So Long, Ed
Sam and I are tickled to tell you that we celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary on March 16th.
I’m sorry to announce the death in February of Ed Giddings at the age of 91. Ed was the author of Coeymans and the Past, a history of the small village that was home to our steamboating ancestors for over 50 years. He received Frank and I on our first visit there in 1993 and he corresponded with the late Stella Kaganich-Lemieux—another avid genealogist of the Wolfe family—providing her (and us) with information about the family and their lives in that place. Ed was always willing to help out amateurs like myself, Frank and Stella, and I gratefully remember his generosity. Thank you, Ed, and Godspeed.
Before he died, Ed donated his papers to the Greene County Historical Society for safekeeping, so his perspective of the town’s history has been preserved. I would like you all to know that when I die (someday in the very far, distant future), I have asked my wife to donate all my genealogical papers, books and computer files to the society as well. They’ve been a great help to me (especially Louise Messinger in charge of the Genealogy section) and I think that’s the best place for all this work to be deposited. And if something unfortunate should happen to both Susan and I at the same time, then you all know what my wishes are, and thank you for respecting them.
Now to more cheerful subjects—I am officially announcing my intention to publish The Wolfes of New Baltimore. This will be the first ever formal genealogy of the descendants of the three Wolf families that settled in Greene County after the American Revolution. I have one major obstacle in its creation: I don’t have family group sheets from many of my cousins. Please send me vitals on your family or yourself: where and when you were born, baptized, married, and any other brief notes about yourself you’d want included in your entry. This is your chance to contribute to your own genealogy. Help me out here, folks.
I’d like to welcome my step-grandmother Margaret McCleary and our new cousin Henry Emerson Wolfraim to the newsletter. Maggie heard about the newsletter from my Aunt Maureen (Joe’s wife) and was sore at me for leaving her off the mailing list. She has my humble apologies (and copies of the back issues).
Frank was doing some research in Kinderhook when he came across Harry Wolfraim’s trail. Harry is descended from Johan [Adam] Wolfrom and Catherine Streihjing, who, it turns out, are my fifth great-grandma Catherine Wolfrom’s parents. These would have been Teunis Wolf’s in-laws. Johan and Catherine’s grandson, Philip Wolfrom, Jr. and his wife Catherine Moor emigrated to Canada @1799, so Harry and our new passel of Canadian sixth cousins hail mostly from Toronto. Harry is the first Wolfsbane reader outside the States.
I received an e-mail from my Aunt Pat: "Your mother's tribute to Charlotte had Uncle Bud crying. She did a fantastic job and I concur with her feelings about your grandmother. She was a terrific lady and could be a role model for all her granddaughters. We also enjoyed Tom's reflections on his relationships with his grandparents and cousins. I know this will help to bring all of you closer. What more could we as parents ask?"
The NYC Municipal Archives was kind enough to uncover Percy Wolfe’s death certificate (October 16, 1927, the Bronx). Percy was my great-grandpa Charles’s brother, and this document proves our relation to Nancy and Bill Wolfe of Coeymans. Nancy (Bruno) still owns and makes her living in Andrew Wolfe’s building (1885) on Main Street. Frank and I wandered into her store on that same trip in 1993 (as a matter of fact, it was Nancy who sent us to see Ed Giddings). Percy was Nancy and Bill’s grandfather, and of course he was a steamboat pilot. He died at St. Francis Hospital (see my article on Harlem in this issue).
In this issue we’ve got clippings from the Coeymans News-Herald about Anthony Wolfe and an article about our family in Harlem. But first, a word from people you know better . . .
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(A Letter From Uncle Robert)
By Robert Wolfe
I have finally made time to tell you that you are doing a great job with Wolfsbane. Your father would be proud of you.
Reading your mother's article brought on some flashbacks, both good and bad. Memories are great but some can cause pain.
Charlotte's "five" had a lot to be thankful for—especially me. By everything holy I'm lucky to be alive after all the health problems I had as a youngster. The support of my brothers and sisters and the love from an exceptional woman who I will always remember—love was the miracle drug. I was the baby and no matter what I did it was right according to mother. This sometimes got to both your father and Uncle Buddy.
Growing up in the Bronx was a great experience, especially when your brothers and sisters were older than you. I often got my lumps from them when Mom was not around. I can still remember when Red hit me in the eye with an iceball and I thought I would be blind. Thanks to Benny Marano he assured Mom I would live and have good eyesight.
Uncle Buddy and I could probably write a book on the things that happened to us while growing up. I remember the day the pressure cooker top blew off as we were making pea soup. We had two hours to clean up the mess, or else! Mom worked and many times we made supper or heated up leftovers. These were part of the good old days.
We were each assigned a week of cleaning up after supper, I think I beat everybody out of this chore because I was the baby. Other chores were the egg store on Saturday and the laundry—the "Chinks." When Mom gave me a grocery list I had to walk (yes, walk) ten to twenty blocks to the A&P, shop and then carry the groceries home.
When Aunt Lena came to visit we always bought a chocolate layer cake from Cushman's bakery on Fordham Road and the "good ham" from Pete's Deli.
Times were bad—everybody in the neighborhood had it hard. I often think of what my mother did to keep me healthy and meet the doctor bills—I don't know how she did it.
I was away every summer going to Astor's Memorial Convalescent home in Rhinebeck, the farm and Camp Hayes to work. To this day I am not sure if Mom paid them to take me or I was working for the summer. Mom never complained. She asked for very little from her children. I'm sure Marie and Betty had it much harder. I can still remember walking up Snake Hill to meet Mom so she wouldn't have to walk home alone, and at holiday time going to Joe Baker's hardware store to buy Mom a spun glass elephant or swan. I often wonder if Mom really loved spun glass or she made me believe this because she knew this was what I could afford.
My two saddest memories are my being in Lorient, France when my mother died, knowing I would never see her again and my three sons never meeting their grandmother.
I don't want to dwell on sad memories. I just want to remind my sons, nieces and nephews that you come from a great family and your memories are what you make of your life today. Work on the memories so that your children can say "thanks for the memories."
P.S.: Bud, I never told Mom it was you who drank the starch (thinking it was grapefruit juice after a night of being sociable)—it was Tom!
Memories Of A
"Really Old" Cousin
By Christine Marano-Barton
Aunt Barbara called me the day after I received the last newsletter. We started talking and reminiscing and I guess it inspired me to sit and write. Since I am the oldest female cousin and the second oldest cousin my memories focus mainly on Russ and Linda (whom I always think of as my third sister). My favorite day of the year growing up was Thanksgiving Day. Every year we would alternate between the LaCoste's home and the Marano's home. Aunt Betty always got out her china and always made a huge bowl of mashed potatoes and her famous pumpkin and apple pies. Mom (Aunt Marie) always made her sliced sweet potatoes with brown sugar on top. When the dinner was at the Marano's, we always had to have a "pasta dish" before the turkey to keep Dad (Uncle Joe) happy.
At the dinner table, Uncle Russ would go on and on with his jokes. My sister, Mary used to always be hysterical laughing. She couldn't look at Uncle Russ without laughing. Thanksgiving Day wasn't ever the same after Uncle Russ passed away. We also had our annual football game every year. The guys would play while the girls watched and talked about everything but football.
I also, like cousin Tom, remembered Uncle Tom and Aunt Barbara's big German shepherd dog. He was in a cage on a hill and we were petrified of him. I remember the foster children that Aunt Barbara took care of. My favorite time was years later when I visited their home in Rockport. I loved the town and I still have a ring that I bought there.
I remember Grandpa Wolfe and Aunt Margaret and Frank and Joseph coming to visit us in the Bronx. They were babies and I remember them running around the house knocking over everything they could get their hands on. I also remember their dog, Rusty. He chewed up somebody's shoe.
Aunt Pat, I remember when both our families lived in the Bronx. You would come over and sell Avon to Mom (Aunt Marie). You would always give me the little lipstick samples to keep. You also made these wool hats with gold bangles all over them. You'd tuck all of your hair in them. My Mom thought she was "hot stuff." To this day I can vividly see those hats.
Where did all the years go? I will be 44 years old this June (almost to the age that Grandma Wolfe was when she passed away) which makes me realize how young she was when she passed away. Times are different now. She had grandchildren in her late 40's and at age 43, my youngest is 5 years old.
A Life on the Hudson:
By Michael Wolfe
In the late 1800s, Coeymans, NY was a thriving river village. In 1865 its population was 660 people; in 1885 it was 900. It had more saloons than churches, and also had its share of characters, fights, runaway horses, fires, murders, accidents and speculation about the weather—all faithfully set down in the pages of the "Coeymans News–Herald," the paper of record from 1867 until 1905.
The following are clippings taken from microfilms of the "Herald," and they mostly concern the last two years of my third great grandfather Anthony Wolfe’s career as pilot of the steamboatEagle. The reason events aboard the Eagle were so carefully chronicled is that Robert P. Cook, the engineer, was a native of Coeymans and a correspondent for the paper. The editors of the paper obviously felt the Eagle was "their" boat.
[May 1, 1873]
The steamer Eagle was hauled out on the dry dock at Jersey City last fall at the close of navigation and was completely and thoroughly overhauled. The old pilot house was torn away, and a new and more handsome one put up. Large sized glass has taken the place of small ones, thus affording the pilot a better view. A large circular dome covers the cabin, along with sides of which are beautiful colored glass. Besides this she had new carpets put down in the cabin, and the wood work is painted in the neatest style. Everything is neatly and tastefully arranged, and the Eagle can now take her place among the first class passenger steamers of the Hudson. She is command [sic] by that gentlemanly officer, Capt. Rodgers, who is well known along the whole line as one who thoroughly understands his business. Capt. [Anthony] Wolfe, who has followed the river for many years and who knows every crook and turn from Albany to New York, is at the wheel. Robert Cook, formerly a resident of our village, is the engineer, and he is perfectly competent in the position. Mr. Hill, the steward, and Mr. W. Holmes, his assistant, are both enterprising men. As for the rest of the officers and crew, they are all men who understand their business. The owners of the Eagle have done well in selecting such a competent crew. Long may they live and land the Eagle at our dock.
. . .The steamer Eagle ran over and killed a wild goose last Thursday.—Everything must get out of the way when the Eagle comes.
[May 29, 1873]
We unhesitatingly assert that our town possesses many inducements to persons in the city who contemplate spending the Summer months in the country. Long Branch, Saratoga, and other noted resorts charge so outrageously that they are fast driving pleasure seekers to Europe. To those who desire to get away from the sweltering heat of the city there can be found no more delightful spot than the country.
Our village being situated on the banks of the lovely Hudson, only a short distance below Albany, is a cool, healthy and pleasant place to reside during the Summer. To the artist who may desire to wander about in search of some scene to sketch, there will be found sufficient to keep his pencil busy. The banker, the merchant, and all those who seek for rest and quietness during the warm weather, will find pleasant groves and shady nooks abundant in Coeymans. There are three steamers that land here regularly every day—the City of Hudson at 8½ o'clock a.m. and 4 p.m., one of the Newburgh & Albany line (Eagle or M. Martin) at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. The City connects at Hudson with the New York & Hudson line of steamers, and the Eagle and Martin at Albany with the People's Line and the railroad. This makes our village easy of access and egress.
We have no doubt but what a thousand or more persons can find accommodations in this town. We expect to announce in a week or two those who are prepared for Summer boarders. Let us hear from all.
[July 31, 1873]
The Eagle and the Walter Brett have a Five Mile Dash.
"Will you get to Newburgh ahead of the Mary Powell to night?" was a question put to the captain of the steamboat Eagle after she left Marlborough on her trip down last Friday afternoon, and the steamer was over half an hour behind. "Well, I don't know, I'll see when we land at New Hamburgh," replied the good natured captain. As the steamer neared the latter place the captain stepped up to the engineer and remarked that a party of excursionists were on board from Poughkeepsie and they were anxious to get to Newburgh ahead of the Powell. The engineer, Mr. R.P. Cook, looked at New Hamburgh dock and observed the steamer Walter Brett, of the New York and New Hamburgh line getting ready to leave. "Tell the party to stay on board, we'll get 'em there." said the engineer.
The land at New Hamburgh was quickly made and in a moment the Eagle and Walter Brett were bound south, nearly side by side, the Brett a little in advance. The Brett has a forty two inch cylinder, and the Eagle's is thirty two. It was evident that the Brett's folks were in for a race, and that she had a full head of steam on, for the blue smoke curled up along her smoke stack showing that her blower was working rapidly.
The engineer of the Eagle gave hurried orders to his fireman, and the latter jumped into the fire room, shook up his fires, putting on fresh coal and then the race begun. The Brett was making twenty turns a minute, and the Eagle twenty two. For two miles they ran side by side. The engineer on the Eagle stood by his lever and urged the movement of the valves as vigorously as possible.
Three miles were passed and still they were side by side, till at last the Eagle commenced to make twenty four turns a minute then inch by inch the Brett fell to the rear, till a mile south of Low Point was reached, and then she was all of two lengths behind and the contest was over. This is the second race these boats have had this summer and the second victory for the Eagle. It is needless to say that the excurtionists [sic] on board of her reached Newburgh in ample time for the Mary Powell, having about twenty minutes to spare.
[August 21, 1873]
ALONG THE HUDSON
Steamer Eagle, Aug. 19.
Quick Time—The Eagle made a quick run this morning from Newburgh to Rondout for a boat with only a thirty two inch cylinder. The distance between these two points is 34 miles, and time occupied in running it was 2 hours and 35 minutes, including seven landings and twelve minutes delay at Poughkeepsie.
We are of the opinion that friend Cook let the Eagle out a little this time—Eds.
[September 4, 1873]
ALONG THE HUDSON
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 2.
Editors of the Coeymans Herald.
The cars and steamboats are now carrying large numbers of passengers, mostly those who had been in the country and are now returning home. I noticed the Saratoga trains going down recently. They have from nine to thirteen passenger cars and two engines. The steamer Daniel Drew took on board 323 passengers at Catskill last Saturday, and when she left Newburgh she had over 1,400. The Vibbard on Monday took 200 passengers at Catskill, and today the Drew took over 200 at the same place.
The Eagle on Monday had on a very large load of freight and a considerable number of passengers.
The night-boat Drew passed Newburgh this morning, bound south at 5:20. She was several hours behind time.
The Eagle took on board at Poughkeepsie last Saturday a Germandry Organ. It was on a small four wheel truck. The organ is about five feet long and four feet high. There is on one corner a small fly-wheel and handle attached, which on being turned brings forth the music. This instrument was in charge of two Germans, who have only been here in this country about fourteen days, and of course are yet unable to speak English. They played several pieces at the different landings, which was sure to attract large crowds of people.
[October 2, 1873]
ALONG THE RIVER
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 30
Editors of the Coeymans Herald
James Gardner, pilot of the ferry boat Union of Newburgh, was killed a little after 6 o'clock, last Friday evening. He had been out a sailing in a yacht, with a party of ladies and gentlemen, and was coming in along side of a barge to land. He saw that the prow of the boat was about to strike against the barge, so he left the tiller, and went forward to shove off yacht, but, as the yacht was a good sized one (some 40 tons burden) he found he could not. He was caught between the spar and the guards of the barge, and his breast crushed in. He only lived a few minutes, and never spoke. The barge lay a little above the Eagle, at the same dock.
The steamboat Thomas Colyer is layed up at Highland. I presume she will return to New York just before the river closes. The steamer Mary Powell will make her last trip for this season tomorrow. The C. Vibbard makes her last down for the season on Friday and the Daniel Drew on Saturday.
The propellor Vail and a gang of men are busily engaged taking out the freight of the Philadelphia barge, sunk at Four Mills Point and hauling her ashore. They are pumping to-day. She was heavily loaded with pig iron.
[October 15, 1873]
ALONG THE RIVER
Steamer Eagle, Oct. 13, 1873
When we arrived at Catskill today a woman, not very well dressed, came on board and went into the saloon. Shortly after a gentleman came to me and enquired is I had observed a woman, giving a description of her, on the boat. I told him I had, and pointed her out. He said she had left her child sitting on the upper end of the long dock eating a crust of bread. He told her she must either go ashore and get her child or he would call and officer and have her arrested. She simply said, "Where is he?" and went ashore and did not return.
P.S.—I learn that the abandoned child is not Charley Ross. I merely mention this as so many people are looking for little Charley and the $20,000.
[March 19, 1874]
IMPORTANT TO BOATMEN
Soundings in the West Channel.
The Depth of Water Increased Nearly Two Feet Since Last Year.
Over Eleven Feet found in Some Places.
Averaged Depth Between Seven and Eight Feet at Low Water.
How's This For Deep?
On Monday of this week some of our river men made soundings in the West channel to ascertain the depth of water and to see whether it had increased any since last spring, and also to lay out the channel. It was found that there had been a gain of nearly or quite two feet the whole length of the channel—in some places three and four feet. Opposite the lower dock it was impossible to touch bottom with an eleven foot pole.
The course of the channel remains the same as last year.
Along the edge of the upper dock there is a shallow spot, but it does not amount to much—being no greater than last year. The soundings made prove this, that where we only had five feet of water last spring we now have over seven. This is cheering news and shows conclusively that the natural course of the river is to the westward, and as long as this is allowed to remain so, there will be found water enough in front of our village to float heavily laden vessels. Fetch on your big boats.
[April 2, 1874]
An Unknown Man Killed
Hudson, N.Y., March 30.—This morning as the steamer Eagle was approaching her dock at Catskill an unknown passenger was knocked overboard by a piece of freight and was struck by the wheel in his fall, receiving injuries from which he died in a few minutes after being rescued from the water. There was nothing on his person by which he could be identified. He was 5 feet 9 inches high, weighs about 170 pounds; dark complexion, brown hair, sandy chin whiskers and moustache, and wore a dark gray coat.
[July 23, 1874]
ALONG THE RIVER.
(from our Special Correspondent.)
Steamer Eagle, June 21st, 1874.
A severe storm passed over Newburgh and Cornwall about 8 o'clock last night. The lightning struck a barn at Cornwall, in which were several cows and two horses. The latter were got out in safety, but the former were so stunned by the shock that they could not be got out and they perished in the flames. The building was totally destroyed. The fire shone so brightly that it was thought to be in Newburgh, and the alarm was given, the firemen turned out and soon found out that it was four miles distant.
A wrecking steamer and two boats are engaged in raising the schooner Lizzie Tolle that was sunk in the river near New Hamburgh. They have her near the shore opposite Marlboro.
Last Friday we took on board several fine trotting horses at Catskill. One was Farmer Boy, that won the race at Catskill. The owner has refused $15,000 for him.
Last week we took Seth Green's hatching box down to Hyde Park. I understand he intends to commence hatching sturgeon. I hope he will be as successful this time as he was with shad, for the sturgeon catch has been very light this season. Other seasons we used to carry 15 to 30 about every trip, and now we make some trips we don't have any.
[September 3, 1874]
ALONG THE RIVER.
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 1st, 1874.
Passenger travel good.
Fishing season for sturgeon about ended.
Pleasure seekers are returning home quite rapid.
Freights on the Newburgh line of steamers are getting better.
Steamer Armenia is layed up at Highland, opposite Poughkeepsie.
The Day Line steamers are carrying very large loads. The Saratoga trains are running from 12 to 15 passenger cars, and two engines drawing them. 400 passengers left Catskill yesterday by boat and car.
The steamers Eagle and Martin on and after to-day will leave Rondout for Newburgh at 2:15 p.m., instead of 2:30 p.m.
[September 22, 1875]
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 20th, 1875.
Mr. Anthony Wolfe, our pilot, was stricken down Saturday night with paralysis, at the house of the lady who does his washing, in South Ferry street, Albany. Mr. W. appeared to be in his usual good health when he went off the boat in the evening, for I conversed with him before he started. Between 8 and 9 o'clock in the evening he went down to South Ferry street to get his clothing, and he complained to the lady of the house of a numbness of his limbs, and said he thought he would go to the boat. She advised him to remain and rest awhile. He continued to grow worse, but could talk until after 6 o'clock Sunday morning, since which time he has not spoken a word. As soon as we were notified Captain Rodgers went to the telegraph office to send word to Mr. W.'s sons in Coeymans, but could not do so.—(This telegraph office is closed on Sunday.—Eds.) Our clerk and steward then procured a horse and carriage and started for your place. Mr. Wolfe's sons, and Drs. F.G. Mosher and Henry Hull, came up on the propellor Susie Gedney. I remained with him all day and part of last night, and went in to see him just before we left this morning. He seems to be sinking rapidly, and the doctors have given up all hopes of his recovery. He had a slight attack of paralysis last Spring. At times he complained of a numbness of his limbs, and occasionally I have noticed that he had some difficulty in speaking.
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 21st, 1875.
Since I wrote you yesterday we learn by dispatch that our pilot, Mr. Wolfe, died about noon yesterday. It was news we expected to hear, for we did not think he could live. I can say we feel the loss deeply of our pilot, and when we go to our meals we find that the seat he has occupied for the past five seasons (this was his sixth) is vacant, and when we think it will never be occupied by him again, it makes us feel sad. Out of respect to our deceased pilot, the flags will be flown at half-mast on steamer Eagle until after the funeral. The officers and crew regret their inability to attend the funeral. If it took place on Sunday, then we could attend. We all sympathize with the relatives and friends, and join with them in mourning over the loss of our deceased pilot and friend, A. Wolfe.
[September 29, 1875]
Steamer Eagle, Sept. 28, 1875
In the letter you published from me last week stating that Mr. Wolfe had an attack of paralysis last Spring, I wish to correct. He complained of not feeling well at times, but whether these were symptoms of paralysis or not I do not know. I make this statement for the reason that I have been asked several times whether he had had a stroke of paralysis before his last sickness or not.
Immediately after Anthony’s death, articles about the Eagle dwindled in number, and eventually ceased. The Eagle’s demise in 1884 was not even reported in the "Herald," and I can only speculate that after Anthony was gone it just wasn’t the same. . . ,
Take the "A" Train
By Michael Wolfe
The Southern New York Wolfes have long thought of themselves as "from the Bronx," but when I began to collate facts and figures about the founding generation of this branch (my great and great-great grandparents) I noticed that they did most of their living and loving in Harlem.
Some of you will be surprised to hear this, because you probably imagine that Harlem has always been an African-American community. Actually, Harlem during the late 1800s and early 1900s was a quilt of German, Italian, Irish and Jewish blocks.
Many African-Americans fled racism in the South after the Civil War, only to find it in New York. In the late 1800s they were mostly settled in the "Tenderloin," an area just north of "Hell's Kitchen" on the west side of midtown. The first blacks to settle in Haarlem (as it was originally named by the Dutch, after the city in Holland) were a group of intrepid tenants lured in 1905 by a realtor named Philip A. Payton. 31 West 133rd Street was unrentable (because of a murder and overbuilding in the area), and Payton was able to rent it to blacks willing to pay $5 more than whites (a typical practice at the time).
This being New York, there had always been antagonism between different caucasian ethnic groups, but of course that was nothing compared with the antagonism between whites (especially the Irish) and blacks. The whites in the area immediately panicked, and there were calls to "repel the black hordes" by building a 24-foot high fence at 136th Street. But the African-Americans were there to stay. "Gone are the comfortable Weinstuben where one could smoke his pipe and peacefully drink his glass of Rhine wine," mourned one outbound white resident. The economic power tended to stay in white hands, though. "The saloons were run by the Irish, the restaurants by the Greeks, the ice and fruitstands, by the Italians, the grocery and haberdashery stores by the Jews."
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the "black belt," as it was called, occupied a 23 block area, and by the time drum major Bill "Bojangles" Robinson led the black veterans of the 369th Infantry up Lenox Avenue on 17 February 1917, Harlem was well on its way to being dominated by African-American writing, music and dancing.
There is nothing to compare with Harlem's great cultural flowering during the 1920s. Salons, presses, clubs and theatres all flourished. Jazz dominated the airwaves and it came straight out of Harlem. Americans white and black danced the Turkey Trot, the Eagle Rock, the Shim Sham, the Boogie Woogie, the Shag, the Bim Bam and the Snake Hips. Names like the Cotton Club, the Savoy and the Apollo have all become legend, as have Louis Armstrong, W.E.B. DuBois, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Ethel Waters, W.C. Handy, Claude McKay, Josephine Baker, Eubie Blake, Langston Hughes, Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington. Culturally, America and the world owe a huge debt to this amazing period in black American history.
The first sign we have of our ancestors in Harlem are Ed Skinner and Elizabeth Sullivan, my great-great grandparents. (See map.), When they married in 1890 (at 10th Avenue & 99th Street), they both put down their residence as the Cancer Hospital at 106th Street and Central Park West—he was a guard, she was probably on the housekeeping staff (a common job for Irish women). The next year Ed and "Lizzie," as she called herself, were living 28 blocks north of there, at 241 West 124th Street, and that is where my great-grandma Charlotte Skinner was born in 1891. Lizzie had probably given up her job, Ed had started working as a guard for "ERR," which I believe was the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad (they had a yard on West 125th Street).
In 1909, Charlotte Skinner had not moved far from home when she married William Dreizler (he was from Brooklyn) and gave birth in July of 1909, at 446 West 125th Street, to her first child of thirteen, my grandma Charlotte Dreizler. Bill and Charlotte had married in February (at 88 Convent Avenue), when she was three months pregnant. I would speculate the hasty newlyweds needed the support of their parents nearby, and I believed they stayed in that neighborhood, because in 1924 their neighbors down the street would have been a tugboat pilot named Charles Wolfe, his wife Margaret Shields and their handsome 16-year old son Vincent (at 456 West 125th Street). They had moved downriver from Poughkeepsie around 1916.
When Charlotte Dreizler and Vincent Wolfe were married in 1927, she was living (presumably with her parents) at 1452 Amsterdam Avenue (@ West 136th Street). Vincent's family had moved east to 118 East 127th Street, near St. Andrew's Church. Charles and Margaret were still living on that street (at 120 East) the next year when Margaret died at St. Francis Hospital, across the Harlem River in the Bronx. St. Francis has been bad luck for us. Elizabeth Sullivan, Margaret Shields and my great-granduncle Percy all died there.
Sometime after they were married (probably @1928), Vincent and Charlotte moved to the Bronx, and lived at 3 Governeur Place in a basement apartment, and then on the first floor at 1 Governeur Place next door.. Charles, a widower the next year, moved in with them and spent his time there in idle pursuits, such as chasing his granddaughter Betty with a dead mouse on a string. I’m not kidding—ask her yourself.
After 1930 the family almost entirely abandoned Harlem, but Charles Wolfe went back to visit, because in October 1935 he was struck by a car at 106th Street and Second Avenue and suffered the concussion that ended his life., His funeral was held from a funeral home at 126th Street and Morningside Avenue, up the street from where Elizabeth Sullivan lived (the last of our family to live in Harlem). She died five years later. As to why our family left Harlem, well, we have to admit that we joined the "white flight." Integration is something New Yorkers have never been able to achieve over a wide area, and our family has been a part of that pattern. Maybe someday America will be an easier place for everybody to live in.
In "One Cousin’s Recall" (No. 3, Mar 1995) cousin Tommy referred to Frank and Joe as our "step-uncles," but of course "Frankie and Joey" are blood relatives. As far as genealogy is concerned, no "half" distinctions are made when people share a parent—so while their mother is my step-grandma, they are full-fledged uncles, and their children are full-fledged first cousins.
Also, on the map of Harlem in this issue, I noted Charlotte Skinner as having died at St. Francis Hospital, when in fact she died in Fordham Hospital (1947). Wolfsbane regrets these errors.
I was reorganizing my filing and came across Elizabeth Henry’s pension application ("The Reluctant Patriot . . ." No. 4, Nov 1994). Because her husband James Selkirk had fought in the Revolution, Elizabeth was entitled to a pension from the U.S. government. When I got to the last page, I noticed that she had set down an "x" as "her mark" (as was common for illiterate people). Then it struck me—this meant she never read her husband’s history of the Revolution. That doesn’t sit well with me, so I’ll leave you with another image—the aging veteran, reading his book aloud by the fire to his illiterate wife during the cold winter nights, his Scottish burr lilting over the words. That’s how I’ll think of them.
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