A Letter from New York

of the
525 West 23rd Street
New York
Telephone, WATKINS 10297

                                                                                                                                Jan 3 1930

Dear Edith and Charlie-

To wish you a Very Happy New Year. This has been to us a joyful Christmas time. First – to thank you for the presents. The tie pleased me very much. I like your taste. The cigars were O.K. I will have to put on my thinking cap to tell just where we have been although your mother may have told you. Christmas Eve we went to Midnight service at St. James. A good attendance – 4 Clergy. We went up to Alice’s from there – got there at 1:30. Georgie was up at 6:30. Well he had quite a time riding his Bicycle around the house. Alice had everything very nice. George took us over to Phillip’s for two o/c [o’clock] Dinner & they went to Mr. Collins’. Phillip had some friends in. We went Bowling & then back for supper. The baby is just lovely. Good natured –  goes to anybody. Saturday Afternoon your Mother & I went to the Camp Reunion at the Plaza Hotel. Quite a nice time – 55 children & parents. Put your Mother on a bus for New Rochelle at 6 pm so then I had the town to myself. Had a little supper and then to a show, out at 10 pm, then went to Arthur’s party & carve his turkey for him. Who should be there but Bill, Katie, & Annie. We all stayed until 3 am. Took a taxi home. Sunday I got the bus at 51st & 8th Ave 11:30 – got to Cyril’s 12:45 for Dinner. Plenty of everything as usual. Talked a while and a game of Pinochle. Cyril got into his head to get down to Bill Reese’s – they had a party, so Arthur got Mildred on the  phone. So she came up with the car & took us down to play Pinochle, your Mother staying at Cyril’s over night.  We left Reese’s at 2 am New Year’s Eve. We went up to Cyril’s to play Pinochle. Alice & George had been to our place for Supper, so George, after leaving Alice at her home, took us up, leaving your Mother at Weyers Mount Vernon. Phillip, Fred, two Reeses, Mr. Weyers, myself, George & Cyril. We played until 2:30 am. I went to Mr. Weyers for New Years Dinner – 18 altold [sic]. Left there at 10:30 after having a pretty good time. I phoned Elsie this morning to have them come down Sunday – the baby Birthday – for Dinner but she said Cyril & Clara was coming over for a late Dinner 5 pm for us to come up. By your letter you also have had a pretty good time. My work at the Y is pretty easy just now as we have put a lots of these fellow out that don’t belong here. Must be a seaman to come here. We had a Dinner for 100 but had a caterer in to do it so I sat down as one of the guest – some class. Hope Charlie had a successful Christmas in his work & a happy one home with the Boys well love to you all.


In 1929:
Mother Teresa arrives in Calcutta in January. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre happens in Chicago on February 14th. In March, Herbert Hoover is inaugurated as the 31st US President, and the first telephone is installed in the White House.  In August, Babe Ruth becomes the first to hit 500 home runs, and Anne Morrow Lindbergh makes her first solo flight. The Wall Street Crash of 1929—Black Tuesday on October 29th marks the beginning of the Great Depression. And on November 7th, the Museum of Modern Art opens in New York City.

In 1929, Sophie and Algernon Newman were living at 315 West 24th in Manhattan, and Algernon was working for the Merchants Seamen’s Branch of the YMCA a few blocks west at 525 West 23rd Street. On the 1930 US census, their youngest son Arthur was living with them, working as an electrician for a clock company.

Map marking route from NYC residence to workTo the North is Penn Station and Herald Square;to the East is Madison Square Garden.

Midnight services at St. James Episcopal Church would have been a major affair. The church is located at 865 Madison Avenue at 71st Street on the Upper East Side, a block from Central Park. The first church was built in 1809-10 as a chapel for residents who had summer homes along the East River, and was a simple clapboard building located at what is now East 69th Street and Lexington Avenue. The present church was begun in 1884, was completely redesigned in the 1920s, and was formally reopened on Christmas Eve 1924. When Algernon and Sophie attended services in 1929, it was fairly “new.”

There’s more about St. James here.

After the service, they probably took the elevated train (known as the El) to daughter Alice’s home at 3087 Decatur in the Bronx. (My uncle remembers visiting there in 1942.) Alice and her husband George Collins had only one child, George (Georgie) who was born on Christmas day in 1925. Not only did he get to celebrate Christmas with his new bicycle, but his fourth birthday as well.

From there they went to son Phillip’s apartment at 235 Naples Terrace, also in the Bronx. The baby in the letter is Phillip Algernon Jr., who turned 86 this past January 5th. Elsie was his mother.

Saturday afternoon, December 28th at the Plaza. I wish I knew what the Camp Reunion was! The Plaza Hotel, then as it is now, was a first class luxury hotel and residence. Some of you may remember the Plaza’s most famous (fictional) resident, Eloise.

Plaza Hotel New York City early 1900sPlaza Hotel NYC
Then                                                             and now

Sophie and Algernon’s oldest child, Cyril, lived at 37 Howard Parkway in New Rochelle, in Westchester County. He and his wife, Clara, had two daughters, Gloria and Dorothy. Gloria and my father were a year apart in age, and they were good friends growing up, despite the geographical distance between them. When my parents took my sister and me to New York City in 1960, we visited the family at this same address.

…Arthur’s party & carve his turkey for him. Who should be there but Bill, Katie & Annie—Katie and Annie were Algernon’s sisters, and Bill Baxter was Katie’s husband. Algernon also had a brother Arthur, but I have not been able to trace his locations. It’s possible that this Arthur is his brother, which would make sense with his two sisters being there, but it could also be his son.

Arthur and Emilie Weyers and their daughter Mildred were friends of the Newman family. Both families lived in the Bronx in 1910. When I see Mount Vernon, I immediately think of Virginia and George Washington, but the Mount Vernon that Algernon refers to is a community in Westchester County, not far from New Rochelle.

Charlie, my grandfather, would have preached a Christmas sermon at the First Presbyterian Church in Conway, Arkansas, and spent time at home with the two boys, seven year old Robert and four year old John, my father and my uncle. Edith, my grandmother, would be spending Christmas with her husband and her sons, but away from her parents Algernon and Sophie, and her siblings Cyril, Alice, Phillip, and Arthur.

For my sibs: Algernon George Newman and Sophie Amelia (Larson) Newman were our great-grandparents on our father’s side. Their children Cyril, Alice, Phillip, and Arthur were our great-uncles and great-aunt. Their daughter Edith Harriet (Newman) Campbell was our grandmother, and Charles Milton Campbell was our grandfather.

(Photo credits: Old photo of Plaza Hotel: Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. New view: ‘Plaza Hotel’ by Flickr user cliff1066™. Used under Creative Commons Attribution License.)

Finding Daisy

There is a family story about my grandmother, Edith (Newman) Campbell taking a train trip with her first born son. While stopped at a station, Grandma asked a woman if she would mind holding baby Robert so she could use the facilities. As she retrieved the baby, the realization that she had just handed him to a complete stranger, and thoughts of all that could have gone wrong struck her. This postcard she wrote home reflects that event, even though it’s not spelled out in detail.

1922 postcard of train station in Oroville California

Postmarked July 11, 1922, addressed to Mr C M Campbell, Camden Arkansas 

Tues morning
Having a lovely trip. We are stopping here for 10 minutes. Baby is just fine. Love Edith

Baby Robert was my father. That postcard was amongst the piles of papers and pictures I was going through after his death in 2007. His baby book and more photos were in the mix, and with this new information, I was able to get a better idea of the timing of the trip.

Born May 24th, 1922, Robert was just a month or so old when he and his mother boarded that train in Arkansas, and they were on their way to California, where, according to the stories, Edith’s father Algernon Newman had moved from New York City to try to start a new restaurant at a resort. Other documents confirm that the Newmans weren’t in California very long, and they had returned to New York in time for the 1925 New York state census, so the assumption was that the business didn’t work out. But the bigger question—why in the world in 1922 would a new mother with her infant leave her husband for a couple of months and travel from their home in Arkansas to California? There were no marital problems, and it just seemed odd.

Recent discoveries have uncovered a logical explanation.

I have not had a lot of luck in tracking Algernon Newman’s sisters—Daisy, Kate, and Annie. Snippets of information here and there have helped, but no real documentation uncovered to give me a solid picture. Daisy was especially illusive. Kate and Annie stayed in the New York area close to their parents, but Daisy had dropped off the map.

Last year, a cousin gave me letters that her mother had stored—treasures! In the stacks of papers was a list identifying friends and relatives and the gifts they had given to celebrate the wedding of my grandparents, Edith Harriett Newman and Charles Milton Campbell. Although the last names for relatives weren’t written, they were identified as Aunt, Uncle, and Cousin.

Also in these papers were letters to Edith from her sister Alice Collins on the occasion of their father’s death in 1932. One letter mentions that Daisy flew in for the funeral. The comment was made that it was a surprise since times were tight.

On a whim, I did a quick search on Daisy, using all the names I had for her. I got a hit in the California Death Index for Harriett Daisy (Newman) Odlin, father’s surname Newman, mother’s maiden name Redly. Close enough to Ridley, my great-great grandmother’s name. But in California? I didn’t recall any family stories about a Newman sister in California. And I had never heard the name Odlin.

Armed with a death date, I searched for an obituary. One of the commercial newspaper sites had this from the Daily Independent Journal in San Rafael, California, 8 January 1952, Page 12. Copied from the OCR text:

Mrs. W. H. Odlin, Hikers’ Retreat Owner, Dies in M.V. 

Mrs. Daisy Harriet Odlin, 75, for more than 40 years a resident of Mill Valley, died in a Marin hospital yesterday after an illness of several years. Mrs. Odlin, who was active in club work, operated, for many years the Hikers Retreat on Throckmorton Avenue. Hikers from San Francisco and elsewhere came to retreat, changed their clothes, left their children, and then went hiking on Mt. Tamalpais. When they returned they had showers, donned dressier clothes and went home. Her husband, William H. Odlin, a San Francisco tailor, died in 1922, and her daughter, Mrs. Daisy Wisler, died in 1939. She is survived by a nephew, Arthur W. Newman and two friends, Mr. and Mrs. Mel Pedersen of Stockton. A native of England, Mrs. Odlin had made her Mill Valley home at 25 King Street. Funeral services will be held Thursday at 1 p.m. from the memorial chapels of Russell and Gooch, Mill Valley. Interment will be in Woodlawn Cemetery.

More searching found the information on her husband’s death. On Saturday, April 29th, 1922, the Sausalito News reported that two men, W. H. Odlin and James A. Todd were instantly killed in an automobile accident that had happened the day before. Passengers Mrs. W. H. Odlin and her nine year old daughter Daisy were badly injured.

Additional details were published in the Marin Journal on Tuesday, May 2nd.
newspaper article about the death of William Odlin

This tragic accident happened less than a month before my father’s birth.

So Daisy has been found. There are still questions to be answered, but Daisy now has a story.

In the letters that Alice Collins wrote to Grandma Campbell when their father died, she mentioned that Daisy would be returning home, but that Aunt Annie would be taking little Daisy for an extended time. This confirmed that Daisy had a daughter named Daisy.

And on the wedding gift list?— a silver cake plate from Aunt Daisy and Uncle Will.

Little Daisy was the only child of Daisy and Will Odlin, and she died April 10th, 1939, less than a year after her marriage in June of 1938 to Russell Irvin Wisler, Jr.

I now have a better explanation for why my Grandma Campbell took her new baby on such a long journey at such a young age.  No doubt the family gathered round to help Daisy after the death of her husband. Perhaps Edith had hoped that her mother would be able to come to Arkansas to help with baby Robert. Instead, Robert got his first visit to the West Coast to meet his East Coast grandparents!

photo of Sophie and Algernon Newman, who is holding baby Robert Campbell

For my sibs: Harriett (Daisy) Phillips Newman Odlin was our great-great aunt on our father’s side. Her daughter, little Daisy, was our first cousin twice removed.

July Snow Storms?

My Aunt Doris wrote the following story about my great-grandparents Newman and my grandmother Edith Newman Campbell in the Campbell Family History she compiled:

“…they had a new little brother, James, born in late July [1932].

Grandpa Newman died that winter and Edith went to New York City in the dead of winter taking Alice and James with her. The decision was made that Grandma Newman should come home with them and that Uncle Arthur would drive them all back to ARK. Before they got back to ARK., a snow storm blew in. Visibility was almost impossible with no defroster or heater in the car, Edith held candles up to the windshield to keep it from frosting over. Grandma [Newman] sat in the back with the little ones wrapped in blankets.”

I’d really like to know the true story behind this. It’s so dramatic—surely it happened!* But it didn’t happen when my great-grandfather Algernon Newman died.

His death occurred on Sunday, the 31st of July, ten days after my Uncle James was born. Snow storms in July are highly unlikely even in the northern most regions of the United States. Algernon Newman’s death certificate confirms his death date, as does this notice published in the New York Times on August 2, 1932:

NEWMAN—On July 31, 1932, Algernon George, beloved husband of Sophie Newman and beloved father of Cyril, Edith, Alice, Phillip, and Arthur. Funeral services at the St. Luke’s Hospital Chapel, 113th St. and Amsterdam Av., on Tuesday, at 8:15 P. M.

The letter Alice Newman Collins wrote to her sister Edith about their father’s death closes with a reference to “the baby.”  I can only imagine what my grandmother was feeling having given birth to her fourth child just days before, and to be so far away from her mother and siblings at that time.

Tuesday A.M.

Dear Edith and Charles,

We have indeed had a great shock in loosing father but I think when you know as we do that he did not suffer much and died very peacefully you will feel that God has been good to us.

We came back from the country Monday evening and Mother came up to see me Tuesday morning. She said father did not feel well and would I go home with her that afternoon to see him. He used to get home at 3 but he came him at 12 that day. He was so tired. He told me his arm felt very bad. I cleaned and dressed it for him and said he ought to go to the Dr. but he did not want to. He was just all in so I stayed there with him and finally got him to go to the Dr. with me at 5 P.M. The journey was too much for him. I should not have let him go on the trains. The Dr. examined him thoroughly and said the arm should be opened it was infected (father had squeezed a boil) and that he had a mild pneumonia so we took him right to St. Lukes that night. Father was willing and he never realized he was so sick. He kept saying he would be home in a week. We saw him each night and Friday afternoon. Friday they operated on his arm and found that a germ had entered through the boil into the blood stream. The common term would be blood poisoning and what with his diabetes he had a hard fight. The Drs really did not think he would go so quickly. Saturday morning 9 A.M., they transferred him from Uncle John (sic) and for a little while he was very bright and cheerful. Saturday afternoon they sent for us to stay with him. He knew us all and saw all of the family during that last day. I was with him until 9 P. M. And he smiled at me a good deal. He was delirious off and on. Cyril and Philip stayed all night. He knew every thing until about 3 A.M.  Poor father was just all tired out and had no strength to fight but I am glad the good Lord took him with so little suffering. I am sure he would have lost his left arm if had lived and that would have been terrible for him.

He looks very nice now. He has his tuxedo on. Mother did not want flowers so we just have 3 small sprays. Lillies from Mother, Gladiolas from us and red roses from the grandchildren. The sum was very small $5.25 for ours. Mother paid $6 for you so do not bother about that now.

We thought it best to leave father at the  hospital. They have a room and very nice chapel. Mr. Wammersley will have the service to-night and to-morrow. The organist from my church will play and Edna Hill will sing “Peace I leave with you” and “The Strife is o’er.” James will also play “Open The Gates” if you know that one.

Then to-morrow morning at 10 A.M. just the family will go to the cemetery. Mother and Philip have bought very nice plot at Woodlawn. It is in a lovely spot.

We are not going into heavy mourning. I hope you will not. Mother and father never liked it. We bought plain black for now and then we will wear black and white for a while.

We are thinking now of having Mother either rent her place or put the things in storage and go out to you for as long as she would like to stay. Arthur has no work and he can stay here until he gets something and then they will get an apartment in the Bronx near me.

Aunt Daisy telephoned us when father was sick. Somebody had to call Uncle Arthur on business so they heard the news. I think Uncle Chris is coming to-day. Mother really did not want anybody to come from out of town. Money is so scarce these days.

Mother is keeping up fine. I have been with her until to-day. Clara and Cyril are with her for now. To-night she will come here so we can go to-gether in the morning. We will miss our father terrible. He was so jolly and sociable with all of us. If we can all live as good lives we needn’t worry.

Be brave and take good care of yourself and the baby. Maybe Mother will be with you next month. Love to all of you from us.


And Algernon’s widow, Sophie Newman, did indeed go to Arkansas shortly after his death.

Sophie Newman with four Campbell grandchildren1932 September – Sophie Newman and grandchildren Robert, John, Alice, and baby James

For my sibs: Algernon George Newman and Sophia Amelia (Larson) Newman were our great-grandparents on our father’s side.

*It’s possible that great-grandmother Newman returned to New York in the winter, and that the snow storm story is true…