Jacob Lawrence Ostrander

The Last Voyage of the First Son

Grave 504, Public Lot 17263, Section 16

Directly in front of the McCulloch/Rose granite headstone, a white marble stone stands on the grave of a victim of the Brooklyn Theater Fire (see above). Due to the age of the marble marker, the inscription on it is barely visible, but the following words can still be read:

Died Dec. 5th, 1876
Aged 21 years
Rest in peace

On the evening of December 7, 1876, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported two lists of bodies as they were laid out at the Brooklyn Market and the Morgue. These bodies were numbered and described by items found on their persons; out of 45 bodies at the morgue one was reported as “No. 41. Recognized as Jacob L. Ostrander, of No. 374 Navy street.” This was the first mention of Jacob among the victims of the fire. The next day, a daily newspaper in the City of Troy, reported on the conditions at the site of the fire.

An old man passed about the room in the market weeping. He said that his son, Jacob Ostrander, aged 21, of 374 Navy street, and his son-in-law, Wm. Bryant, were among the dead. His boy had been off on a whaling voyage, and had returned only a few days ago. He hoped to identify him through a carved ring from whale ivory which the boy wore.

The Sun, published in the city of New York, was the main source of information for The Troy Daily Times. The original story reported on December 7 read, “Among the others identified were:…Wm. Bryant of 370 Navy street, and Jacob L. Ostrander of 374 Navy street. Young Bryant was soon to be married to Ostrander’s sister.” According to his death certificate, remains of William A. Bryant were removed to Connecticut; he was recorded as single because his marriage was not finalized and perhaps in the future, I will trace his story in full. In the meantime, I must turn to Jacob L. Ostrander, whose obituary was published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 8, 1876.

Jacob L. Ostrander.

The funeral services over the remains of Jacob L. Ostrander were held this afternoon in the Tabernacle. A large number of relatives and friends were present. A solemn dirge was played on the organ by Mr. Morgan, as the remains were borne into the church. Rev. Charles W. Wood officiated and preached an appropriate sermon. The remains were interred at Green-wood. Mr. Ostrander was very highly esteemed.

He was buried in grave 504 of Public Lot 17263 in Section 16, and thus ended his life. From above newspaper reports, we know that Jacob had a sister and that he worked on a whaling boat. But a question as to the origins of Mr. Ostrander is yet to be discovered, and for that we must turn to old church records. On July 12, 1855, Jacob Lawrence Ostrander was christened in the Dutch Reformed Church of Montgomery, a town located in Orange County, New York. He was the first of seven children of Jacob Ostrander Jr. and Frances “Fanny” Elizabeth Low, who were married in the same church on December 29, 1853.
The Dutch Reformed Church of Montgomery played an important role in the history of Low family. Fanny’s parents, Lawrence Low (1807-1865) and Rachel Dunning (1807-1901), were married on February 15, 1827, and all of her ten siblings were christened in the same church. She herself was christened Elizabeth Low on August 30, 1833, but at the time of her marriage her name was recorded as Frances E. Low.
On his maternal side, Jacob L. Ostrander had German and French ancestry. The Low surname, also spelled Lowe and Louw, originates from Peter Cornelius, who in 1668 arrived from Holstein, Germany and settled in a Huguenot town of New Paltz, Ulster County, New York. Peter Cornelius’ wife, Elizabeth Blanshan, was daughter of Matthew Blanshan, whose other daughter, Catherine, was wife of Louis DuBois, one of the twelve original settlers of New Paltz.

Portion of 1853 Map of Ulster County by Brink and Tillson that shows one of the last farmlands of the Ostrander family in Shawangunk. J. Ostrander on the map refers to Jacob J. Ostrander, grandfather of Jacob Lawrence Ostrander. Today, the road running from south to north on the map corresponds to Hoagerburgh Road, and the territory northeast of the farm is currently the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge

Jacob’s paternal surname indicates his Dutch ancestry, and it is likely he was directly related to Pieter Pietersen from whom the name Ostrander originated. Peter Pietersen was four years old when he arrived in New Amsterdam in 1661 with his sister, mother and step-father, and the family settled, if only temporary, in the English Town of Gravesend (currently a Brooklyn neighborhood) in Kings County. In 1663, the family moved to a village of Wyltwyck  (current Town of Kingston), which is in Ulster County, New York and from there the branches spread into the various parts of the colonies.

Jacob Lawrence Ostrander’s family moved to Brooklyn in early 1870s from Virginia. His father,Jacob Ostrander Jr. was born in 1829 in the Town of Shawangunk, Ulster County to Jacob J. Ostrander (1799-1879) and Maria DuBois (1804-1878). Like his father before him, Jacob Ostrander Jr. was a farmer in Shawangunk. By 1855, when the New York State Census was enumerated, Jacob was living with his wife Frances, and 8 year old sister-in-law, Mary Low, in the Town of Newburgh, Orange County. The census shows Jacob was a resident of the town for the past two years and occupied as clerk.

Jacob Ostrander’s Civil War Draft Registration, June 1863, Town of Wallkill, Orange County, Line 16 (ancestry.com).

By 1860, as the US Federal Census indicates, Jacob Ostrander was living in the Town of Crawford, Orange County, with his wife, four children and one “domestic”. He was working as merchant with his real estate valued at $800. Five years later, when the New York State Census was enumerated on June 19, 1865, Jacob Ostrander Jr. was registered with his wife, six children, and Irish born servant, all living in the Town of Wallkill, Orange County; he was recorded as “owner of land” and still occupied as merchant. He must have moved to Wallkill sometimes before June 1863, as Jacob’s military records indicate (image above).
It must be noted here that Orange County is located south of Ulster County in New York State and that the above mentioned towns within these counties (Shawangunk, Montgomery, Newburgh, Crawford and Wallkill)  are located short distances from each other. It is only conjecture on my part, but it is possible that the reason the Ostranders moved between these towns was due to the father’s attempt to establish himself as merchant.

Seven counties of the Hudson Valley. Not identified on the map are Shawangunk and Wallkill that are located south of New Paltz; Crawford was formed out of Montgomery and now located to its north on the border of Ulster County. Hamlet of Searsville is part of Crawford and Scotchtown is part of Wallkill.

On December 15, 1876, the Tri-State Union newspaper, based in Port Jervis, New York, published the following obituary:

An Orange County Victim
Among the victims of the dreadful disaster at the Brooklyn theater, was Jacob L. Ostrander, son of Jacob Ostrander, formerly of Montgomery. Young Ostrander resided at 374 Navy Street. His remains were identified by his friends, and his funeral took place yesterday, from the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Interment in Greenwood Cemetery.
The deceased formerly kept a store in Searsville, and afterwards for a time, resided at Scotchtown. He removed to Brooklyn several years since. His age was about thirty–five years. He leaves a wife and children-the wife being the daughter of Mrs. Rachel Dow, of Montgomery.
The Port Jervis newspaper made a mistake between the two Jacob Ostranders. The first part of the above obituary was about Jacob who died at the Brooklyn Theater Fire, while the second part seems to be about his father. The report does not shed any new light on the young Jacob, but it adds a detail about the elder. We now know a specific location where Jacob’s father had a store; Scotchtown is a hamlet within the confines of the Town of Wallkill. However, the family had not “removed to Brooklyn several years since” directly from Scotchtown, as the paper suggested, for they lived in Virginia prior to that time. This move took place sometimes after 1866 when Jacob Ostrander Jr. sold his store.
On August 25, 1866, the New York Daily Tribune run an advertisement for sale of property.
FOR SALE CHEAP—The subscriber, wishing to give up the merchanting business, offers his PROPERTY in the village of Scotchtown, Orange Co., N.Y., four miles from Midddletown, on the N.Y. and E.R.R., consisting of a good Dwelling House, Store-House, Barn and Carriage-House, all in good order, and a large Garden, with all kinds of Fruits. It is a good healthy location, with post-office, church and school in the village. For further particulars inquire at the store of the subscriber, JACOB OSTRANDER. Price $3000.

As to what type of merchant Jacob Ostrander Jr. was is unknown, but he must have been a successful one. Both the layout of the property and its proximity to railroad allowed the Elder Ostrander to make such a good fortune that he moved his family from Wallkill, New York to Virginia, approximately five hundred miles away. The move, I believe, was a calculated one on part of Jacob Ostrander Jr., for he procured enough money from sale of his business to invest it in a new venture.

The records are not clear, but it is possible, Jacob Ostrander Jr. moved to Virginia in order to help in rebuilding some of the badly damaged areas during the Civil War. The Township of Wythe, which is now a neighborhood in the City of Hampton, was a scene of a naval battle during the war.On August 10, 1870, when the United States Federal Census was enumerated, the Ostranders were recorded as living in Wythe Township, Elizabeth City County, Virginia. The family consisted of Jacob and his wife Fanny E., their seven children (Jacob L. 16 years, Rachel A. 14 years, Josephine 12 years, James L. 10 years, Edward N. 8 years, Mary H. 5 years, George N. 3 years), and Jacob Low, a nine years old nephew of Fanny. The census enumerator recorded The Elder Jacob as a farmer, which was valued at $4000; he also had a $150 Personal Estate.

The Ninth United States Census, enumerated on August 10, 1870 for Wythe Township, Elizabeth City County, Virginia; lines 1-10, the Ostrander household (www.ancestry.com)

The Brooklyn Theater Fire Relief Association, which was formed in the immediate aftermath of the fire, included reports on each family that received help from them. They had a file on Jacob L. Ostrander that included information on him provided by his mother. It reads:
Mrs. Ostrander’s Statement
Name and address of deceased Jacob L. Ostrander
374 Navy
Age 24 21
If employed at time of death, where? was to go as Seaman and leave his mother $150
What, if any wages received? gave his family about $2 or 3 per week on average
Names and ages of those depending on deceased father Jacob 48  receiver on Old Dominion Steamship line $60 a month, six children daughter 18 (teacher but unemployed) boy 16 with Toote & Richardson Fulton St. NY $5 per week, boy 14, girl 12, boy 10, girl 8

Was the body identified? Yes
By whom buried? Farrell Barnum
Was funeral expenses paid by the city? No, family paid $59.50 for funeral
What, if any, wages received by surviving members of the family? $20 a week
Are there any unemployed members of the family who are willing to work? If so, give occupation daughter teacher Rent $20 a month
Remarks and recommendations of visitors
family is much in want because husband has not been able to work nor daughter since the calamity

Courtesy of the Brooklyn Historical Society,
Brooklyn Theater Fire Relief Association Records, 1876-1879, Case Notes (N-Q)

This record is the second clue as to what Jacob L. Ostrander’s occupation was prior to his death (first being the newspaper obituary above). But it also sheds some light into his father’s profession. Both father and son worked on ships, though their jobs were complete opposite of each other. According to the records at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Jacob L. Ostrander worked as whaler.

Jacob’s name appears in Whaling Crew List Database, where he is described as 19 years old light skinned and light haired man standing at 5’6″ tall and resident of Brooklyn. He was on board of the bark Janet, which began its voyage from New Bedford, Massachusetts on April 12, 1875 under the command of Captain Peter Gartland. Jacob’s arduous voyage lasted nineteen months, as Janetreturned in November of 1876. The Whaling Museum website describes the conditions aboard a whaling ship as ranging from unpleasant to revolting. So, it is not surprising that the young Jacob should seek entertainment upon his return to Brooklyn. Alas, no one could have predicted that it would have been Jacob’s last visit to the theater.

Courtesy of the New Bedford Port Society and the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Crew List for bark Janet for the year 1875

Jacob’s death shook the family to the core. We know this from reports made by the agents of the Brooklyn Theater Fire Relief Association, who visited the Ostrander household as late as January of 1877. Both his father and sister could not work “since the calamity”. It is possible Jacob’s sister, Rachel, who lost two persons to the fire (a brother and fiancé, Wm. Bryant) was so depressed that she was “unable to work”. But then a question must be asked as to the state of Jacob’s father.
Why the “family is in much want” when in 1870 they were living in Virginia on a large farm valued at $4000? What prompted them to move to Brooklyn? Was the move motivated by financial difficulties or was there something else? I don’t have exact answer for these questions, but I did find a possible route that the Ostranders may have taken from Wythe, Virginia to Brooklyn, New York
According to the BTF Relief Association report (above), the elder Jacob Ostrander worked for the Old Dominion Steamship Company. In 1902, the company, which was organized in 1867, published a pamphlet titled Along the Historic James River. Within the pages of this work, the reader could read the histories of all the places between Norfolk and Richmond. But the company also had daily services between Virginia and New York states with stops in several towns and cities along the coastline. In fact, as their ad page boasted, the Old Dominion Steamship Company had the “Longest Daily All-Water Line in the World”.

Along the Historic James River by Robert F. Day, page 31

Perhaps coincidental, but the formation of the Old Dominion Steamship Company corresponds to about the same time when Jacob Ostrander Jr. sold his property in Scotchtown, New York in 1866. It is not far fetch to suggest that since Jacob was a merchant he would have at least heard about the company and maybe his move to Virginia was somehow motivated by the its formation; although I have not found any records suggesting that. However, it is almost certain that his return to New York was via the Old Dominion’s vessels. In fact, as late as 1880, when the Tenth United States Census was enumerated, Jacob Ostrander was working as clerk for steam ship company.
The Ostranders eventually moved out of Brooklyn, most likely sometimes around 1900. The last known record of Jacob Ostrander Jr. was in the Lain & Healy’s Brooklyn Directory, where he was recorded as clerk living at 106 Hewes Street. I am yet to find his date and place of death, but his wife was living in Dutchess County, New York as late as 1920s with her daughter and son-in-law.
The grave where Jacob Lawrence Ostrander was laid to rest had one more burial. Remains of Addie Jobson, christened Phebe Adeline Low on June 18, 1842, was buried on November 2, 1898. Addie was sister of Frances Elizabeth Low, Jacob L. Ostrander’s mother; name of her husband is unknown, but there are records that indicate she was married more than once.
-A hen belonging to Jacob Ostrander, of the Town of Shawangunk, laid an egg that measured seven inches one way and eight the other, and weighed half a pound. The hen only survived the egg-straordinary event a few minutes.
Jacob L. Ostrander’s grandfather, Jacob J. Ostrander (1799-1879), was the last of the family who lived in Shawangunk. As the 1853 map above shows, grandfather Ostrander owned a farm house. The house was built in 1775 and was still standing in 1960s, when the Runowich family lived there. According to the Historical Society of Shawangunk and Gardiner, the house was demolished in 1973; fortunately, it was photographed by Mrs. Erma DeWitt in 1949. It is likely that the house was built by Jacob Ostrander, who was the great-grandfather of Jacob Lawrence Ostrander.


Name:   Jacob L. Ostrander

Age:  21

Native of:  U.S.

Resident of this City:  21 years

Occupation:   Seaman

Marital Status:  Single

Father’s Birthplace:  U.S.

Mother’s Birthplace:  U.S.

Place of Burial: Green-Wood Cemetery

Undertaker:  Thomas W. Barnum, 329 Fulton

Certificate of Death:  11387

Browse for Victims by:


Submit a Comment