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The Cartwright Family

By Joseph Lester Woodbridge

My grandfather, David Gardner Cartwright, was a native of Nantucket, Massachusetts. He was born in 1799, the year George Washington died, which I remember because he was wont to remark, with a twinkle in his eye, "One Star set and another one rose."

As a young man he went into the whaling business, going on many a trip around Cape Horn into the Pacific. He finally became captain of a whaling vessel, and was always known among his friends and acquaintances as Captain Cartwright.

He married a Nantucket girl by the name of Ceiley. I do not recall her first name. They moved to Brooklyn, soon after they were married, I believe, and he went into business in New York, trading in dairy products with the West Indies and British Guiana. He owned his home in Brooklyn, 456 Henry St., one of a row of brick houses. I can remember Grandma Cartwright only as a confirmed invalid, who died when I was perhaps 6 or 7 years old.

He had seven daughters and one son. The daughter's names were Harriet, Ellen, Emily, Martha, Irene (my mother), Cassine and Fanny. I am not sure that the above is in order of their ages. The son's name was Thomas, who died when I was a small boy. He was an officer in the Union army in the Civil War and I have his sword.

Of the daughters, Harriet married William Pease, and then settled in San Francisco. They had three sons. I used to correspond with the youngest, Lester. The next oldest was George and I think the name of the oldest was Edward. I have not heard from any of them for many years.

Irene Augusta, my mother, married Charles Lester Woodbridge in 1862, and there were four children, Irene Cartwright (Renie), Jos. Lester, Charles Edwards, and Sarah Elizabeth (Bessy), who later dropped the name Sarah. The history of the Woodbridge family will be given in another chapter.

Cassine married John Wilson, who was engaged in the sugar business in Philadelphia and was, I believe, quite wealthy. They had three sons, Edward, Howard and Arthur.

Edward and Arthur died as young men, unmarried. Howard married and had two boys. Cassine, (Aunt Cass), after the death of Uncle John, lived in New York and had a summer home in Castine, Me. Howard owned Nautilus Island, in the Penobscot River, off Castine.

Fanny was stricken with a mental derangement as a result of a childhood disease, and never matured mentally. She was cared for until she died in old age by the three unmarried sisters.

Capt. Cartwright owned a small cottage in Nantucket, on Prospect St. (see attached map) and he and some of the family spent their summers there, always leaving someone at the Brooklyn home to care for Aunt Fanny.

Family Houses on Nantucket

The Family of Charles Lester Woodbridge
And Irene (Cartwright) Woodbridge

My earliest memory is of the house at 300 Sackett St., Brooklyn, New York at the time of my sister Bessie's birth, when I was a little over 4 years old. I can recall one occasion, probably earlier, when my father was walking the floor with me early in the morning, and I heard a dismal ferry-boat whistle.

I had been staying with the Cartwright aunts at 456 Henry St. while waiting for the baby's arrival. I don't remember either Renie or Charles being with me, and think they must have been home. The nurse who attended mother was a Mrs. Roper. When we expressed curiosity as to where the baby came from we were told that Mrs. Roper brought her. Years later we used to tease Bessie by calling her Bessie Roper and telling her she wasn't one of the family.

Sackett St. was a horse-car line and I remember being severly scolded by my father for running across the street in front of an approaching car.

Renie and I played with other childern in the street. I wore long yellow curls, and the boys called me "girl-boy, girl-boy!" To relieve this situation my parents had the curls cut off. Then the boys shouted "shave-head monkey, riding on a donkey!"

One afternoon, Renie and I met father returning from business and Renie asked him, "Won't you please make me an arrow?" He replied, "Wouldn't you rather have me make you a wide?" She was puzzled for a minute and then saw the joke and was quite tickled. We moved to 356 Clinton St. when I was about eight years old. I do not remember going to school before that and must have been taught at home. From the Clinton St. house, we three went to a school run by a Mrs. Cook. We all liked her. It was about four or five blocks away. At Christmas time mother proposed that the scholars all contribute for a Christmas present for Mrs. Cook so we quietly took up a collection and mother bought a rustic flower stand containing growing plants and had it delivered the day before Christams. Renie was chosen to make the presentation after school. Mrs. Cook was so surprised and over come that she broke down and cried.

Clinton St. was parallel to Henry St. and two blocks away, and our house was in the corresponding block to that in which the Cartwright House was located so we were quite near them.

The next school we attended, Renie, Charly, and I, was the Morehouse School on the corner half a block from our house. The teaching staff consisted of Mrs. Morehouse, her daughter, Effie, and a paid teacher, Mrs. Walker. The teaching was very poor and I wonder if I learned anything. When I went to the Polytechnic at age 11, I was very impressed with the difference in teaching, and I enjoyed school from then on. Charley was transferred to the Juvenile High School on Livingson St. opposite the Polytechnic, and a preparatory school for later.

My grandfather Woodbridge (Joseph Effingham) was a tall, gaunt and rather austere man, with little sense of humor. Once, Charley made a pun on something he said, and he replied, "That's a mere play upon words without regard to truth."

I remember very little of grandmother Woodbridge (See Sarah E. Lester). During my early childhood they lived in Brooklyn not far from us. She was quite stout and an invalid toward the end and died while I was still small, perhaps four or five years old. Grandfather Woodbridge lived with us more or less after we moved to Clinton St. He had no regular business then, although I think he tried soliciting life insurance at times. He married again, I remember the wedding, which was the only time I saw the new wife, and they separated soon after, I believe, though I know nothing of the circumstances nor what became of her. She was a widow when he married her, as I recall his speaking of her son.

When I was about twelve years old we moved to 363 Henry St., a much larger house, it had five stories altogether beside the cellar. In the first floor, partly below street level, were the dining room and kitchen. The next floor, entered by a flight of stairs from the street, had two parlors, separated by an open archway, with two rooms in the rear, one of which was at the end of a long hall, which mother called the "growley" (a reference to "Bleak House", Dickens). With the thought that if anyone was in bad humor, he could shut himself up there and growl to his heart's content. At one time we had a Swedish "up-stairs" girl. Once she let in a caller who asked for my father, and she told him he was back in the "growlery".

The third story contained three bedrooms, one for Charley and me and one for Renie and two hall rooms, one at each end of the hall, of which Bessie occupied one. The fifth floor had two finished rooms at the back, one for the maids and the other was my den, and work-shop and chemical laboratory. The roof sloped down toward the front, providing a low ceilinged dark storeroom. The open space in the middle was where Charley built his second canoe (he had already built one) without thinking how he would get it out, leaving that problem to me after the family had gone down to Nantucket for the summer. I was left behind for a few weeks to finish the school term. Fortunately, the canoe could be squeezed through the back window of my den, and I hired a man to go up on the roof and let down a rope to which the canoe was attached and lowered to an empty lot at the side of the house.

While the children were very small, Mother was quite an invalid, and she had a series of housekeepers as well as maids, but later she recovered and managed the housekeeping herself. She always had a "down-stairs" girl and an "up-stairs" girl. The former received $12 or $13 per month and the latter $10 or $11.

During the early years of our family life we used to spend our summers in Nantucket, at Grandfather Cartwright's house at first and later at the house father bought on the corner of Milk and Vestal Sts. (see map attached). Later, beginning I believe with the summer of 1875, father hired summer cottage near New York, so that he could come out every night. In '75 we had a place at Mountainville, N.Y., and in '76 another place in the same vicinity. That summer we all went to the Phila. Centennial, staying with the Wilson family (Aunt Cassine), who lived on Logan Sq. I remember watching the big Corliss Engine (probably not very big by modern standards) which drove the machinery in Machinery Hall. I also remember the machinery produced the Centennial Stamped Envelopes, which were very wonderful. Uncle John Wilson drove us out to the grounds in his carriage drawn by a span of hourses.

Subsequent summers we spent at Sparkhill, N.Y. (77), Harrison, N.Y. on L.I. Sound (78), Greenwich, Conn. (79), Morris Plains, N.J. (80), Islip, Long Island (81), Mattawan, N.Y (near Fishkill) (82), and back to Nantucket in '83. It was during the summer of '83 that I got acquainted with the Foster Family, and Renie and Edith Foster became intimate friends.

Those summers on Nantucket are delightful memories. My father had owned a horse since the summer of 1878 and I had care of him in the summer and he was kept in a livery stable near us in the winter. At the back of the Vestal St. house in Nantucket was a barn, originally a school house, where the horse was kept. We had a box wagon as well as a lighter carriage, and father bought a sectional canvas covered boat. The frame was in three sections which fitted into the back of the box wagon. On arriving at one of the ponds the frame was hooked together and the canvas stretched over and it would carry about four people for fishing on the pond. The fish were white perch and we caught many a fine mess, at Miacomet Pond, Hummock Pond, and Long Pond.

Grandfather Cartwright was very fond of pond fishing and used to go out in the canvas boat. The camp seats that came with the boat were rather low for him, so we got a higher one. On one occasion the boat gave a lurch, fortunately near the shore, and he fell head first into the pond. It was only waist deep when I jumped in after him and I got him to shore safely. We bundled him up in robes and got him home as fast as possible, and he was none the worse for the ducking(sic).

During the Nantucket summers we got well acquainted with the Foster family - four girls, Lillian, Mary, Edith, and Mabel - having sailing parties with blue-fishing, tennis (we had a tennis court on our lawn), picnics and Whist in the evenings. We had a musical quartet in our family. I played cello and piano, Charley played viola, and Bessie piano.

During one of the early Nantucket summers, probably '85, we built a six-room bath house on the north shore beach just beyond the public bath houses. It was located on the U.S. government property on which the harbor light-house (Big-Light, so called) was located. The light-house keeper was very friendly and allowed us the use of the land. The bath-house was started by Charley and Elmer Bell ( a Brooklyn boy of our aquaintance) while I was still finishing my summer work at Steven's Inst., but I came down to Nantucket in time to help finish the job. Later we added two more rooms and drove a shallow well in the rear. We struck fresh water (only slightly brackish) about 10 ft down.

Elmer Bell was the son of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Bell, intimate friends of the Cartwright family. Mr. Bell had organized, and was superintendent of, the Pilgrim Chapel, sponsored by Dr. Storr's Church as a mission chapel in the poorer district not far from the Cartwright house on Henry St. Aunt Ellen had a women's bible class there, and father had a large men's Bible class. Renie and I both taught classes there for a while. When Mr. Bell resigned to start another mission chapel in another part of the city, John Brittan Clark took charge of the Pilgrim Chapel, where he met Renie. He was a graduate of the Adelphi Academy where Edith Foster graduated, and he later graduated from Amherst.

For Christmas 1881, my father gave me a camera. The dryplate (on glass) was just being introduced which gave amateur photography its start. I took a great many pictures during subsequent summers, and have quite a collection. I developed the negatives and made prints and mounted them. I had a large closet in my room at 363 Henry St. which I used as a darkroom with a red kerosine lantern. That was before the days of electric lights.

During my latter years at the Polytechnic, I became intimate with Guss Kibbe who graduated from the classical course in 1883 when I graduated from the scientific course. He then went to the Renesselaer Polytechnic Inst. at Troy. While I took post-graduate courses at the Poly and graduated again with a degree of B.S. Gus Kibbe was the only intimate boy friend I ever had. He spent a few weeks with us in Nantucket during the summer of '84 and was always a very "live wire."

After graduating the Poly in '84, I entered the Junior Class at Steven's Inst. of Technology in Hoboken (class of '86), where I graduated with the degree of Mech. Engineer.

In the fall of '86, I took a position in the Engineering Department of the Edison Electric Light Co. in New York. This company controlled the Edison patents and was engaged in organizing local electric light companies in various cities, and towns and in the engineering of their power plants and distribution systems. There I made the acquaintance of William S. Turner, and in 1887, we resigned to form the partnership of Woodbridge and Turner, for entering into contracts for the construction of electric railways, which were being introduced. My father and his father furnished funds for getting us started. Later we incorporated as the Woodbridge and Turner Engineering Company. Mr. George A. Bell took some stock in the company, and Elmer Bell was an employee and later, Gus Kibbe.

We made some money, but during the depression of '92-'94 our capital became tied up in a contract in Washington, D.C., which we could not collect and our company was finally wound up.

From '95 to '98, I managed to make a precarious living doing consulting work and handling some business for the Electric Storage Battery Co. on commisson and finally, in the spring of '98, I secured a position with the Electric Storage Battery Co. as an engineer of their Boston Office.

In the meanwhile we had moved in 1885 from Brooklyn to Rutherford, N.J., (here he developed axel lighting with storage batteries) where we lived until we moved to Cambridge, Mass. in March 1898. I transfered to the main office in Phila. Jan. 1, 1900, with the title of Chief Engineer of the E.S.B. Co., which position I held until I reached retirement age, Jan. 1, 1941. From then until Sept. 1946, I was employed part time in a consulting capacity in the Patent Dept. In 1923, I was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Engineering by Steven's Institute.

Upon moving to Phila. early in 1900, we joined the Germantown Unitarian Church, then located at the corner of Greene St. and Chelten Ave. In 1907, I was made Supt. of the Sunday School, which position I held until the Sunday School was reorganized by Mr. Forbes soon after he became our minister in 1917.

When we settled in Phila. in 1900, we rented the house at 329 E. Walnut Lane. In 1906, we moved to 137 E. Cliveden Ave. and in 1913 we moved to the School Lane Apts. on the corner of School Lane and Pulaski St. In 1918, we moved to 171 Maplewood Ave. In 1921, we bought and moved into the house we now occupy at 524 Artubus Street.