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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Historical Profile of Robert John Randolph, Jr.


Robert John Randolph, Jr. is a historical figure that is usually quickly dismissed as the husband of Jessie Harlan Lincoln and nothing more. Being President Abraham Lincoln’s granddaughter, Jessie Lincoln is a figure that has been thoroughly researched and was the focus of attention during her lifetime. To marry into the Lincoln family and be the stepfather to the last two undisputed Lincoln descendants is certainly worthy of note, but unfortunately that is where most documents end their description of Randolph Jr.: with a byline of his childless Lincoln marriage. This historical profile delves deeper into Randolph Jr.’s life.


Robert John Randolph, Jr. was a member of the “distinguished Virginia family of Randolphs, whose family tree goes back to John Rolfe and Pocahontas of early colonial history.”[1]

Robert John Randolph, Sr. was born in Buffalo, New York, on January 3, 1847. Randolph Sr. moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1865 at the age of 18, then moved to Illinois about a decade later.[2] On January 20, 1874, Randolph Sr. married Francis Dyer in Winnebago County, Illinois.[3] On April 2, 1875, Robert John Randolph, Jr. was born to the couple.[4] Randolph Sr. was involved in local-level politics in Illinois, his first position being a post on the Rockford Board of Aldermen.[5] The Aldermen are a city council in Rockford, acting in conjunction with the Mayor.[6]

Randolph Jr.’s father’s politics were not considered to be a driving force between his marriage to Jessie; it was not remarked upon in any books mentioning their marriage. Research into the family background provided details on his father’s politics, but in no reports on the Randolph-Lincoln marriage are they mentioned.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

"Dear Old New York "
Journal of Anna Maude Van Hoose's visit to New York
October - November 1901

Anna Maude Van Hoose
October-November 1901[1]
with annotations and commentary by

In October, 1901, 16-year-old Anna Maude Van Hoose visited New York with her grandmother, Mary Ellen Scorse Bacon. Anna Maude had just graduated from high school in May, in Shreveport, Louisiana, and this trip may have been a present from her grandmother. It was also a gift her grandmother gave to herself, having lost her husband -- Niles, Michigan lawyer Edward Bacon -- in April. The two visited libraries, historical locations, and restaurants and attended church services, concerts, and Broadway shows. They read, and commented on, books of the day, and Anna Maude, a music student, evaluated the music that she heard. Two months after their visit, Anna Maude began studies at the Chicago Musical College, and eventually had a long career as a professional musician. This short journal is a wonderful microcosm of their lives together -- two women with a zest for life, who saw everything there was to see, persevering through headaches, toothaches, and other -aches, and falling in love with "Dear Old New York" in the process.

* * * * * *

Mary Ellen Bacon
Anna Maude Van Hoose
New York City
October 14th 1901

If at first you don't succeed (in writing), try, try again

Yours truly, Would be Good

The History Of The Methodist Church in Elmira

By , Historian
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved by the author.

Sunday, June 30, 1901, was a great day for the Methodists of Elmira. It was the day of dedication for the “2nd” Hedding Church. According to the Elmira Daily Gazette and Free Press (July 1, 1901), “The beautiful auditorium was filled to overflowing with devout people…Bishop C.H. Fowler spoke from the text Psalm 48:12.”[1]

The new Hedding Methodist Episcopal Church was built at the corner of Church and Columbia Streets, next to the original Hedding Church which had been sold to the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church for $6000 [2] (the building remains the home of the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church and is the oldest building in the city of Elmira erected as a church and still in use as such).

The newspaper went on to report, “The dedication proper occurred in the evening…a striking feature of the day was that the dedication did not take place until the remaining debt on the edifice, $40,000, was provided for by subscription. It was not until nearly 11 o’clock in the evening that this was accomplished and Bishop Fowler was allowed to dedicate the building and place the pulpit in charge of the beloved pastor Rev. G. E. Campbell…” The article continued noting that the day “Was one to be remembered always by the Methodist people of the city…for the practical Christianity of those people….” [3]

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Salem’s Forgotten African Americans

By William A. Cormier
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved by the author.

A Research Journey Begins

Little did I suspect that a telephone call in February 2002 from an Albany man, Lloyd Stewart, searching for his ancestors, would result in the larger discovery (for me) of Salem’s near-forgotten African-American presence of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Stewart’s ancestral names, Van Vranken and Burke, were two names that I recognized from my work as town and village historian, and as I searched the historical records for them, I discovered that Van Vrankens, Burkes and other African Americans were buried in the “African Grounds” in Evergreen Cemetery and also in the Revolutionary War Cemetery or “Old Burying Ground.”

The design of Evergreen Cemetery, built in 1859, reflected the attitudes of mainstream American society in the Victorian period. The cemetery committee, with the help of William Blair and Dr. Asa Fitch Jr., among other prominent Salem citizens, engaged the services of J. C. Sidney, of Philadephia, to design the cemetery. Sidney was considered one of the most talented landscape gardeners in the country, and his design resulted in a grand landscape of tree and shrub lined avenues and lily filled ponds.[1] As citizens purchased lots they place ornate mausoleums, gravestones and statues at the grave sites, creating the grandeur of this cemetery that is evident today.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

“Raise My Voice Against Intolerance.”
The Anti-Nazi Rally in Madison Square Garden, March 27, 1933,
and the American Public’s Outrage over the Nazi Persecution of Jews

by Dr. Robert G. Waite
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

“I have come to Madison Square Garden many times, mostly to speak on behalf of the political party to which I belong,” explained Alfred E. Smith, former governor of New York State and 1928 presidential candidate, to the 23,000 plus listeners crowded into the arena on the evening of March 27, 1933. Another 35,000 had massed on the streets outside, listening to the words of Governor Smith and each of the other speakers broadcast over a public address system. “But I don’t believe I ever came into it with greater satisfactions than I feel tonight to raise my voice against intolerance, bigotry and against the suppression of freedom of speech and the press and the abridgement of the right of public assembly.”1 Governor Smith was joined on the podium by a group of prominent figures, including New York City mayor James P. O’Brien, president of the American Federation of Labor William Green, Senator Robert Wagner, distinguished members of the clergy, and Rabbi Stephen Wise, president of the American Jewish Congress and the organizer of this mass protest against recent measures taken by the Hitler regime in Germany against its Jewish citizens. “This protest is not against the German people whom we love and revere,” Rabbi Wise assured the audience when he came to the podium. “It is not against the political program for Germany is master within its own household, but solely against the present anti-Jewish policy of the Nazi government.” Similar rallies were held in more than 65 cities in 25 states as a wave of outrage swept across America. An estimated one million were expected to join the protest meetings.

The rally in Madison Square Garden grew out of a far-reaching and deep-seated anxiety in America over the Nazi treatment of the Jews and the regime’s assault on organized labor and political opponents. As reports of mistreatment and discrimination were published in newspapers throughout the nation, Jewish communities, political figures, religious leaders, and rank and file labor became alarmed and they added their voices to the protest which percolated into a steady stream of letters to German consulates in the US and into rallies in cities throughout the nation. The rejection of Nazi policies was widespread, deeply felt, and sincere. The responses showed how much Hitler’s repression had touched a raw-nerve among the American people and not simply its Jewish citizens. Rarely have so many American from such diverse backgrounds, from such differing religious and political beliefs, come together in common cause to voice their outrage over persecution and repressive policies. The rally in Madison Square Garden culminated this spontaneous protest movement and sent a powerful message to political leaders in the United States and in Germany. Its impact was, however, mixed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

How the Piarists and the Docent Saved Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff

by Paul E. Lubienecki, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

“Dear Dar:

I have been-seen-talked to, admired one of nature’s noblemen-Mr. Frank Lloyd Wright. He is not a freak-not a crank-highly educated and polished, a straightforward business like man with high ideals.

He would be pleased indeed to design your House. Mr. Wright says he don’t want any man to accept his ideas just because they are his-he proposes to furnish a reason for his ideas and wants judgment made solely on the merits.

He will build you the finest, most sensible house in Buffalo. You will be the envy of every rich man in Buffalo, it will be published in all the Buffalo papers, it will be talked about all over the East. You will never grow tired of his work, and what more can you ask? He is pure gold.”[i]

This letter, dated October 22, 1902, from Chicago businessman William E. Martin to his brother Darwin, would forever alter the architectural landscape of Buffalo, New York and establish a strong and enduring friendship between Frank Lloyd Wright and the Martins. Through the years, the distances and the personal and professional tumults, Darwin Martin and Wright remained steadfast in their mutual admiration. In his autobiography, Wright states “I would like to tell...especially of the lifelong interest and loyalty of Darwin D. Martin and the building of several houses for him...”[ii]

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

One Man’s Contribution to the War Effort

by Rob't E. Yott
Copyright © 2013. All rights reserved by the author.

As we enter the third year of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I feel it appropriate that remember one of the many veterans of Steuben County, whose tireless efforts helped to preserve the Union; Major John Stocum.

John Stocum was born in Pultney, Steuben County, on April 27, 1825. That same year his father drowned in the Conhocton River. Alone and penniless, John moved to Bath in1840. Here he learned the cabinet making and undertaking trade. In February of 1847 Stocum, a member of the First Presbyterian Church married Elizabeth Metcalf of Bath. Together they had at least three children; John L., James D. and daughter, Osie (nicknamed Kate.) When his son John was old enough he joined his father’s business. The Directory of 1854 shows Stocum and Son had a warehouse located on the eastern edge of Pioneer Cemetery on West Steuben Street. In 1858 Elizabeth died. Stocum remarried in June of 1860. His new wife Susan B. Townsend of Elmira gave birth to Frank and Ruby.

In 1852, Stocum had joined the local militia, the 60th Regiment, 27th Brigade, New York State Volunteers and served as the orderly sergeant. When its commanding officer, Captain Levi C. Whiting, was promoted to major, Stocum was commissioned captain by New York governor Myron H. Clark. Stocum served in this capacity until 1858. He also served as watchman for the village of Bath from 1853 to 1857.