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Family tradition says that Edward was born on the Isle of Guernsey in England. This is given credence in that the 1850 US census gives France as the country of birth for his next two younger siblings. It is a short distance from Guernsey to France. He was baptised in North Lopham, England, on 13 February 1825. The biography for his mother explains that it's likely he was given the middle name Green and was taken back to North Lopham to be baptized in hope of reconciling with her father. When he was about 7 he moved with his family to Nova Scotia. It was there that his brother Charles, only about a year-and-a-half older, was probably sent back to England to live with their grandparents. It is easy to imagine this being a traumatic event for both brothers. Edward named his first son Charles E. Vyse.
Edward surely apprenticed with his father to learn the tanning and currying trade. He was the third generation to have that occupation, and he passed it on to his son Robert. Edward appears in the 1849 city directory for Williamsburgh (1848 not available; he is not in the first directory of 1847) as a tanner at 229 5th St. (now Driggs St.), which was also his parents' address. In 1850 he was living at 176 No. 8th St. He and his new wife Margaret are listed in the 1850 US census. They had been married the previous June by Rev. Elbert S. Porter, minister for the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church at Williamsburgh.(1) Edward's obituary doesn't mention a church affiliation, but he may have been attending that church at the time. Edward isn't in any directories in the early 1850s. The Brooklyn city directory included Williamsburgh by 1857, and in that and the following year he was at 55 Wyckoff St. There was a Wyckoff St. in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, but given that he was in Williamsburgh, this surely was the Wyckoff St. later named Ten Eyck St. in Williamsburgh between Lorimer and Leonard Sts. He was at 14 Grand St. by 1859, 33 Grand St. by 1870, then 50 Grand St., which he owned. A newspaper notice about building department activity says that he had a pitched roof built on the house. About 1874 he probably bought 45 So. 4th St. The city directory of 1875 lists him living there and a separate business address at 125 Grand St. Family oral history says that they lived and worked at 1 Grand St., but no record of this has been found. This may have been the first time the family lived away from the tannery and may indicate an increased measure of success. The 1875 census calls 45 So. 4th a brick building valued at $5,500.00, and Edward a leather dresser. His death certificate of the same year calls him a leather merchant. The following is taken from a bird's-eye view that includes the Williamsburgh waterfront. The red dot shows the probable location of 45 So. Fourth. It was certainly one of the houses in the row shown. They likely were speculatively built brick rowhouses in the Italianate style of the 1870s, and the Vyses may have been the first owners and occupants of #45. Edward's son Robert's death certificate (1876) says that this was a one-family dwelling.
(Galt & Hoy, 1879, slightly altered)
Edward supposedly was given the hides of horse carcasses picked up from the streets for Peter Cooper's large glue factory at the eastern edge of Williamsburgh. Family tradition also says that Edward received a government contract to supply goods for shoemaking for the Union Army in the Civil War. At some point he supposedly bought defective hides from a friend named Mason, and on the eve of a court appearance for a lawsuit against Mason, Edward fell through a seldom-opened trap door on the second floor of his shop and broke his neck. Margaret Sinclair says that her mother revealed this for the first time hours before her death. She was probably not mentally acute at the time, and this was most likely a fantasy. Edward's death certificate gives the primary cause of death as congestion of the brain, which he had suffered for 3 days, and the secondary cause "mania pitu."(2) The latter is a mystery and the former vague, but most likely referred to a stroke, perhaps heat stroke, given that he died in late July and there were newspaper reports near that time that commented on the extremely hot weather. The following obituary refers to a short illness, but no mention of an accident.(3) It also provides an insight on Edward's personality:
VYSE - Mr. Edward G. Vyse, after a short illness, died at his residence, No. 45 South Fourth street this morning about half-past nine o'clock. Mr. Vyse was an old resident of the Eastern District, and was known to the most of our citizens as a genial, well-meaning business man. He was born in England in 1824, and was consequently in his fifty first year at his death. The deceased was a man of sympathetic and charitable feelings, and always favored the unfortunate. He was a member of Clinton Lodge, No. 453, also a member of the Masonic Board of Relief. On last Tuesday evening, during the pic-nic in aid of the Board of Relief, he had charge of the scups and hobby-horses, and by his kind and indulgent nature, endeared himself to the many children that were present, and enjoyed the fun thus provided. A meeting of Clinton Lodge will be held this evening in their rooms, and also of the Board of Relief to make suitable arrangements to attend the funeral.
A newspaper article 5 days earlier in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle describes the Board of Relief fair as being in Broadway Park. Edward, his brother William and Edward's wife's cousin Richard Clough were all involved, the Vyses being on the executive committee. The report says "Everyone present appeared to be in a social state of mind and determined to enjoy themselves. Toward the close there was a fine pyrotechnic display, which added brilliancy to the scene. The central and largest piece represented the well known symbol of the square and compass, over which were the words, 'Board of Relief.' As the light from this piece was expiring the glee clubs rendered 'The Watch on the Rhine,' with fine effect amid continued applause."
Edward left a young family behind, his youngest child only about 4 years old. They continued to live at 45 So. 4th St. through the next year, and a year after his father died, son Robert Vyse died of tuberculosis complicated by "exhaustion." More reports of extreme heat were found at this time. Robert was given a certificate of merit by the Centennial Exposition for his entry of rawhide rope, which would have been just before he died. The 1875 Brooklyn city directory says that Robert was a signpainter with the same business and home addresses as his father. This may have been an error, since Robert is listed as a ropemaker in 1876. His brother Edward is known to have been a signpainter, but he was only 15 when his brother died. He may have learned the business from his brother. Whatever other occupation he may have had, Robert had probably learned to tan. He opened a related but different business, which he operated in a different part of Brooklyn (Flushing Ave., corner of Steuben St.). He continued to live in the family house on So. 4th St., and he died there when he was 20.(4)
children of Margaret Hancock and Edward Green Vyse:
i. Charles E., b. abt. 1852
ii. Laura Emma, b. 2 October 1854
iii. Robert Hancock, b. abt. January 1857
iv. Sarah S., b. abt. 1858, m. James Philpott
v. Edward Goodman, b. abt. 1862
vi. Jessie, b. abt. 1866
vii. Henry F., b. July 1872
vital records sources: Edward's birth and baptism dates come from the North Lopham parish register. His marriage date and officiate's name were found in the New York Post? and his death is recorded in a municipal certificate (see note #2 below) and in the Brooklyn Daily Times (see note #3).
1. notice in The Christian Intelligencer, a newspaper produced by that denomination, dated 27 June 1850 (taken from the abstracts series, vol. XX - no. 1039), "by Rev. E. S. Porter," "daughter of R. Hancock, Esq., all of Williamsburgh." Porter is documented as connected with the Reformed church in city direcories and published histories. It isn't known if they were married at the church.
2. Brooklyn death certificate, 1875, #6744.
3. The Brooklyn Daily Times, 26 July 1875.
4. Brooklyn death certificate, 1876, #6810.
1850, 1870, 1860 (14th Ward, p. 197) and US censuses (mistranslated in the 1850 index as Edward G. "Tyre"); 1880: ED 136, sheet 32, line 48
all text and photographs © 1998-2005 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted