Chester Van Syckel

This week in #52Ancestors I am writing about Chester Van Syckel, a well educated and well connected attorney of Flemington, New Jersey.  I fear he may not have been well liked but I hesitate to cast aspersions on my great, great grandfather without actual data to back it up.

Chester Van Syckel was born on 6 June 1838 at Van Syckel’s Corners, a tiny burg in Union township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.   He was the tenth child of Aaron (Jr., 1793-1874) and Mary Bird (1799-1863) Van Syckel.   An early letter from Chester to his brother Sylvester talks a bit about what life in Van Syckel’s Corners was like:

Lafayette College Pardee HallHe appears to have been sent away to school as a teen, first to Dr. John Vandeveer’s school and then to Lafayette College, both in Easton, Pennsylvania.  A bit of map-stalking will show that Easton is due west of Bethlehem, NJ, where the family was located in the 1850 Census.  Chester also benefited from having a famous and well placed brother: Bennett Van Syckel studied law at Princeton University, graduating in 1846 and he went on to serve as a justice on the NJ Supreme Court from 1869 to 1904.  This may have been what made it possible for Chester Van Syckel to attend Princeton, where he earned a Bachelors degree in 1862.

F._Childs_Lithograph_ca._1860_AC177_Box_1Shortly after graduation, Chester was admitted to the bar as an attorney and five years later in 1867 he was admitted as Counsellor at law.

For two years he was in business with his
brother Bennett, and afterwards was a member of the successive law firms of Bird, Voorhees & Van Syckel and Voorhees & Van Syckel, later practicing alone. He was a special Master in Chancery and a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. His legal opinions were very highly esteemed.  His obituary in the New Jersey Law Journal also mentions his active participation in affairs in Flemington, serving on the village board of trustees.

Chester married Mary Jane (Jane) Mount on 19 December 1865 in Hightstown, New Jersey.  The Mount family was an established Mercer County family but I have no information on how they met or courted.  Possibly, Chester was working for a client or on a case in the area.

Chester and Mary Jane Van Syckel had four children:

  • Mary Van Syckel (1867-1953)
  • Anne Van Syckel (1870-1938)
  • Emmet Van Syckel (1873-1955)
  • Jean “Jennie” Van Syckel (1875-1952)

Chester had settled in Flemington by 1860 and remained there after marriage to raise his family.  In December 1906, he traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for an operation and never recovered his health.  He died on 3 March 1907 and is buried in the family plot in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

VanSyckel_Chester_Gravemarker_1907

You may very well wonder why I might think that such a well respected man might not have been well liked.  There is a family story, one I am not sure I can corroborate with evidence, that makes me think he may have fit the bill of the late Victorian patriarch.  I have been told that one of his daughters tried to harm him at the dining room table one day as a result of her disappointment over a suitor her father turned away.  Other than this story, I have only the census record showing her stay in the state mental hospital in Trenton.  Whatever event put her there happened after 1895 (she is still at home in the 1895 NJ census) and before 1900 when she is in Trenton.  I would like to know more, if only to address the family memory.

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.

AVTAlbum5.KatharineTTompkinswithAnneVSTennant
Katharine T. Tompkins and Anne VS Tennant

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.

Tompkins_James_Haviland_NYLSgraduation_The_Brooklyn_Daily_Eagle_Fri__Jun_15__1900_
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.

367_WoodlandAve_SouthOrange
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).

Tompkins_Elizabeth_Baldwin
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.