A long time ago, I did a post about 19th-century food writer Madame Jules de Ryther‘s recommendations on how to prepare “roast saddle of venison” from deer killed during hunting expeditions in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Perhaps you remember that post.
Well, I was scrolling through some antique postcards on eBay last week, and one in particular caught my eye–it was of two men in a canoe arriving at the side of a lake with at least a couple of dead deer in their vessel. The title was: “Adirondack Mountains. Bringing in the spoils.”
That Madame de Ryther post came to mind, so I paused to take a closer look at the scene. On the front right side was a small note written by the sender, someone named Ripley Watson: “Am up at Lake George, having a fine time. Remember me to your brothers, please. Ripley Watson.”
Then I turned the postcard over and was absolutely shocked to discover that the recipient was someone I knew from my family history research and had actually met over a half century ago when visiting my late grandmother in Plainfield, NJ. I was only a few years old at the time and don’t remember the visit, but I do have a photo to prove that I was there!
How amazing! I am still pinching myself. Life is full of strange little surprises. I felt compelled to buy the postcard, and it arrived the day before yesterday from Pennsylvania.
Miss Cecelia Bell Russum (1090 East Jersey Street, Elizabeth, NJ) was the postcard recipient, and she would have been 18 at the time. Some of you may know who Cecelia was. For those who do not: she was the only daughter of Cecelia Bensley Angus (1855-1933) and Thomas Bayley Russum (cir. 1850-1938) of Elizabeth, New Jersey, who also had four sons (Thomas; Charles, who died before Cecelia was born; Frank; and William).
These two Angus sisters were five years apart, but each gave birth to a daughter in 1888: Cecelia Bell Russum was born in June, and Wealthy’s daughter Bertha Woodruff in October. They all appear in the below group photo taken, I believe, in 1892 on the occasion of the funeral gathering for Wealthy Ann (Jaques) Angus. (Note: I have posted this group photo before. I think I have the Russum kids shown incorrectly apart from William and Cecelia, but plan to fix that label soon.)
I took a quick look to see who Ripley Watson may have been. Cecelia’s brothers all went to Rutgers College (classes of 1895, 1902, and 1910), and I found a Ripley Watson who was in the class of 1908. A few tidbits I found about him indicated that he was gifted academically and played varsity football (6′ tall, 186 pounds). Published almost a decade after his graduation, The Catalogue of the Officers and Alumni of Rutgers College… 1766 to 1916, published by Rutgers, gives the following information about Ripley: Born at Jersey City, NJ, Mch. 15, 1886. Lawyer. L.L.B. (N.K. Law School,1910). A.M. (Rutgers, 1911).
So here was Ripley in July of 1906 sending Cecelia a postcard from the Adirondacks. Perhaps, he had romantic intentions? If he did, nothing came of it. Cecelia remained single, living at home with her parents, into her early forties, when she met and married the much older Reverend George Rutger Brauer (b. 1871) in 1931. Unfortunately the marriage was short lived as George died in 1935 of a cerebral hemorrhage. His Find a Grave memorial has some photos of him as well as a long obituary that appeared in the New York Times. Click here if you are interested in seeing that memorial page (and here if you want to see the page for his first wife Eugenia Lathrop Brauer, who died in 1929).
Back to Cecelia. She died in Los Angeles in 1981 at the age of 93, outliving her cousin Bertha by almost a decade. Remarkably, we have the photo showing the two as young children and another showing them some seven decades later, sitting on the front porch at my grandmother’s house—with me and my sister the young children this time around. The ladies had remained good friends. I don’t know what happened to Cecelia after this or why she moved to California. But, how amazing is it that 114 years after that postcard was sent to Cecelia, it’s ended up here with me!