Saturday, April 13, 2013

Strubbe Plot and A Mystery Man

In February of last year I went to the Hoboken Cemetery in North Bergen, NJ, to meet my third cousin for the first time. Ruth's gr-grandmother, Eleonora Strubbe Menke, and my gr-grandfather, William Strubbe, were siblings. For years she had a photograph hanging in her house of my William and she wanted to pass it along to me. The Strubbe and Menke plots were fairly close and easy to find.

There are 13 people buried in the Strubbe plot. All are family members except for one person I called the mystery man. My Aunt Midge had always told me a story about Grandpa Strubbe burying someone who had jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge but I could never find anything about him until last August. . .


This is the photograph that Ruth gave me. I just love it! William evidently gave it to his sister as a present in 1895. On the back he wrote, "Striped bass, weight 7-3/4 lbs, caught off Liberty Island, May 13, 1894." Imagine fishing near the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor? 

William purchased the plot at Hoboken Cemetery for $90.00 on September 17, 1884 the day his one-month old son, Freddie, died in NYC. 

The deed states the plot is on Magnolia Avenue between Magnolia and the Flower Hill Path containing "180 superficial feet."

This is an early photograph taken when the Hoboken Cemetery was in its prime.

Sometime in the 1970s Aunt Midge and I took some not-so-great photos. The gate with the inscription "W. & A. Strubbe 1886" was still there as was the red dot on the gravestone indicating perpetual care.    

And this is a photograph of the plot in 2004 that I found on the internet. The gate was missing.

So here's the story about our mystery man. Note the name Chr. Reiman  on the gravestone. After multiple searches on Ancestry and in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and NY Times newspapers, I finally came across an article that I found on the Old Fulton NY site which tells it all: 

NY Herald, 5 May 1900:
Foreseeing Death, Gave Away His Money. Friend of Man Killed by Fall from Brooklyn Bridge Gets His Bank Account.
William Strubbe has, by the report of Rollin M. Morgan, referee, become entitled to the estate of his friend, Christian Rieman, who was killed on November 19, 1898 by falling from the Brooklyn Bridge. The aggregate value of the estate is $3,388.
Rieman was a seafaring man for years. He left Germany when a boy of twelve and came to this country to make a fortune, but he spent the greater part of his life on the sea. For more than ten years he was a rigger employed on the Brooklyn Bridge. So far as is known he had no relatives, and boarded with Strubbe and his family at No. 26 Rose street.
Having had several narrow escapes from death, and realizing that his work was of a dangerous character he had a premonition that he would die as the result of an accident on the Bridge. He told Strubbe of this, and in the summer of 1891 gave Strubbe two bank books, saying to him:--"Here, Bill, you are the only friend I've got: these bank books are yours: in case of an accident, bury me decently. Buy a plot and tombstone and put a railing around it, and what is left is yours."
When his friend died, Strubbe took proceedings in the Supreme Court to recover the money Rieman had had in the bank. The referee in his report finds that Rieman made a gift of the bank books to Strubbe, and that he is entitled to judgment for the amount on deposit.  

I immediately sent the article to my cousin, Ruth, and told her it kind of gave me the "willies."  But I was very happy to have finally found out what happened to our mystery man.

Ruth took this photo of the Strubbe plot in the foreground and her Menke plot with the tall monument in the center of the pic. We know William and Eleonora planned it this way and that they would be together forever :)

Copyright 2013, Barbara Schaffer


  1. Isn't it like a sigh of relief when you figure something out? I too love quilts and ancestry. I inherited our family's photos back to the mid-1800's and had an interesting time trying to figure out why my great-gma was listed as have 3 maiden names??? Long story, but I did it.
    Have a beautiful Monday - so glad to find your blog.

    1. Thanks for visiting! It was a 'wow' moment for me when that article popped up in a Strubbe search. I could hardly believe my eyes :)