This week of #52ancestors brings us to Grace Elizabeth Tompkins, eldest daughter of my great grandfather Samuel Dusenbury Tompkins (1839-1926). I had the wrong birth date in for her but this entry gave me a chance to interview Louise Tompkins about her memories and so I am posting it on 4/10 as opposed to 10/4!
Grace Elizabeth Tompkins was born on 4 October 1869, in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her parents, Samuel D. and Gettianna Vreeland Tompkins had married the previous year and were settled in residence with her parents, Nicholas and Elizabeth Vreeland. Educated in Jersey City schools, Grace went on to Vassar College, graduating in 1892. She returned home to the big family house on Communipaw Ave. where she is listed in the 1900 Census with no occupation, but the society pages of the Jersey Journal mention numerous fancy parties and entertainments both hosted and attended. She was involved in Vassar alumna events as well as a group called the Odd Volumes which appears to have been a kind of book club. Louise Tompkins shared her memory of the Odd Volumes: “everyone was a member, Florence (Voorhees), Aunt Lou (Louise Tompkins Voorhees), my mother and grandmother (Ann Van Syckel Tennant and Katharine Tennant Tompkins). They reviewed books and that sort of thing.”
I know Grace took one extended trip with her mother and sister Louise because she left a diary among her possessions and it has come down to me. I do not know what year the trip is but it is some time before 1918 as it mentions her mother and Gettianna dies in February 1918. I think it may be 1907 as the diary starts with a family send off and she mentions that she is sailing on the S. S. Carpathia. Anyone familiar with the story of the Titanic knows this ship was probably busy in April of 1912 and Grace starts the diary on April 27th. The diary gives descriptions of ship life, ports of call and also mentions land travel, especially in the British Isles. I note especially that Grace attended services at Glasgow Cathedral on August 26th, the same cathedral visited by Louise Tompkins and myself over 100 years later on a never-to-be-forgotten visit to the Scottish Highlands.
After her mother’s death in 1918, Grace traveled with her father as well as acting as hostess at various social events at the house on Communipaw Ave. Although I know that Grace traveled abroad extensively before this, one trip caught my attention because it was mentioned in the newspapers. In 1927, Grace traveled abroad to Europe with an interesting intersection of female relatives: Louise Tompkins Voorhees, Florence Voorhees, Eleanor Tompkins (her niece) and Miss Ethel Hodsdon (a cousin from the Tennant side of the family).
After her father’s death Grace moved from the Communipaw Ave house to a smaller home at 117 Bentley Ave. I don’t know why she is missing from the 1930 Census but 117 is skipped. She was in town, as I have stalked her through the newspapers and she is either attending or hosting events in April, 1930 from 117 Bentley Ave. Again, talking to Louise Tompkins gave me a little insight: “Auntie Grace lived up the street from us in a house that was divided. She had a maid and a chauffeur. The chauffeur’s name was David, he was a Scotsman and very nice to us children. We used to roller skate in the driveway because we didn’t have one at our house.” Louise Tompkins also remembered that Grace owned Cocker Spaniels and that she was a very astute investor, like her brothers.
Grace Tompkins eventually moved to 2600 Boulevard (called the Duncan then) to the same building as her sister and niece, Florence Voorhees. Louise and Grace both had corner apartments on different floors with identical floor plans and sweeping views of the Meadowlands. I remember visiting Florence much later on and thinking she had a lovely view. Grace died on 26 June 1964 and is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny. When my brother and I were children, my mother Anne Tompkins Jones and her sister Louise would take us to the cemetery each spring to clean up the landscape around the family plots. It is a beautiful old cemetery with lovely monuments. It is also a short drive from the Short Hills Mall but that is another story for another day.