill in a few blanks.  I know I don’t have the full story, but I may never have the full story on this family.  I have branches of my family tree that frustrate me, some challenge me, some just irritate me.   The Vreelands exhaust me.  There are so many of them and they all have the same first and last names and no one cares about the women, beyond whom they marry and whether there are male children.  Okay, I know, cry me a river already.

The Vreelands arrive in the area now known as Jersey City, Hoboken and Bayonne in the 17th century.  They bring their talent for farming and their strong business sense and their shear fecundity.  Each direct ancestor in my line has at least ten children, although the rate of infant mortality is astonishing.  I think this is one of the reasons that the same names are used over and over.

My great, great, grandfather Nicholas Vreeland (1789-1873) had nine such brothers and sisters.  It is the next youngest, Daniel Vreeland, that I write about today.

Daniel Vreeland was born on 27 February 1791 in Jersey City to Michael (1758-1825) and Geertje Sickles (d. 1815) Vreeland.  Of course, it wasn’t Jersey City then, but Bergen, which was part of Bergen County.  On 23 January 1813, Daniel married Cornelia Newkirk.  They had seven children, all of whom were born in Bergen: Jane (1813-1895), Michael D. Vreeland (1817-1893), Aaron N. (1819-1901), Gertrude Sickles (1822-1909), Cornelius V. R. (1825-1894), Nicholas D. (1828-?) and Daniel S. (1831-?).

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1850 Agricultural Census analysis

I have found the family in each Census since 1830, simple farmers in a large farming community.  Unfortunately, because I have been unable to look at an agricultural census for New Jersey that lists individual farms, I have had to rely on statistical data like the 1850 and 1860 analyses of agricultural produce.

 

1860AgNJCensus
1860 Agricultural Census Analysis

This, and the value of the family farm in 1860, $25,000 in real estate, lead me to believe that the farm was productive.  If it was part of the Vreeland celery farms collective, I do not know, but these seem to have been well respected.

 

Daniel Vreeland died on 22 August 1867 and the funeral was held at the home of his grandson, William H. Speer, who was the son-in-law of Daniel’s oldest daughter Jane.   Daniel left a will, which was quite helpful in spelling out his children’s marital status and favor in his sight.  His wife Cornelia was to receive a money through a trust administered by their oldest son Michael.  The first five children receive equal shares outright.  Daniel S. Vreeland is to receive one share in trust to be distributed “from time to time.” One share was to be held in trust for the “use and benefit of the children of Nicholas D. Vreeland the net income thereof to be paid to them from time to time according to the discretion of my said executors.”

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Daniel Vreeland Will 1867

Nicholas D. and Daniel S. Vreeland have been hard to track through public records, but both seem to have had trouble maintaining themselves and their families.  This may be the reason they are excluded from a direct legacy in the will.  Nicholas appears to have fought in the Civil War in the 22nd Regiment, NJ Volunteers.  He is hard to track in the Census but when he is listed his occupation is carpenter and he is enumerated within another family household.  He appears in newspaper entries as running a public house which has a contentious relationship with law enforcement.  He  may appear in city directories as a garden farm laborer.  He and his wife Catherine are mentioned occasionally due to very public marital problems.  Daniel is also enumerated with family with an occupation of wheelwright but he also appears in newspapers on drunk and disorderly reports.  He also may appear in city directories as a gardener.  It is something to follow up on but I have seen enough Civil War veteran stories to think that these two might be suffering from what we now think of as PTSD.  At the very least, they do not seem to have come home and settled back happily on the farm.

Cornelia followed her husband in death on 30 March 1870, and again, the funeral is from the home of William H. Speer.  Both Cornelia and Daniel are buried in the Old Bergen churchyard in Jersey City.  It is possible that Nicholas and Daniel are buried nearby but more information is needed to make that certain.  Always more to do!