Category Archives: Passaic NJ

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Passaic, NJ

My Nana was a lifetime parishioner of St. Michael’s Greek Catholic Church in Passaic, New Jersey. As a child, I was often walking around Passaic to the various Catholic churches to visit for a Mass or holy day. However, I was never a parishioner at St. Michael’s. Neither of my parents was religious, but they did feel it was important to send me off to church activities. However, my mom had the last say and she wasn’t Catholic, so the non-Catholic compromise was St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, not very far from our house on Summer Street.

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church
Source:  My Personal Collection

To begin with, the church sat on, for Passaic, a rather odd shaped block with Lexington Avenue running to the right side and Hamilton Avenue running to the left side, as we approached the church from home.

Source: Google Maps

Here is an aerial street view today:

Source: Google Maps

My family moved from Passaic 54 years ago and they say you can’t go home again because things change so much. Not St. John’s!

Source: Google Street View

This is exactly how I remember it, with more tree growth on the left, which was the side entrance the kids used to go to Sunday School. Even the choppy cement sidewalk in the crossing area (very front on the left) is still there and with the weeds growing in it!

I didn’t realize it at the time, but St. John’s is a beautiful old German baroque style church on the National Register of Historic Places. It is particularly known for its gorgeous stained glass windows in the church. Its website has a few scrolling photos of them. Click the arrow on the left side of the photos until you come to the two of the windows. There is even a great 39 second YouTube video that gives a panoramic neighborhood view. There is also a great inside photo of the church on Flickr. 

The church was built in 1896 and was originally a German parish. It was still heavily influenced by Germans at the time I attended, but parishioners were of a more ethnically mixed background. It appears to be a mostly Hispanic community church today, which fits with Passaic’s mostly Hispanic population.

Rev. William O. Bruckner was the pastor through all my years attending St. John’s Church. His wife was active in the church activities, too, particularly in the Sunday School. Notice that she signed my nursery promotion certificate.

I began my Sunday School career there in the pre-school program, back then called the Nursery Department.



I only have these two certificates, even though I attended Sunday School regularly into the sixth grade, when we moved away.

I only have vague memories of the Sunday School lessons, but we started as a larger group and then separated to tables with us grouped by grades.

Then, there were weekly Bible story lessons for us to do. The paper was a glossy, heavier than usual kind of paper and was folded in half, about the size of an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper that has been folded. When we finished the Bible story, there were questions to be answered. I don’t have any specific memories of hands-on crafty activities, but I imagine there were some, especially around holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter.

When I was in 4th grade, I decided I wanted to join the Girl Scouts. Troop 26 met at St. John’s during the week (or perhaps on Saturdays – I don’t remember). The blouse, skirt and beret are long gone, but I still have my sash.

Linda’s Girl Scout Sash

I had lots of parts of badges completed, but only got around to getting six of them signed off. I don’t know which ones they are either.

I earned several of the pins, but they have broken and gotten lost through the years.

I still have the Emergency Preparedness pin, but I had four in total and I can see the hole marks where the others were pinned.

When we moved to Wayne, I transferred to a Scout troop that met at Alps Road School. The new troop was #267, so I just had to add the #7 to my sash.

I also sang in the choir at St. John’s Church for a couple of years, but, as I don’t carry a tune very well, that didn’t last too long.

There was one coincidence after I moved away from Passaic. I had made friends with two sisters who were classmates. We were talking about Passaic and they mentioned that their grandfather was a minister there. I asked what church he was at and they said St. John’s. Their grandfather was Pastor Bruckner! Small world.

Pastor Bruckner died in 1975, but I remember him as a kindly man. Mrs. Bruckner lived a much longer life, passing away in 1987. Both remained in the Passaic area for many years.

I am pleased to see that St. John’s Church is still vibrant and healthy. I spent many fun years there.

Picturing Our Ancestors’ Neighborhoods Back in the Day, Part 1

Summer is almost here and it’s the season of the year that brings on nostalgia for me. Christmas does, too, but summer was the time when school was out and I got to visit with all the relatives in my small family.

As the stories of my ancestors’ lives unfold, I often wish I could step back in time and visit each place they lived when they lived there. it’s actually possible to do, if we are talking about after the invention of photography. The way to visit is through vintage postcards.

I occasionally write about my love of trolling EBay for genealogically related items and postcards is #1 on my list.

Today, I am inviting you to come along and visit Calais, Maine and the small towns around it where my maternal family was living at the turn of the 20th century. My Adams clan was right in Calais proper, the Stuarts were nearby in Meddybemps, the Tarbox family moved into town from Robbinston and the Colemans lived in Red Beach.

My 2X great grandfather, Calvin Adams, moved from the West Isles of New Brunswick, Canada to Calais with his family when he was a teenager, just before the start of the Civil War. Like his father, Daniel, Calvin was a boat builder, a trade which he followed until the era ended in the early 1900s. He built small sailing vessels and a schooner or two with his workshop down on the waterfront.

His children, my great grandfather Charles and great grand aunt Pearl, received their education at Calais Academy, later to be renamed Calais High School. The building that housed Calais Academy burned down many years ago.

As the Adams clan prospered, they bought a house on “The Avenue,” or Calais Avenue, which was “the” place in town to live.

What was a Calais winter like? Snow. Lots and lots of snow!

My grandmother, Hazel Coleman Adams, told me stories about going into “town” (Calais) from Red Beach, where she grew up, to go shopping along Main Street.

I’ve been to Calais and some of those buildings are still standing!

Newlyweds 2X great grandparents Charles Stuart and Elida Hicks settled in Meddybemps in1850 and the family continued to live there into the early 1900s. Meddybemps has never been much more than a village and I doubt it looked much different in 1900 than it did half a century earlier. My great grandmother, Annie Stuart Adams, was born and raised in Meddybemps.

By 1910, her brother, Harry, had a camp on Meddybemps Lake. This is one of my most favorite finds ever!

Heading down River Road out of Calais takes visitors to Red Beach, which today is part of the city of Calais. The Colemans settled in Red Beach in the 1830s and lived there well into the 1900s.

My 3X great grandfather, Thomas Coleman, was a small subsistence farmer. 2X great grandfather William and great grandfather Hartwell Coleman were drawn to sea life, both being boat captains. Hartwell actually became a master mariner.

After Hartwell retired from sea life, he opened a general store called Cappy Coleman’s. My mother said she and her sisters used to love to visit the store because he gave them candy.

3X great grandfather George Tarbox settled in Robbinston in the mid 1850s. He had several careers, first as a small farmer, later as a boat builder and finally became a manufacturer, as the family bought the Red Beach granite quarry and sold stone. 2X great grandmother Nellie Tarbox Adams was born in Robbinston and lived there as a girl until the family moved into Calais, likely because of George’s business concerns.

There is a soldier’s monument in Calais Park which is made of black granite. That granite came from the Tarbox quarry. There is also a small water fountain made from the quarry granite. I have a photo of it we took in 1980, but I haven’t yet found a postcard.

Calais, Maine was in its heyday during the second half of the 19th century and early into the 20th century. However, as ship building came to an end long before the start of World War I, it seems its residents left for more job opportunities in Massachusetts.

I’ve purchased all of these postcards on EBay and, with the exception of the Stuart cottage on Meddybemps Lake (for which I paid way too much), prices were almost entirely under $5.00 each and sometimes as little as a dollar or two.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that there won’t be any photo postcards from the places where your families lived. In 1850, Meddybemps had a whopping population of 254. By 1900, it was DOWN to just 154 souls. If there are Meddybemps postcards out there, there is hope for any place!

Each time I look at these images, I feel like I’ve been able to take a few steps in my ancestors’ shoes. I hope you felt that way, too.

Tomorrow, we will look at my paternal side of the family tree, who were living in a very different environment – industrial Passaic, New Jersey.


Who Are Mary (Minnie) Mulick and John Theus?

“Meny” Mulick & John Theus

This mystery photo is a bit different for two reasons. First, I have Mary’s writing on the back of the postcard, which says “Meny (Minnie?) Mulick on the left and, on the right, it says “John Theus sooy deer I woont your pekture good boiy.”

Minnie’s spelling wasn’t the greatest, but her cursive writing is quite clear.

I’ve found Mary Mulik, living in Passaic, New Jersey in the 1900 census. As I suspected, she was a contemporary of my grandparents, born in 1893, like each of them. She also lived in “the neighborhood,” the First Ward of Passaic and, without a doubt, would have attended St. Michael’s Church, which is at 96 First Street.

The Mulik family lived at 128 First Street, which today is where Etta Gero School #9 is. You can see St. Michael’s down the street to the right:

Google Earth


In 1900, there is a Mary Mulik who is a perfect match to the young lady in the photo. This family, however, isn’t in the 1910 census. The fact that I can’t find them isn’t a problem because, based on my own family experience, I know that these families criss-crossed the ocean more than once and may have returned to Europe for a while.

There are no other possible Mary Mulik/Mulick candidates around.

As for “John Theus,” I keep looking. There is no likely candidate for this young man in any census from 1900-1940 anywhere. There is a German Theus family living in Cleveland in 1910, but there are no obvious ties to New Jersey.

It’s possible that “my” John Theus wasn’t here for the 1910 census (my Nana missed it because she arrived in November, after the census taker had been around) and perhaps served and died in World War I.

I would dearly love to pass this photo on to a descendant of either Mary Mulik or John Theus if I could ever pick up a solid trail for either of them.