October 30, 2021

My Gram – Grandmother Scribner

My Gram, Theresa Eugenia Gordon Scribner, known as “Jean”, was born in Brooklyn in 1888, the fourth child of John Calvin Gordon and his wife Helen King Gordon.  Her mother was the daughter of Irish immigrants.  John was a carpenter in his younger years, and a local Brooklyn, New York builder by the time that Jean was born.  The couple had six children between 1883 and 1902.   In 1912, at the age of 24, Jean married Henry “Harry” Dickinson Scribner and they made a home in Brooklyn.

It was several years after they married before Jean and Harry’s first child, Virginia, was born.  In recent years, I have learned that Jean spent some of that time working as a nurse or Red Cross worker.  This was during the time of World War I, and I expect that many wounded soldiers were returning home for medical treatment.

My Gram was always quite proud of her early family history connections.  One Christmas I received a cute small purse that was made with the blue & green wool of the Gordon clan tartan – I still have it.  My brothers got Gordon tartan ties that same year.  Gram also knew that her grandmother was a Snedeker and that her Snedeker ancestors were early New York settlers in the Oyster Bay and Flatbush areas dating back to the 1600’s [see the blog posts for An Early Snedeker Immigrant, February 2021, and Echoes of a Past Epidemic, April 2020 for some of her Snedeker family history].

Jean’s mother, Helen King Gordon, died unexpectedly in early 1919, possibly from the Spanish flu epidemic, while visiting one of her daughters, Lillian, in Washington, D.C.  After that, Helen Marie, the youngest Gordon sibling, came to live with Jean and Harry for a couple of years until Helen married.

Jean and Harry had three children during their early years in Brooklyn, and later moved the family to a home in Huntington, Long Island.  In 1943, Harry died when my father was 19 years old.  Jean continued to live in their Long Island home for another 27 years.  Theresa Eugenia Gordon Scribner died in late 1970.

 

My memories of my Gram were limited because as a military family, we never lived near New York.  There were always phone calls with my parents, and occasional trips to New York to visit, probably over the holidays or summers, and several times that she came to visit us when we lived in Florida, Arizona and New Mexico.  I remember her lovely home, a grandfather clock sticks in my mind, and also big holiday meals, Thanksgiving, Christmas or both in her dining room.

Gram was always quite proper, and we usually had to do a lot of spring cleaning before she arrived at our home for a visit; and then once she arrived, we had to be on our best behavior.  It sounds like she was difficult to get along with, and maybe she was, but I’m not sure that was really the case.  I remember that Gram was kind, and I think that everyone was just careful because we knew that she had high expectations for most everything in life, and my brothers, sister and I simply weren’t around her enough to be really comfortable with her.  

I always knew that Gram was a generous person.  Each birthday each of us would get a card with a little cash, and she would send each of my parents a generous check on their birthday with clear instructions that they were not to spend the money on family needs, but were instead to buy something special for themselves.  I remember that my mother would cash her check and then keep her birthday money in an envelope in her dresser.  Sometimes it would be months before she spent it.  I can remember shopping with Mom when she would decide to buy something with her birthday money – it was a real treat for her.

Another thing that my Gram very much believed in was for her granddaughters (she had 3 granddaughters and 7 grandsons) to know that we should always be willing to, and able to, support ourselves.  Good advice from someone who spent much of her life as a widow.  

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Key Individuals:

     John Calvin Gordon  (1860 – 1945)

     Helen Teresa King Gordon  (1861 – 1919)

             Theresa Eugenia Gordon Scribner  (1888 – 1970)

             Henry Dickinson Scribner  (1880 – 1943)

 

Notes: 

I recently came across a note that Gram wrote to me in 1970 while I was in high school and living in New Mexico.  In the note, you can also tell that she felt the loss of our family not living near enough to see her very often.  I must have sent her a school picture.  It reads:

“Dearest Jane, Thank you for the darling picture of you, it is nice to have and see how you have grown up, very pretty indeed; if I may say so, without you thinking of me as a foolish proud Grandma, but I have missed the pleasure of living near enough to enjoy those early years... Take care of your parents and much love to all.  Gram”                                           

Another Gram story had to do with my desire to get my ears pierced in high school.  The answer was definitely not until I was 18 years old, and was accompanied with the comment that “Your Gram would roll over in her grave.”  And, yes, I had my ears pierced once I turned 18.

- Jane Scribner McCrary

October 15, 2021

The Grandfather I Never Knew

I’ve decided to stay with the family of my Scribner paternal grandparents for the next couple of blog posts.  My paternal grandfather died before my parents even met, thus I never knew him at all.  But I do know about him and will share some of that in this blog post.  Henry Dickinson Scribner, known as Harry, was born in the Mystic area of New London, Connecticut in 1880, probably at the home of his widowed grandmother, Mary Ann Brown Dickinson Hale.  

Harry’s parents were Captain David Alba Scribner & Virginia Augusta Hale Scribner.  Harry was David & Virginia’s second child, with an older brother, Wallace Flint Scribner.  Unfortunately, Wallace died of illness when Harry was only a year old.

After the loss of young Wallace, the family grew with the subsequent addition of two sisters Mary and Ella.  For the first 12 years of Harry’s life, Virginia and the children accompanied Captain David on his clipper ship voyages, also spending time with grandparents in Maine and Connecticut between trips.  The trade routes at the time were mostly between New York and San Francisco going south around the Cape Horn of South America.

 


In the 1890’s the decision was made to settle the family in Brooklyn, New York mostly so that Harry could begin formal schooling.  The family eventually moved to a brownstone home on Garfield Street in Brooklyn in 1894, and New York became the home port for Harry’s father, Captain David A Scribner. 

As a young man, Harry attended the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute where he studied to become an electrical engineer.  He worked for New York Telephone Company for 40 years, as a Vice President in his later years. 

Henry Dickinson Scribner married Theresa Eugenia Gordon in 1912.  They lived first in Brooklyn, and then in 1929 the family moved to a new home in Huntington, Long Island.  Harry & Jean had three children – two daughters, Virginia and Jeanne, and a son Robert.  The children were all born in Brooklyn, and later Long Island became home.

My dad told the story that his father would bring home and install another telephone whenever a new model was introduced that he liked.  He said that they probably had a dozen phones in their house, at least one in each room!  One day when my dad was looking at the above photo of their home, he pointed out that there were lots of telephone wires running to the house.  As a benefit of Harry’s employment, the Scribner family didn’t have to pay for phones or phone service.  Even long distance calls which were quite expensive were free for the family, and that benefit continued for many years after Harry’s death until his wife, Jean, also passed on.

Harry Scribner had many interests. He was very active with local scouting organizations.  And he enjoyed sailing, boat building and playing tennis, as well.  Harry even built a clay tennis court in the back of their home in Long Island.  

Harry was an avid photographer and was involved with both the Huntington and the Brooklyn Camera Clubs.  Several of his photos were even recognized at camera competitions, and at least one was accepted and hung in the Annual Exhibition at the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in 1930.  Several of his photographic prints from that time have been kept in the family, I’ll share a few:




The son of a mariner, Harry always retained his love for the sea and frequently enjoyed sailing small boats and yachts.  My Dad remembers helping his father build 14-foot catboat in the cellar of the Long Island house when he was young.  According to my Dad, “It was built out of oak ribs and cypress planking, and believe me it was heavy. After it was built in one winter and caulked, we hoisted it out of the cellar by block and tackle.  We were lucky that our back door was opposite the cellar door so it was a straight shot outside after we had removed all the trim around the doors.  We almost had to grease it to get it through the doors.”  Harry shared his love for boating and the sea with all of his children, and they loved it as well.


Henry Dickinson Scribner died unexpectedly from a heart attack at 62 years of age when my Dad was only 19 years old.  Harry died before any of his 10 grandchildren were born, and I believe before he retired from New York Telephone.

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Key Individuals:          

     Capt David Alba Scribner  (1840 – 1911)

     Virginia Augusta Hale Scribner  (1848 – 1940)

             Henry (Harry) Dickinson Scribner  (1880 – 1943)

             Theresa Eugenia Gordon Scribner  (1888 – 1970)

- Jane Scribner McCrary

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