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Robert Oscar Crommelin

Dates: 1828 - 1885

Robert Oscar Crommelin: b. 20 Nov 1828 in Brooklyn; d. 26 Feb 1885 in Orange, NJ. Son of Robert James Crommelin & Eliza Betts. RO ‘s siblings were:

  • Anna Louisa Crommelin Barnes: (1819 - after 1860)
  • Emma Z. Crommelin: (1824 - 1896)
  • Robert Oscar Crommelin
  • Juliette S. Crommelin: (1830 - aft 1900)
  • Unnamed sister (born about 1833)
  • James M. Crommelin (1835 - 1900)
  • Lydia Crommelin: (1840 - after 1860)
  • Elizabeth Coe Crommelin: (1845 - 1919)

[Robert Oscar Crommelin, about 1878]

RO began writing a diary on 1 Jan 1848 at the age of 19 yrs. He was a stock broker, gentleman, and entrepreneur. At the start of the diary, RO was employed at D.R. & Company located at 52, then 37 (27 Nov 1849), Wall Street in Manhattan until he resigned 27 Mar 1852. Later he formed partnerships with:

  • Wm. H Bernard (1 Apr 1852 - retired 23 Jul 1853) after whom he named his first son
  • Uncle David S. Mills, Jr. (6 Sep 1853 - 26 Sep 1854)
  • M. Wheeler (2 Jan 1855 - before 13 Dec 1858)
  • Goodwin (1 Feb 1859 - ?)
RO also served on the City Guard (local militia) until he resigned 6 Feb 1857.

Adeline Ryder Crommelin (1878)

RO’s love of his life was Adeline M. Ryder whom he is courting at the beginning of the diary, spending nearly every day with her. On 10 Sep 1848, RO asks Mrs. Emeline Gifford Ryder for her daughter’s hand in marriage, since Adeline’s father Alfred Mitchell Ryder had deceased in 1845. Gifts are exchanged between the two on various occasions such as a watch case for RO, a golden pencil for Ade, a gold thimble to Ade for Valentine’s day, and a bracelet to Ade. The two are married 25 September 1849 and set off for a honeymoon in Boston (26 Sep - 3 Oct 1849).

RO was father of 9 children (the last being stillborn after the diary’s end - named after himself) - 4 boys and 4 girls who lived to adulthood, and who produced 8 grandchildren for RO prior to his death in 1885 at the age of 56. Seven additional grandchildren were born after his death.

RO says a lot about the weather in the diary while stating comparatively little about what he thought - exceptions include, “I being there enjoyed myself exceedingly”. Nevertheless, his writing style communicates much about his optimism and outlook on life. His intelligence is conveyed in his writing through his thoughtful choice of words, good grammar, excellent spelling, and skilled penmanship (portions are written in quill pen with the balance in pencil). RO probably attended boarding school to receive his education as is the case with younger sister Eliza (age 10 on 6 Apr. 1855). RO’s only brother James, 7 to 9 years his junior, is conspicuously absent from clear reference in the diary, perhaps resulting from his being off at boarding school - with greatest likelihood of such being through the time of RO’s marriage when James would have been only age 12 to 14. This is partially confirmed in that the 1850 US Census does not list James as a family member of the Crommelin household. The single possible reference in the diary to this only brother is to “…’James’ the Harper” (25 Jul 1848).

In the 1860 US Census James is a merchant living in Kentucky and is married to Sarah from Maryland. In 1870, James is a broker and he and Sarah are seen in Yonkers with a newborn son, Mortimer (perhaps that is his middle name). In 1880, James is seen with a new wife Estella, 19 years his junior, and daughters aged 8 and 4 years, meaning Sarah had probably died in 1870-1871 and that he had immediately remarried. Mortimer appears to have died as well. The remoteness of James from the family easily explains his absence from the diary.

RO surrounds himself with the activities of others, always noting who attended various events - a sure sign that he cared deeply for family and friends. On the first of each year he “made calls” to friends and neighbors - apparently just stopping in the say hello and wish them a happy new year. Later in the diary, his anniversary parties became great events with company of 55 (1860) and 75 (1861) persons. He attended large family vacations, the Astor Place Opera House, a Shakespeare recital, Theatre (The Count of Monte Cristo), the Chinese Museum, Bernard’s Panorama of the Mississippi; lectures at the Female Academy, the Academy of Design, the Art Union, Madáme Lanay’s Soirée at Montague Hall, the City Guard Ball, numerous parties with family and friends, and he almost always “took tea” with someone.

RO attended church regularly with family and friends. On many Sundays he would attend both morning and evening services. The churches that he attended included Anglican (Episcopal), Baptist, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, Friends (Quaker), and Congregational denominations. He may have had a particular role (church committee?) in the building of a “new edifice” at St. Peters in Brooklyn. He obviously cared much about the Church, gave a prayer book to future sister-in-law Emma Ryder, attended Sunday School, and was obedient to the ordinance of baptism. Also noteworthy, the diary records six visits by RO to hear Dr. Henry Ward Beecher, famous Congregational Preacher and eventually nationally known abolitionist.

Interesting events in the diary include RO’s mugging & being robbed of $8500 (6 Oct 1848) and the arrest and eventual trial and conviction of those who committed the crime, and a possible-related civil suit; a brick fell on his head; a business acquaintance who “had a fit” after Hanover Bank failed and couldn’t go home for three days; he purchased race horses and raced them until he sold them.

Historical events RO mentions in the diary include the funeral of the 6th US President John Quincy Adams (8 Mar 1848); the visit to NYC of famous General Winfield Scott (25 May 1848); the visit to NYC of famous Whig statesman, orator, and Speaker of the House Henry Clay (6 Mar 1848); the NYC Cholera epidemic (30 Jun - 1 Jul 1849); the New Haven RR bridge collapse (6 May 1853); the great panic of Wall Street (13 Oct 1857); the laying of the Atlantic Cable (4 & 18 Aug 1858); and the start of the Civil War (4 Apr 1861 & 14-16 Apr 1861).

RO’s travels and transport methods are faithfully recorded. Other than much walking he also rode horseback, horse & wagon, carriage, sleigh; rode the ferry, railroad, and journeyed by ship. His business trips took him as far away as Buffalo, Washington, and Chicago.

A single reference is made in the diary to RO’s family residence at Jay St. which is located in Brooklyn Heights. Other “local” streets are mentioned such as Joralemon, and Willoughby, all of them in Brooklyn Heights. RO’s neighborhood today, which is located less than a mile from the eastern landing of the Brooklyn Bridge, is densely developed with high rise buildings. None of the mid-nineteenth century homes that RO saw and visited in the diary remain standing today.

RO’s and Adeline’s first quarters together as a married couple were with Adeline’s mother (30 Aug 1849 - fixing up a room). Later, they lived with Uncle David S Mills, Jr. with Aunt Jane Bergen Crommelin or Aunt Jane Gifford Mills, then back to Adeline’s Mother’s, then to their own house at 326 Pacific Street, before finally settling in Orange, NJ where he would spend the rest of his days.

RO lived to the (then) ripe old age of 56 years 6 months (well above the average US life expectancy of 38-46 years between 1850 and 1890). His cause of death was Bright’s disease (kidney failure). He is buried in Rosedale Cemetery, in Orange, NJ - his memorial is the largest in the center of the family plot, alongside that of Ade his beloved wife. He is surrounded by five of his children, and several grandchildren.

- Summary and diary transcription by (great-great-grandson) Peter Gifford Longley, May 2007.