This is the northeast corner of Clarence and Jennie (Woodruff) Coleman‘s living room in the house they built at 17 Wilder Street in Elizabeth, NJ, in 1912, I believe. The living room was on the left when you walked through the front door. The photograph was taken professionally, by ‘John L. Soltis’ of Elizabeth, and is undated. The house was torn down in the 1970s and replaced with an apartment building.
How did we end up with this photo, you may be asking? After the Coleman’s daughter Jennie (only child; never married) died in the 1990s, we were contacted by a cousin of hers who lived in a NJ seaside town. At the time, my mom was in Florida (dad had passed away five years earlier), and I was living in London. The cousin told us that there were “a lot of family papers and other items that you should have, but it’s a lot and we can’t possibly ship it.” I had some vacation time and mom was retired so we met in Newark and drove down to get all of this stuff. When we arrived we were shown a couple of regular-size boxes, nothing that could not have been shipped… Needless to say we were ever so slightly annoyed, but on the other hand, got to converse with this cousin of Jennie’s and her spouse, both in their 70s by then, on family & family history matters.
These boxes, containing some photos, newspaper clippings, year books and other memorabilia, were all that was left of the Coleman estate, at least as far as family members were concerned. The rest of the estate, which was quite substantial in both money and antiques, was all taken by the executor who moved out of state. A lawsuit was filed by the executor’s sister (all public record), and eventually this individual was removed from the executor-ship of the estate by court order. But, by the time that happened, there was nothing… he’d supposedly spent it all—all the fruits of Clarence Coleman’s labor.
I remember sitting on that beautiful, antique sofa many times. It was unlike anything we’d seen elsewhere as kids in the 1960s, and the picture on the wall above it always captivated me. The books and things in the corner were off-limits to us little kids, of course. I have vague memories of the rest of the room. I believe there was a fireplace on the west side of the room, as well as doors leading out to the covered porch.
I will probably publish another one or two posts containing the rest of the materials we have from this family. There are no descendants, so I think it’s important that their lives be remembered in this blog, especially since (I think) that is unlikely to happen anywhere else, now or in the future.