On May 6, 2015, I posted about a photograph I found in the box of glass negatives that had been taken by Joseph DeKorn. I’ll copy here what I posted and then give you the information that has come to me since then. If you remember the story, skip to New Information on Louis Van Wyck
It seems to be an elaborate headstone for a man named Louis Van Wyck. Placed on top of the headstone is a cornet. The inscription reads, in part, “Last cornet solo played in Y.P.L. meeting June 18, 1911.”
His birth and death dates are also engraved on the headstone. He died the day after the cornet solo, on June 19, 1911. He was 17 years old–not a man, but a boy!
Although I have his dates, I can’t find Louis through Ancestry’s search function–or Find-a-Grave either. So I turned to Genealogy Bank where I found one article about his memorial service.
Read it here: Louis Van Wyck memorial service. Note that the passage about the funeral is at the VERY END of this article.
I didn’t know what Y.P.L. on the headstone meant, but after reading about the Salvation Army hosting Louis’ memorial service, I looked it up online. It seems to mean Young People’s League. Now I have to admit I don’t know much of anything about the Salvation Army except that it is a Christian denomination and a charity, I sometimes donate furniture or clothing to them, and they (or volunteers like my family and friends) ring bells at Christmas outside shopping malls. I think Sarah in the musical Guys and Dolls belongs to a fictional representation of the Salvation Army.
That is kind of fitting because I just read up a bit and discovered that music has been important to the Salvation Army from the beginning. How fitting this headstone was, then, for poor Louis. But how did he die at such a young age? And how was he connected with Joseph DeKorn or my family? He would have been about 12 years younger than Joseph.
I was frustrated that I knew so little about Louis Van Wyck and yet my grandfather’s uncle had photographed his beautiful headstone with his cornet and photograph adorning it and left it behind for our family. Who was Louis Van Wyck? Many of you offered advice. Pastsmith really went to work on the problem and found Louis’ death certificate and his grave.
Things to notice in this death certificate are that he died of “accidental drowning” at Bryant Mill Pond. I looked up Bryant Mill Pond and discovered it is related to the Bryant (Paper) Mill. There were many operating paper mills at that time in the Kalamazoo area, all along the Kalamazoo River and Portage Creek. You can find quite a lot of information online about the cleanup that has been necessary in this area. I can’t imagine what the pond was like in those days. Was it full of papermill sludge or was it a clean pond that begged a boy to come swimming? Note that he drowned on June 19, 1911, just at the start of summer.
Louis’ parents were both from Holland, his father named Louis also and his mother born Rachel Du Floo. With this information I was able to find the family in the 1910 census, a year before Louis passed away. Louis had two sisters: Mary was 5 years older and his sister Kate was only 5 when Louis died. The senior Louis was a typesetter and worked for a newspaper. I wrote about how some members of my family worked on the Dutch-American newspaper here. Possibly Louis worked with them. In the 1920 census, Louis was listed as a price lister, whatever that is. It’s possible that the newspaper was out of business by then.
The family lived at 913 Boerman Avenue. This does not make them neighbors of my family, but it is within a long walk–the sort of walk my grandmother and I used to make when I was little. The house no longer exists as the area seems to be commercial now.
Since the families did not go to the same church, Joseph was 12 or 13 years older than Louis, and they were not neighbors, the connection could have been the typesetting. After all, Louis, Sr., was born in the Netherlands and spoke Dutch. It seems that it would have been easier for him to be a typesetter in Dutch than in English.
Two headstones, one very elegant and detailed and the other more simple, certainly does create a mystery. They also share dates of birth and death. However, Louis’ date of birth is different on his death certificate. There it reads November 24, 1894. Since the simple headstone appears to be the one at Riverside Cemetery, where is the other one or what happened to it?
After Pastsmith’s generous help, I was contacted by a reader from Kalamazoo who shared valuable insights. Joel wrote:
YPL stands for Young People’s Legion. As a child I was a member of the YPL. It was a group in The Salvation Army for 12-30 year olds. It was a Christian fellowship group and we had junior worship meetings. It sounds like LVW Jr played a cornet solo that Sunday, 6/18/1911 and drowned the next day. . . . More than 20 years ago I had possession of historic documents from his relatives published by The Salvation Army Chicago which told of his untimely death, or as we say in The Salvation Army, his “promotion to Glory.”
He also said:
LVW’s sister is Mary A (VanWyck) Fortune, 1888-1976, Find a grave #25812816, Riverside Cemetery, Kalamazoo. Her husband gave the books which archived “The Young Soldier” publication of The Salvation Army to my mother-in-law, shortly after Mary’s promotion to Glory in 1976. They came into my possession in the 1980’s. I have since forwarded them on to The Salvation Army Central Territory’s Museum and Archives in Hoffman Estates, IL.
As for LVW’s two headstones; I am more familiar with the one with the cornet on it. I don’t recall where I’ve seen it before. But I knew it before I saw it in your web site. Perhaps it was in this archive book I had, or in local S.A. archive photos. I would like to see the larger headstone. I’ve also seen the more plain headstone before your web site, I have no explanation for two headstones. The photo of Louis himself is the photo I’ve seen published and in the local S.A. archives, as well as others that are of that era.
I came across the actual Band Commission for Louis VanWyke Jr.(Wyck is misspelled on the document) in our local SA archives from 1909. I have a picture of it but don’t know how to present it here. It has renewal comments written on it, renewing it until 1910, 1911, and 1912. Also, on the certificate is printed the name of the current General; William Booth. After Booth’s death in 1912 all subsequent SA documents say, “William Booth, Founder”, and would also list the current General.
I also have other anecdotal information regarding Louis’s sister, Mary A. Fortune, from my wife. In the 1960-70’s Mary and Neil Fortune lived next door to my wife’s parents, Richard and Shirley Aukes . . . in Portage, MI. The Aukes’s and Mary were members of The Salvation Army of Kalamazoo, like Louis VW. Neil helped Richard build a garage. Later after Richard’s death in 1968 and Mary’s death in 1976, Neil gave Shirley Mary’s cedar hope chest. The hope chest was given to my wife, who in turn has given it to our daughter Betsy. Besides the hope chest, Shirley received the books chronicling Louis’s premature death.
At this point it became clear that Joel is the brother-in-law of my junior high classmate, Chris Aukes. We were in almost all our classes together for the three years of junior high school.
Note that Mary Fortune who Joel refers to is Louis’ older sister Mary.
What talent Louis must have had. I’m so pleased to know more about Louis and hope to find out even more.
Although Louis was not my relative, I enjoy finding out more about the history of the people who lived in Kalamazoo over 100 years ago.