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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Historical Profile of Robert John Randolph, Jr.

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

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.