Saturday, September 27, 2014

52 Ancestors #40: Why did the Freelands Leave Indiana for the South Bronx?

Hubby's 2d great-grand aunt, Emma O. Larimer (1848-1923), the daughter of Brice S. Larimer and Lucy E. Bentley, was born and raised a Hoosier. In 1869, Emma married James Freeland (1838-1920), also of Indiana, and together they had three children: Lucy (b. 1870), Earle (b. 1877), and James (b. 1891). In 1880, James was a street commissioner in Goshen. Earlier, he was a deputy sheriff (according to his obit) and also involved in manufacturing.

In 1900, the Freeland family was still settled comfortably in Goshen, Indiana, where they had lived for years. James's occupation was listed as "salesman" and two of the three children also were working.

In 1905, however, the New York City census listed the entire family as living at 582 East 165th Street in the South Bronx, a residential neighborhood that was fairly middle class and less than one mile from a major shopping crossroads on 149th Street.

Why did they leave Goshen and go to the Big Apple, where the cost of living was undoubtedly much higher? So far as I can tell, they had no family in New York. Nor did James work in an occupation that required his residence in New York.

But looking ahead at James's 1920 obit (from the Middlebury Independent, Indiana) contains one clue to the move: He was suffering from "a long history of nervous disorders and general decline." The family pulled up stakes and left for New York in 1903, according to the obit, leaving behind siblings and other relatives on both sides of the families. In 1920, James died at 82 and was quickly buried in New York, to be reburied with the rest of the family later. Was the family seeking medical treatment for James? Or did they want a fresh start somewhere else when they left Goshen in 1903 to live in the crowded Big Apple?

Contemporary records show that the Freelands remained in New York City from 1903 on. According to the 1910 Census, Lucy, the older daughter, was a stenographer in an insurance office. Earle was an electrician in a "power house" [sic]. James Lynn, the younger son, was a stock clerk in a drug firm (or store?). Their parents weren't working; presumably, Emma took care of James.

By mid-1920, James and the family had moved to upper Manhattan. Two of the three children -- all grown -- were "retail merchandisers" in a stationery store. James died in September of that year and his wife, Emma, died in 1923 (see obit from the Middlebury Independent, Indiana).

Lucy remained single, later living with her brothers in Manhattan. Earle was also single and kept the stationery store going. James Lynn married Rena and had a son, James Jr. and two daughters, Rhoda and Norma.


  1. Marian, maybe they were looking for job opportunities for their children. Like today, people need to go where the jobs are.

    1. Very possible, Colleen. Perhaps they wanted an entirely different life for their children. In 1900, Indiana was not just an agricultural powerhouse but also becoming a major manufacturing center--and maybe the Freelands had a different future in mind for their sons and daughter. It's quite a ways to go to make this kind of change, when other big cities were a lot closer...but the Big Apple has long had a special attraction for ambitious folks. Good thought.