A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Friday, April 13, 2012

History: George J Craigen, 2 Cliffwood Brick Companies, and Antoinette Eisenbach, Cliffwood Beach

One thing led to another as I researched George Craigen and his association with two local brick companies, so I've just included everything in the one article. Sorry if it is long, but there were lots of leads. It's been three days. There is plenty more to do, but I'll save those pieces for another time. Here's what I've learned so far.

George John Craigen was born 9 Jun 1851 in Woolwich, England, according to his US passport application dated 20 Apr 1922 in Brooklyn, NY.

Craigen maintained two residences and was enumerated twice during the 1920 Federal Census, which is not supposed to happen but does occasionally. I found two records for a George J Craigen, age 68, born in England to Scottish parents, married, brick company president. There's little doubt it is the same man. It seems he and his family maintained a permanent residence in Brooklyn and he maintained a second residence for himself in Keyport, which was then part of Raritan Township.

One 1920 census record showed Craigen living at 165 Broadway, Keyport, Raritan Township, where his occupation was president of a brick company. He was head of household at that address, as was a 67-year old widow named Lillian Wells (?), her daughter Hilda and a son-in-law. In that record, he entered the US in 1886 and was naturalized in 1896.

The other 1920 census record showed him living in Brooklyn with his 67-year old wife Eliza, daughter Jessie Applegate, a grandson George Applegate, and a second daughter named Annie Craigen. The second record showed him as a brick manufacturer and that he, his wife and daughters arrived in the US in 1888 and the couple received their naturalization in 1893.

His naturalization actually took place in Brooklyn on 12 Mar 1894, according to an index of naturalizations found at Ancestry.com.

New York Tax Department

Craigen was Assistant Chief Clerk for the New York Tax Department until the early 1900's, when he had a dispute with his employer over the rights to a book he had written. His book on property appraisal methods was quite popular, so when New York sought the rights claimed by its employee to the profits from the book, Craigen quit. There is an interesting summary of this part of Craigen's life in the 20 Apr 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 1 col 4, excerpted below.

Mr Craigen was for many years Assistant Chief Clerk in the New York Tax Department and during his spare time out of business hours he studied up a principle for valuing properties equitably, which the city adopted. Other cities heard of him and his book and he was invited to describe by some of the larger cities of the country. He copyrighted his book and it was printed at considerable expense and was [illegible] a comfortable income from other cities which might adopt it. The New York authorities, however, desired him to turn the work over to the city, but as he had prepared it outside of the city's time he declined to do so, and it became a question of complying with the demand or losing his position. He resigned and since then has devoted his time to the manufacture of brick here. The title of his book is "Practical Methods for Appraising Lands, Buildings and Improvements" and the demand for it comes from real estate appraisers as well as municipalities and he has sold copies of it in many cities of the United States and Canada.

Lenox Brick Company

Lenox Brick Co (Brick Collecting)

Craigen was employed by the Lenox Brick Company in Cliffwood from its founding in about 1905 until 1916, when as president of Lenox he leveraged his control of the lease to the Lenox plant to start his own brick company under the same roof but in his own name and with some innovative new equipment he had invented and was in the process of patenting, according to "CRAIGEN BRICK COMPANY; Incorporated Last Week and Will Operate Plant of Lenox Brick Co.", which can be found in the 20 Apr 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 1 col 4, excerpted below.

George J. Craigen, former president of the Lenox Brick Company of Cliffwood, some time ago leased from the brick company its plant and property for a period of ten years, and last Friday turned it over to the Craigen Brick Company. . .

The New Jersey State Legislature held hearings on 3 and 10 Oct 1911 with George Craigen representing Lenox Brick Company and G I Brown representing Jersey Central Traction Company, according to Documents of the Legislature of the State of New Jersey, pp 351-2.

Lenox had filed a petition to install railroad tracks across a Monmouth County route known as the Keyport and South Amboy Stone Road in the Township of Matawan. The tracks would connect a siding at the brickyard with the New York and Long Branch Railroad. Furthermore, Lenox wanted to connect the siding with tracks of the Jersey Central Traction Company, which paralleled the Stone Road. The construction of the tracks would require crossing the Jersey Central Traction rails. The Monmouth Board of Chosen Freeholders had already approved this plan on 14 Jun 1911, according to certification presented to the Legislature.

The Legislature granted the petition to cross the Stone Road to connect the siding to the railroad but, after inspections were conducted, denied the request to cross the Stone Road to connect with the Jersey Central Traction rails as this could be done without crossing the Stone Road.

Presumably the Keyport and South Amboy Stone Road was a former iteration of Route 35. I've not researched it yet. If anyone knows about this, I'd be interested.

Brick Collecting has a short piece on the Lenox Brick Company, including a photo of a Lenox brick found in Yonkers, NY, at their website in an article titled Hudson River and New England Brick Collection and Identifier A-L. They claim to have found a Champlain Brick Co brick with the Lenox brick, but I believe,based on the photo, that they found a Cliffwood Brick Company brick. (Compare the photos and decide for yourself)

Craigen Brick Company

Craigen established Craigen Brick Company of Cliffwood in 1916, according to "CRAIGEN BRICK COMPANY; Incorporated Last Week and Will Operate Plant of Lenox Brick Co.", which can be found in the 20 Apr 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 1 col 4, excerpted below.

George J. Craigen, former president of the Lenox Brick Company of Cliffwood, some time ago leased from the brick company its plant and property for a period of ten years, and last Friday turned it over to the Craigen Brick Company, which was incorporated with $50,000 capital.

The officers of the new company are:
  • President-—George J. Craigen.
  • Vice-president—Charles Frank, Jr.
  • Secretary—Frank J. Bell.
  • Treasurer—George M. Craigen.
Mr. Craigen has been connected with the.former company since it began business at Cliffwood ten or more years ago. He is of the inventive turn of mind and has been at work for some months on a brickmaking machine that would be an improvement over those on the market. He believes he has accomplished what he set out to do and has a machine working successfully on the plant and has applied to the government for letters patent, the application still pending.

Not being satisfied with the reputation of having invented one machine, he turned his attention to a clay digging apparatus and has perfected a machine that will do the work of fifteen men in a given time and it is a decided improvement over any now in operation.

Application for a patent has also been made for this machine and it naturally follows that if the two applications are granted, Mr Craigen will derive considerable monetary revenue as a result of his inventive genius. At any rate his many friends in this section and in Manhattan will rejoice with him over the success which apparently is about to crown his efforts.

Craigen Brick Company seems to have still been headed by Craigen in 1928, according to the 2 Mar 1928 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 7 col 2. I found no references to it after that date.

Craigen and the Borough Building and Loan

George J Craigen, of Craigen Brick Co, was an early subscriber to the Borough Building and Loan, according to pg 8 of the 16 Oct 1919 edition of The Matawan Journal. The building and loan supported home building in Keyport and Matawan. A list of subscribers appears in the paper, as well as the conditions for earnings and loans.

Craigen and The Cliffwood Fire House

Helen Henderson's "Matawan and Aberdeen: Of Town and Field," pp 103-4, mentioned that George Craigen, of Craigen Brick Company of Cliffwood, donated the brick for construction of a firehouse for the Cliffwood Volunteer Fire Company No 1. The fire company was incorporated in 1927 and the firehouse was built a year later. "The Township of Matawan: 1857 - 1957", pg 43, includes the information about George Craigen's donation as well.

Below is an excerpt of the source of this information, an article about the building of the firehouse found in the 2 Mar 1928 edition of The Matawan Journal, pg 7 col 2.

The Building Committee, who have nursed the idea through to a not-distant practical realization and who have made the necessary financial connections to make its construction possible, consist of Lewis Stemler, Homer Matheson, and Michael Sayben. Mr. Matheson graciously donated his services as an architect in working out the plans and specifications for the new building and the firemen consider themselves very fortunate, indeed, to have in their midst these three men of such high capability.

The site chosen for the erection of the new fire house is a large lot formerly part of the Thomas Ryan property. This lot is located just one block north of Cliffwood Avenue and a few hundred feet west of the State Highway. Mr. Ryan graciously donated this lot in consideration of a small payment to equal taxes he had paid on this lot during a few years previous. Another public spirited citizen back of the firemen is George Craigen, who has very kindly offered to donate a large portion of the brick necessary in the construction of the new home.


A couple of interesting if unrelated asides drawn from the next part of the above article:

The Entertainment Committee announced the intention of holding a dance and social at Eisenbach's, Cliffwood Beach, on Saturday evening, March 24th. Mrs. Leonard Kramer has donated a rug which will be disposed of on the co-operative plan and be awarded on the evening of the dance.

1) Gambling was apparently not mentioned aloud in good company in 1928, so The Journal had to talk around the fact that the firehouse planned to raffle off a rug at its upcoming party. I wonder if Atlantic City has ever called gambling winnings an "award on the cooperative plan"?

2) The Eisenbach Lunch Room, aka Eisenbach's, was a popular social venue in Cliffwood Beach in 1928. Besides the dance benefit for the Cliffwood Fire House in March mentioned above, the Matawan Township Taxpayers Association held a meeting there in April and the Cliffwood Beach Welfare Association held a masquerade ball there in November, according to the 20 Apr 1928 and 16 Nov 1928 editions of The Matawan Journal.

Hermann and Antoinette Eisenbach, wedding photo.
Eisenbach's was owned and operated by the widow Antoinette Eisenbach nee Antonia Bertha Sophie Menzel. Above is a photo of her with her late husband, Hermann Eisenbach. Her sister Emma was married to John Marz, Jr, chairman of the township commitee for many years and first mayor of Matawan Township.

The 1920 Federal Census showed Antoinette living on 145th Street in Manhattan with her 20 year old daughter Rose Lewis, son-in-law Henry M Lewis, a young clerk in an accountant's office, and their infant son, John R Lewis.

The 1930 Federal Census showed an Antonio Eisenbach, female, head of household, grocer, living in Matawan Township. She was 54 years old and born in Germany to German parents. She immigrated to the US in 1896 and was a naturalized US citizen. Perhaps this is a reference to her proper name Antonia?

The 19 Apr 1935 edition of The Matawan Journal announced the near completion of plans for the opening of Mrs Eisenbach's new beergarden. This story was covered in the Community News section under the subtitle Cliffwood.

Antoinette Eisenbach and Emma Marz
In the late 1950's there were more mentions of Eisenbach's. The Cliffwood Beach Welfare Association held its regular meeting in the back of Eisenbach's store in Cliffwood Beach, according to the 27 Dec 1956 edition of The Matawan Journal. Thirty people attended. The Matawan Township Committee hosted a harmony get-together dinner for 30 guests at Mrs Antoinette Eisenbach's tavern in Cliffwood Beach, according to the 31 Dec 1959 edition of The Matawan Journal. She and her sister Emma Marz prepared the meal.

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