Monthly Archives: April 2012

George Sampson Valentine Wills’ Memoirs

GSV Wills Family

I have added more pages to the previous post containing G.S.V. Wills’ self-published memoirs. Hopefully this little out-of-print book will now slowly find its way to those most curious about the life and times (and memories) of this famed British chemist! Memories can’t be relied upon completely as we all know, however, at least his memories are closer in time to a period in history that would otherwise be somewhat lost for us, the 21st-century-Wills-family descendants. It’s marvelous he left us with this wonderful slice of history. Perhaps someday Sampson Wills’ manuscript (mentioned on p. 13) that records 50 years of business dealings will surface. Such items are genealogical gold.

Have a good weekend!

Categories: Sargent, Wills | Leave a comment

George Sampson Valentine Wills’ Memoirs

Here is George Sampson Valentine Wills’ self-published memoir, A Jubilee Souvenir. The Work of George S.V. Wills and The Westminster College of Chemistry and Pharmacy, which dates back to February 1899. The copyright is expired, so I will be photographing pages (20-30 at a time) and publishing them here. Check back periodically as I will be adding to this post until all 200+ pages are included. For past posts on G.S.V. Wills and his family, please click on the surname Wills in the categories column. Note: Anyone who would like to avoid downloading the pages can contact me via the email address in the About page. I can send the pages to you in zip files.

Categories: Blisworth, Northamptonshire, London, Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, Roade, Northants, South Croydon, London, Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, Wills | Leave a comment

Drs. Crane & Wescott, Quarterly Bill, May, 27, 1874

Ah, my friends, read and weep! Imagine receiving a $55.00 bill total from your doctor for service’s rendered during your baby’s birth and being able to pay it off on an installment basis over the course of a year. And your doctor does not send you constant monthly reminders–just quarterly ones; how seemingly civilized, friendly, and do-able. The bill to which I am referring is below, and it relates to professional services provided to William and Wealthy Woodruff on November 24, 1873, the date their first child Jennie Belle Woodruff was born (the couple had six children altogether–all girls). Alas, in today’s currency, that is the equivalent of $1,047.00–so no small sum after all! But, the quarterly reminders are still a nice thought. And fear not, they had plenty of time to save up for the birth of child #2, Flora; she did not arrive until four years later!

P.S. Check out those office hours!

Angus_Wealthy_Ann_engagement_w_tag

Image from my family’s personal collection

Woodruff_Wm_engagement_photo_w_tag

William E. Woodruff, b. October 4, 1848; Photo taken on 20 April 1872 at Bostwick’s, 743 Broadway, NY, NY (Image from my family’s personal collection)

Jennie Belle Woodruff, the first of six daughters (Nov. 24, 1873 - Oct. 20, 1955) - Cropped from a photo in my family's personal collection)

Jennie Belle Woodruff, the first of six daughters (Nov. 24, 1873 – Oct. 20, 1955) – Cropped from a photo in my family’s personal collection)

Quarterly bill for medical services from my family’s private archives

Categories: Angus, Elizabeth, Union Co., Medical, Woodruff | Leave a comment

Woodruff Property Map, Elizabeth, New Jersey

I came upon this map showing the locations of various Woodruff properties in Elizabeth, NJ. The reverse side was labelled: Division of Ezra Woodruff and Enoch B. Woodruff [properties].

The property of Francis Woodruff, about whose family much has been written thus far in this blog, appears on the left side of the map. The map shows Francis’s property next door to the “Estate of Enos Woodruff dec’d.” The far right side shows the “Estate of Timothy Woodruff dec’d.”

Now, unfortunately names like Timothy and Ezra are common in the vast Woodruff line, so I don’t know exactly what to make of the names on the map. I will have to research that further. Perhaps the map was created after Francis inherited land from his father John Woodruff who died in 1857.

(On a side note: Francis had three brothers: Matthias, Enos, and Ogden. Matthias died at age 26 of yellow fever in 1844 in St. Francisville, Louisiana, under what circumstances I do not yet know.  Enos died at age 46 in 1868. Only brother Ogden lived to a ripe old age: 86. He was mentioned in the previous post about his son, Frank Stiles Woodruff.)

In any case, the map shows how chopped up the original Woodruff lands became as centuries and decades went by.  Were they to miraculously return today to their Elizabeth homesteads, the Woodruffs would find it hard, if not impossible, to get their bearings. Every time I look at the 102-year-old photo of Miss M.E. Woodruff’s dog “Button” sitting on a stump surrounded by farm land, I am reminded of that!

On an additional side note: I am wondering if the Salem School House referred to is where this previous blog photo was taken? I think it may well be.

Woodruff Property Map showing Francis Woodruff's property (full map)

Woodruff Property, right side, higher resolution

Woodruff Property, left side, higher resolution

Categories: Elizabeth, Union Co., Woodruff | Leave a comment

Happy Anniversary to Me

It’s exactly one year ago that I launched this blog! Hip hip hooray!

Tremendous thanks to all those behind the 3,988 clicks thus far! I don’t know who you are, but I do know that you are from the US, England, Ireland, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, Belgium, and a number of other places. At the time I started this, I was asking myself whether I really thought I could steadily come up with things to talk about. Well, here I am with 101 posts behind me, and, for some family lines anyway, I honestly don’t feel as if I have touched the tip of the iceberg. Granted I started out full of enthusiasm to do three posts weekly. That eventually moved to two, and, at times, just one. But I never missed a week, so a small pat on the back for me.

Through this blog, I have been blessed to meet distant cousins from England, Denmark, California, Kansas, and numerous states in the US Northeast. That alone has made this venture worth it. My immediate family, to whom I unveiled the blog during Christmas 2011, has found all of this very illuminating, especially the younger ones who had not previously considered just how many great grandparents one really has. You have your last name, with which you identify yourself, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of surnames that come before that one, and you carry a piece of each and every one of them. Genealogy is addicting, to be sure; it’s like peeling a six-ton onion that always seems to have one more layer.

My lessons over the past year? Be prepared for the unexpected. Search for variations of names when doing your research even if they seem far-fetched. Don’t discount information that at first glance appears irrelevant. Don’t expect the family stories handed down to you over generations to be accurate–it’s more like the game “telephone,” where by the time the piece of “news” gets to the last person in the chain, it has been altered considerably, if not completely. Let’s face it, if we were to pass down information about ourselves, we’d probably focus on the positives and try to put a good spin on the negatives (or omit them entirely!). With today’s social media, etc., I have a feeling our descendants will know much more about us than we will ever know about those who came before us. That’s a good thing… or is it? I guess we’d all better be on our best behavior!!!

Categories: Blog Anniversary | 2 Comments

Matthias Woodruff Letter to Francis Woodruff, June 8, 1883

(This post picks up from the previous Matthias Woodruff post. Matthias was the son of Francis Woodruff and Mary Jane Trowbridge.)

Lots of land available per this paper. I wonder whether the Woodruff highlighted is any relation to Matthias.

Little did Matthias Woodruff know that his father would pass away a month after he sent the below letter off to him from Laramore, Dakota territory, in early June 1883. The arrival of the railroad in that neck of the woods spurred many to seek their fortunes there. I assume that was the lure for Matthias. You will see from his letter that by 1883 he had accumulated 320 acres of land and was farming wheat. At the time, he was 32 years of age and he had been married to Mary S. Ayers for 11 years. Their son and only child, Frances, would have been just eight. I have no idea when Matthias left Dakota permanently. Perhaps he never did. Maybe he spent winters back east in New Jersey with his family who were probably living with Mary’s father and mother (Ezra and Mary Ayers), and spent the planting and harvesting season in Dakota. All I do know for sure is that he was to live just nine years more, as he died in New Jersey on April 6, 1892. I have been unable thus far to find him in the 1890 census; that record may provide some interesting clues.

Distance from Larimore, Dakota (red balloon), to NJ

In any case, amazingly this half-in-pencil, half-in-ink, 130-year-old communication has survived, and here I am now ready to share it with you. It offers an interesting glimpse into the life and trials of a frontier farmer. Francis, his father, was very well off, so it would be interesting to know whether he supported Matthias in this venture. Francis’s will, if we could track it down, would probably be quite revealing.

Sheyenne Valley, June 8th 1883

Dear Father,

I got a letter from you the other day and was very glad to hear that you were in such good spirits. There must certainly be a great change in your house [wife Mary Jane had recently passed away] but it the change that we all must experience sooner or later. I have also undergone a great change to leave all that was dear to me on earth and come out here to this country. When I first came I was sick a long time but last winter froze it out. I am in excellent health now. It is a healthy climate. you spoke as if you had money you would come and make a visit. it would do you good & I would like to have you see the difference between east and west. I mean the way of living and farming. I am afraid the water would not agree with you. I have now three hundred and twenty acres of splendid wheat land. All I want now is to get it broke in. then I can live at my ease. 

Turning Sod in North Dakota in the 1890s (Photo credit: Shorpy website*–see link to large version of photo below)

I earned a good deal of money this winter with my team but had to lay it all out for seed. I have sixty acres of wheat in and fifteen of oats, so you see I will have quiet a harvest but there is a time from now until harvest that I am very poor and I want to stay and break all I can for there is where all the money in this country is. I will have money enough this fall to pay all my debts & come home too if I could have $150 within a week or two so a to save my team. If I do not get it, they will be sold so help me this time please. I can pay it all back in September. Then I will market my wheat.

Distance between Devil’s Lake and Larimore

Grand Forks, ND, Store, 1880, probably visited by Matthias Woodruff during his time in the Dakota territory (Photo in public domain)

I had to buy a new seeder this spring and will have to get a self binder [?]. The wheat looks splendid here. there will be a good crop witch never fails in country. i put from ten to fifteen acres in in a day witch is different from eastern farming. You wanted to know how I stood my trips last winter. I had to stand them or starve. I had no grain for the team so I went all weather every week except two. in January I was over the road from Larimore to Devil’s Lake City or west end witch is about twenty farther up the lake and I tell you I never want to go through any thing like that again, Some days was terrible. I started to make thirty miles one day with a four-horse load and along in the afternoon the wind began to blow and drifted the track so that I could not see where to drive. When it got dark my load turned over so I had to leave it. My leaders would not [?] blow the trail so I did not know what to do but after a while I put the pole horses ahead and they brought me through alwright with the exception of my big toes frozen badly so that my nails come off. my face and nose I got frozen every day I was out almost. Well, I have to go and plow seven miles yet this afternoon so I will close. From your loving boy, 

M. Woodruff

P.S. Please don’t disappoint me this once I have written for my wife to help but they are poor too and refuse to help me.

I have just come in from my day’s plowing. I use two mules and one horse to plow and it makes nice work. We keep our plow sharp as a knife. I plow through sollid strawberry plants that are now in full bloom they cover the ground in some places.

*Shorpy Image

Helpful Links:
National Park Service website: The Bonanza Farms of North Dakota
State Historical Society of North Dakota
History of North Dakota

Categories: Ayers, Larimore, Woodruff | 2 Comments

Happy Easter — Poppy-Seed Nut Roll (Potica) Recipe

Yummy!

Poppy-Seed Nut Rolls (Poticas)
(Begin 6 hrs ahead; makes 2 loaves)
Recipe from The Good Housekeeping lllustrated Cookbook (1980)

½ c. sugar
2 tsp grated lemon peel
½ tsp salt
1 package active dry yeast
3 ½ to 4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. milk
½ c. butter
1 egg
Poppy-Seed filling (see below)
1 egg yolk, beaten

  • Combine first four ingredients with one cup of the flour.
  • Over low heat, heat milk and butter until very warm (120-130 F). Butter does not have to melt completely.
  • With mixer at low speed, beat liquid into dry ingredients; beat until just mixed. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl with spatula. Beat in egg and 1 cup of flour; beat 2 minutes more, occasionally scraping bowl. With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (approx. 1½ cups) to make a soft dough.
  • On lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Shape into ball.  Place in greased large bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover; let rise 1 hour.
  • Punch down dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface; cut in half; cover; let rest 15 minutes.
  • Grease 2 cookie sheets. Roll out half of the dough into an 18-inch-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread ½ of the filling on the dough to within ½ inch of the sides. From 18-inch edge, tightly roll dough, jelly-roll fashion, pinch ends to seal. Arrange dough in flat coil, seam side down, on a cookie sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with towel; let rise until doubles (about 1 ½ hours).
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush loaves with beaten yolk. Bake 25-30 minutes until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Remove to wire racks to cool.

For Poppy-Seed Filling, combine:
12-ounce can poppy-seed cake and pastry filling
½ cup finely chopped walnuts (if they are too chunky they won’t spread well)
1 tsp grated lemon peel
1 tsp cinnamon
Set aside; in small bowl with mixer at high speed, beat one egg white until soft peaks form; fold into poppy-seed mixture.

Enjoy! I guarantee it will disappear quickly!

Poppy seed cake close-up

A great gift for your Easter dinner host/hostess!

Categories: Easter, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites | Leave a comment

George Wills’ Descendants in America — An Update

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin with daughter Zillah Trewin Boles, 1883, who later married Wm R. Boles of Dumkeerin, Co. Leitrim, Ireland

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin with daughter Zillah Trewin Boles, 1883, who later married Wm R. Boles of Dumkeerin, Co. Leitrim, Ireland

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin with ZillahTrewin Boles' daughter `Betty' Boles, August 12, 1923

Elizabeth Sargent Trewin with Zillah Trewin Boles’ daughter `Betty’ Boles, August 12, 1923

A few posts ago, I shared news of some photos having been taken of the grave markers in the Trewin-Ludey plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ. I’d noted that Elizabeth Sargent Trewin’s brother William Sargent was buried there together with his wife Sarah. The whereabouts of Wm and Elizabeth’s sister Sarah was unknown. In fact, other than a date of birth, I knew nothing about her. The three siblings as well as another brother, Rev. Samuel Sargent, were the children of Mary Wills and William Sargent who left England with their parents to start a new life in America during the post-Civil War reconstruction. (Recall from numerous previous posts that Mary Wills’s was George Wills’s youngest daughter.)

2/15/1926 Obituary for Elizabeth Sargent Trewin (the 2 sons mentioned were stepsons, William Clarence and Albert Phillips; their mother was Edith Fry, William Trewin’s 1st wife); “Mrs. Coles” is a typo–should be “Mrs. Boles”

Well, one big clue as to what became of Sarah (b. cir. 1858-1860) has been right under my nose for months and I failed to realize it. Buried at the bottom of Elizabeth Sargent Trewin’s obituary notice was the name of a surviving sister, Mrs. R.O. Hemion! With that tidbit, I discovered some census records that revealed that Sarah went by the name Sadie, and that she was married to Richard O. Hemion, a machinist, who was born in 1857 in Rockland County, NY,  to John and Catharine Hemion. In 1880, he was working as a cigar maker in Jersey City, NJ, and living with an older sister, Amelia Curyansen, and her family.  [I saw some message boards stating the surname was actually Auryansen, and was misspelled in that record. Auryansen is a Dutch surname, and evidently the history of the family in America goes way back.] It is in Jersey City that he must have become acquainted with Sadie. According to the 1900 census, they were married in roughly 1882. The pair settled in East Rutherford, NJ, and had four children: Cora, Mabel, Everett, and Edith (see below for dates). By 1920, Sadie is listed as a widow and living with children Cora and Everett, by then in their thirties. I could not view the actual records for 1910 and 1920 since you have to be an ancestry.com subscriber to access them (one of my pet peeves). So, who knows what other little morsels lie within those records…

Hemion Family in 1900 Census

Another big plus was finding out the year of the Sargent family’s emigration to the US: 1870! I discovered this morsel in the original 1900 census record as well (available free of charge through FamilySearch).

So hip hip hooray–another little piece of the family puzzle solved! I would love to hear from any Hemion descendants out there.

GEORGE WILLS and MARY CAPON U.S. DESCENDENTS

1-Mary Wills b. 11 Nov 1829, Wolverton, Buckinghamshire, England, d. 6 Dec
1877, Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey
+William Sargent b. 2 Sep 1828, Weedon Beck, Northamptonshire, c. 10 Dec 1829,
Weedon and Flore, Northamptonshire, England
|–2-Rev. Samuel Sargent b. 1852, Blisworth, Northamptonshire, England, d. 3
| Nov 1926, New Jersey
| +Ella Tunison b. Abt 1854, United States
| |—–3-Vivian T. Sargent b. 7 Aug 1891, Camden, New Jersey
| | +Packard
| |—–3-Rev. Norman Vincent Sargent b. Feb 1889, Kansas
|–2-Elizabeth Sargent b. 15 Sep 1854, St. Sepulchre, Northampton,
| Northamptonshire, England, d. 1926, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ, bur. 6 Feb
| 1926, Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, Union, NJ
| +William Trewin b. 21 Mar 1847, Hardin Street, Woolwich Dockyard, Co. Kent
| (now Greater London), England, d. 4 Dec 1916, Elizabeth General Hospital,
| Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, bur. 7 Dec 1916, Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside,
| Union, NJ
| |—–3-Zillah May Trewin b. 11 Jun 1883, Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, d. 11 May
| | 1955, Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, bur. Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside,
| | Union, NJ
| +William Robert Boles b. 24 Feb 1892, Drumkeerin, Co. Leitrim, Ireland,
| d. 2 Mar 1950, Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, bur. Evergreen Cemetery,
| Hillside, Union, NJ
|–2-Sargent TWIN b. 15 Sep 1854, d. 1854
|–2-Sadie Sargent b. 1858, St. Sepulchre, Northampton, England
| +Richard O. Hemion b. Feb 1857, Rockland Co., New York
| |—–3-Cora S. Hemion b. Abt 1883, Rockland Co., New York
| |—–3-Mabel Hemion b. Abt 1885, Rockland Co., New York
| |—–3-Everett Hemion b. Abt 1887, Rockland Co., New York
| |—–3-Edith Hemion b. Abt 1889, Rockland Co., New York
|–2-William Sargent b. 1861, St. Sepulchre, Northampton, Northamptonshire,
| England, d. 24 Jul 1896, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ, bur. 27 Jul 1896,
| Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, Union Co., NJ
| +Sarah Jane Bowley b. Abt 1844, United States, d. 3 Jan 1904, bur. 6 Jan
| 1904, Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, Union Co., NJ
|–2-Sargent TWIN, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent TWIN, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent, died in infancy
|–2-Sargent, died in infancy

Happy Easter to All!

Categories: East Rutherford, Bergen Co., Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ, Hemion, Hillside Cemetery Lyndhurst NJ, Jersey City, Hudson Co., Obituaries, Sargent, Trewin, US Federal 1900, US Federal 1910, US Federal 1920, Wills | 6 Comments

The Pre-1900s Weekday Wedding – Past Wedding Traditions

Dress, Evening; 1850-1855; silk, cotton; Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession no. 2009.300.921a, b); visit http://www.metmuseum.org

A while back I read an article on pre-twentieth-century weddings and how the bride would not wear white or have a special dress made, but would appear in her very best dress, whatever color of dress that may have been–black, brown, dark green, and so on. Black would have been handy because it could do double duty as mourning attire. Plaids and florals were also very popular at one time. The idea of purchasing a dress that would only be worn once would have seemed very wasteful, apart from probably being prohibitively expensive (a white dress even more so–imagine trying to clean it without today’s technologies).

Wedding Ensemble, 1878, American, silk, Metropolitan Museum of Art (accession no. 2009.300.18a, b); visit http://www.metmuseum.org

It was only when Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 in a white satin gown specially made for the occasion, that brides began clamoring for white gowns, but a trend did not really come about until the late 1800s when such dresses could be better produced, transported, and marketed to the public, and were more affordable for the everyday woman.

Weddings often took place in the evening at the home of the bride, often on weekdays, particularly on Thursday evenings. This allowed the work of the day (weekends included), whether on the farm or elsewhere, to be accomplished and livelihoods thus maintained.

Honeymoon photo, Frank M. Brodhead and Fannie Bishop Woodruff, married June 6, 1908

Honeymoon photo, Frank M. Brodhead and Fannie Bishop Woodruff, married June 6, 1908

A handy day of week calendar allows you to take any date in history and find out what day of the week it was.  I decided to randomly check on some wedding dates I have in my database to see on which days weddings most often fell. As you can see, at least in my little random sample, they fell on all days of the week apart from Friday, with Thursday edging out the other days. And, while June is now the most popular month for weddings, I only found three ceremonies that fell in that month.

Sunday
John Woodruff and Mary Ogden Earl, 2/16/1817
Thomas Trewin and Mary Anne Phillips, 1/27/1839
James W. Angus and Anna Carpenter, 2/27/1870

Monday
John Woodruff and Sarah Cooper, 10/25/1683

Tuesday
George Wills and Mary Pitt Capon, 4/14/1812
Capt. Daniel Brodhead and Hester Wyngart, 9/19/1719
Calvin Easton Brodhead and Laura Leisenring, 12/6/1870
James Easton Brodhead and Harriet Boyd, 5/1/1877
Sampson Wills and Ann Gadsden, 9/22/1789

Wednesday
Francis Woodruff and Mary Jane Trowbridge, 11/12/1845
AJ Brodhead and Ophelia Easton, 12/31/1845
Austin F. Knowles and Mary M. Angus, 9/4/1867

Thursday
Henry Jaques, Sr. and Anna Knight, 10/8/1648
Henry Jaques, Jr. and Hannah Trueman, 4/10/1670
Lt. Garret Brodhead and Jane Davis, 3/15/1759
Garret Brodhead and Cornelia Dingman, 11/25/1813
William Earl Woodruff and Wealthy Ann Angus, 6/20/1872
Robert Packer Brodhead and Frances Loveland, 5/23/1889
Frank Ludey and Metta Ryman, 6/18/1896
Minnie Ludey and Herbert Duryea Crane, 9/24/1897

Saturday
Capt. Richard Brodhead and Magdalena Jansen, 4/19/1692
Timothy Woodruff and Elizabeth Parsons, 9/25/1739
James Winans Angus and Wealthy Ann Jaques, 1/26/1839
Frank Brodhead and Fannie Woodruff, 6/6/1908

For an interesting article on wedding fashions, visit the Monroe County [PA] Historical Society’s site.

I’ll close by including some wedding announcements of various family members. Two have appeared in previous posts, but the other two (of the Ludey siblings) are appearing in this blog for the first time. Wish we had some photos!

Brodhead-Woodruff Wedding Announcement (Probably clipped from the Elizabeth Daily Journal) - from our family's private archives

Brodhead-Woodruff Wedding Announcement (Probably clipped from the Elizabeth Daily Journal) – from our family’s private archives

Brodhead-Loveland Marriage Announcement, 1889

Frank T. Ludey Jr. (1871-1900), age 21  (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Frank T. Ludey Jr. (1871-1900), age 21 (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Ludey-Ryman Wedding, The New York Times, 6/19/1896

Mary ("Minnie") Emma Ludey (1873-1938), age 21 (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Mary (“Minnie”) Emma Ludey (1873-1938), age 21 (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Herbert Duryea Crane  (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Herbert Duryea Crane (Courtesy of Ruth Kirby Dean, great granddaughter)

Ludey-Crane Marriage, Jersey City, The Evening Journal, 9/24/1897

Ludey-Crane Marriage, Jersey City, The Evening Journal, 9/24/1897

Categories: Angus, Brodhead, Crane, Dingman, Easton, Jaques, Knowles, Ludey, Phillips, Ryman, Trewin, Trowbridge, Weddings, Woodruff | Leave a comment

Rev. Frank Stiles Woodruff in Beirut, Syria–Late 1800s

American University of Beirut (Wikipedia copyright-free image) view of Mediterranean

One of Francis Woodruff‘s younger brothers was Ogden Woodruff (1832-1918). Ogden was married to Phebe Asenath Bonnell and between 1860 and 1884, the couple had twelve children–eight boys and four girls. Frank Stiles Woodruff (Jan 29, 1863 – May 26, 1893) was the second-born child in the family, and we have a letter written by him in 1892, the year before he passed away, to his cousin William E. Woodruff, Francis’s son. William E. Woodruff, my great grandfather, and his wife Wealthy Ann Angus had six daughters, the youngest being Bertha, who has been mentioned in previous posts. She would have been about four when the letter was written. William was about fourteen years older than his cousin Frank.

Frank Stiles Woodruff led a short but very interesting life. He attended Princeton University, graduating on June 17, 1885, with academic honors. The New York Herald of June 18, 1885, lists his name and honorary thesis/oration, “General Excellent Poem, ‘The Battle of Princeton’.” While a student, he won the Dickinson Prize in 1884 and the Science and Religion Prize in 1885. In 1885, he was also listed as one of the Baird Prizemen, having won in the category of Poetry. (The previous details can be found in John Roger Williams’s Academic Honors in Princeton University (p.8.)). He later returned to Princeton and graduated from the Theological Seminary.

On March 28, 1887, The Princetonian mentioned: Frank S. Woodruff, who is now in Syria, has written a poem on the “Cedars,” which has been favorably commented upon as showing much true poetic genius.

The New York Times “City and Suburban” section of June 30, 1891, printed a small article on Frank Stiles Woodruff’s ordination as a Presbyterian minister to Beirut, Syria. The ceremony took place on June 29, 1891 at the Third Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth, NJ: At the Third Presbyterian Church in Elizabeth last night Frank Stiles Woodruff of Linden was ordained as a Presbyterian minister to Beirut, Syria. The Rev. Dr. J. Garland Hammer, Moderator of the Elizabeth Presbytery, presided, and the charge to the candidate was delivered by the Rev. Dr. James G. Dennis of Beirut. The Rev. Dr. Gillespie, Secretary of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, preached the sermon.

Also in 1891, an article written by Rev. Woodruff appeared in the much-beloved children’s publication St. Nicholas (Vol. XVIII, No. 1-6, Nov 1890 – Apr 1891, Part One, pp. 471-476). The article, “Busy Corners in the Orient,” appears below.

On September 30, 1891, Rev. Woodruff was once again mentioned in The Princetonian: The Rev. Frank S. Woodruff was ordained to the ministry in Elizabeth, New Jersey, June 29. Mr. Woodruff has been elected to the professorship of the English Language and Literature in the Syrian Protestant College* at Beirut, Syria, and sailed for his field of labor early this month.

*Now known as the American University of Beirut.

Sadly, Rev. Woodruff died very young, at just 30. His New York Times obituary dated May 27, 1893, stated: The Rev. Frank S. Woodruff of Elizabeth, who for three years was a teacher in the Presbyterian College of Beyroot, Syria, and later was Professor of English Literature there, died suddenly yesterday at his parents’ home in Elizabeth from a hemorrhage. He left Syria in bad health, but felt much better after reaching home. He was twenty-nine years old. Having been graduated from Princeton College in the class of ’85, he went to Syria, where he taught for a while. Returning, he entered the Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1891. Soon after he went to Beyroot again and remained there until forced to leave his work by failing health.

Woodruff’s work in Beirut was also mentioned in the book, That They May Have Life: The Story Of The American University Of Beirut, 1866-1941: Another Princeton man called back to a professorship was Frank S. Woodruff, who came first to Beirut in 1885 as tutor of English and was made head of the English Department in 1891 after his graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary. Unfortunately Professor Woodruff’s health forced him to withdraw early in 1893 and he died in America in May of that year, shortly after his return from Beirut. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ, alongside his parents and some of his siblings, Lucetta, William, Carrie, Edward, and Mary. For a view of his grave marker and the family plot, click here.

I was able to find the ship record for his last journey home–he sailed from Genoa, Italy, on an English vessel called the Kaiser Wilhelm II, arriving in New York on May 9, 1893.

The letter to William Woodruff appears below in the photo gallery. As the handwriting is very legible, I won’t go to the trouble of transcribing it here. In it, Rev. Woodruff mentioned the frailty of his health but firmly believed he was in Beirut for a reason–that it was the place he was meant to be. Looking out at the azure waters of the Mediterranean, as he likely often did, Rev. Woodruff must have reveled in his exotic location and in being in such close proximity to places at the heart of the Christian faith. And to all those back in New Jersey who knew him, he must have seemed quite literally a world away.

In the last paragraph of his article for St. Nicholas, Rev. Woodruff pondered whether the technology of Western civilization would impact “Beyroot” by the year 2000 A.D., akin to one of us imagining what changes may take place in our own geographic locations by 2120.  Surely that he himself would be the subject of a blog post in the 21st century would never have crossed his mind–but I hope he would be pleased to know that his work and life have been remembered, among other places, here.

Link to Frank Stiles Woodruff’s grave on Find a Grave

Categories: Angus, Beirut, Syria (now Lebanon), Elizabeth, Union Co., Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ, Missionaries, Obituaries, Presbyterian, Woodruff | Leave a comment

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