The Green-Wood Historic Fund continues to collect–sometimes by donation, sometimes by purchase. We are approaching 10,000 items–paintings, books, photographs, newspapers, etc., in our collections.

We recently heard from Linda Welsh, great great granddaughter of James Howell Jr. (1829-1897) and Annie Tunstall Howell (ca. 1832-1900). They are interred at Green-Wood in section 113, lot 16983. She writes:

The little I know about them I have read in the Brooklyn Eagle in the 1800s. So I really have little first or second hand knowledge about them.

I decided to donate these pictures and Brooklyn Bridge ribbons, when I found out that I was moving and probably would not have room for them in my smaller home. I had been thinking about donating them for a long time and knew they should go back to Brooklyn. I knew that my sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews did not have wall space for them. I contacted the Brooklyn Historical Society and they suggested Green-Wood, where I think is the best  place for them. I know that my grand father and mother would be happy that you have them for safe keeping. Thank you for being so enthusiastic about having them.

James Howell, mayor of Brooklyn and head of the Brooklyn Bridge.

James Howell, mayor of Brooklyn and head of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Annie Howell.

Annie Tunstall Howell.

Ribbons collected by James Howell in his capacity as Brooklyn politician and Brooklyn Bridge trustee.

Ribbons collected by James Howell in his capacity as Brooklyn politician and president of the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Bridge.

Born in England in 1829, James Howell, at the age of 6, came to America with his parents and they settled in Ohio. He spent his early years working on his father’s farm, clearing trees with an ax. For a few months in the winter, in a log school house, he received his only formal education. At the age of 16, he came to Brooklyn, worked in a grocery store, then became an apprentice at an iron foundry. He worked his way up to foreman, then struck out on his own with the $225 he had saved to start his own foundry. That company became Howell & Saxtan, with hundreds of employees.

A coal shute cover, on the sidewalk in front of 161 Congress Street, Brooklyn, cast by Howell and Sartain.

A coal chute cover, on the sidewalk in front of 161 Congress Street, Brooklyn, cast by Howell and Sartain.

Detail of the same coal chute cover.

Detail of the same coal chute cover.

You will find more information and photographs concerning James Howell’s cast iron business at Walter Crutchfield’s blog, here and here and here.

James Howell entered politics in 1864, when he was elected a ward supervisor. He later served as an alderman, then as the 19th mayor of Brooklyn, serving two terms, 1877-1881. He was appointed a Brooklyn Bridge trustee in 1883 and was made president of the board two years later. Though he was deposed for one term, he was re-elected to the presidency and served in that capacity until his death. As the Brooklyn Eagle reported, “he was most energetic and industrious in introducing every possible modern improvement on that structure and took an active and leading part in planning the recent improvements in the shape of the new terminals and electric motor cars.”

Upon James Howell’s death in 1897, municipal flags in Brooklyn were lowered to half staff. Giant flags, 40 feet across, were flown from each of the Brooklyn Bridge’s two towers in honor of its late president. At the Brooklyn Bridge’s office, his portrait was twined in ferns and the chair he had occupied at trustees meetings “was carefully turned around and left unoccupied during the day.”

Over the years, as Green-Wood’s historian, I have led several Brooklyn Bridge tours of Green-Wood. But I must admit that I did not know anything about James Howell until this donation. I will add a visit to his grave–and that of his wife–to my next Brooklyn Bridge tour.

The final resting place of James and Annie Howell: section 113, lot 16983.

The final resting place of James and Annie Howell: section 113, lot 16983.

Many thanks to Linda Welsh for her generous donation. These items will help Green-Wood tell Brooklyn’s story.

 

4 thoughts on “Our Latest Donation

  1. I have a connection to James and Annie Howell. My great-great-grandfather’s brother, a 17 year old German immigrant, is buried in the Howell plot.

    The story is explained in this clipping from the Brooklyn Eagle: http://i.imgur.com/ZUJ1U8m.png

    My great-great-grandfather Carl was a music teacher for James Howell’s children in 1872. When Carl’s younger brother George fell off the Fulton Ferry and was missing/presumed dead, James Howell stepped in to help out by offering a reward for George’s body. His wife Annie comforted Carl and George’s sister, Bernhardine. He then arranged for George to be buried in the Howell plot. I have been to the Howell plot at Green-Wood and saw some unmarked stones. I assume one of those is for George.

    Thank you, Linda, for sharing these photos of two people who meant so much to my great-great-grandfather.

    • Thanks, Wendy, for sharing this. With more than half a million people interred here, Green-Wood has so many fascinating stories. So many of those stories are known only to their descendants–and it is always great to hear from one with such a touching tale.

    • I just checked our lot records. There is indeed a George Wagner who was interred in the Howell lot on June 20, 1872. According to the letter to the editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, written by Carl Wagner, George’s brother, George fell off the Fulton Ferry on June 13; six days later, after James Howell offered a reward for recovery of the body, it was in fact recovered, and the next day was interred at Green-Wood.

  2. My mother Elinore Baisley Wellington was James Howell’s Grandniece. Her maternal grandfather was his brother. Her mother was May Bird Howell (married name Wellington). I am very interested in information regarding James Howell and contacting the family.

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