William H. Woodruff, Disbrow and Becker Families of Passaic, NJ 1903-1917

Today, I’d like to continue with short synopses of two families who lived in what seemed to be my revolving door family home at 49 Summer Street, Passaic, New Jersey in the early 1900s, along with a more detailed summary of a family that lived there for ten years.

49 Summer Street, c1926

A few days ago, I shared the stories of the Kaufman and Ashmead families. Today, I’ll cover the Becker and Disbrow families, who I believe were only renters and who lived there for only about 2 years each and then delve into the family of William H. Woodruff, who followed them and actually owned the house.

First the Becker story – Reverend Nicholas S. Becker was a young minister when lived for a short time in Passaic with his family. He was born in December 1869 in New York. His wife’s name was Marguerite M., also born in New York in March 1875. However, while Nicholas’s parents were German, Marguerite’s father had been born in Scotland and her mother in Sweden.

They were the parents of two children – Dorothy H., born in June 1899 in New York and Willis A., born in July 1904 in New Jersey.

Rev. Becker, a Presbyterian minister, served at Grace Presbyterian Church in Passaic. By the 1950’s the church was gone and I haven’t found an address for it.

The Beckers appeared at 49 Summer Street in the 1903 and 1904 Passaic city directories. By 1905, they had moved down to the corner of Summer Street and Central Avenue and lived at 57 Summer Street. They were still in Passaic as of 17 April 1906, as Rev. Becker was mentioned in a newspaper article. However, on 3 October 1908, Rev. Becker was called the former pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church, now of Circlesville, New York.

If you are part of this Becker family, they appear to be fairly easy to track.

Next, the family of Edwin and Mary Disbrow lived at 49 Summer Street in 1905 and 1906. Edwin F. Disbrow was born in October 1851 in New Jersey, the son of William H. and M.L. Disbrow. He married Mary E. German on 5 January 1876 in Hudson County, New Jersey and by 1905, they had three children at home – William H., aged 24, Edna F., aged 22 and Lottie J., aged 20. William was born in New Jersey, but the other two children in New York, so this family was another that moved often.

Also living with them was widower Joseph Polly and his daughter, 11 year old Viola. I don’t know if they were related to the Disbrows or just casual renters.

Edwin Disbrow was a grocer and his business was on Harrison Street, just a couple of blocks away from his home. Perhaps his commute was too long because in 1910, the family lived at 350 Harrison Street. 🙂

Also by that time, William H. was married, had three children and lived in Brooklyn, New York, working as a heel trimmer in a shoe factory. Lottie was married to J. Elmer Peltser, but they were living with her parents. Edna was at home, unmarried.

Sadly, there is an obituary for Edwin Disbrow on 6 March 1914. At that time, he lived at 75 Summer Street. He was 62 years old, died of pneumonia, and left a widow, three daughters and one son, so one daughter (Grace D., born 1877; died 1963 and married George Van Varick) was already out of the home by 1905.

This family, too, appears fairly easy to track and there may be descendants today.

The third family, and the one on which I have more detail, is that of William H. Woodruff, who was born c1864 reportedly in Saddle River Township, New Jersey, the son of John Woodruff and Ellen Wiggins, according to his marriage record. I believe he is likely a very distant cousin of my husband because his Woodruffs were in New Jersey in the 1700s and 1800s and the family not only was huge, but seemed to be the only ones with that surname in that time period.

William married Emma Radabaugh on 16 February 1883 in Paterson, Passaic, New Jersey. Emma was born c1867 in Ohio, the daughter of Benjamin Radabaugh and Annie Allen.

In the 1910 census, Emma reported that she had given birth to seven children, five of whom were still living. I think that was wrong, though, as William’s obituary named six children and all were living in 1910. Five of their children were at home in 1910, with the oldest daughter, Estelle, living elsewhere.

William was a plumber by trade, so work I am sure was plentiful, allowing him to buy a family home.

William died about 8 October 1931; Emma survived her husband by 20 years, dying in 1951. Both are buried at Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood, Bergen, New Jersey. William’s parents, John and Ellen, are also buried there.


  1. Estella, born April 1887, New York; died ; married (1) John Hyslop (2) William Lorenzo DeMell (3 December 1893-July 1973). Estella had two sons, John Hyslop, and Donald, born 16 December 1918; died 4 December 1976.
  2. Emma W., born 31 January 1889, New York; died 22 February 1983, Alexandria, Virginia; married Joseph Herington, 26 June 1914, Passaic, New Jersey. They had no children. Her mother lived with them in 1940.
  3. William A.L., born 7 December 1890, New York; died 30 August 1953, St. Petersburg, Florida; married Nellie Darby, 12 August 1923, Welland, Ontario, Canada. William had two children, a son William and daughter Wanita.
  4. Edward G., born 19 September 1892, New York; died January 1979; married Rose M. Dunleavy. They had one son, Harold, and one daughter, Ruth.
  5. Arthur F., born August 1895, New York; died after 1910. No further information.
  6. Helen Edyth, born 20 May 1902, New York; died 26 December 1996, Northampton, Virginia; married Felix Parsons (1898-1965). They had two daughters, Ruth Mae and Phyllis Jean.

From city directories and newspaper articles I also learned:

1907 – William H. Woodruff at 49 Summer Street
1910 – William Woodruff & family, census, 49 Summer St.
1917, 14 Apr – Wm. H. Woodruff, unpaid taxes of $6.79
1917, 30 Aug – Hudson auto for sale
1917, 1 Sept – George Bornkessel, 33 yrs old, bought the house and would live there “after alterations”

It was also fun to find that on 19 December 1910, Emily Woodruff hosted a Christmas party at home for her friends.

In 1911, St. Peter’s Episcopal church in Clifton had a supper at which the husbands did all the cooking. William H. Woodruff was noted as one of the chefs.

On 26 June 1914, Emily and Joseph B. Herrington were married at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, but hosted a wedding luncheon at home. It also said that the couple would be living at 49 Summer Street after they returned from their honeymoon.

Lastly, William H. Woodruff’s 1931 funeral was held from his (unnamed) daughter’s house at 28 Van Houten Avenue. That was the home of Joseph and Emily Herrington.

I believe that William and Emma Woodruff have descendants today.

Tomorrow, we will look at the other two families who lived in my childhood home before my grandparents bought the house – the Bornkassels and the Nitto family.


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