The marriage certificate confirms the marriage of Sarah Van Pelt (b. Staten Island 1811 – d. 1880) and Jeremiah Smith (b. Long Island 1810 – d. 1891) and is dated June 15, 1831. The marriage occurred at the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, Port Richmond, Staten Island, New York. Rev. John E. Miller of Tompkinsville officiated. By some genealogical miracle this marriage certificate has remained in the same family’s possession for 182 years, having been passed down through the matrilineal line from mother to daughter. There is some discoloration of age and some wear and tear in the lower right corner. I love it that one of her descendants pasted a green star sticker on the glass.
By the time of Sarah & Jeremiah’s marriage, the first Dutch Reformed church building in Port Richmond had been destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War. Their marriage ceremony was held in the second structure (circa 1810-1844) built on the site. That building was also demolished but this time it was torn down on purpose because the congregation had outgrown the building. The third structure (built 1844-45) is intact and has recently been designated a historic building.
Thanks to a unanimous decision made by the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2010 this historical treasure is guaranteed to avoid the wrecking ball. In this photo, from the files of the Staten Island Advance newspaper, the Dutch Reformed church’s old burial ground is seen at the left foreground of the church lot. Some of the oldest families on the Island are buried there, including Van Pelts.
Another treasure we are happy to still have in the family is Sarah Van Pelt’s silhouette. As befits a married woman of this era, Sarah is wearing a cap to cover her hair. Her dress has a high neck collar. Her silhouette is lovingly framed with a beautiful dark wood and brass acorn and oak leaf hanger. We did not attempt to take the silhouette out of the frame so we don’t know if it was signed by the artist.
Unfortunately we do not have a silhouette of Sarah’s husband Jeremiah Smith, but his recipe for making wine has been passed down in the family. His grand-daughter Augusta (Heal) Dakin recorded Grandpa Smith’s Wine recipe in her Recipe Journal. I have transcribed the recipes, most donated by family and friends, but for those who can’t wait for her cook book to be published, here’s Grandpa Smith’s very simple recipe for making wine. “For 1 gallon of wine 3-1/2 lb. of sugar, 3 quarts juice & 1 quart water.” Obviously, Jeremiah assumed the methods of making wine was general knowledge. I hope to make “Grandpa Smith’s Wine” this summer and raise a glass of it to toast him when family comes to visit in October. I’m thinking blueberry wine might be interesting.
Jeremiah and Sarah Smith were blessed with six children (born between 1832 and 1850). Their first daughter, Mary Van Pelt Smith, seems to have been particularly close to her parents. Upon her marriage to Joseph Hughes Heal (born in Hope, Maine) the couple took up residence in the Smith farmhouse. From then on they either lived with the Smiths or very near by, as did her four brothers and sister Phoebe Ann.
According to a note taped to the back of the following two silhouettes, which are presumed to be Mary Van Pelt Smith and Joseph Heal, they lived “in the big farm-house on lower Jewett Avenue, between Forest Avenue, and Post Avenue, and on the East side of Jewett”. This neighborhood is in West New Brighton. I don’t know if the old Smith farm-house is still there or whether it was torn down to make room for more homes. A good many members of their extended families lived in this locale from the earliest settlement in the late 1660s up through the late 20th century.
On the front of these two silhouettes is the artist’s signature “Cut without hands by M. A. Honeywell. ” Not understanding what this meant I did a Google search and found out the artist was Martha Ann Honeywell (approximately 1785-1848), a woman of Hungarian descent who was born without hands. She apparently cut the silhouettes using her mouth and became well- known for her artwork. We are so thankful to have these wonderful likenesses of Mary and Joseph Heal made by this remarkable artist still in the family.
While doing family research a few years ago at the archives of the Staten Island Institute of Arts & Sciences we found Jeremiah’s obituary, which was posted in The Staten Islander, April 1, 1891.
Jeremiah Smith, an old resident of West Brighton, died of pneumonia Friday last. His funeral which took place from the Trinity Church, West Brighton, Monday was largely attended. The interment took place in the Staten Island Cemetery. The deceased leaves six children, all of whom are well known in the community. They are Mrs. James Hillyer, Mrs. Joseph Heal, George, Henry, Theodore and Silas Smith.
A special thank you goes out to Carolyn and Pidge for sharing the Smith and Heal family treasurers with us and future generations.