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Finding Deborah VanHook’s Father in New Jersey

Eighteenth century genealogy research is always exciting and challenging due to the disparity (and often lack of) public records.  I’ve always been intrigued by the David VanHook / Thankful Williams family in southern New Jersey in trying to sort out the various Van Hook families of that period.  Some believe Thankful Williams to be the daughter of John Williams and Thankful Barlow – but I’m not sure this has ever been proven. This post examines this family – and what I believe is Thankful Williams earlier marriage and first family.  (I apologize in advance if this blog entry is well known information to those that have researched these lines).

The item that started this thinking is the “well known” genealogy of Joseph Cramer (1782-1846), who married Deborah Van Hook, the daughter of David Van Hook and Thankful Williams of Port Elizabeth, NJ.  This family “fact” and connection appears widely across the Internet.  Probably the earliest source of this was on page 758 of The History of Camden County, New Jersey, published in 1886 by George Reeser Prowell.  It notes in that book that David Van Hook was the owner of a mill at Schooner Landing where he and his wife died, each at the advanced age of nearly one hundred years (seems a bit of an exaggeration).  This information is basically repeated in Genealogical and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey : a Book of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Founding of a Nation. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1910., Page 136.

Many genealogies show David Van Hook and Thankful Williams (no marriage record located) had 5 children – the above Deborah, followed by Sophia (1795), William (1798), Henry (1800) and Isaac (1806) – birth years approximate.  The inconsistency that triggered my curiosity on this family is that from the records Deborah appears to have a birth date much earlier than the rest of the children – probably earlier than 1780.  It would be very odd for a family to have a gap of 15 years between the first and second child.  After investigation – it seems Deborah Van Hook might have been a step-daughter of David Van Hook, and actually a daughter of Thankful Williams and a first husband.

From New Jersey marriage records we find a William Crandle (or Crandel/Crandall/Crandol) and Thankful Williams marriage dated 22 Dec 1777 (apparently in Cape May County).  John Foster was the surety on this marriage bond, and the witnesses were Daniel and Hannah Smith.

Most genealogies show a single daughter of this union – a Rachel Crandall, born about 1778 in Leesburg, Cumberland Co., NJ – died 10 Aug 1860 in Millville, NJ. Rachel married 23 Jan 1799 in Cumberland County, John Donnelly(1774-1857).  On Rachel Donnelly’s death record – it shows a “father’s name” as “Thankful Crandle”.

Now back to Deborah.  She married Joseph Cramer on 23 Apr 1805 in Port Elizabeth, NJ.  Joseph died in 1846.  So where was Deborah in the 1850 federal census?  She is found living (as Deborah Crammer) with John and Rachel Crandall Donnelly in Maurice River, Cumberland, NJ.  Deborah’s age is given as 72 at this time, and Rachel is shown age 70.

It is known that Joseph and Deborah Cramer had a daughter named “Rachel Donnelly Cramer” (1807-1857) – apparently named for the Rachel Donnelly in the above census record.  This looks like Deborah Van Hook Cramer is in all likelihood the older sister of Rachel Crandall Donnelly.  If this is the case – Deborah Van Hook Cramer is really the first child of William Crandall and Thankful Williams.  This is further supported by the information that William Crandall’s parents were William Edwin Crandall and Deborah, making this child Deborah likely named for her paternal grandmother.  It looks like after this first marriage ended (presumably William Cramer died), Thankful Williams married second David Van Hook.

Now – was there also a third daughter?  In New Jersey marriage records, a John Lee married a Jemimah Crandall 10 Nov 1798.  This Jemimah was living with (presumably) a son, also named John Lee, in 1850 and 1860 (from census records) in Maurice River, NJ.  We find a New Jersey death record dated 8 Feb 1870 for a Jemimah Lee – born in Cape May County, NJ – showing parents names of William Crandel and Thankful Crandel.  It sure looks like there were 3 daughters – Jemimah, Deborah and Rachel from this first marriage of Thankful Williams.

One further note – John Lee and Jemimah Crandall’s had a son, Edward Lee, born about 1811 in New Jersey. He was married (much later in life – probably not a first marriage) 27 Sep 1888 in Dallas County, Iowa, to a Lorisa J. Clark.  On that marriage record, Edward Lee gives his parents as John Lee and Jemima Crandle.

Therefore – I believe Thankful Williams married William Crandle (Crandall, etc.) in 1777 and had 3 daughters – Jemimah, Deborah and Rachel.  William died sometime in the 1780’s, and Thankful remarried to David VanHook – probably in the early 1790’s – and had 4 more children – Sophia, William, Henry and Isaac.  David died 8 Aug 1839 and Thankful died 19 May 1843 – both in Cumberland County, NJ.



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The First Reading Room – Part 2

In part 1 of this post, we learned how Arondt Van Hook solicited member subscribers and opened the first Reading Room in America in October of 1797.  This opening was well-received, and thereafter Arondt was known as Proprietor of the Reading Room.  In 1798, with a membership list and a captive audience, Arondt decided to expand his literary business efforts and become a publisher himself.  What better opportunity than to come out with a compelling new book and sell directly to the literate membership of the Reading Room, or to those that know of its reputation?Appeal to Impartial Posterity

In February of 1798, Arondt began advertising in the newspapers of the era (the New York Daily Advertiser, the Newark, New Jersey Centinel of Freedom, the Boston Federal Gazette, and the Philadelphia Gazette of the United States), offering a new book for pre-sale – An Appeal to Impartial Posterity, by Madame Roland.  This book, a collection of the memoirs of Marie-Jeanne Philippon Roland, the wife of the minister of the interior of France’s King Louis XVI, may not sound exciting to modern ears.  However, with the ongoing French Revolution generating intense debate (and outright brawls) in the United States, this book was a hot topic.  Madame Roland was a forward-thinking supporter of the Revolution, and spent her last months in prison in Paris, and died November 8, 1793 by way of the guillotine (as her husband died a week later).

The citizens of the United States were keenly interested in thinking coming out of France at this time.  In 1798, the United States first funded a direct tax (based on real estate and slave ownership) mainly due to the threat of an upcoming war with France.  An Appeal to Impartial Posterity was printed in the late spring of 1798 by Robert Wilson for Arondt Van Hook.  It was published in 2 volumes, with buyers paying $1.50 for each volume.  Apparently it sold well.

It looked as if Arondt had found an exciting and profitable new career.  Unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to pursue and enjoy it.  On Thursday, September 13th of 1798, the following notice appeared in the Daily Advertiser“On Monday evening, in the 49th year of his age, after a fevere and painful illness, which he bore with great fortitude, Mr. Arondt Van Hook. He was an affectionate husband, a tender parent, a true friend to his country, and to the poor a generous friend.”   Throughout the 1790’s, New York was suffering from periodic epidemics of yellow fever. The virus was spread by an urban dwelling mosquito (of course, no one at the time knew actually what caused the disease), and the symptoms were horrible and painful.  Arondt’s obituary was also mentioned in other United States newspapers.

What happened to the Reading Room?  Advertisements appeared in the local newspapers in December of 1798 that a new Reading Room would be opening.  Then the Farmers’ Weekly Museum (a newspaper published in Walpole, NH), in its January 7, 1799 issue on page 3 covering “incidents at home” stated: “The late… and enterprizing Mr. Van Hook of Newyork, was the first, we believe, who established a Reading Room in America.  It was sufficiently encouraged during his lifetime, but, upon his unfortunate decease, it was closed, to the regret of lovers of literature. It is a pleasing and honorable circumstance to the inhabitants of Newyork, that an establishment, so useful, is revived.  Mr. G. Painter has issued his prospectus of an arrangement of this kind, and proposes, on the first of the present year, to greet the reader with every variety of literary and miscellaneous information…”   George Painter, a recent immigrant from London, opened the second Reading Room at 146 Water Street, across the street from Arondt’s closed establishment.  His subscription and visiting prices were 30%-50% higher than Arondt’s.

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The First Reading Room – Part 1

Reading Room AdIn September of 1797, a series of advertisements appeared over several weeks in the major New York CityReading Room AdReading Room Ad newspapers of the day (e.g., the Diary, the Time Piece, the Argus, the Minerva) offering subscription memberships to a new “READING SHOP” that was to be established in the city.  This was cause for great excitement and interest among the educated populace, as this would be the very first such Reading Room in America (although back in 1731, Benjamin Franklin and some friends in Philadelphia pooled their funds to buy and share books).  This offer was made by one Arondt Van Hook, a long-time resident of the city, who hoped to gain enough subscribers to make a success of his new endeavor.

For fees ranging from 4 cents for a single visit to $1.50 for a 3 month membership – visitors to the Reading Room could immerse themselves in the most recent publications from the United States and Europe, including magazines, reviews, annual registers, handbills, newspapers, and a profusion of pamphlets. Additionally, all types of maps were hung about the room, and a small reference library of dictionaries, histories, biographies, law and geography was available.

Arondt was born in New York 1747, the oldest of 7 children of Isaac Van Hook and Cornelia Sebring. His great-great grandfather was Arent Isaacszen van Hoeck, the immigrant ancestor of the VanHook family.  The Reading Room was a late in life career for Arondt.  Before the Revolutionary War, Arondt was involved in manufacturing tobacco products – in his petition in 1777 seeking some recompense (he served as a Lieutenant the New York 1st Regiment), he stated he lost all his “tobacco instruments and snuff mills” in the evacuation of New York. In the 1700’s, in an area of lower Manhattan called “The Swamp” was concentrated the leather operations of the day – particularly leather tanning.  Arondt was the owner of a tanyard on Gold Street in The Swamp.  Immediately prior to his Reading Room business, Arondt was the jailor for the city of New York – the “keeper of the gaol.”

Arondt married Abigail Stevens in 1771, and they had 3 sons. The oldest son, Isaac Alvan was graduating from Columbia College (now University) with a law degree at the time of the opening of the Reading Room.  The second son, William, also became a lawyer with a degree from Columbia, and the third son, Frederick, was a clerk in the New York Customs House – but died relatively young about age 29.

During October, 1797, the Reading Room opened and was received to great success, with glowing reviews in the papers. It opened at 149 Water Street (site of the present day Wall Street Plaza building at address 88 Pine Street) to citizens and foreigners alike – as long as they were male.  Located near one the busiest centers for commerce in Manhattan (the Tontine Coffee Housethe precursor to the New York Stock Exchange), the Reading Room provided a quiet respite for patrons.  According to contemporary reviews, strictest silence was observed in the Reading Room, and additions of reading material were constantly added.  After filling their head’s with a “feast” of reading, visitors could adjourn to a room next door for refreshment of a “dish of coffee and a biscuit.”  Subscriptions to the Reading Room could be purchased at the newspaper offices, at the Tontine and at city bookstores.

The popularity of the Reading Room spread widely, as a proposal was put forth that fall for the establishment of a Reading Room in Baltimore modeled “nearly upon the same plan with that designed by Mr. Van Hook,” but with the addition of a circulating library.

To be continued in Part 2 of this post….

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