Category Archives: Voorhies family

Gravesend Characters Past: Charles R. Stillwell (1854-1920)

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, here is a profile of Charles Rushmore Stillwell, transcribed from Peter Ross, LL. D., A History of Long Island From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, vol. 2 (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1902), 111:

Stillwell.Charles.R.Eagle&Brooklyn.1893.cropped

Charles R. Stillwell (1854-1920)

Charles R. Stillwell, an esteemed resident of Gravesend, was born October 13, 1854, at Gravesend, in a house which is still standing. His ancestors were among a company of thirty-nine people who received grants of land from Lady Moody in 1643, and one purchased a plantation, thus becoming the owner of a portion of Coney Island. His father was Jacques R. Stillwell and his grandfather was Richard I. Stillwell. The former was born at Gravesend. Representatives of the family have long been associated with things which have formed the history of this portion of the Empire state, for the family was founded on Long Island in 1638 and has been identified with Gravesend since 1643, Nicholas Stillwell being the first to locate at that place. In 1640 he was associated with Governor Stuyvesant in fighting the Indians. Richard I. Stillwell, the grandfather, was a very powerful man, noted for the strength in all the athletic contests throughout the region around. Jacques R. Stillwell was a farmer by occupation, providing for his family by agricultural pursuits. His was a noble nature, his life being characterized by benevolence and charity. he married Miss Cornelia Stryker, a daughter of Samuel G. Stryker, of Gravesend, and both died in the year 1898. They had two children, Charles R. and Frederick, the latter a resident of Hackensack, New Jersey.

Charles R. Stillwell mastered the branches of English learning taught in the schools of Gravesend, New Jersey, and in Brooklyn, but at the age of fourteen he put aside his text-books and took his place upon the farm and for some time he was associated with the work of developing and improving the fields. For thirteen years he was engaged in the cultivation and sale of flowers, and as a florist carried on a successful business. He is now quite extensively engaged in the raising of fancy fruit, and in this enterprise is meeting with well deserved success. Industry and careful management have always characterized his work, and as the result of his diligence and perseverance he has acquired a comfortable competence. In connection with his other business affairs he is now engaged in speculating and his keen discernment, sagacity and foresight enables him to place his money so that it brings a good return.

Stillwell.Charles.R.poultry.farm.1911

Advertisement from the souvenir program of the fair of the wives and daughters of the members of Franklin Lodge, No. 182, I.O.O.F., at Sheepshead Bay, 26-28 April 1911. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

In public affairs Mr. Stillwell has been quite prominent, having been called upon to fill a number of positions of trust and responsibility. In politics he is an independent Republican. He served as postmaster at Gravesend from 1890 until 1894, resigning his position in the latter year. He was then appointed shore inspector and acted in that capacity until 1898. He was also deputy inspector of the New York harbor from 1895 until 1898. He belongs to the Odd Fellows fraternity, which is his only lodge connection. On the 23d of October, 1879, occurred the marriage of Mr. Stillwell and Miss Elizabeth Voorhies, a daughter of John L. Voorhies, who for many years served as town clerk of Gravesend. They have three children: Walter E., Elizabeth J. and Cornelia E., and their home is upon a part of the original grant of 1643. Coming of a family of prominence, Mr. Stillwell’s record has cast no shadow upon the untarnished name and he is widely known as one of the leading, honorable and substantial citizens of his community.


Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Gravesend Characters Past: John L. Voorhies (1832-1898)

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, here is a profile of John L. Voorhies from The Eagle and Brooklyn: The Record of the Progress of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle Issued in Commemoration of its Semi-Centennial and Occupancy of its New Building; Together With the History of the City of Brooklyn From its Settlement to the Present Time, edited by Henry W. B. Howard (Brooklyn, N.Y.: The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 1893), vol. 2, 1141:

John L. Voorhies (1832-1898)

John L. Voorhies (1832-1898)

For fifteen years JOHN L. VOORHIES has been town clerk of Gravesend, and for seven years he has filled the responsible post of commissioner of investment. He was born at Gravesend, on January 21, 1832. At the little red schoolhouse on Gravesend Neck road he received such instruction as was generally imparted in those days, and early in his teens engaged in the pursuit of farming. In 1877 he was elected town clerk; he ran as an independent candidate, but received the votes of both Democrats and Republicans. The term of office was then only one year, and he was re-elected each succeeding year, until 1880, when the term was increased to three years. In January, 1885, he was appointed to serve an unexpired term of two years as commissioner of investments for the monies derived from the sales of common lands at Gravesend. Upon the expiration of the term mentioned, the supervisors appointed Mr. Voorhies to the position of town treasurer and town clerk, the term expiring on June 19, 1893. he is a staunch Democrat, and serves his party well by serving the community well, but does not affiliate with any political organization.

Invitation to the tenth wedding anniversary celebration of John L. and Frances E. (Hicks) Voorhies, 22 November 1887. Frances was the second Mrs. Voorhies; the first -- Ellen Ann (Johnson) Voorhies -- died in 1875. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]

Invitation to the tenth wedding anniversary celebration of John L. and Frances E. (Hicks) Voorhies, 22 November 1887. Frances was the second Mrs. Voorhies; the first — Ellen Ann (Johnson) Voorhies — died in 1875. [Collection of Joseph Ditta]


Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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Gravesend Characters Past: Augustus F. Friend (1840-1933)

Continuing the challenge posed by my fellow members of the Society for One-Place Studies that we blog about 52 residents of our respective places in as many weeks, here is a profile of Augustus F. Friend, Gravesend blacksmith, from Peter Ross, LL. D., A History of Long Island From its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, vol. 2 (New York: Lewis Publishing Company, 1902), 386-387:

Augustus F. Friend (1840-1933)

Augustus F. Friend (1840-1933)

In the subject of this review we find a worthy representative of the industrial interests of Gravesend and one of its popular business men. He was born at New Utrecht, Long Island, December 1, 1840, a son of John and Charlotte (Mitchell) Friend, both of whom were of German extraction. The father was born in Hesse-Cassel, Germany, in 1811, and came to America when about nineteen years of age. He was a shoemaker by trade and followed that business for a number of years in New Utrecht, and subsequently in South Brooklyn, where he removed about 1847. He efficiently filled the offices of constable and deputy sheriff while residing in New Utrecht, and for many years, both in Brooklyn and New York, acted as interpreter for the government. He died at Gravesend in 1874; his wife at New Utrecht in 1875. In their family were five children, namely: John W.; Augustus F.; Henry A.; George W.; and Charles, who died in June, 1895, at the age of fifty years.

During his boyhood Augustus F. Friend attended the public schools of South Brooklyn, and in 1858 became an apprentice to the blacksmith’s trade with Joseph H. Fleming at Flatlands, Long Island. he embarked in that business on his own responsibility at New Utrecht in 1863, and eleven years later purchased his father’s estate in Gravesend, where in 1877 he erected the commodious buildings in which he now conducts his business. Being an expert workman, as well as an upright and conscientious business man, he has built up an excellent trade.

On the 19th of September, 1864, in Brooklyn, was celebrated the marriage of Mr. Friend and Miss Augusta Newell, of that city, who died March 19, 1869, leaving one daughter, Charlotte A., who is now the wife of Charles S. Voorhees. Mr. Friend was again married, April 10, 1878, to Miss Jennie Shields, of Paterson, New Jersey, a daughter of Thomas and Lucy Shields, and by this union two daughters have been born, Bessie S. and Eleanor H.

The family are consistent and active members of the Dutch Reformed church, in which Mr. Friend has served two terms as deacon and one term as elder. He is also an active member and treasurer of Kedron Lodge, No. 803, F. & A. M. [Free & Accepted Masons], of New Utrecht, and for over thirty years has been a member of Woods Lodge, No. 121, I. O. O. F. [International Order of Odd Fellows], of New Utrecht, of which he is past noble grand.

Friend.Augustus.billhead.1898.cropped

Billhead for Augustus F. Friend, Horse Shoer, Blacksmith, Painter, Trimmer and Wheelwright, Gravesend, L.I., 1898. {Collection of Joseph Ditta.}


Copyright © 2015 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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A Melancholy Bicentennial

Barnardus Ryder stone (d. 1814), photograph by Ned Berke.

Barnardus Ryder stone (d. 1814), Gravesend Cemetery. (Photograph by Ned Berke, 2010. Used by permission.)

Near the center of Brooklyn’s Gravesend Cemetery stand two unexceptional sandstone markers from the early nineteenth century, separated only by the crumbled remains of a third stone between them. Like many stones in this fragile graveyard, they are cracked and flaking. Parts of their inscriptions are chipped and missing. The southern stone tilts back precariously. It reads:

[In]

Memory of

BARNARDUS RYDER

son of Jacobus & Johanna

Ry[de]r who departed this

[life] May 29, 1814

age[d] 2 years & 29 day[s.]

O sleep sweet babe and take thy r[est]

God call’d thee hence he thought it b[est]

The other says:

In

Memory of

JACOBUS B. RYDER

who departed this life

June 8th 1814

aged 44 years 3 months

and 23 days. 

This world is vain and full of pain

With grief and trouble sore

But those are blest who are at rest

With Christ for evermore.

Those of us who frequent cemeteries know that stones with a common surname, standing near each other, usually mark the graves of family members. If the stones bear close or identical dates of death, the implication is that contagion carried off multiple relatives, as it did for eons before the advent of standardized sanitation and medical care.

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday 25 August 1849, p. #, col. #.

Account of the Van Sicklen family tragedy, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Saturday, August 25, 1849, p. 3, col. 1. [Click image to enlarge.]

One might assume that because they died ten days apart, Barnardus and Jacobus (pronounced ya-CO-bus) Ryder succumbed to the same disease. The Gravesend Cemetery is peppered with other chronologically adjacent burials, like the five members of the Van Sicklen family who died of cholera between August 18 and 23, 1849 (see the article at left). Or Mathias Derby and his mother, Emelie, who died of scarlet fever two days apart in November 1895. And Richard Samuel Vanderbilt, who expired a week after catching a heavy cold at his son Richard’s funeral on January 30, 1919. Ida Voorhies, widow of Jacobus, died during her husband’s funeral on October 6, 1831, though whether from the “prevailing fever” that killed her husband, or from grief, is lost to time.

But assumptions often prove dangerously wrong. On Monday, May 30, 1814, the day after little Barnardus Ryder died, readers of the Commercial Advertiser, one of New York City’s leading newspapers, stumbled across this shocking report from the otherwise tranquil reaches of southern Kings County:

New York, Commercial Advertiser, Monday, May 30, 1814, p.2, col. 3.

New York, Commercial Advertiser, Monday, May 30, 1814, p.2, col. 3. [Note: “Saturday morning last” = May 28, 1814.]

Newspapers up and down the eastern seaboard, from New Hampshire to Maryland, and as far inland as Ohio, recounted the tale of Gravesend’s “horrid transaction.” The version printed on June 1 in the Long-Island Star, Brooklyn’s leading weekly, managed to spell “Ryder” correctly, and added the detail that Jacobus — “long esteemed as a worthy and pious man, and . . . apparently in his right mind on the evening previous to the melancholy and dreadful act” — confessed in the letter to his father that he “imagined he heard a voice commanding him to execute the deed.” He lingered, sadly, until June 8, and died at the age of 44 years, three months, and 23 days. (As well as misspelling “Rider,” the newspapers all misstate his age: Jacobus was not “about thirty-five,” but, rather, nearly four months past 44.) The Long-Island Star ran a brief death notice on June 15:

Long-Island Star, Wednesday, June 15, 1814, p. 3, col. 2.

Brooklyn, Long-Island Star, Wednesday, June 15, 1814, p. 3, col. 2. [Note: “Wednesday last” = June 8, 1814. The “28th ult.” = the 28th day of the previous month, i.e., May 28, 1814.]

His widow, Johanna, never remarried. She lived another 33 years, and died at age 65 on August 7, 1847. She is buried near Jacobus and Barnardus, and another infant son, William, who was born in 1804 and died in 1805, long before their family’s tragedy. The other children — Femmetie (1802-?), Johanna (1807-1894), and a second William (1809-?) — presumably all outlived their mother. They almost certainly did not hand down the terrible memories of 1814 to their descendants. May they rest in peace.

Jaocubs B. Ryder stone (d. 1814), photograph by Andrea Coyle.

Jacobus B. Ryder stone (d. 1814), Gravesend Cemetery. (Photograph by Andrea Coyle, 2010. Used by permission.)


Copyright © 2014 by Joseph Ditta (webmaster@gravesendgazette.com)

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