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New Jersey Obituaries - October 27, 1897 - Gustav Grosjean

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A Philanthropist Dead

Gustav Grosjean's Quarter Century of Helpfulness

He Was a Well - Educated Man, With Refined Tastes, and He Settled in Macedonia in Order to Aid the Colored People

Out in the pines near Macedonia, some three miles southwest of Tinton Falls, there died last Thursday a man who was an oddity in his way, and yet who had done more actual good in the last quarter of a century than almost any other half-dozen men in Monmouth county will do in their whole lives, even though they should live to be as old as Methusela.

This man was Gustav Grosjean. He moved to Macedonia about 27 years ago. He was finely educated, and could talk fluently in seven languages. Before he moved to Macedonia he was bookkeeper and cashier in a large wholesale meat establishment in New York city. When he went to Macedonia he took with him his library, which then consisted of several hundred volumes, and he also took several boxes of pictures. He was a fine Greek and Latin scholar, and many of his books were printed in these languages, and in French and German. He was an extremely pious man, and when his talk turned on religion, which it frequently did in his conversations, it was plain to be seen that on this topic his mind was unbalanced. He frequently stated that the lord had called him to Macedonia in order that he might do good there, and aid the poor and unfortunate of the locality.

When he went to Macedonia he bought four acres of ground adjoining the schoolhouse for colored children. This land was bought from Captain Bowles, a retired sea captain, who had been in the coasting business all his life, and who settled near Pine Brook to be in a quiet neighborhood to end his days. There was no house on the property and Mr. Grosjean built a house about twelve feet square. The house contained one room on the first floor and one on the second floor. Three sides of the room on the first floor were covered with pictures. Some of these were rare prints and some were steel engravings, but most of them were pictures of French and German cathedrals. On the other side of the room was his bookcase and his collection of books. He was a diligent reader of the scriptures, and his reading of the bible and the new testament was confined almost exclusively to the Greek original.

He had an organ when he first went to Macedonia. He was a skilful musician, and was fond of entertaining visitors with music. For the first two or three years of his residence there he was regarded with much curiosity by the people living roundabout, and almost everyone in the locality called upon him. All his visitors were treated with grave courtesy, although it was evident that he knew that it was only curiosity that brought them to his door.

Mr. Grosjean had no money, and he went in debt for the money to build his house. He was very industrious and would work for the farmers of the neighborhood whenever opportunity presented. He raised fruit and vegetables, which he sold, but his greatest income was from the sale of chickens and eggs. He was a very successful poultryman, and kept a considerable number of fowls.

He did all his own work about the house, making and baking his own bread, doing all his cooking and mending, and also doing all his own washing and ironing. His linen was always spotless, no matter what work he might be engaged upon, and it had the appearance of having been done up at a laundry. He as passionately fond of flowers, and in his front yard flowers were in bloom from early spring to late in the fall. Many of these were wild flowers which he had gathered in the woods and fields and transplanted to his garden. These and old-fashioned flowers were his favorites. He had built a cellar under part of his house especially to keep the plants which would be killed by freezing. Geraniums and similar flowers were kept in the house, where his skill kept them in bloom most of the winter. Three or four year ago he sawed off some of the limbs of a maple tree near the house about twelve feet from the ground, and on the stump of these sawed-off limbs he built a platform for flowers. He used to say that his plants would do better up in the air, where they could get plenty of sunshine and breeze, than they would on the ground. A straight, upright ladder was fastened to the tree and regularly three times a day he went up this ladder to the platform to care for his plants. A similar platform for flowers, but smaller, was built on the peak of his barn, at one end of the structure.

About three years ago Mr. Grosjean built a small addition to his house. This addition he used as a kitchen, the original room on this floor being thereafter used as a sitting room or parlor. Over the front door of this addition he nailed, as an ornament, the curved top to the headboard of an old-fashioned bedstead. This was of walnut, and it contrasted strangely with the unpainted exterior of the house. This spring be built a two-foot addition to the kitchen and moved the stairway and he was building a four-foot addition to the parlor, to serve as a reading room, when he was seized with his fatal illness.

Mr. Grosjean was ever doing kindnesses for his neighbors, but it was when anyone in the neighborhood was taken sick that his goodness was most manifest. No matter what he was doing, or where he was employed, he would immediately leave his work when he heard of a case of sickness and go to the aid of the afflicted. Although he himself was the personification of neatness and cleanliness, no place was so dirty, no surroundings so unpleasant, no squalor so revolting, as to keep him away. With ministrations as tender as those of a woman he cared for the sick until they recovered or died. Night after night he would spend at their bedsides, and when death came he would prepare the body for the grave. These services were given gratuitously. The neighbors say that during the twenty-seven years he lived at Macedonia there was hardly a person for miles and miles around to whom he had not ministered in sickness and hardly a death bed which he had not soothed. Never was there a man who took more literally for his motto the "Inasmuch" of Christ-"Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these, ye did it unto me."

Several years ago Mr. Grosjean sold his organ. His books became scattered, or he may have sold some of them in New York. The finer pictures of his collection were also sold. A smaller bookcase took the place of the one he originally had. At his death his books numbered less than a hundred, and his collection of pictures had been reduced more than one half. Those remaining were of little commercial value.

Early this spring Mr. Grosjean was engaged to work on a bridge on the old southern railroad near his home. The work was exhausting, and after working a quarter of a day he quit. The fact that he was losing his strength and vitality preyed on his mind. He became fearful that he would become dependent on others for his support. Three or four weeks ago he was stricken with typhoid fever. From the first he declared that he would not get well, and he seemed to have no desire to live. He stated that if he lived he would be so weakened with the disease that he would not be able to support himself during the winter, and that he would rather die than be dependent. He made no fight for life, and on Thursday of last week he died.

During his last sickness he received very little aid from those to whom he had devoted the last quarter century of his life. His nearest neighbor was Joseph Shultz, and Mr. Shultz and his wife visited him half a dozen or more times a day, bringing him food and comforting him as much as lay in their power. Travis Johnson set up with him for eleven consecutive nights. Mrs. Sophia A. Williams, a colored woman living a quarter of a mile away, was with him the last few days of his sickness, but apart from these there were very few to aid him. The old adage, "Eaten bread is soon forgotten." was fully exemplified in the circumstances of the death of Gustav Grosjean.

The funeral was held at the Eatontown Methodist church on Friday. It was attended by about a score of the people of the locality. Previous to his death Mr. Grosjean made a will, giving his property to the Eatontown Methodist church after his debts were paid. The debts are trifling, being perhaps $20 in addition to his funeral expenses. His property consists of his house and land, which are worth $300.

Mr. Grosjean was about sixty years of age.


Editorial

The death of Gustav Grosjean of Macedonia brings to an end a life peculiarly spent. Here was a man of remarkable education and of refined tastes settling in a community of poor colored people with the avowed purpose of devoting himself to their welfare. He was not obtrusive in his methods. There was no effort to convert others to his religion. He forced his opinions on no one. He labored hard to make a scant living, although his abilities would have earned him a competence in other localities with a much smaller effort. Wherever there was sickness, or suffering, or death, there was Gustav Grosjean. He ministered to the sick, he soothed the agonies of the dying, he prepared the dead for burial, and he comforted the mourners. There are few whose record of good deeds done in this world will equal that of Gustav Grosjean.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, October 27, 1897

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