Posts made in December, 2010

Love Letters, Chapter 5

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Dr. John Van Duyn – third in a line of prominent Syracuse physicians

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, filled with family, friends, peace and celebration. We had a great Christmas and are looking forward to New Year’s Eve when my husband and I will attempt to prepare our first-ever Crown Roast for a small group of friends. (Seriously, how hard can it be?) More on that next time.

Since I blogged last, I have attempted to contact Ruth Ives’ niece who currently lives in California. So far, no luck, but I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, here’s some more background on the recipient of Ruth’s love letters, Dr. John Van Duyn of Duluth, Minnesota.

Edward Seguin Van Duyn, M.D. (1872-1955) Administrator of the Syracuse State School and the middle of three generations of prominent Syracuse physicians.

As it turns out, our Dr. John Van Duyn seems to have been just “passing through” Duluth in 1949. He is actually a third generation physician from the prominent Van Duyn family of Syracuse, New York. Like his father, and his grandfather before him, he attended Princeton University and went on to serve as a physician and faculty member at Syracuse University. Today in Syracuse, there is a county-owned skilled nursing facility named after the family: Van Duyn Home and Hospital.

The following excerpt details the life of Dr. John Van Duyn’s grandfather, also named John Van Duyn, and is taken from the book Encyclopedia of Biography of New York: A Life Record of Men and Women of the Past, Volume 4 by Charles Elliott Fitch.

VAN DUYN, John, M. D.,
Civil War Veteran, Physician.

One of the foremost members of the medical fraternity of Syracuse, Dr. John Van Duyn, in whom the public has long reposed trust and confidence of his skill, was born in Kingston, New York, July 24, 1843, a son of Abraham and Sarah Van Duyn.

His early education, which was of a literary and classical nature, finally led to his graduation from Princeton in the class of June, 1862, and thus broadly equipped, he undertook the study of his profession, having paved the way to success by first learning the power of expressing himself.

His degree of M. D. was received from the Kentucky School of Medicine. At that time he enlisted his services in defence of his country, was a member of the medical cadet corps, and upon receiving his medical degree he became assistant surgeon in the United States Volunteers, and continued as such until the fall of 1865. After the war, Dr. Van Duyn turned his attention to building up a practice, locating at first in the State of New Jersey, where he remained until the year 1868, when he removed to Syracuse, New York, this move being due to his relations with Dr. Wilbur, the founder of the State Idiot Asylum, who offered him the position of physician to that institution, in which capacity he served for a short period of time. He then engaged in private practice in Syracuse, which in due course of time became both extensive and important. He has also taught in the Medical School of Syracuse University since its establishment, and his ability as an educator has found no fewer encomiums than his ability in the art of healing. Many are the scholars who will pass along the secrets of his vast knowledge, for as a teacher Dr. Van Duyn has given as freely of his gifts as he has received them. He was one of the originators and founders of the Syracuse Free Dispensary and of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd, serving the latter institution in the cacapity of surgeon. He is also surgeon for the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. He is a member of the Syracuse Academy of Medicine, of the American Ophthalmological Society, of the American Otological Society and of the New York State Medical Association. He is president of the University Club of Syracuse, president of the Princeton Club of Central New York, a member of the Hospital Association, of the Onondaga Country Club, of the Ka-Noo-No Karnival Company, of the Automobile Club, of the Loyal Legion, and of the Grand Army of the Republic. In Masonry he has taken all the degrees of the York Rite and has attained the thirty-second degree in the Scottish Rite. He has, moreover, given of his time as commissioner of education and as health officer, in both of which offices he rendered valuable service. In February, 1915, the Syracuse Academy of Medicine and the Onondaga County Medical Society gave an entertainment in honor of the completion of his fiftieth year in the practice of medicine.

Dr. Van Duyn married, December 1, 1866, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Sarah Faulks, who bore him two sons and one daughter, namely: Edward Seguin, Wilbur, and Gertrude, who became the wife of E. F. Southworth, of Syracuse. Edward Seguin Van Duyn was born in August, 1872; graduated from the Syracuse High School, class of 1889; Princeton University, class of 1894; Syracuse Medical College, class of 1897; Rhode Island Hospital, 1899, and studied in New York and abroad during the years 1900 and 1901. He is professor of clinical surgery at the Syracuse University Medical School, surgeon of the Hospital of the Good Shepherd and of the Syracuse Free Dispensary, consulting surgeon of the Ogdensburg State Institution, president of the board of managers of the Syracuse State Institution for the Feeble Minded, and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons. Professor Edward S. Van Duyn had conferred on him the degrees of B. S., M. D. and F. A. C. S. Mrs. Van Duyn died December 21, 1915. For many years she was prominent in social circles of Syracuse. She was a member of the Fortnightly Club, of which she was one of the founders, and the Social Arts Club. She was widely known in church circles and took an active interest in causes of religious and charitable natures.

The Rev. Dr. A. H. Fahnestock, pastor of the First Ward Presbyterian Church, a cousin of Mrs. Van Duyn, officiated at the funeral services and interment was in Oakwood Cemetery.

The demands made upon Dr. Van Duyn by his profession have left him little time to lead what might be generally termed a social life. But this man, to whom so many have come in time of need to profit by what he has learned through wide study, research, investigation and experiment, can claim undoubtedly more of a place in the hearts of the people than one who has striven merely to be socially popular.

Next time… more on Dr. John Van Duyn’s first wife, author Janet Dunning Van Duyn

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Love Letters, Chapter 4

New here? Start from the beginning

An introduction to Dr. John Van Duyn

I’m hunkered down at my parents’ house this weekend, waiting out a big Minnesota snowstorm. I’d driven in yesterday, with plans to make 25 pounds of Swedish meatballs today with my mom. The meatball extravaganza will start later this morning; then it’s anyone’s guess whether I’ll be able to make the two hour drive home again. Guess we’ll cross that snowdrift when we come to it.

A word to all the Minnesota Christmas tree farmers and retailers out there… we feel your pain! For those of you who don’t know me, my family has been growing and selling Christmas trees my entire life. In Minnesota, this is the third weekend in a row we’ve had a Friday-Saturday snow storm, and when you only have those three weekends each year to make a living… well, you see the dilemma. Make a tree farmer happy and go buy a real tree on Monday.

Now… a brief recap of my Love Letters story.

Last month, I purchased a lot of two love letters on ebay, postmarked 1949 from White Plains, New York. They were written by a woman named Ruth Ives, and addressed to a Dr. John Van Duyn who was living/practicing in Duluth, Minnesota. Being an avid genealogist myself, my hope was to find Ruth Ives, or her family, and return the letters. I’m still working on that.

In the meantime, I wanted to know more about Dr. John Van Duyn, and whether his family was still living in Duluth. I had previously done a quick search for John Van Duyn on, using 1920 as an approximate birth date, and Minnesota as a birth location. I found some Van Duyns living in South Dakota, Indiana, and Ohio, but nothing looked promising. I restricted my search to U.S. census data only, and noticed there were no Van Duyns living in Duluth on the 1910, 1920, or 1930 census. That told me he’d probably been born somewhere else and moved to Duluth sometime after 1930.


You may be wondering why I didn’t bother checking the 1940 census, since these letters were postmarked in 1949. To protect the privacy of living U.S. residents, there is a 72 year privacy mandate on all U.S. census data, so it’s not yet possible to check the 1940 U.S. Census for John Van Duyn. Of course, if you’re a genealogist, the date April 2, 2012 is especially significant to you. That’s when the 1940 census is officially released to the public. (Hoo ahh.) I’m assuming will be experiencing some serious server crashes on that day.


However, now that I knew more about Ruth Ives, I was able to narrow down my search for John Van Duyn a bit more. First, I knew she’d been born in 1917, so instead of using a birth date of 1920, I tried 1915, plus or minus 5 years.

I scrolled past several records for Van Duyns living in South Dakota, Indiana, and Ohio, and then I recognized something… an odd word I’d seen somewhere before… “Onondaga.” It was the name of a county in Syracuse, New York. I clicked on the record, and it took me to a page from the 1920 U.S. Census, showing the Edward and Lucy Van Duyn family, with children Mary, age 16, John, age 14, and Constance, age 9. They also had a 51 year old servant living with them, and a 37 year old boarder named Alice David. Sounded like the Van Duyns were pretty well-off in 1920.

I went back to my original search results, and noticed something else that jumped out at me… a John Van Duyn from Syracuse, New York listed on the U.S. School Yearbooks Index. I clicked on the record, and there was that word again… Onondagan… I knew I’d seen it somewhere before. That’s the name of Syracuse University’s yearbook, the one where I’d found a photo of Ruth Ives from 1947.

This record took me to a page from the 1932 Onondagan Yearbook, showing the current members of Nu Sigma Nu, a medical fraternity. Though he wasn’t included in the photo, John Van Duyn was listed, along with his father, Edward Van Duyn, as “Members in Faculty” of Syracuse University. So, there you have it. Our Dr. John Van Duyn was a member of the faculty at Syracuse University… the same school where Ruth Ives (the author of the love letters) was also a faculty member.

I went back to my search results once more and found a 20 year old John Van Duyn listed in the 1929 volume of the Bric A Brac Yearbook from Princeton University. I knew it was the right John Van Duyn since his address matched that of the 1920 U.S. Census – 607 James Street, Syracuse, New York.

I still hadn’t found a photo yet, but I was building a timeline. John Van Duyn was born sometime around 1909. In 1929, he was attending Princeton University for his undergraduate work, and by 1932, he was a member of the medical faculty at Syracuse University.

I scrolled down a bit farther in my list of search results and found two more records for John Van Duyn. The first one was on the New York Passenger Lists. On June 13, 1922, John Van Duyn, age 16, arrived in New York City from Cherbourg, France. His birth date was listed as July 24, 1905, address 607 James Street in Syracuse. Interestingly, he was traveling with another John Van Duyn, presumably his grandfather, who shared the same birthday as young John Van Duyn, July 24, 1843. He was 78 years old, living at the same address as young John, and born in Kingston, New Jersey.

The next record was a listing of Georgia Deaths from 1919-1998. John Van Duyn, age 80 years, died on January 10, 1986 in Muscogee County.

So, I now knew that both the author and the recipient of my love letters had passed away. In order to return the letters, I’d need to re-focus my search on living family members.

Well… it’s time to make the meatballs. I’d like to wish everyone who reads my blog a very Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. I’ll try to blog again soon, though I’m hopelessly behind on “all things Christmas” this year. I’ll try to squeeze in a few lines in the next few days… in between shopping, baking, shipping… etc.

Next time… much more about Dr. Van Duyn (and I don’t just mean John!), and my progress on trying to track down Ruth Ives’ family.

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Love Letters, Chapter 3

New here? Start from the beginning…

An introduction to Ruth L. Ives

In 1949, Ruth Ives was 32 years old, living in Syracuse, New York. A native of White Plains, near New York City, I was curious how/why she’d ended up in Syracuse… a city in Central New York, about 150 miles east of Buffalo. I started Googling.

Syracuse Herald Journal - January 8, 1947

I found a few mentions of Ruth Ives in the Syracuse Herald Journal where I learned she served as the director of the Opera Workshop at Syracuse University. In an article dated January 8, 1947, which included a photo, the paper reported that Miss Ruth Ives would be singing five folk songs for an alumni gathering at the Syracuse Hotel. She would also be directing her students in a production of a playlet titled, “The Frantic Physician.” Click the thumbnail at right to read the whole article.

I found another photo of Ruth Ives from the Syracuse University yearbook, dated 1947. Miss Ives was also mentioned in the 1949 yearbook (the same year the love letters were written) in this description of the Opera Workshop, for which she was the director:

Ruth Ives, Onandagan Yearbook - 1947

Ruth Ives, Onandagan Yearbook, 1947

“The Opera Workshop, under the direction of Miss Ruth Ives, was started at Syracuse in 1946. The main goal of the Opera Workshop is to develop an American musical theater in the medium between grand opera and musical comedy. When the Opera Workshop sponsors a production it tries to appeal to present-day American audience by presenting the opera in english. Most of its productions are written by contemporary composers and it goes a step further by encouraging students to write original operas which are produced by Opera Workshop.”

I found one other mention of Ruth Ives, in the 2009 obituary of her brother, Edward “Sandy” Ives. You may recall in Ruth’s second letter she referred to her brother Sandy when she was asking John Van Duyn about his new car: “Do tell me more about the car. What color is it? Is it four door? Dad and Sandy say that 4000 miles is practically brand new.”

It turns out Ruth’s younger brother, Sandy, was a respected English professor who took up an interest in folklore and folksong history while he was teaching at the University of Maine. He became a respected author, historian, performer, and recording artist of northeast/northwoods folksongs. Heres a snippet from Sandy’s obituary, published in the Bangor Daily News on August 4, 2009:

Edward D. “Sandy” Ives passed away peacefully Aug. 1, 2009, at his home. Sandy was born Sept. 4, 1925, in White Plains, N.Y., the son of Warren L. and Millicent (Dawson) Ives. In addition to his loving family, he leaves behind a legacy of songs, stories and cherished memories among the countless people whose lives he touched as teacher, researcher, writer and friend. He was predeceased by his parents; an infant brother, Baby John; and his beloved sister, Ruth.

By now, I had a pretty good idea of who Ruth Ives was. From her letters, we know she’d moved back to White Plains from Syracuse in 1949 and was working at Altman’s Department Store in the cosmetics department. She was a fairly good tennis player, a terrible bridge player, and she was very much in love with a doctor by the name of John Van Duyn, working at the Arrowhead Clinic in Duluth, Minnesota.

So, who was this mysterious Dr. John Van Duyn? How did they ever meet? Did they ever work out their differences and get married? More next time…

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