by Cliff McCarthy, 2015
William Henry Beers was born to George W. and Carrie (Stults) Beers on July 10, 1876, in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was called “Henry” as a youngster, but as an adult, William Henry was known as “Harry.” The use of this moniker was so universal, in fact, that his own daughter once turned away a piece of important mail addressed to “William Henry Beers” because she thought her father’s name was “Harry.” His name appears as “Harry” in many records.
Bernardette Marie Claire Martin was born on May 15, 1882, in Montreal, Canada. Her father was David Martin and her mother was Emilie (Lemoine) Martin. After Emilie died in an epidemic, David Martin then married Selena Cawthorn and brought his family, including “Bernie,” to Troy, New York. Selena died in 1897 and shortly thereafter David moved his family to Rocky Hill, New Jersey.
In 1900, Harry Beers was working as a laborer in the Excelsior Terra Cotta Company in Rocky Hill, where David Martin was a watchman. The Excelsior Terra Cotta Company made high-grade clay products for architectural ornamentation. Terra cotta had been used as a building material for centuries in Europe, but the first successful American terra cotta factory was established in Perth Amboy, NJ in 1877. Since that time, a number of similar ventures had sprung up in the area and Perth Amboy had become a center for the terra cotta industry.
Harry and Bernardette were married on November 12, 1901, in the Reformed Church parsonage, in Rocky Hill. Carrie Beers, Harry’s mother, and David Martin, were present. In 1903, Bernadette gave birth to one child, Evelyn. Several years later, another child, a son, was stillborn.
In 1907, the Excelsior Terra Cotta Company and the Perth Amboy Terra Cotta Company merged to become the Atlantic Cotta Company, which also had a plant at Tottenville, on Staten Island. Presumably because of a shift in operations, many of the Rocky Hill workers moved to Tottenville around that time. Probably driven by employment considerations, the family moved to South Amboy, New Jersey around 1906 and then to Tottenville, on Staten Island, New York in about 1908.
In Tottenville, the Beers’ rented a house on Sprague Avenue in 1910 when Harry was a “laborer” at the terra cotta plant. That was the year that the Atlantic Terra Cotta Company began work on the elaborate Woolworth Building in New York, which was at the time the tallest skyscraper in the world.
By 1920, Harry was a “planer” and the family was living on Elliot Avenue. On 7 November 1922, daughter Evelyn married Lionel Cooke of Annadale on Staten Island.
By 1925, Harry had graduated to “model maker” at the terra cotta works and he and Bernardette were living on Amboy Road. In 1930, they were back on Sprague Avenue. By 1940, Harry Beers was no longer able to work and he retired.
William Henry Beers, born during the nation’s centennial, died, according to his daughter, while watching a Flag Day parade. He suffered a heart attack on Saturday, June 20, 1942 at his home at 309 Manhattan Avenue in Tottenville.
Bernadette worked for some time as a custodian in the Tottenville Post Office and continued to live at Manhattan Avenue. Later, she lived in an apartment on Wood Avenue with her half-sister, Eva, and her nephew, Joe Martin. I remember visiting “Nanny,” Joe, and Aunt Eva every Christmas. I also remember “Petey,” her pet parakeet, who was trained to peck at a ping-pong ball and then “run the bases.” Nanny passed away in 1968 and lies with her husband in Bethel Cemetery in Tottenville.
Children of William Henry “Harry” & Bernardette Claire (Martin) BEERS
WILLIAM HENRY “HARRY” BEERS was born on 10 July 1875 in Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ. He died on 20 June 1942 in 309 Manhattan Ave., Tottenville, Richmond Co., NY. He married BERNARDETTE MARIE CLAIRE VERONICA MARTIN on 12 November 1901 in First Reformed Church parsonage, Rocky Hill, Somerset Co., NJ, daughter of David MARTIN and Emilie Justine LEMOINE. She was born on 15 May 1882 in Montreal, Canada. She died on 4 February 1968 in Staten Island Hospital, Richmond Co., NY. William Henry “Harry” BEERS and Bernardette Marie Claire Veronica MARTIN had the following child:
- EVELYN BERNADETTE BEERS was born on 9 December 1903 in Rocky Hill, Somerset Co., NJ. She died on 6 August 1983 in Riverhead, Suffolk Co., NY. She married LIONEL SCARLETT “BILL” COOKE on 7 November 1922, son of Alfred Lionel COOKE and Elizabeth “Bessie Ann” SCARLETT. He was born on 6 November 1901 in Rossville, Richmond Co., NY. He died on 12 August 1988 in Amityville, Suffolk Co., NY.
- 1880 U.S. Census for Geo. W. Beers (Elizabeth, Union County, NJ).
- 1885 New Jersey State Census for George W. Beers (Ward #4, Elizabeth, Union Co., NJ).
- 1891 Canadian Census for David Martin (District #172, Montreal Centre, Quebec, Canada).
- 1900 U.S. Census for Carrie E. Beers (Rocky Hill Borough, Montgomery Township, Somerset Co., NJ).
- 1900 U.S. Census for David Martin (Rocky Hill Borough, Montgomery Township, Somerset Co., NJ), ED #85, sheet 16, line 78.
- 1905 New Jersey State Census for Harry W. Beers (Somerset Co., NJ).
- 1910 U.S. Census for Harry Beers (Tottenville, Richmond Co., NY).
- 1915 New York State Census for Harry Beers (E.D. #45, A.D. #1, Richmond Co., NY).
- 1920 U.S. Census for Harry Beers (5th Ward, Richmond County, NY).
- 1925 New York State Census for Harry Beers (E.D. #35, A.D. #2, Richmond Co., NY).
- 1930 U.S. Census for William H. Beers (E.D. #43-286, Tottenville, Richmond Co., NY).
- 1940 U.S. Census for Harry Beers (E.D. #43-280, Tottenville, Richmond Co., NY).
- Certificate of Death, Bernadette Beers, filed February 6, 1968, Borough of Richmond, New York.
- Certificate of Death, Harry Beers, filed June 22, 1942, Borough of Richmond, NY.
- Engelbrecht, Vivian F., Rocky Hill, New Jersey 1701-1976, Rocky Hill Tercentenary Committee, 1976.
- Gravestones, Bethel Methodist Church, Tottenville, NY.
- Gravestones, Rocky Hill Cemetery, Rocky Hill, NJ.
- McGinnis, William C., A History of Perth Amboy, NJ, American Publishing Co., Perth Amboy, NJ, 1963.
- Menzies, Elizabeth G. C., Millstone Valley, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, NJ, 1969.
- Personal recollections of Evelyn Cooke, as told to the author.
- Recollections of the author.
- Return of Marriage, William Henry Beers and “Bernatta Vironica” Martin, November 12, 1901, Rocky Hill, New Jersey.