Coleman

C. Clarence Coleman (1877-1953)

The C. Clarence Coleman family home at 17 Wilder Street, late 1930s/early 1940s (Standing, third from the left, is Jennie Woodruff Coleman; Clarence is the gentleman in the hat to her left. Their daughter is to Jennie's right. My dad, a nephew of Clarence and Jennie is standing by the door to the truck)

The C. Clarence Coleman family home at 17 Wilder Street, late 1930s/early 1940s (Standing, third from the left, is Jennie Woodruff Coleman; Clarence is the gentleman in the hat to her left. Their daughter is to Jennie’s right. My dad, a nephew of Clarence and Jennie is standing by the door to the truck)

Obituary notice

Obituary notice

I stumbled on an obituary for Charles Clarence Coleman and noticed that later this month will mark the 60th anniversary of his passing. Charles, who went by his middle name of Clarence, was married to Jennie Belle Woodruff—the eldest daughter of William E. Woodruff and Wealthy Ann Angus Woodruff.  Both Clarence and Jennie passed away in the 1950s.

Growing up, I never knew much about my dad’s ‘Uncle Clarence’ other than that he had been a very successful banker and liked antiques, and that he and Jennie were married for ten years before they had any children. Just one child was born, a daughter. She spent holidays with us at our NJ farmhouse in the ’60s and ’70s.

The Coleman house in Elizabeth, which Clarence had built, was quite a grand place with a spiral staircase going up to the third floor, large grounds (by city standards) and a goldfish pond and rose garden out back. I remember the rooms being full of beautiful antiques. Clarence and Jennie’s daughter, who never married, continued living in the house well into the ’70s with one of Jennie’s sisters (Bertha) and a housekeeper Mrs. Morse. Some time after Bertha’s death, a new housekeeper appeared who encouraged Jennie and Clarence’s daughter to downsize. Sadly, the house was sold to make way for a run-of-the-mill apartment block. Indeed, it was a sad day when we drove past the bulldozed property on our way to the ‘new’ home–a fairly boring one-level brick house crammed between two others like it–not too far away. My dad was particularly upset by the decision as he had spent considerable time over his teenaged years at the Wilder Street house, helping Clarence and Jennie with household projects, and he was sure neither Clarence nor Jennie would ever have envisioned the grand old house being torn down. But, c’est la guerre.

Image from my family's private archives of  Jennie Belle Woodruff Coleman with her daughter, 1914

Image from my family’s private archives of Jennie Belle Woodruff Coleman with her daughter, 1914

For no real reason, apart from the fact that I’d never heard my dad’s cousin mention having any aunts or uncles on her father’s side, I’d always assumed that Clarence was an only child. Imagine my surprise to discover after a bit of research that just the opposite was true–he was one of nine! Perhaps, that explains why he wasn’t in a rush to have children himself.

Clarence’s father was a silver plate craftsman named Charles M. Coleman, who emigrated to the US at age one from England with his parents, Mr. and Mrs. William R. C. Coleman. Charles M. Coleman married New Jersey-born Emily Chapman in about 1872. If my research is correct, below is a rudimentary tree for the family. Anyone able to flesh out more details, please feel free to get in touch.

Note: Clarence, Jennie and daughter are buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Union Co., NJ. Visit Find a Grave to see their markers.

1-Charles M. Coleman b. Cir 1845, England d. Aft 1910 +Emily C. Chapman b. Cir 1850, New Jersey, USA d. Aft 1910
|—-2-William Sidney Coleman b. 14 Nov 1875, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ d. Aft 1940 + Edna G.
|—-2-Charles Clarence Coleman b. 25 Nov 1877, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ, d. 28
|      Dec 1953, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ
|     +Jennie Belle Woodruff b. 24 Nov 1873, d. 20 Oct 1955, 17 Wilder St.,
|      Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ, bur. Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, Union Co., NJ
|—-2-Eleanor Coleman b. Cir 1879, New Jersey; d. aft 1910
|—-2-Grace Coleman b. Cir 1880, New Jersey, United States; d. bef. 1910
|—-2-Frances D. Coleman b. 1884, New Jersey, United States; d. aft 1910
|—-2-Mary E. Coleman b. Cir 1886, New Jersey; d. aft 1910
|—-2-John Coleman b. 15 Nov 1890, Middlesex Co., NJ; d. bef. 1910
|—-2-Oprah B. Coleman b. Cir 1890, New Jersey; d. aft 1910
|—-2-Andrew Altman Coleman b. Cir 1893, New Jersey; d. betw 28 Dec 1953 and 16 Nov 1958
|      +Olive Roberts b. 1898; d. 16 Nov 1958, Elizabeth, Union Co, NJ

Categories: Brodhead, Coleman, Elizabeth, Union Co., Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, NJ, Family Homes, Obituaries, Woodruff | 6 Comments

My great aunt Bertha W. Woodruff (1888-1973)

17 Wilder Street

17 Wilder Street, Elizabeth, NJ

You may recall the posts about William E. Woodruff, who as a teenager received Civil War letters from his uncles Uzal and Henry Trowbridge. Well, Bertha Winans Woodruff was the youngest of the six daughters William had with his wife Wealthy A. Angus. Bertha passed away in the early 1970s. I recall visiting her on a number of occasions as a child.

She lived in a big rambling house at 17 Wilder Street in Elizabeth, NJ, that belonged to her eldest sister, Jennie, and  Jennie’s husband, successful banker Clarence Coleman. Sadly, the house was torn down (in the mid 1970s) and replaced with a large brick apartment building called Wilder Manor.

I remember the old house had a spiral staircase so we could look down from the third floor all the way to the entry hall below. For a child, the house was quite magical; we enjoyed exploring it and playing hide-and-seek. There was a little fish pond in the backyard garden. I remember admiring the gold fish in it as well as the garden’s beautiful spring- and summertime  flowers.

In her younger years, Bertha had a very successful career in Manhattan as a quilt designer (visit this follow-up post), and she enjoyed watercolor painting. Her niece, Jennie Belle Coleman, inherited the bulk of her paintings. I only got a glimpse of them once, at the last house Jennie Belle lived in, which was on Colonia Road in Elizabeth, NJ, with her live-in helper/companion. Once Jennie Belle died, the executor of her estate must have sold/destroyed the paintings. Family was not consulted about them, or anything else for that matter. Not notified about the funeral until after it had taken place!

From what I heard Bertha very much enjoyed traveling and even ventured on a round-the-world journey. She never married, although she apparently came very close after meeting a nice single gentleman (supposedly a member of the South African Parliament) on her globe-trotting vacation. But, alas, that did not pan out, and she has no descendants to whom she could pass on details about her life. We have some wonderful photos of her as a young woman, so I thought I would post them here. I would not want her to be forgotten.

Categories: Angus, Coleman, Elizabeth, Union Co., Family Homes, Woodruff | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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