A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

History: Dr Carl Gesswein, Matawan Physician (1881 - 1956)

Charles Albert "Carl" Gesswein was a prominent medical doctor with an office at the corner of Church and Main Streets and a home at 205 Main Street in Matawan for many years. He born on 30 May 1881, in Canton, Ohio, married Bessie Morrow about 1906, and died on 19 Mar 1956 at Riverview Hospital in Red Bank after a long illness.

In the 1881 Canton City Directory, Carl's father Gustave L Gesswein was foreman at the Diebold Safe and Lock Co and lived at 148 South Cherry Street in Canton. In a separate section of the directory, G Gesswein was listed as the 4th Ward's member of the school board. His term of office was due to expire in 1890.

Gustave appeared in the 1888-1889, 1889-1890, and 1891-1892 Canton City Directories.

Carl was a student living with his parents, Gustave J and Mary Gesswein, at 506 Bucher, Canton, OH, in the 1896 Canton City Directory. Carl's sister Laura was in the same household; she was working as a bookkeeper at the co-op grocery. His sister Rose was also there, listed as a stenographer.

Carl was a student living with his parents, Gustave and Marie Gesswein, in Hamilton, OH in the 1900 Federal Census. His father, who was born in Sep 1850 in Germany and came to the US five years later, was superintendent of a safe manufacturer in Hamilton, OH. Home to three major safe companies, Hamilton was considered the Safe Capital of the World at the time. Carl's mother was born in Feb 1856 in the portion of Virginia that would become West Virginia; her father was born in Germany and mother in Switzerland. Gustav and Marie were married about 1877 and had four children, one of which had died by 1900.

The 1900 Hamilton City Directory showed Gustave as Superintendent of the Mosler Safe Company, Grand Boulevard, East Hamilton. Their residence was at 229 North 7th Street in Hamilton. Carl was a clerk at Mosler. Gustave's wife was Mary A Gesswein. Carl's sisters Laura and Rose were in the household but listed no occupations.

Carl was a student in the 1902 Hamilton City Directory. Laura was a stenographer, while the other details above remained the same.

Carl was a medical student in the 1904 Hamilton City Directory. The other details above remained the same.

Carl finished undergraduate work at the University of Cincinnati, then medical school at the University of Illinois, Urbana, according to his obituary. He opened a medical office in Plainfield, NJ in 1904.

Carl married Bessie Morrow about 1906. Bessie and her fraternal twin, Jesse Morrow, were born in Oct 1879, children of John and Ada Morrow, according to the 1900 Federal Census. The family lived in Hamilton, OH, where John was a salesman. The twins were born in Seven Mile, OH, according to Bessie's obituary, which showed her name as Bessie Hudson Morrow. Her burial record and Carl's obituary both showed her maiden name as Hudson, but the Hudson connection was not obvious. John and Ada had been married 29 years in the 1900 Census and the children showed Pennsylvania parental birth places, matching John and Ada.

Carl and Bessie were enumerated at 102 Central Avenue in Plainfield, NJ in the 1910 Federal Census. He was a doctor with his own office. He and Bessie had been married for four years at the time.

Carl appeared with a business listing in the 1912 Plainfield City Directory. He was a physician with hours 8 - 10 am, 1 - 3 pm, and 7 - 8 pm. His residence was at 102 Central Avenue in Plainfield, NJ. His phone was 730-J. His father Gustave was listed in the household; he was working as a superintendent in Philadelphia. The women were not listed.

Carl was listed with physicians in the 1914, 1915 and 1916 Plainfield City Directories. Each showed his 102 Central Avenue address.

Carl and Bessie moved to Matawan in 1916, according to his obituary. The 14 Dec 1916 edition of The Matawan Journal contained this report:

"Dr. George G. Reynolds has sold his house on Main Street to Dr. Carl A. Gesswein of Plainfield, who, with his wife, moves here to-day. Dr. Gesswein is a graduate of The Chicago College of Physicians and Surgeons, with twelve years' experience of practicing medicine and has had experience as operating surgeon in the Plainfield Hospital."

An advertisement for Dr C A Gesswein appeared in the 1 Nov 1917 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 6, col 5). His office was at the corner of Main and Church Sts, telephone 214, was open early in the morning (7:30 - 9 am), afternoon (1 - 3 pm), and evening (7 - 8:30 pm).

By the time Carl registered for the WWI draft in Sep 1918, he and Bessie were living at 205 Main Street in Matawan. He was of medium height and build with brown hair and grey eyes and was keeping a medical office at 30 Church Street, according to that record.

Carl's parents and two unmarried sisters were living in his 205 Main Street household in the 1920 Federal Census. His father was no longer working. (This record, in contrast to the 1900 record above, says that Gustave emigrated to the US in 1870 and was naturalized in 1875. And Marie's parents were both born in Switzerland in this record.) Carl's sister Laura was a secretary at the Episcopal church.

Carl and Bessie's household at 205 Main Street in the 1930 Federal Census included his parents, his sister Laura, and Bessie's sister's daughter Lillian Kenny. Lillian was a nurse in an office, presumably Carl's medical office.

Carl's parents went to Germany and spent several weeks there in the early fall of 1930, according to an Oct 1930 article reprised in the 1 Oct 1970 edition of The Matawan Journal. The article revealed that Gustav held the title of Justice of the Peace.

The doctor hit the news in 1930 when he recommended testing the water in Lake Matawan for toxins.

In Jun 1931, Carl took Bessie and their niece Lillian Kenny to Philadelphia, where he attended the convention of the American Medical Association, according to a history article in the 17 Jun 1971 edition of The Matawan Journal.

Bessie hosted the Matawan Women's Club at her home to hear the Mayor Edward Currie speak on municipal management, according to the 25 Nov 1932 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1, col 3). (Her  attendance in the early 1950s at a Former Presidents of the New Jersey Federation of Women's Clubs suggests that she served as president of the Matawan Women's Club at some point.)

Bessie hosted the Wednesday Afternoon Bridge Club at her home, according to the 25 Jul 1935 edition of The Red Bank Register.

Carl maintained a flower garden on the lot where Daniel B Strong had a store for many years, according to the 16 Aug 1935 edition of The Matawan Journal. (You can also see the text of the 1935 article at History of Singer Sewing Machines in Monmouth and Middlesex Counties in his blog.)

The 1940 Federal Census showed Carl and Bessie hosting his unwed sister Laura and an adult niece named Lillian Kenny at their 205 Main Street residence. Lillian was a technician, office assistant.

Carl served on the committee for the annual dance benefit for Riverview hospital, according to the 18 Jul 1940 edition of The Red Bank Register.

Carl's medical office was at 35 Church Street in 1942, according to his WWII draft registration papers.  He and Bessie were at 205 Main Street and their phone number was 214. He was 5'8" tall and 200 lbs with grey hair and had a tattoo on his arm.

During WWII, Carl was chief of emergency medical services of the Matawan Borough Defense Council.

Carl worked on the staff at Monmouth Medical, Riverview and South Amboy hospitals. He served as the school physician for the Matawan Township school district. He also worked in Holmdel Township. He was a former member of the Monmouth County Medical Society.

Carl served on the Board of Directors of Matawan Bank and attained the presidency of the bank, according to his obituary. The 12 Jul 1951 edition of The Matawan Journal had a public notice of the accounts of this bank, showing Carl as president.

Carl was a member of Matawan Lodge #192 F & AM {Free and Accepted Masons}, according to his obituary.

Bessie was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, according to her obituary. She served as President of the Glenwood Mission Band until 1950, according to the 19 Jan 1950 edition of The Matawan Journal. She was also a circle member, among other activities of the church. She was also active in the Matawan branch of the American Red Cross. She is mentioned in this context in the 13 Apr 1950 edition of The Matawan Journal.

Bessie died of a heart attack on 11 Nov 1952 at their home in Matawan, according to the 13 Nov 1952 edition of The Matawan Journal. Her funeral was to be conducted by Rev Chester Galloway of the First Presbyterian Church on 14 Nov 1952, with burial to follow at Old Tennent Cemetery.

Carl resigned as Matawan Township schools physician in Feb 1955 due to illness, according to the 24 Feb 1955 edition of The Matawan Journal (pg 1, cols 4-5). He also resigned as schools physician in Holmdel, according to the 14 Jul 1955 edition of The Red Bank Register.

Carl's obituary appeared in the 22 Mar 1956 edition of The Matawan Journal, (pp 1, 4). His funeral was conducted by Chester Galloway of the First Presbyterian Church. Burial was on 22 Mar 1956 at Old Tennent Churchyard in Tennent, NJ, according to Find-a-Grave.

Carl left $45,000 and the balance of his estate, minus $30,000 in directed bequests, to Lillian Kenny, his niece, according to the 12 Apr 1956 edition of The Matawan Journal. The bequests went to cousins and nieces as well as his late wife's twin brother.


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