Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Who Put the Herring in Herringtown, and the Whiton-Stuarts in Princeton?

The name Herrontown, which lives on in Herrontown Woods and Herrontown Road, keeps trying to merge with the word "herring." Some people call the preserve "Herringtown Woods," either because the word "herring" is more familiar, or they just like the sound of it. Some claim that Herrontown Road was originally called "Herringtown Road," so named either for fish wholesalers nearby along the Millstone River or for farmers who fertilized the rocky soil with herring from the ocean. Jac Weller, a Princeton University football star and historian who later ran a farm on land where Smoyer Park now stands, across Snowden Lane from Herrontown Woods, wrote an article in the Recollector about the small landholder farmers in "Herringtown" who supposedly brought wagonloads of fish back from the coast to fertilize their vegetables.


That article is an important documentation of the farming era from which the Veblen Cottage sprung, but the only part of the herring story to be verified thus far is that members of the herring family of fish definitely did swim up the Millstone River, in the form of shad and river herring. 


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?

Donald G. ("Heff") Herring made a big name for himself in Princeton in the first quarter of the 20th century, according to an article entitled "A Bloomsburg Boy Makes the Big Time." Son of a Pennsylvania senator, he went to prep school in Lawrenceville. Entering Princeton University in 1903, he starred in football and wrestling, and was master of ceremonies at his class's commencement. As Princeton's first Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford University, he excelled at British sports, including rugby. After gaining a masters degree, he returned to Princeton to teach english and write sports columns that were avidly read. In WWI, he again excelled as part of an elite squadron of pilots who flew missions over France. 

Having married Jessie Markham in 1910, he returned to Princeton after the war and together they bought land overlooking the divide where 206 crosses the Princeton ridge. These 117 acres became Rothers Barrows, an equestrian estate with 
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.

A 2018 tour guide by the Historical Society of Princeton states that,

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.  

Theirs was one of several estates that ringed Princeton at that time, including Edgerstoune, Constitution Hill, Drumthwacket, and Tusculum. For two decades, from 1919 to 1939, the Herrings lived a life of high society. They hosted Stony Brook Hunt Club events (like this one in 1933) and would show up on the society pages when, for instance, they spent a winter in Lausanne, Switzerland, where their four children attended school.

It's probably coincidence that their last name was Herring, and that their address, 52 Arreton Road, can also be found in the 452 Herrontown Road address for Veblen House. 

But it is likely not coincidence that the Whiton-Stuarts' arrival in Princeton in 1930, and their departure around 1940, tracked closely the rise and fall of the Stonybrook Hunt Club (1928-1937) and the club's hosts at Rothers Barrows. The Historical Society of Princeton found the Whiton-Stuarts listed as "hunting members" of the hunt club in 1931. Somewhere in this 1937 photo of the Stonybrook Hunt Club, the Whiton-Stuarts may be standing. 


According to Community News, "financially impacted by the Great Depression, the Herrings sold Rothers Barrows 20 years after the house’s completion." That would have been around 1940.

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.
He went on to find connection with the outbreak of WWII just months prior:
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.
In 1943, the big stone barn at Rothers Barrows burned down, along with 6000 tons of soybeans. 

But two other houses from the original estate survive just down the street from the mansion. 
There are also some photos of some of Donald Sr's mementos, found in a trunk.

The Whiton-Stuarts sold their house to the Veblens in 1941, but many things suggest that Jesse in particular would have spent the decade prior riding his horses along the Princeton ridge, mingling with Pynes, Herrings, and others of means. 

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.”

The Whiton-Stuarts likely returned to Greenwich, CT, another era in their lives, and perhaps in the life of the Princeton ridge, now past.



Friday, February 5, 2021

Who Put the Paulmier in Jesse Paulmier Whiton-Stuart

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. 

Research on Jesse's middle name, Paulmier, began with an email received out of the blue, pointing to a mansion in Jersey City once owned by a Jesse Paulmier. Our Jesse of Veblen House, born in Jersey City, was clearly named after his grandfather, Jesse Paulmier, whose last name in turn came from Francis Zaner and Susan (McLaughlin) Paulmier.

John Beekman of the Jersey City Free Library, which happens to be located on Paulmier Place, provided some insights into Susan Paulmier's remarkable life, in the form of old newspaper articles from the Evening Journal. For a change, the articles invest more ink in the women than the men. According to our very helpful librarian:

"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."

The obituary for Susan Paulmier, on April 22, 1874, described her this way: 
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. 

 

It is likely due to Susan Paulmier's status in Jersey City that Mercer Street changes its name to Paulmier Place for a block, in the middle of town at the intersection with Jersey Avenue. 


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.

Susan also bought land next door where in 1880 the Paulmiers built Hampton Court Terrace, a series of seven row houses, described at the time as “The handsomest and most unique buildings in the city…" According to 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. 

The oldest of the older Jesse's daughters was our Jesse's mother, Jennie Madelein Newcomb Paulmier. Jennie's second middle name comes from her mother, Cornelia Bush Newcomb, whom on page 298 of Andrew Newcomb, 1618-1686,and His Descendants, is listed as one of ten children of the Honorable Obadiah Newcomb, an architect and builder who settled in New York City.  "He had a very large and valuable law library; was assessor and chairman of State Whig Committee; also, State Senator." 

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."

Jennie nearly lost her son Jesse as well, two years later. According to this account in the Jersey City paper of record, the future builder of Veblen House was saved only by the quick reflexes of his grandmother Cornelia.

Oct. 8, 1877, Evening Journal
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

Before the Veblen House gained its name, it was built and lived in for about ten years by Jesse and Mary Whiton-Stuart. Mary's maiden name was Mary Marshall Ogden, with ancestry reportedly extending back to one of NJ's founders, David Ogden, and Chief Justice John Marshall. There also appears to be a Stockton connection. Two generations of Stocktons studied with two generations of Ogdens in Morristown. How closely related these Ogdens are to Mary's ancestors, and whether Mary is actually descended from the Chief Justice as reported in her obituary, is unclear. An earlier post notes that the Whiton-Stuarts and Richard Stockton III were both members of the Stony Brook Hunt Club in the 1930s.

In an effort to clarify and confirm the ancestral connections, I'm assembling some info below (click on the "read more"). Lineage doesn't really say much about who Mary was, but it's a start. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

What Old Housewrap Tells Us About the Building of Veblen House

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. 

The name had been printed onto an early form of housewrap, found just under the wooden siding.
The name of the housewrap was Sisalkraft, named after the sisal fibers that gave it strength. Advertisements in the 1930s and '40s appealed to a home builder's thrift and high standards--"So moderate in cost, so gratifying in results." Words like "reenforced", "highgrade", "twentieth century product", and the slogan "Sisalkraft resists every draft" were reinforced by images of powerful draft animals--horses and oxen doing the work that needs to be done. The builder and first owner of what later became known as the Veblen House, Jesse Whiton-Stuart, was a lover of horses and surely liked the idea of his house being wrapped in images of horses. The house itself was ringed by a split rain fence, as if occupying its own corral. 


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.

Now, 90 years after the Veblen House was built, the paper has lost its storied strength and become so brittle it crumbled in our hands. 


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.