In this collage of Princeton Alumni magazines, Oswald Veblen finds himself framed by two miraculous companions: Albert Einstein and the Miracicada that currently has Princeton all abuzz. What do they have in common other than being miraculous? They have both spent time at Herrontown Woods. Veblen and Einstein were the first two professors at the Institute for Advanced Study, and remained good friends. The Miracicadas were singing in 1936 when Veblen bought what we now call the Veblen Cottage--an 1875 farmstead that became Veblen's study, often visited by Einstein and other friends. That purchase, which later became the core of Herrontown Woods, can be considered a starting point for the Princeton open space movement. By that measure, the movement to preserve open space reached five cicada generations old this year. Though the cicadas only come out of the ground once every 17 years, Veblen may have considered them friends as well, and as a mathematician surely took an interest in the primeness of their periodicity.
Wednesday, May 26, 2021
MRS. WHINFREY HONORED
By Dogwood Club. Mrs. Charles G. Whinfrey of Mt. Lucas Road, one of the 14 original members of the Dogwood Garden Club, has been made an honorary lifetime member this month. Mrs. Whinfrey has been an active member of the club since its founding in November 1957. The first president, Mrs. Allen Norris is also an honorary member, as is Mrs. Oswald Veblen who with her late husband, Professor Veblen, gave the tract now known as Herrontown Woods to Mercer County. The Dogwood Garden Club is small, limited to 30 active members and 10 associates “so that we can meet in each other's living rooms," according to Mrs. Wesley H. Owens, president.
“The project we are proudest of is the landscaping of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad building on North Harrison Street,” she adds. The work won a $lOO prize in the Conservation and Investment for the Future section of the Civic Beautification Project cosponsored by the Garden Club of New Jersey and Sears. The money was promptly spent to expand the original planting.
Although not all garden clubs have junior groups, the Dogwood Club has sponsored the Princeton Tiger Lilies for a number of years. Limited to 10 girls of junior high school age, the young members "cover just about everything in horticulture and flower arranging," Mrs. Owens says.
The club maintains "Brookside Trail*' in Herrontown Woods, and has identified and labeled the trees and shrubs along the way. "Professor I Veblen was particularly interested in saving the trees on this tract. It is a beautiful area. I wish more people knew about it." Two club members are on the County Park Commission’s citizens’ committee that oversees the Woods.
Last year the club planted a red oak on Arbor Day in the open triangle of land between Route 206 and Mt. Lucas Road, beyond the Princeton Township Garage. This was part of the federated clubs "Project Heart,*’ and was dedicated as a living tribute to all sons and daughters from this community serving in the armed forces.
Members have the same varied interests to be found in all of the clubs. There are specialists in day lilies, iris, roses, bulbs and flowers suitable for drying. A number, Mrs. Owens among them, are interested in the cultivation of wild flowers. Twice a year members hold a plant exchange, and they have sponsored flower shows in 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963.
Officers this year include Mrs. John H. Houghton, first vice-president; Mrs. Robert Engeiorecht. second vice president; Mrs. Gerald Lockyer, recording secretary; Mrs. I William H. Aiken, corresponding secretary, and Mrs. Donald Thiel, treasurer.
"I believe that a lot of people think that garden club ladies just sit around and drink tea." Mrs. Owens comments. “This isn’t so. There’s a great deal of garden therapy work done at the Army Hospitals and state institutions under the New Jersey Garden Club’s state chairman. The purpose of the therapy program is to achieve human conservation through the common bond of flowers--from seed to flower show.
"We have found it so rewarding, even the little bouquets we do for Walson Army Hospital at Ft. Dix. The boys are so delighted. It is a very touching thing how much they appreciate your time."
Mrs. Charles G. Whinfrey
With a mission “to stimulate an interest in gardening, encourage the conservation of plant and wildlife, and take part in community gardening projects,” the Dogwood Garden Club of Princeton has chosen to nurture Horticulture students at Mercer County Community College for decades.
The group has been less active in recent years, and according to a past president, it's not clear if they will regroup after the pandemic. If not, they will have had a good run of 64 years after their inception back in Elizabeth's day.
|Elizabeth with a book of flowers.|
Saturday, May 22, 2021
We've been fortunate to track down photos of the interior of the Veblen House from when the Veblens were living there. Oswald took an interest in photography later in his life. Considering that the Veblens' will called for his photos and equipment to become part of a museum at the house, this appears to have been a conscious effort on his part to document their life, the house, and garden.
While in Italy Oppenheimer painted the architecture of Florence, Verona and Venice, capturing the atmosphere of these old Italian cities.
One internet source describes Oppenheimer's trip to northern Italy in 1912, which may have been when this painting was made.
Thursday, April 15, 2021
The offer fit perfectly with our plans for a stage for performances on the Veblen House grounds. Some of the boards had warped somewhat over the years, and we were going to let Robert throw those out until we realized we could lay them on the ground, as a base for the 4x4's to be laid over top.
Elsewhere on the grounds, "food forests" of pawpaw, hazelnut, plum and butternut were getting vines pulled and protective cages repaired.
What makes all of this worth the effort? It's the beauty and tranquility of the setting that certainly must have cast a spell on the Veblens when they bought the house in 1941, and now casts a spell upon us.
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Into these herring-rich waters of historical speculation swam this past fall a human Herring. I had been asked by a friend to teach him about the flora growing in his backyard along Arreton Road in Princeton. As I gave names to the towering trees and native and nonnative shrubs in his woodlot, he explained that his land had previously been part of a large equestrian estate owned by Donald Grant Herring. Crossing a stream that runs through my friend's property, I looked down and spotted an old, rusty horseshoe. Knowing how much Jesse Whiton-Stuart, the builder of Veblen House, loved horses, my curiosity was piqued. Might there be some connection between this Herring and Herringtown, and between the Herrings and the Whiton-Stuarts?
an “extraordinarily elegant stone house” designed by noted architect Wilson Eyre in the Arts & Crafts style. Eyre also designed the landscaping in the “Chestnut Hill” style characterized by native trees; there was a stone-walled sunken terrace, a croquet lawn, and for the horses a show ring and barn and a 960- yard race track.
In constructing their estate, the Herrings prioritized their recreational interests, completing the barns and stables in full, but only fulfilling about one-third of Eyre’s original plans for a large, three-wing manor house.
Around that time, in the fall of 1939, tragedy struck the Herring family when their son, Donald Jr., lost a leg after complications from a Princeton University football game injury required amputation. The injury, which sparked renewed concerns about the sport's safety, came just before Donald Sr's book, 40 Years of Football, was published, on Jan. 1, 1940. The father's defense of the game in newspapers describes the nationwide attention given to the incident.
It is the fervent hope of the boy who was injured, and of his family, that no foolish outcry against football may be raised as the aftermath of an accident almost unprecedented in the seventy-year history of the game. Somehow, I do not pretend to know why, this incident has captured the imagination of the American public. A veritable flood of messages of warm hearted sympathy has poured in, from intimate friends, from heads of universities, from many college organizations, both graduate and undergraduate, from football teams, from individual players and coaches, past and present, from the medical and surgical professions, from men and women who have lost limbs; from the press, and particularly the sporting writers, from a wide and deep cross section of the American people.
We Americans have been infumed by the controlled press of certain other nations that we are a soft people, because we thrill to the march of an eleven down the field instead of to the tramp of armies of our boys toward and over a neighbor's frontier.
some photos of some of Donald Sr's mementos, found in a trunk.
Also riding Whiton-Stuart's horses was his caretaker, Max Latterman, who spoke of that time in an article from 1980:
Latterman’s responsibilities, while employed by Mr. Stuart, included caring for the grounds, the two houses, the barn, shed and hay barrack, and also the hunting horses. Saddle sore or not, Latterman rode the horses every day to give them exercise. “It was not fun by the time I got off all of them”, he said.
Latterman continued as caretaker after the Veblens acquired the house, and though some accounts suggest the Veblens owned horses, the barn burned around 1950, and one item in the Veblens' wills suggests Latterman was able to spend less time riding horses and more time chopping wood and planting flowers. One of the stipulations in the 1957 deed for the Veblen's donation of Herrontown Woods for public use read as follows:
"It is specifically reserved by the grantors that the nature trails shall not be used for horseback riding.”
Friday, February 5, 2021
Between them, the couple who built and first lived in what later became the Veblen House carried seven names: Jesse Paulmier Whiton-Stuart and Mary Marshall Ogden. It has taken awhile to realize just how much lineage and pride each of those names might carry.
"Susan Paulmier, widow, and her son Jesse first show up in the Jersey City directories in 1855. At first listed as a grocer, Jesse became secretary and later a director of the Jersey City Insurance Co. His mother did well enough as a real estate speculator to merit an obituary in the Evening Journal - though her son Jesse only got death notices, the more substantial being in the Argus. His wife Cornelia got a brief paragraph even though she had moved out of the city."
Mrs. Paulmier was a remarkably active and energetic woman, and by her business capacity and industry in her younger days, and by judicious investments, had accumulated a large fortune. Her self reliant, independent ways, and her unusual business ability, were always noticeable. She was kind-hearted and generous, choosing always her own methods of doing good, and many of the poor will miss her sadly.
The obituary tells of the heroic manner in which she died:
The death of Susan Paulmier, one of the older and among the best known residents of this city, which occurred yesterday, was very sudden, being caused by heart disease of the rheumatic type. Her death came almost without warning to herself or her friends, and was no doubt hastened by over exertion. The last act of her life, and the one which brought on the fatal attack, was one of kindness to a poor friend. Mrs. Paulmier, hearing that an old German woman, who had been frequently employed by her, was lying very ill, went by the horse cars to Greenville, where the poor sick woman lives. In the forenoon, for the purpose of making provision for her comfort, and remarked to Dr. Bowen, before going, that if the poor woman was found well enough to be moved, she would have her brought to her own residence to be nursed. Mrs. Paulmier, who was in her usual health apparently, little thought that she herself was so near death. She went to Greenville, and walked some distance over rough roads to pay her visit to the sick woman, and on returning in the horse cars was seized with a severe attack of the malady which proved fatal. She succeeded in reaching Dr. Bowen’s residence, near her own, and there remedies were applied which gave her much relief. She was removed in a carriage to her own house, and while the doctor was absent to prepare additional remedies for her, she went to bed and died almost immediately. Her son, Mr. Jesse Paulmier, President of the Jersey City Fire Insurance Company, had arrived home only a few moments before her death, not having been aware that his mother was ill. Most of the other members of the family are absent in Minnesota.
The Barrow Mansion, which Susan bought for her son Jesse, dates back to the beginnings of Jersey City, when Cornelius Van Vorst owned much of the land and dreamed of turning what was largely tidal marsh into a fashionable suburb of Manhattan. According to the Barrow Mansion website, he divided his land in 1835 into large lots, one of which became Van Vorst Park, and along with William Barrow built twin mansions on some of the higher ground. Their families remained there for 30 years before selling the Barrow Mansion to the Paulmiers in 1868.an article in Jersey Digs, the Paulmier's Hampton Court Terrace was "likely named after Hampton Court on the Thames, a castle in London, as the Paulmier family had deep connections to England." The deep connections to England probably refer to the ancestor Andrew Newcomb, who was born in England in 1618, then moved to America. When Jesse Paulmier died suddenly in 1879, his wife and three daughters moved out of the Barrow Mansion and into the seven row houses of Hampton Court. Perhaps as as continuation of Susan's tradition of assisting the poor, the Barrow Mansion was bought by the YMCA and continues to provide community services.
I'm going to go out on a family limb and speculate that Obadiah Newcomb (1787-1857), our Jesse's great grandfather, is somehow related to Obadiah Newcomb Bush (1797-1851), an ancestor of the Bush political family.
It appears that Jennie was the only one of the three Paulmier daughters to have children. After Jennie married Augustus Ward Whiton on Oct. 15, 1873, our Jesse was born on June 4, 1874, and according to Find a Grave, Jennie lost her husband less than one year later, on April 8, 1875, when he "died from an illness contracted when he was on his honeymoon in Europe ..." The father's gravestone, located some distance from the Whiton family's obelisk in Greenwood Cemetery, states simply "Thy will be done."
Criminally Careless Driving
"A very remarkable and serious accident occurred in NY yesterday, with painful results, to Mrs. Jess Paulmier, of this city. Mrs. Paulmier, her daughter, Mrs. Whiton and a little boy about 3 years old, Mrs. Whiton's child, went in Mrs. Paulmier's carriage to NY, and stopping in front of the Vienna Bakery, on Broadway, near Tenth Street, the coachman drove close up to the curbstone, and Mrs. Whiton entered thestore to make a purchase, leaving her child in the carriage with her mother. Presently one of the immense coaches of the NY Transfer Company came dashing along Broadway at a rattling pace, and the careless driver of the coach drove directly against Mrs. Paulmier's carriage with such terrific force as to throw the lady out through the carriage door that was closed, shattering the panels of the carriage, and landing Mrs. Paulmier in the street. At the moment of the collision, Mrs. P. caught the child in her arms, and it was dashed out along with her, but fortunately escaped unhurt. Besides receiving a fearful shock, a large splinter of the broken glass from the carriage window, was driven into one of her limbs just at the knee, making an ugly wound. The injured lady was immediately brought home to this city, where she was attended by Dr. Horace Bowen. She is confined to her bed, and suffering greatly. Mrs. Paulmier's coachman jumped from his seat and secured his horse by the head, preventing a runaway. It is wonderful that Mrs. Paulmier and her grandchild were not both killed outright. The accident was caused by the criminal recklessness of the driver of the coach, who was arrested, and both he and his employers should be rigorously dealt with."
The New York Transfer Company's "immense coach" mentioned was a freight coach, part of a big operation started in 1870 to transport baggage between railroad terminals and steamship docks.
Nearly two decades later, Jesse's grandmother's obituary appeared in the Evening Journal, at the bottom of a page otherwise filled with news of exploding locomotives, piano and jewelry thieves, rogue cowboys, labor tensions, poisonings, a suicide, and an outbreak of typhus fever. Sounds like it was a good time to go. She died on new year's day, 1895.
Mrs. Cornelia B. Paulmier, widow of the late Jesse Paulmier, died on Sunday at Lakewood. Mrs. Paulmier has lived with her son-in-law, R.W. Stuart, at 85 Park Ave, New York, since she left Jersey City about a year after her husband's death. The funeral took place from Mr. Stuart's residence this afternoon.
By then, our Jesse was 21 and off to college and world travel, but it suggests that he grew up with his grandmother close by.
There are several other intriguing potential connections. Who are our Jesse's remarkable great grandmother Susan (McLaughlin) Paulmier's ancestors? Does the Paulmier name date back to Binot Paulmier de Gonneville, the celebrated French explorer?
And what is this French website that explores the genealogy of the House of CROY, which dates back to the 12th century in Picardy? It includes mention of a Cornelia-Evelyn Paulmier, daughter of Jesse Paulmier and Cornélia Newcomb, apparently the aunt of our Jesse, who married a Belgian prince.
- SAS Henri de Croÿ (21st generation?), Prince of Croÿ and Solre, was born in Brussels on March 8, 1860. He was captain of the Belgian guides. On July 14, 1884, he obtained admission to the nobility of the kingdom of Belgium with the title of Prince and the qualification of Serene Highness, transmissible to all his descendants. He died in Rumillies (Belgium) on February 6, 1946. He married in London (Great Britain), November 26, 1936, Cornélia-Evelyn Paulmier (born in Jersey-City: US.A, October 4, 1877), widow of William Scott, and daughter of Jesse Paulmier, and Cornélia Newcomb. She died in Ghlin (7011, Hainaut, Belgium) on December 17, 1943.
What we do know is that the Jesse who later built Veblen House grew up in very well off circumstances, first in Jersey City, then later on Park Avenue in Manhattan, surrounded by adults: his mother, step-father, grandmother, a tutor and no doubt some servants as well.
Saturday, January 23, 2021
Exploring Ancestral Connections Between the Whiton-Stuarts and prominent Ogdens, Stocktons, and John Marshall
Monday, January 11, 2021
It was August 14 of this year, while beginning repairs on the east wall of the Veblen House, when we discovered the name Miller and Son.
Sisalkraft, the Tyvek of its day, appears to have a Princeton connection. A 1927 Princeton Alumni Weekly reports that Princeton alum Charles Higgins, sales manager for Sisalkraft, had just moved east from Chicago to start a company branch in NY. Whether it was new to the east coast when the Whiton-Stuarts wrapped their house in it three years later is not clear.
Sisalkraft was 6-ply--a sandwich of alternating layers of kraft paper, bitumen and sisal fibers all pressed together. The sisal comes from an agave-like plant most associated with the Yucatan peninsula, where its strong fibers were big business, fading in the mid-20th century as synthetic fibers began to compete. The Sisalkraft label mentions "java rope", probably because sisal was also grown in Java.
Paul Davis of the Historical Society of Princeton helped us with some initial research on the Sisalkraft's Miller and Son label:
"The Joseph W. Miller & Son Company operated on Alexander Street from 1928 through the late 1950's/early 1960's. According to their newspaper advertisements over the years in The Papers of Princeton, they were a building contractor, supplied building materials, milled lumber, installed residential heating systems, and delivered coal."
To put this in context. The Whiton-Stuarts moved their prefab house to Princeton in 1931 or so, and sold to the Veblens ten years later. More articles we found through that fantastic resource, Papers of Princeton, fleshed out the story of the Miller family and that era in Princeton. A 1942 obituary tells of Joseph Walter Miller's life:
"Mr. Miller was graduated from Princeton University in 1897 and afterwards attended Auburn Seminary. He was ordained in Spring Street Presbyterian Church, New York, and later preached in the Bethlehem Chapel in that city. In 1912, Mr. Miller moved to Princeton, where he purchased a farm. He was active in the Mercer County and Princeton Young Men’s Christian Associations, and a trustee of the First Presbyterian Church."
In 1928, Miller and his son Robert sold their dairy business on Provinceline Road and bought Boice's Lumber and Coal Yard at 316 Alexander Road. The younger son, Joseph, Jr, graduated from Princeton University in 1934, joined the business and also joined the Army Reserve Corps. Other suppliers of coal in town included some familiar names like Gulick and Grover.
Central heating with coal was coming into widespread use, often with furnaces that lacked fans to blow air through the house. Instead, the hot air would simply rise through an octopus-like tangle of ducts that spread from the furnace up into the various rooms of the house. Coal would be shoveled into the basement through a window, and fed into the furnace, requiring periodic stoking. Fans to blow the air became generally available in the mid-30s, five years after the Veblen House was built.
Soon after his wife died in spring of 1941, Joe Miller hosted a Men's Club picnic supper, after which "the oldest living alumnus of Princeton University, a member of the class of 1865," made "a short talk on the subject, "How to Live to be Ninety." Joseph died less than a year later, probably in his late 70s.
As home heating shifted from coal to oil, Miller's sons began selling fuel oil in 1954. The Cold War influenced their business as well. By 1961, Joseph, Jr. was head of the Culligan Water Conditioning Company of Princeton, and attended a conference entitled "Survival," about how to minimize the radioactivity in drinking water in the event of a nuclear war.Miller and Son may have merely supplied the Sisalkraft for the house, or they may have served Whiton-Start as contractor and supplier of lumber, furnace, and coal, conceivably continuing to provide services through to the end of Veblen's life in 1960.
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
On this, the summer of Oswald Veblen's 140th birthday, the story of his life and legacy made it into the radiant glossy pages of the Princeton Magazine. An article entitled The Extraordinary Legacy of Oswald Veblen by Don Gilpin captures the breadth and depth of Veblen's 80 years on the planet, most of it spent in Princeton, first at Princeton University and then at the Institute for Advanced Study.
Gilpin weaves in quotes from Steve Batterson's article, “The Vision, Insight, and Influence of Oswald Veblen," and from Princeton University President Eisgruber's 2020 State of the University report.
What we've come to know is that Princeton would not be Princeton, and the Institute would not be the Institute, without the vision and quiet persistence of this man. He brought something of his Norwegian ancestry and midwestern egalitarian sensibilities eastward from Iowa, while his wife to be, Elizabeth Richardson, brought her charm, tea, and love of gardening westward from England. They met in Princeton and together they changed the world for the better, near and far.
The article also tells the story of our nonprofit, the Friends of Herrontown Woods, which is applying a dose of Veblen's quiet persistence to restore and revivify the Veblens' physical legacy--the house, cottage and 95 acres they left behind for the public to enjoy. We now have the lease the article mentioned, and can proceed with repairs to the 1931 house and the 1875 cottage, both of which have been patiently awaiting the attention they deserve.
The photos in the article are courtesy of the Institute for Advanced Study archives, including this photo of the Veblens at the American Mathematical Society's 1950 International Congress, presided over by Veblen at age 70, as he was retiring from the IAS. Now, twice as distant in time from Veblen's birth in the hill country of Iowa, Don Gilpin's article is a fitting tribute to a legacy that keeps on giving.
Thursday, May 28, 2020
The 1960s began with the expansion of Herrontown Woods by Mercer County, and closed with the founding of the nonprofit Friends of Princeton Open Space in 1969. DR Greenway was formed 20 years later, in 1989. The private acquisitions in the 1940s and donations in the 1950s formed the core holdings that later partnerships of government and nonprofits would then build upon. The Institute Woods was saved from development in 1997. A substantial portion of the All Saints Church tract was preserved in more recent years by DR Greenway. Due to these successful collaborations, Herrontown Woods is now at the center of a long corridor of open space, with Autumn Hill Reservation to the east and the All Saints and Richiardi tracts to the west.
Saturday, May 9, 2020
When Oswald Veblen arrived in Princeton in 1905, having completed his PhD in mathematics in Chicago, he may have envisioned American academics much like this representation of the house in which his grandparents and 8 children had spent the winter of 1866 on the Minnesota prairie. For that first winter in what could barely be called a house, they lived in the basement, surrounded by a foundation and sheltered by a temporary roof. A large fireplace stood at one end, a cooking stove at the other, with a well dug in the middle. They made it through the winter, but in Oswald's grandfather Thomas's mind was the two-story house they would ultimately live in.
By the time winter arrived the next year, in 1867, Thomas had built the shell of the house, which he would elaborate on until it reached its final form in 1870, ten years before Oswald was born.
American mathematics in 1905 was like a basement on the frontier compared to the glorious universities in Europe that gave Oswald a model for what could be realized over time. Grandfather Thomas built his house in four years. Mathematics in America took longer, reaching parity with Europe and a golden age in Princeton in the 1930s.
Along the way, surely drawing on his grandfather's life spent building a series of four midwestern farms from the ground up, Oswald contributed to the evolution of mathematics, intellectually and institutionally, bringing talented mathematicians together and even designing the building that Princeton's mathematics department and the new Institute for Advanced Study would both call home in the 1930s--Fine Hall.
In an article by William C. Melton entitled "Thorstein Veblen and the Veblens", from which these photos are taken, the descriptions of Oswald's grandfather give a sense of an open and flexible mind, a bottomless work ethic, and family generosity. Thomas was "actively interested in innovations." He and wife Kari "were virtual dynamos until late in their lives." Thomas had a "penchant for making continual modifications when these seemed desirable as well as his evident lack of commitment to conventional construction norms-including straight lines, ninety-degree angles, and such things." Most telling, given Oswald's initiative to find a safe haven in the U.S. for displaced European scholars in the 1930s, is a description of his grandparents on the Minnesota frontier as "extremely generous in opening their doors to newly arrived immigrants (including relatives) who needed a place to stay."
Oswald, who had no children, inherited these qualities and applied them to making mathematicians and mathematics his family and his home.