Comstock, Stout, and etc portraits

I sometimes get distracted and go off to other entries to answer emails, or to cover some other point that occurs to me. A good example of that is August - The Embargo Act of 1807 and 19C miniature portrait cases !!  

Recently, I posted a preview of a group of 6 miniatures and 17 photographs relating to several early families, including Comstock, Conger, Starr, and Stout.

I am now in the process of trying to assemble the named individuals into a coherent listing here. With the items there are a number of family trees and other notes that I need to check and try and work out where they fit together.

Some of the notes at first glance seem to be contradictory and so I need to compare them with other Internet sources. The overall process is proving much more difficult than I had expected, even allowing for so many of the portraits being identified.

The whole process is like suddenly walking into a darkened room with family gathering of 30 people that one has never met before. It is too dark to tell their ages, nor who is related to who! Also, they are all clamouring at once to tell their own stories!

It is also worthwhile noting that some family trees appearing on the Internet have errors in them, so it is necessary to check details wherever possible.

Some of the identifications on these portrait are also seeming to be inaccurate. In the 21C, family history records are now more readily available than they used to be and so can now be used to help review identifications previously made in the 1920's, which were some 60 to 100 years after the images were first made.

I am also trying to research the family names for any interesting stories as part of the process, as well as considering attributions to artists and/or photographers where possible.

Anyone who had researched family histories will understand how mentally exhausting this process can be!

This will take a week or two more if I am lucky, so I apologise to my visitors if this entry seems to appear, disappear, reappear and have multiple changes during August and September. In some instances names of portraits may even change, but I am trying to set out full details, so that any interested visitors can test the logic of the process.

Apart from the research time, scanning the images and trying to make a balanced page layout is also time consuming for a technologically challenged person such as myself! However, you are welcome to follow my convoluted progress!

Any visitor who owns images of these family members is very welcome to contact me to try and identify the sitters.

Early Photography

An additional complication in this process is having to learn a little about early photography, to help date the various photographs.

Although there are quite a number of different processes, it seems that most early photographic portraits of individuals are either daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, tintypes, or paper prints. Thus depending upon the type, the earliest possible date for a photograph can be established.

— Daguerreotype (1839-1860s): metal photograph with a reflective surface, sometimes found in a case. They must be held at an angle to be seen.

— Ambrotype (invented 1854): Negative image on glass that appears as a positive due to being backed with a dark material. They were usually placed in a case because of their fragility.

— Ferreotype or tintype (invented 1856): These dark metal images are on thin sheets of iron. Photographers sold them in cases, with paper mats, or alone.

— Paper Print (commonly available 1859): Photographs mounted on cardboard.

Eleutheros Dana Comstock by Joseph Wood

This portrait is the only one of the three early painted miniatures not identified by a glued on label.

The attached notes suggest it is a Comstock. These are three loose notes, possibly by different hands, with abbreviated family trees which refer to these early miniature portraits.

One refers to "Comstock in round frame" and "Comstock in closed frame".

Confusingly, neither miniature is round. However, after a comparison of the oval "green" miniature shown further below, with the photograph of Eleutheros Dana Comstock, it is believed that the "green" oval miniature is the "round" one. Also, therefore that the sitter in the "green" miniature is not the Stephen Comstock named in the label glued to it.

If these two abbreviated family trees are to be fully accepted, the miniature in the "closed" frame might then be thought to be the father of Eleutheros Dana Comstock, i.e. Daniel Comstock. The apparent problem with this identity is that Daniel was born in 1767, whereas the miniature dates to around 1810 and the sitter looks to be too young to be Daniel and is also too old to be a child of Eleutheros.

The third note is written on the reverse of a deposit slip for The Bloomfield Bank and Trust Company and has provision for a date commencing "192..".

Hence it appears the note was written in the 1920's by someone who was familiar with the then recent family history, but who did not have access to early 19C family history records. Thus the writer appears to nominate the sitter in both miniatures as a Comstock, but was uncertain why there were two of them.

After considering this conflict for some time, I have concluded that the most likely explanation is that both the Joseph Rogers miniature and the Nathaniel Rogers miniature depict Eleutheros Dana Comstock, but at different ages, about ten years apart.

The hairstyle is quite different, but both have a high forehead and similar complexions. Being by different artists, one would not expect exactly similar depictions. It may be that after sideburns became unfashionable, Eleutheros commissioned a more fashionable portrait.

In working though the various notes about sitters and fitting them together, it appears that the most likely person we should be very grateful to for attempting to record the identity of sitters, is Miriam Lee Stout Walker (1895-1958). She refers to Nanna on several occasions. Nanna must be Rebecca Comstock Conger who was born in 1842

The third note with some minor interpretations, reads; "Comstock, father of George S Comstock, Susan Comstock married G Lee Stout, Julia Comstock married Wright F Conger - then a line of descent - Rebecca Comstock Conger married G Lee Stout - Wright C Stout, Julia C Stout, G Lee Stout. With Wright C Stout marrying Jennie S Ward, their daughter Miriam Lee Stout marrying Ford Hudson Walker, their daughter being Jane M Walker."

Originally, this appeared to make it clear that the sitter in the miniature is ...... Comstock, father of George S Comstock, Susan Comstock, and Julia Comstock.

(At this point there are several references to G Lee Stout, which need to be reconciled. That referring to a marriage with Susan Comstock seems to be wrong as at the 1880 census, Susan was unmarried. At GIDEON LEE STOUT there is a reference to Gideon Lee Stout aged 23, marrying Rebecca C Conger aged 21, on 3 Jun 1863 at Newark Essex, NJ. As their ages are given, this marriage appears to be from a valid source record, but some other references suggest that the Gideon Lee Stout who married Rebecca Comstock Conger was born in 1816 in Amwell, Hunterdon Co, New Jersey, USA. It thus seems possible there were three generations named Gideon Lee Stout, born in 1816, 1840, and 1877.)

Eleutheros Dana Comstock (26 Sep 1791-17 Aug 1857) was born in Huntingdon, Long Island and died at sea, reportedly as a suicide by drowning. He had settled in New York City and much later went to California. He was a graduate of Yale College in 1807 and his occupation, in the 1830's was with the firm of Smith, Dimon & Comstock, ship builders. Later he was a broker.

Family history sites record that Eleutheros Dana Comstock was the eldest son of Daniel Comstock (4 May 1767-27 Aug 1858) and Mary Polly Dana (1767-20 Dec 1848). He was the grandson of David Comstock Sr (1720-19 Nov 1783) and Rebekah Grumman (1727-?) of Norwalk CT, who themselves had fifteen children.

The arrival from England and the consequent history of the Comstock family in the area near Norwalk, CT appears to have commenced before 1700 and to have continued until the present time. There are therefore many branches of the family.

Eleutheros married Rebecca Matilda Starr (28 Feb 1792-8 Feb 1870) on 19 April 1815 and they had several children.

1. Julia Maria Comstock b: 10 Sep 1819 - d: 22 Aug 1870, who married Wright Conger c1839 in NY
2. James Dana Comstock b: 27 Sep 1821 - d: 10 Dec 1885 in Bloomfield NJ
3. Daniel Starr Comstock b: 10 Mar 1825 - d: 30 Jul 1827
4. Susan Eliza Comstock b: 14 Sep 1826, c: 7 Sep 1827 at Garden St Dutch Reformed Church, New York - d:1915
5. Samuel Starr Comstock b: 1829, d: 20 Jul 1832 - Interred Marble Cemetery
6. George Smith Comstock b: 26 Sep 1834, c: 17 Jul 1835 at Garden St Dutch Reformed Church - d:?

Census Records
Family history sites seem to only list the five named children above, but in the 1850 census Eleutheros (spelled Eluthews) D Comstock 60, a broker, and Rebecca Comstock 50, are living in New York together with James D, a clerk aged 26, Mary 24, Julia 28, Susan 20, George 14, Rebecca 8, and Mary 1, with all children born in New York, as well as two servants. Apart from the servants all are recorded as named Comstock, but it appears Julia and the younger Rebecca should have been recorded under the name Conger, as Julia had married Wright F Conger in 1841. The Mary aged 24 may have been the wife of James D, and thus little Mary their daughter.

In the 1860 census, Rebecca Comstock aged 60 is living in Bloomfield NJ at the home of Wright F and Julia Conger, together with Rebecca Conger now aged 17. Wright F Conger discloses assets of $35,000. Also living in the house are Eliza Stall (Starr?) 60, Susan Comstock 25, and two servants. Presumably Eliza Starr was a sister of Rebecca Comstock.

In the 1870 census Wright F Conger, 57 bonded warehouseman with assets of $110,000 and his wife Julia M Conger, 50 are living in Bloomfield, NJ. Living with them are there are their daughter Rebecca Conger Stout 27, with her husband, Gideon Lee Stout 30, a coal merchant who has assets of $60,000. They have a child Wright C aged 5. Also in the house are Susan E Comstock 42, George S Comstock 33, secretary to coal company with assets of $6000 and there are three Irish servants.

In the 1880 census Rebecca 37, and Gideon Lee Stout, a coal merchant aged 39 are living in 164 Madison Ave, New York. They have three children; Wright 15, Julia 8, and G Lee 3. Also living with them are her uncle James D Comstock 50, a coal dealer, her aunt Susan Comstock 39 (s/be 54!) and four servants.

Eleutheros Dana Comstock by Nathaniel Rogers

Attaching to the reverse of this miniature is a note reading; "Stephen Comstock, brother of Julia Comstock Conger".

However, initially at least, there is more confidence about the artist than the sitter, as the name appears to disagree with other records showing the names of Julia's brothers, who were named James and George.

It is instead believed to be Eleutheros Dana Comstock whose photograph has been repeated here, together with the identifying note on the reverse of his photograph.

The miniature dates to around 1810-1815, so the apparent age of 20-25 fits with Eleutheros who was born in 1791. The sitter also seems clearly to be the same person as the sitter in the photograph which dates to around 1840-1845 when Eleutheros would have been aged 50-55.

Eleutheros Dana Comstock and his family
An early research discovery for this entry has led to The New York Marble Cemetery, Inc. in New York.

This is an award winning genealogical website about the oldest public non-sectarian cemetery in New York City. The Cemetery is entered from 2nd Avenue, between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Most of the 2,070 interments took place between 1830 and 1870; the last was in 1937. All burials are in 156 below-ground vaults made of solid white Tuckahoe marble.

Contact with a very helpful trustee at the cemetery website has been mutually beneficial, as Eleutheros Dana Comstock has proved to be the first owner of vault number 132 at the cemetery, which he purchased in 1833 and which under the Trust Deed, is still owned by his descendants, see Vault Owners Thus, it has now been possible to give the Cemetery Trustees an image of one of its early vault owners for their own records.

This first of the photographs, although not in perfect condition, has a note on the reverse reading; "Comstock - father of George Starr, Julia Comstock Conger, Susan Comstock Stout - marked "Nanna's father". Thus the image appears to be an image of the same Eleutheros Dana Comstock pictured above, but as an older man.

His son appears to be recorded as George Starr Comstock, whereas the earlier reference above refers to George Smith Comstock. One or other of these differing second names seems likely to be a transcription error, as there was a second son named Daniel Starr Comstock.

Sadly, a comparison of the miniature of Eleutheros with the photograph of him as an older man, illustrates what we have lost with the move from painted miniatures on ivory, to photographs. The miniature is as pristine as the day it was completed around 1810, but the photograph despite being some 30 years newer, shows the ravages of time.

The second photograph in a very similar case, differing only in the shape of the mat, is noted on the reverse as; "Great, great, great, grandfather of Miriam Stout Walker - Daniel Comstock MD (medical doctor)".

Thus it seems we now have a photo of Daniel Comstock (4 May 1767-27 Aug 1848) who was the father of Eleutheros Dana Comstock. He was a physician at Miller's Place, Long Island.

He is believed to be the Dr. Daniel Comstock who married Mary Dana and is buried at Danbury, "...with his wife and his mother beside him. His mother was Rebecca GRUMANN of Norwalk. Major Seth Comstock and members of his family rest here...", see DANBURY, FAIRFIELD CO., CT, OLD BURIAL-GROUNDS

His son, Eleutheros was a shipbuilder and merchant who became a member of the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of New York City in 1832 and its president in 1840.

As a past president of the Society, he marched in a major procession on 14 Oct 1842 to mark the completion of the Croton Aqueduct which was a major engineering project of the time to bring water to New York City.

Many years later, the New York Times of 28 Apr 1900 recorded that stone from the old Croton Viaduct was purchased and used to build the Church of the Paullist Fathers at 60th and Columbus Ave, see DR. HADLEY AT VASSAR.; Delivers an Address on Political Educa ...

Wright Frost Conger

Another key figure in this family tree puzzle is Wright Frost Conger (7 Dec 1812-10 Apr 1880) who married Julia Maria Comstock on 30 Jan 1841.

He is shown in this photograph which has a note on the reverse reading; "Wright F Conger grandfather of Wright Conger Stout, father of Miriam Stout Walker". It probably dates to the early 1870's.

The mount is stamped "C Benjamin - artist" and "No 274 Broad St, Newark, NJ".

In the background can be seen what may be the Brooklyn Bridge under construction. Construction began Jan 3, 1870. The Brooklyn Bridge was completed thirteen years later and was opened for use on May 24, 1883. On that first day, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed what was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Wright and Julia Conger had only one child, a daughter Rebecca Comstock Conger who married Gideon Lee Stout.

Wright Frost Conger was the eldest son of John Conger, a famous manufacturer of edged tools who had married Mary Frost on 1 Jul 1809.

Wright F Conger began his business career as a wholesale dry-goods merchant, but was later extensively engaged in the manufacture of paper in Bloomfield, NJ where he owned a magnificent summer residence.

In 1859 he became a member of the firm of Miller & Conger, a warehousing company. His partner said of him that he was a man of such remarkable self-possession that he was never known to use the smallest expletive, no matter what the provocation. He was Master of the Bloomfield Lodge No. 40 for three years, 1863-1865. He was also an initial director of the Newark and Blomfield Railroad company.

In 1867 the firm of Miller & Conger was named in an inquiry into fraudulent activities at the NY Custom House, see NEW-YORK CUSTOM HOUSE.; Public Propriety and Decency Demand His ...

The New York Times of 26 Apr 1871 recorded Julia Maria Conger's death which occurred on 22 Apr 1871 at Bloomfield NJ. She was described as the daughter of Mr E D Comstock. Then the New York Times for 13 Apr 1880 recorded the obituary showing here for Wright Frost Conger himself.

Rebecca Conger Stout and her children

These miniatures are well identified.

One is of Rebecca Conger Stout and her son Wright Conger Stout and the picture must have been taken around 1866.

The other is later and shows Wright Conger Stout (1865-?) holding Gideon Lee Stout (Sep 1876-?) and separately, Julia Conger Stout (1872-?). Thus judging by the apparent ages of the children in these latter two photographs, they were taken around 1879.

In the 1870 census, the family lived in Madison Ave, Manhattan.

References suggest that Gideon Lee Stout (Sep 1876-?) married a Dorothy von Benkendorf Muir. She is most likely the Dorothy von B Muir (Sep 1875-?) recorded as a boarder in Brooklyn in the 1900 census. Their marriage was recorded in Dec 1902 at Newark NJ.

See also Seven Generations of the Family of Joseph Conger and Mary Marsh

Unknown - portrait of George Starr

This miniature has a note on the reverse stating: "George Starr, uncle of Julia Comstock Conger, mother of Rebecca Conger Stout, grandmother of Miriam Stout Walker."

One interpretation is that he was the brother of Julia's mother, Rebecca Matilda Starr Comstock. The problem with this is that Rebecca Starr had two brothers named Daniel Starr (1790-?) and Ezra Starr (1792-?) and they both look to be too old for this miniature, which dates to around 1820-1825.

As can be seen the reverse of the case contains a small compartment with plaited hair in it. The 14 carat gold chain is also interesting, as it shows how many miniatures were worn, i.e. on a chain around the neck of mother, lover, or wife.

Given the other references to George Starr Comstock (which s/be George Smith Comstock), it seems the note is intended to suggest the sitter is George Smith Comstock.

Even this does not fit as George Smith Comstock was born in 1834.

It is therefore necessary to work through and identify as many of the other images as possible, with a view to determining a likely sitter born around 1805-1810, as the sitter looks to be aged 15-20.

Much later - Although little further has emerged, a kind visitor has pointed out a recent sale on eBay of a miniature of an unknown sitter which is similar in style and appears to be by the same artist. The pose is similar, the sitter is looking directly at the viewer, the jacket outline similar, and the neck-wear is just as finely painted. Having two examples here may help identify the artist. One suggestion has been William Wadsworth, but the example by him on the cover of the CHS bulletin is signed WW, the pose is different, and the sitter is not looking at the viewer, thus he does not seem likely.

George Smith Comstock and Jennie E Quick
Image of a man with the following note on the rear; "Could this be Uncle George Comstock?"
Listed as George L Comstock (26 Sep 1834->1910) he had married Jennie L Quick (28 Jan 1845->1910) on 21 June 1871 at Hunterdon, NJ.

However, the "L" is wrong and it must be George Smith Comstock, as here is a photograph of Jennie Quick and her sisters, Sally and Amanda, together with a note identifying Jennie as the wife of George Starr (sic s/be Smith) Comstock.

In the 1860 census, they lived on a farm at Raritan, Hunterdon, NJ. The three sisters were daughters of Gideon Quick 67, and Clara Leak Rea Quick 51, with Gideon disclosing assets of $19,000. Two farm laborers and one servant lived in.

The girls were named Sarah A aged 18, Jane E, 15 and Amanda M 13 and all five were born in New Jersey.

Based upon those ages, it seems the photograph was taken around 1855, with Amanda on the left say aged 8, Jane (Jane E = Jennie?) on the right say 10, and Sarah (Sally) say 13, in the centre.

For the 1870 census, Gideon described himself as a retired farmer with assets of $25,000, although two farm laborers still lived with the family. The daughters all still lived at home.

By the 1880 census, Jennie had married George Comstock, a coal company secretary and moved to E 126th Street, between Madison and Fifth Avenues, Manhattan, although Sarah and Amanda were still living with them as spinster sister boarders.

For the 1900 and 1910 census retunrs, George and Jennie Comstock were living in Manhattan, NYC, along with Amanda M Quick and one servant.

By 1910 George and Jennie had been married for 38 years but had no children. George still described himself as secretary of coal company.

James Comstock

An early photograph with a rear note stating; "James Comstock - Uncle George's brother". This is thus James Dana Comstock (27 Sep 1821-10 Dec 1885).

The earlier photograph is a daguerreotype and probably dates from around 1846 when James would have been aged 25. The mat for the photograph is inscribed; "Weston 192 Broadway NY".

James Dana Comstock was a coal dealer and seems to have worked for his brother-in-law, Wright Frost Conger, where his brother George Comstock was the company secretary.

James P Weston was active as a daguerreian in New York between 1842-1857 and in 1846-52 his address was recorded as 192 Broadway.

The case is in plain leather, i.e. without an impressed design. This shows that plain leather cases for miniatures were available up top around 1850, by which time impressed designs were the norm.

James Comstock appears here as an older man, with a note on the reverse stating; "Uncle James Comstock - Nanna's brother".

This later case is of impressed leather over wood.

The photograph is an ambrotype and probably dates to around 1865 when James would have been aged 44.

John Wilson Stout

Described on rear as "John Wilson Stout of New Brunswick NJ, father of G Lee Stout - Wright C Stout - Miriam Stout Walker - Jane W Conneen". The sitter appears to be around 60 and the image to date from around 1850.

This is a daguerreotype with the mat marked "Holmes 289 Broadway". This will be for Silas (Samuel?) A Holmes who appears in street directories at 289 Broadway from 1848-1859. In 1854 he was awarded Patent #10,087 for a camera taking stereoscopic and other pictures, known as the "double camera".

Various family trees for the Stout family are available on the Internet, although there are some inconsistencies between them. For example there are references to two Gideon Lee Stout's, with the elder being married twice, firstly to Susan S Comstock and secondly to Rebecca Conger in 1863. However, others suggest Rebecca was the first wife and that Susan S Comstock died in 1915.

Thus, as an alternative (and which seems to be confirmed by the census records) it is perhaps more likely there were three generations named Gideon Lee Stout. One born in 1816, one born about 1840, and one born in 1877.

Thus the first of these Gideon's may have married around 1839 and thus been the father of the middle one who married Rebecca Comstock Conger (c1843-<1884 blur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="" on=""> The identity of John Wilson Stout above is taken to be correct as a start point. He was born in 1790 in Amwell, Hunterdon, NJ and died in 1861.

This fits with the age of the sitter and the approximate date of the image being around 1850. He married Eliza Woodruff (1797-1887) and they had six children including Gideon Lee Stout born in Amwell in 1816.

An older lady recorded on the reverse as "Mrs John Wilson Stout, mother of G Lee Stout, grandmother of Miriam Stout Walker".

This would then be Eliza Woodruff (1797-1881) shown here and photographed around 1860 when she was aged about 63.

Eliza Woodruff was descended from John Woodruff, who was born in 1604 in the Parish of Saint Mary Northgate, Canterbury, Kent, England and died at Southampton, Long Island, New York, America, in 1670. John Woodruff was the Patriarch of the all the Woodruffs who first settled in Southampton, then moved on to New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana, and eventually to all fifty states.

A man wearing spectacles, in a tinted ambrotype, identified as "either G Lee Stout or, more likely, one of his brothers".

If it is Gideon, it seems more likely to be the Gideon Lee Stout born in 1816.

The mount is inscribed "G D Fredericks - 585 Broadway". Charles DeForest Fredericks (1823-1894) was a noted photographer of the mid 19C. In 1856 he exhibited at the American Institute and won a silver medal for best photographic oil colors and a bronze for the best photographic water colors.

In 1859-1860 Fredericks was listed as a photographer at 585 Broadway, with his residence at 587 Broadway. It seems likely that this photograph dates to around 1860.

The sitter looks to be aged around 45 and hence Gideon Lee Stout born in 1816, seems to be a likely identification. He did have a brother Thomas Hance Stout born in 1818 and who married Sarah Coffin, so he is another, but less likely, identification.

An unidentified young lady, but almost certainly from the Stout family as the case is of very similar pattern to two Stout portraits identified above as John Wilson Stout and below as G Lee Stout.

Although the case is similar, it is a little later. The sitter looks to be aged about 25 and is well posed, with a downward looking pose. She may well be Rebecca Comstock Conger before her marriage.

She may also be the Susan Eliza Comstock who married Gideon Lee Stout after Rebecca's death.

A youth identified on a rear note as; "I think this is G Lee Stout".

Given the comments about there possibly being three Gideon Lee Stout's, this could well be the middle one born around 1840.

The case is identical to the one above of John Wilson Stout, which suggests it was taken by the same photographer and around the same time, say 1850.

The sitter looks to be aged about ten. He is wearing a buttoned jacket and is holding what looks to be a high crowned had, possibly with a peak at the front.

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