Monthly Archives: August 2013
Completely by chance, I came across a grainy 1911 photo of a “Mrs. L. D. Brodhead,” under the headline: “Lutherville Girl Who Eloped.” The photo was from the Baltimore Sun whose old issues can be found on Genealogy Bank. I certainly did not recognize her nor did I expect to. However, having just published the story about William Hall Brodhead and Mary Van Tassel’s elopement, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by news of yet another Brodhead elopement. So, I found the accompanying article, expecting I’d come upon some “new” Brodheads down there in Maryland (“my Brodheads” were mostly from the NJ/NY/PA area), probably some distant relations… But, life changed in an instant–half way into paragraph No. 2, my jaw dropped and all I could think was “Holy cow!” The Brits have the greatest word: “gobsmacked”– and that’s exactly what I was. The groom’s name? “Lewis D. Brodhead of Elizabeth, New Jersey.”
“Uncle Lewie,” as my dad used to call him, died of a heart attack on 8 December 1933 at age 49, when my Dad was just 12. At the time of his death, which took place in his office, Lewis was on the board of the American Swiss File and Tool Company. The December 10 obituary notice in the New York Times mentions only his mother and two brothers as surviving him.
All my Dad remembered about Uncle Lewie was that he was a bit too fond of his drink, had a reputation for being quite a character, and had never married or had children. And there I was–almost 80 years after Lewie’s death–suddenly confronted with proof that he’d been married—to one Mildred Elizabeth Hancock on 23 June 1911. How bizarre. It was shocking. Even my 90-year-old mother was shocked, and it takes a lot to shock her these days. My late father would have been completely flummoxed by this. How could it be that neither of his parents ever mentioned Uncle Lewie has having been married?! It’s extremely odd, and all I could immediately surmise was that the marriage was either a very brief one or a very troubled one that ended in divorce and was swept under the rug permanently. But it still seemed a bit nuts that my dad would not have heard anything about it.
Lewis (b. 5 October 1884) was the second of three sons of Andrew Douglas Brodhead (son of Andrew Jackson Brodhead) and Margaret Lewis Martin (a daughter Edith died in early childhood); I cannot help but wonder what their and the rest of the family’s reaction was to this elopement. My grandfather (Uncle Lewie’s older brother) Frank M. Brodhead (b. 5 Feb. 1882) and wife Fannie Woodruff, who lived in Elizabeth, would have been entering their third year of marriage at that time. Youngest brother Andrew (b. 3 October 1886) was still living at home in 1905 but was gone by 1910, so I don’t know where he was at the time of Lewis’s 1911 elopement (Andrew married in 1916).
The elopement of Mildred Hancock, daughter of Laura and Josias A. Hancock, caused a great deal of buzz in the local Maryland press. Mildred was described as “one of the most attractive belles of the [Lutherville, MD] community” This was the second Hancock to elope in the space of three months, and Mildred broke the news to her parents via telegram. Mildred, 18 years of age, had been employed for five months in a touring theatrical troupe, partially against the wishes of her parents. Sometime during her brief stage career, she met Lewis, who became a regular member of the audience. She left the troupe and returned to Baltimore. Apparently Lewis was a traveling hardware salesman, and he soon found reason to visit Maryland regularly on business. He met Mildred’s mother on several occasions, but never met Mr. Hancock. In June 1911, Lewis was in NYC on business and Mildred insisted on making a trip to NYC at that time, not telling her parents the trip involved Lewis.
They eloped, marrying at the Church of the Transfiguration on 29th Street (a.k.a. The Little Church Around the Corner; Episcopalian). Afterwards they “made merry” in Atlantic City and elsewhere on the Jersey shore. The Hancocks eventually telegraphed their blessing (no indication given that a blessing arrived from M/M A.D. Brodhead). Lewis then made his way to Canada on a business trip and Mildred returned home to her parents where all awaited Lewis’s August 26 visit to finally meet Mr. Hancock. Then, according to Mildred, Lewis and she would be leaving for a honeymoon although she had no idea where, just that it was going to be an “awfully long distance” away and that she wanted to go to Europe soon as well. The article contained a number of comments made by Mildred that made her come across as immature and a bit ditzy. It closed by saying Mr. & Mrs. L. D. Brodhead planned to make their home in Springfield, MA (And they did end up going there).
So, the big question for me was: Did the marriage last? Well, the answer is “yes”–at least for 11 years. I found Lewis’s 12 September 1918 registration card for WWI. His home address was listed as 132 Bushkill Street, Easton North, Pennsylvania. He stated his place of employment as manager at Crew Levick Co. (an oil company) in Easton, and lists wife Mildred as sharing his Bushkill St. home address. He described himself as “tall” and “slender”, and as having brown eyes and black hair.
I found the next trace of Lewis and Mildred in a 1922 Pottsville, PA, directory. They were living at 109 S. Centre Street. Why Pottsville, home of the famous Yuengling Brewery, (America’s oldest; est. 1829)? I don’t know, but it wasn’t for the beer as prohibition had gone into effect in 1920. Perhaps a clue comes from the Wikipedia entry for the town: Until the middle of the 20th century, Pottsville was a popular destination for many traveling acts and vaudeville performers. The 1929 film Berth Marks stars the comedy legends Laurel and Hardy as they attempt to reach Pottsville by train for one of their booked performances. Pearl Bailey had once resided in Pottsville during the early part of her entertaining career. Soldiers in training at nearby Fort Indiantown Gap were prohibited from visiting Pottsville during most of World War II due to the large amounts of illicit venues and activities present during the time. Maybe Mildred was involved with the theatre there, or maybe the couple just liked the city’s “vibe”. It was, after all, the roaring ’20s.
So sometime between 1922 and Lewis’s death in 1933, Mildred died or the pair split up. She is not mentioned in his obituary. I’ve searched high and low for further clues, but have so far come up empty-handed. A trip to Pottsville to look at old court records and library archives will probably be required to figure this one out! If anyone reading this has any clues, please share!
Update 9/17/13: I found an Elizabeth city directory for 1931 showing Lewis (salesman) living with his widowed mother Margaret Lewis Brodhead at 11 Elmwood Place. No mention of Mildred. Also, I forgot to mention that Lewis was buried in the family plot at Evergreen Cemetery in Hillside, NJ.
Last April I did two posts on the Brodhead/Catlin/Tracy families (Post 1, Post 2). You may recall that Delinda Catlin Tracy, wife of Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy, and her daughter Mary perished in a house fire at the Tracy residence on February 3, 1890. Delinda was the daughter of Nathaniel Catlin and Jane Dingman Brodhead.
I’ve come across a couple more extensive articles on the fire which are rich in biographical information about the family’s members. The articles were found on the Fulton History website, so thankfully, I am able to post them here. Another interesting article “Ladies of the Cabinet” was published the year prior, on 16 March 1889. It contains an interesting profile of Delinda Tracy and her family. However, I found it on Genealogy Bank so I am unable to include it here. Those with access to old Washington DC newspapers can find the article in The Evening Star on that date (page 7).
Article 1. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 4 February 1890 (credit: http://www.fultonhistory.com):
FOR BETTER READING, CLICK EACH IMAGE TO ENLARGE
Article 2. The New York Herald, 4 February 1890 (credit: http://www.fultonhistory.com):
As someone with some Leitrim Co., Ireland, roots I was glad to come across Alan Stewart’s post about the upcoming (September 2013) Leitrim Roots Festival. Sounds like a lot of fun and wish I could go. Alan has a great blog, by the way, with tons of great information for those researching their English and/or Irish roots.
In early 1893, William Hall Brodhead, 35, was a very busy guy who may have already resigned himself to a life of bachelorhood, whether by default or by design. He was living and working in Wilkes-Barre (Luzerne Co., Pennsylvania) and was one of the most well-known and established coal operators in the area. William was from a very prominent Pennsylvania family–Daniel Dingman Brodhead (brother of my 2nd great grandfather Andrew Jackson Brodhead) and Mary Ann Brodrick were his parents; Garret Brodhead and Cornelia Dingman, and Irish immigrants James Brodrick and Elizabeth Dogherty — his grandparents. (All the Brodheads mentioned in this post were descendants of Daniel Brodhead and Hester Wyngart, original Pennsylvania Minisink Valley settlers.)
Daniel D. and Mary Brodhead had nine children between 1848 and 1870, and William was child no. 5. Two of his older siblings (James and Elizabeth) and one of his younger siblings (Alice) died young. Oldest brother Henry and younger brother Albert were still bachelors, at 45 and 25, respectively. Baby of the family Emily was 22 and also yet unmarried. Robert, age 32, may have been between marriages. His first wife Susan Amelia Shoemaker, a descendant of Elijah Shoemaker, died shortly after their marriage. He remarried Minnie Stafford of Rome, Georgia, and they started having children in 1896. So, at this point — early 1893 — the only one who had splashed out into post-marriage parenthood was fourth-born, 37-yr-old Daniel Dingman Brodhead, Jr. It looks like he and wife Leonora Hubbard had two of their five children by then: Clement P. and Charles R.. Baby Maude H. (b. 1893) may also have put in her appearance by then.
Any thoughts of competition between the Andrew Jackson (A. J.) Brodhead family and Daniel Dingman (D. D.) Brodhead families with regards to producing grandchildren must have vanished quickly. The two families were very large — A. J. and wife Ophelia had 10 kids between 1843 and 1864. By early 1893, A. J.’s & Ophelia’s kids had produced roughly 30 grandchildren for them, a ten-fold advantage over D. D. and wife Mary’s offspring.
But, back now to William Hall Brodhead. He was a busy guy professionally at this stage as evidenced by his biography published in Portraits of the Heads of State Departments and Portraits and Sketches of Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, 1893-1894 by E. K. Meyers Printing House of Harrisburg (p. 208; I have highlighted the most relevant details in bold):
WILLIAM HALL BRODHEAD was born in the Seventh ward of Philadelphia in 1857. In 1873 removed with his family to Mauch Chunk and from that place into the Wyoming Valley region. Since that time has been engaged about the mines in various capacities. He is a direct descendant of Captain Daniel Brodhead, of the British army, who came to this country in 1664 for the purpose of protecting British interests in the Dutch settlement, and settled on the Hudson river. Two of the Captain’s grandsons came over into Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania, and one of them, Daniel Brodhead, who died in 1754, is now buried in the Moravian cemetery at Bethlehem. His son, Daniel Brodhead, was on Washington’s staff, and the first surveyor general of Pennsylvania. So it will be seen that the subject of this sketch comes from good old revolutionary ancestry. He received his education in the public schools of Philadelphia. Had never held any political office before moving to Wilkes-Barre in 1890, though had taken a lively interest in politics. Six month after moving to the above mentioned city he was delegate to the Luzerne County convention. In 1892 he was elected to the Legislature on the Democratic ticket and ran 350 votes ahead of President Cleveland in his district. He was put on the Committee on Military Affairs, Corporations, Judiciary, Local and Retrenchment and Reform. He introduced a bill creating a Mining institution for the purpose of educating young men in the several branches of mining, to better fit them to become foremen and fire bosses ; also a bill for the purification and improvement of the water supply in the Wyoming Valley ; also a bill providing for the repeal of an act which requires the tax collector of Wilkes-Barre to be appointed, and providing that the office shall become an elective one, to be filled by the votes of the people and bill providing that the funeral expenses of paupers shall be paid by the county, instead as now by the poor district in which such indigent person had a residence. Mr. Brodhead takes a very active interest in the National guard and is now the senior captain of the Ninth regiment. He and his boys did service at Homestead last fall for five weeks. As will be seen by the number and character of the bills he has presented, he takes a lively interest in affairs affecting his constituents, and attends well to the duties devolving upon him as a member.
William was an officer in Pennsylvania’s Ninth Regiment, National Guard, and during the summer of 1893, he attended the regiment’s annual camp. That year it was held in the town of Berwick (Columbia Co.), and ‘lo and behold, during the course of his stay there, he was introduced to Mary Jackson Van Tassel, a young lady of about 19-20 who came from a very prominent Pennsylvania family. The two developed a bit of a friendship that would blossom into something much greater weeks later when William was on a hunting expedition near Berwick and fell very ill. His prognosis was dire, and when Miss Van Tassel learned of William’s illness she went to care for him, watching over him day and night. Cupid’s arrow hit its mark and, thankfully, against all odds, William made a full recovery. Love has a habit of doing that, eh?!
William was totally smitten, and the parents on both sides, no doubt totally mortified by the age difference, worked behind the scenes to sabotage the couple’s young love. This went on for over a year until William and Mary quite obviously had enough and went behind everyone’s backs to be married in secret on December 5, 1894.
Even that day, they had been under heavy scrutiny by Mary’s mother who was completely bamboozled by Mary’s race out a back door to a taxi that whisked her away to waiting William. They fled to the Columbia County Court House for a marriage license and then sped to a Methodist parsonage where a Rev. Ferguson proclaimed them man and wife. No doubt because of William’s prominent position in Wilkes-Barre and the two families’ prominence in eastern Pennsylvania society, the marriage made it into a number of papers, including The New York Herald (you can read the article below). Amazingly, another wedding took place that day — that of William’s oldest brother Henry Conrad Brodhead. That wedding provided the perfect camouflage for William to work his plan on his side of the family. With all the Brodheads probably gone to NYC for Henry’s wedding, William was able to jump into action with no possibility of any of his detractors interfering.
After the wedding, William and Mary returned to Wilkes-Barre to await their families’ forgiveness; then they planned to head off to California for the winter.
Tragically, there was to be no happy ending for William and Mary. Whatever it was that ailed him on his hunting trip may have returned in the spring of 1895 for he passed away at home in Wilkes-Barre on 7 June 1895, just three days after his younger sister Emily’s wedding to Robert Honeyman.
But William’s legacy lived on in the form of William Hall Brodhead, Jr. who was born later that year — on 1 December 1895. And, if I’m correct, that child lived to the ripe age of 77. Major William H. Brodhead Sr. was buried in Wilkes-Barre’s Hollenback Cemetery — no doubt a very sad day for all, especially his young wife after just six months of marriage.
If you’ve ever been to Sanibel Island, you are more than aware of its world-famous shelling.
Our family spent many happy winters there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and we have the fabulous shell collection to prove it. The late actor Raymond Burr of Ironside fame (a series that apparently is being resurrected by NBC this coming fall) was instrumental in helping to establish a shell museum on Sanibel Island. Growing up, Ironside was a family favorite in our household, and Sanibel Island a favorite destination, so I found it kind of interesting years later to learn that the man playing a tough chief of detectives on a TV series had a keen interest in preserving and protecting the seashells on the island I loved (and still love — my husband and I had a sunrise beach wedding there a decade ago) and was a keen fundraiser for the museum. His activities are memorialized by a garden dedicated to him.
The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, as it is officially called, is fascinating and well worth a visit, if you ever find yourself on Sanibel. By the time you leave, you’ll definitely know your gastropods and bivalves! And you will have seen extraordinary collections from around the world, including exquisite hand-carved shells and delightfully crafted sailor’s valentines.
We spent a long weekend on the island last month and stopped by the museum before heading home. I had not been there in 5-6 years and found myself most intrigued by the exhibit on cowry shells, which were used as a form of currency for hundreds of years. I had never realized how widespread their use was, and — having focused so much on family history in recent years — could not help but imagine how these shells may have been an integral part of my distant ancestors’ daily life.
Interestingly, these little gifts of the sea were only found in the vicinity of the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean, making them hard to counterfeit and easier to control. They were uniform in size, making them easy to count, weigh, and ship, and were found in abundance. Those charged with collecting them could gather as many as 12,000 in a single day. The extensive cowry trade went on for six centuries, before petering out in the late 1860s due to inflation and the rising popularity of metal coins. One museum sign describes what you could buy with a set number of cowries in Africa in the mid-1800s. A house would set you back by 4 million cowries, a cow — 2,500 cowries, a chicken — 50 cowries. Gents looking to secure a bride could do so for 50,000 cowries. And yes, sadly, they were involved in the slave trade — a sad chapter in their history, indeed. For an interesting article on Money Cowries, click here.
Seashells for me will always have a strong connection to Sanibel Island, and I am very thankful for that. One cannot help but feel great joy walking the island’s beaches, observing it’s glorious sunrises and spectacular sunsets, and listening to the sound of the gentle gulf surf washing ashore. As an added bonus, hubby discovered that the from-shore snook fishing on Sanibel is some of the best in the world, and I am thankful for that as well, since that’s an additional carrot I’ll be able to dangle before him whenever that next urge to visit Sanibel comes over me!
**Cowry Trading print (Wikimedia): This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.