Thursday, March 27, 2014

To Little Scandinavia. Part One: the Haysteads

Green-Wood Cemetery, Section 17, Public Lot 14888, grave 1617
This story begins with a photograph of a tombstone, thus it begins at the end of someone’s lifetime. The image is of a marker for grave 1617 in Public Lot 14888, which is located in Section 17 of the Green-Wood Cemetery. Next to a museum, a cemetery is the most important repository of our memories, but whereas the former stores memories of our society at large, the latter has more individual and more personal approach in keeping our memories alive. What is a better way to remember someone but to engrave their name on a stone. As you can see, three names are inscribed on this particular stone—all are members of the Haystead family. The search for the Haysteads began in Green-Wood’s archives and continued beyond the confines of the cemetery. The path for their story led me from one repository to another, eventually bringing me back to where I started, but to a different grave site altogether. I did not find all the answers to my questions, as there are still some mysteries that remain, and while my search continues, I shall write what I found so far.

Alf Frithjof Haystead, whose name appears first on the stone, was born on February 3, 1886 and died on December 15, 1916. As his names suggests, Alf was of Norwegian background, but he was known as Frederick Haisted in America. His death certificate states that Frederick was 30 years old at the time of his death; he was a “chauffeur” and late resident of 221 West 15th Street in New York. He was born in Norway and immigrated to New York twelve years prior to his death, thus in 1904, and that he was married when he died. Unfortunately, to date, no record of his arrival or marriage has been located. In addition to the names of his parents, Hans Haisted and Anna Hansen, nothing else is known about Alf Frithjof Haystead, yet.

On the other hand, records for the second inscription on the gravestone are more copious. Ralph Sigfred Haystead was the American spelling of his name and he was born on January 22, 1884 in Christiania, Norway. Prior to his arrival in New York, records show his name as Ralf (Sigfried) Heiestad. Between his marriage and death records, we have his parents’ full names: Hans Lauritz Haystead and Anna Hansen. Thus, Ralph was Alf’s elder brother.

1903 passenger List of the SS "Cymris" in New York City, Line 13: 
Heiestad, Ralf Sigfried, 19 y/o, single, Christiania, Norway, staying with uncle Johan Anderson at 300 East 32 St, New York
When he was 19 years old, Ralph left his home and came to America; his uncle John was living in New York at the time. On March 27, 1903, Ralph embarked aboard the SS “Cymric” which sailed from Liverpool, England and arrived to the shores of New York City on April 7, 1903. Ralph was one of the 1149 “steerage passengers” aboard the steamship, which included 82 passengers of English descent, 18 of Scotch and 21 Irish passengers. The rest of the 1028 passengers were of foreign birth. Many like him were from Christiania, but Ralph was one of the few passengers who traveled alone; some came in company of friends, others with cousins, and then there were entire families who crossed the Atlantic on the “Cymric”. Majority of the passengers did not stop in New York, for them, the journey continued to the west: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois.

Census of the United States, 19 April 1910, Brooklyn, NY
By 1910, Ralph was still living with his uncle, but by now John Anderson’s wife Kaia and son Alf had joined him. The Andersons were living at 762 Fiftieth Street in Brooklyn, a two story house in a neighborhood settled predominantly by immigrants from Norway and Sweden. While Uncle John worked as blacksmith, Ralph found a job as ironworker, but it is likely that their professions were identical. 

While Ralph Haystead was establishing himself in America, the United States was in the midst of completing one of the largest projects in the world at the time: building of the Panama Canal. This project had begun by the French in 1881, but was abandoned in 1894, only to be resumed by the United States in 1904. There is no record of Ralph traveling to Panama for work, but a record of his arrival to New York two years before the opening of the canal has been found. On May 9, 1912, Ralph boarded SS “Allianca” in Cristobal, Panama and arrived in New York City on May 15; in the passenger list, he was listed as "bridgeman", an appropriate occupation considering he was ironworker. Upon his arrival to New York, Ralph was living at 605 57th Street in Brooklyn.

September 12, 1918, WWI Draft Card
His involvement in the building of the Panama Canal may not have brought Ralph any great fortunes, for it took him another five years to earn enough money to pay for his wedding. On January 20, 1917*, Ralph Haystead married Anna Hansen in a church located at 438 50th Street in Brooklyn. Their marriage was officiated by Minister Sigmund and witnessed by Othelie Thorsen and Hjalmar Hansen. Hansen is a common Norwegian surname, so common that Ralph’s mother and wife both were Hansens; incidentally, both witnesses to the marriage of Ralph and Anna, were siblings of the bride.

Anna Sofie Hansen was born on December 9, 1882 in Arendal, Norway. She was one of at least four children of Brynhald Hansen and Olia Olsen. On June 16, 1905, Anna and her younger sister, Christiane, boarded the SS “United States” in Christiansand, Norway and sailed to New York. The Hansen sisters were going to join their brother-in-law, Nils Thorsen, who at the time was residing at 276 56th Street in Brooklyn. They only had ten dollars each in their persons when they arrived on June 26, 1905 to New York City; both had given “servant” as their occupations.

Next record after her arrival is Anna’s marriage to Ralph in 1917. At the time of their marriage, Anna was living at 501 57th Street and Ralph was at 469 48th Street, both in Brooklyn. A year later, in September 1918 when Ralph had to fill out a draft card, the Haysteads were living at 645 47th Street in Brooklyn.

All these various addresses for Ralph Haystead and Anna Hansen hint on a degree of instability in their lives; this is not to say that they had turbulent relationships with their respective families. No, on the contrary, if you were to plot them all on a map, you’d notice that although in span of ten years between their arrival and marriage they constantly changed their place of residence, both Anna and Ralph stayed within the same community, populated mostly by the Scandinavians.

The Sunset Park neighborhood is currently populated by the Chinese and the Hispanics, giving rise to such communities as “Little Fuzhou” (along the 8th Avenue) and “Little Latin America” (along the 5th Avenue). But in early 1900s, this area which is only a walking distance from the Green-Wood Cemetery, was an attractive destination to many immigrants from Norway and Sweden. This was primarily due to the expansion of an industrial complex known as the Bush Terminal: “At one point, the site employed as many as 25,000 workers in shipping, warehousing and manufacturing for the textile, automotive and machinery industries, among others.” Only few place names today, such as the Leif Ericson Park and Square, remind us of this neighborhood's past but the predominant make up of immigrants from the Northern European countries in the beginning of the last century could have easily given this area such a name as "Little Scandinavia".

Anna Sofie Haystead's Petition for Naturalization, 1929
And so it was that after their marriage, Ralph and Anna Haysteads lived on 47th Streets, a mere three blocks away from the Sunset Park. It wasn't anything fancy, just one of the two-story buildings in a row of houses made of bricks. The 645 was owned by Mrs. Elizabeth Veit (according to the 1920 Census), who was wife of Frederick the painter. In this house, in 1918, the only child of Ralph and Anna was born to them; her name was Florence. Six years after birth of Florence, Ralph was naturalized as citizen of the United States, and his wife's petition was approved in 1929. 

With the advent of automobiles, the streets of New York City in the 1920s were roaring and it was a perfect period for the Haysteads to establish themselves. While renting a room from Mrs. Veit, Ralph was working as machinist in an auto-industry. His skills as iron-worker could have easily be transferred to building, or fixing, cars. Perhaps it was a job at the Bush Terminal or even a private garage (the number of which in Brooklyn alone have risen to thousands by the end of the decade), and wherever it was, the savings were enough for the Haysteads to move into a house of their own. By 1925, Ralph, Anna and Florence were living at 926 54th Street in Brooklyn; this was a house where Ralph would spend the rest of his life.

Their new home was too big for one family, so the Haysteads leased one of the floors to the Nelsons, as the 1925 New York State Census shows. Albert Nelson was of Finnish descent and came to America in 1902. He worked as bartender for number of years until sometimes after World War I, he became owner of a boarding house at 6002 New Utrecht Avenue known as Nelson's Hotel. He married Rose in 1907 and in 1911 they had a daughter whose name was Dorothy. Al would eventually loose the ownership of his hotel, but he'd always find a job as bartender. By 1940 he was again working as bartender, now most likely in Terino Damareo's restaurant.

1925 New York State Census, household at 926 54th Street, Brooklyn, New York

On 7 May 1929, Anna Sofie Haystead became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America. A mere four months later, on September 4, the stock prices crushed and with that the American economy, and thence the entire world's, crushed too. With the Great Depression many of the automobile industries around the country ceased to exist turning the roar of the 1920's to a hum. Ralph Haystead had already turned to his old trade as ironworker by 1925, which helped him weather the great depression with  some ease. 

1904 November 12, The Standard Union, front cover
Bay Ridge Iron Works was in business as early as 1899 with its first base of operation at 1010 Second Avenue (few blocks away from the Green-Wood Cemetery). The first proprietors of the company were Joseph and Peter Lythgoes; father and son blacksmiths who immigrated from England. In 1904, after his return from the St. Louis Exposition, Peter learned of his father's passing in England, who went there to visit his family. Joseph Lythgoe died on 12 August 1904 in Manchester, England. Three months after his father's death, Peter found himself in the Supreme Court action filed by his wife, Susan. The case was eventually settled in 1906, resulting in dissolution of the marriage. On March 20, 1907, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that Peter Lythgoe, John Bowker and William Deaker had registered with the State Department in Albany, "The Lythgoe Realty and Construction Company of Brooklyn...with a capital of $10,000." Thus, Peter had become a real estate dealer, an occupation he held to the last day of his life on 21 December 1920. He was laid to rest in the Green-Wood Cemetery, where his mother, Elizabeth, would join him three years later. Peter had a sister, Agnes, who married Christopher Metcalf in 1886 in Brooklyn; they too found their repose in Green-Wood.

When on 27 April 1942, Ralph Haystead filed his draft card, he stated that his place of employment was "Bay Ridge Iron Works". It is just as likely that Ralph was actually owner of this business, as this company saw many proprietors and various places of operations in Brooklyn in the past two decades. On 4 January 1946, Ralph Haystead and his wife, "subscribed, sealed, published and declared " their last wills and testament in the presence of each other and that of Mr. and Mrs. Johnsons. The Haysteads named each other the executors of their wills, and in case they both perished simultaneously, their daughter, Florence A. Ekberg was to inherit everything. Ralph died at home of "Natural Causes" on 29 May 1947. After her husband's death, Anna went to live with her daughter and her son-in-law at 361 81st Street in Brooklyn. She died on 4 December 1951 at Shore Road Hospital.

Florence Haystead was born on 8 September 1918 in Brooklyn, New York. She married Ragnar K. Ekberg sometimes after 1940, but before her parents wrote their wills in 1946 as Florence was mentioned in those records by her married name. The story of Ekbergs will continue in the next post and I shall end this one with some unanswered questions.

What was Alf Frithjof Haystead's wife's name? After all his death records note him to have been married at the time of his death. Did his marriage produce any kids? Why did Ralph married Anna a month after his brother's death? 15 December 1916 vs 17 January 1917? Was the wedding planned so far ahead that it could not be canceled? Or was there some other reason that is yet to be discovered? Did Alf and Ralph have any other siblings? Why were they the only one who came to the United States?

Perhaps these and many other questions will be address in my next post. For now, here are copies of some of the records mentioned in this post.

Schedule B of the SS "Cymric", 27 March 1903, bound to New York 

Total number of Third Class and Cabin Passengers on the SS "Cymris" on 27 March 1903 at the port of Liverpool

Passenger List of the SS "Cymric" at the Port of New York, 7 April 1903, Line 13: Heiestad, Ralf Sigfried

1910 Census of the United States, Lines 82-85: the Andersons and Ralph Haystead
1920 Census of the United States, Lines 26-32: households of the Haysteads and the Veits
Passenger List of the SS "United States" at the Port of New York, 26 June 1905, Lines 14 & 15: the Hansen sisters, Christine and Anna

Anna Sofia Haystead's Petition for Naturalization, 1929

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