Obituaries - NJ - 1902 - Edward Kemp

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Obituaries - NJ - 1902 - Edward Kemp

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The death of Edward Kemp removes a unique figure from Shrewsbury township. Mr. Kemp was one of the richest men from Shrewsbury township, and he counted his wealth by the millions of dollars. Mr. Kemp was a good friend and a good foe. He was a good fighter for the things he wanted, and those who did not always approve of the things he wanted, nor of all his methods of getting those things, nevertheless liked the whole-souled manner in which he took up the cudgels for the things he wanted. Money, as well as knowledge, is power and Mr. Kemp's great wealth and his liberal expenditures to advance the cause of anything on which he had set his heart made him successful where weaker-hearted or less open-handed men would have failed.

Many are the anecdotes which have been told of Mr. Kemp. He was a many-sided man, and the anecdotes show many phases of his character. Some of these anecdotes are told in THE REGISTER to-day, in connection with the story of Mr. Kemp's life and death. Some of these stories date back nearly to the time when Mr. Kemp first came to Shrewsbury township. Some of them are known to be true to the letter, while some of them may have become more or less exaggerated as they have been handed down from year to year.

Mr. Kemp's greatest pride, perhaps, was to be successful in whatever he undertook. His great wealth enabled him to be successful in projects where men of more modest means would have failed. With him, money was not desired especially for the possession of the money itself, nor for the wish to pose as a rich man; but it was desired for the things money would buy, and especially for the power and influence it would give him. His charities were many and large. His influence was always on the side of improvements, and generally these improvements were suited to the times.

Whenever possible Mr. Kemp had all his work done by local mechanics and workmen, and all supplies needed on the place that could be bought in this locality were purchased here. What disposition will be made of his estate in Shrewsbury township is not yet known. It may be retained intact, or it may be subdivided into a number of smaller country places. His death, however, is likely to be followed by many changes and in his death Shrewsbury township loses a man of peculiar and rugged personality.


Death Of Edward Kemp

He Was A Prominent Figure of Shrewsbury Township

One of the Richest Men in the Township-Some of His Characteristics, and Some of the Stories Concerning Him

Edward Kemp, a summer resident of the Rumson road, died on Tuesday night of last week at his city residence on Fifth avenue at New York. Dropsy was the cause of his death. He had been sick about two weeks. He was a man of robust appearance and his life had been singularly free from sickness. His funeral was held on Saturday morning at St. Thomas's church, New York, at eleven o'clock. The body was buried in the family plot in Trinity burying ground.

Mr. Kemp was a self-made man, rising through his own endeavor from humble surroundings to wealth and influence. He was born in county Cavern, Ireland, 71 years ago. When he was a lad his father died and his mother was left with six children. She came to this country with her family and settled in New York, dependent on the earnings of herself and her children. Edward Kemp secured a position as errand boy with the firm of Halsey & Co., manufacturers of shellac. He rose from one position to another until he finally became a member of the firm. In the meantime his brother, George Kemp, had formed the firm of Lanman & Kemp, wholesale druggists and general export merchants. This firm still exists and Mr. Kemp was a member of it at the time of his death. The firm did an immense business and Mr. Kemp was worth several million dollars. His brother George died a number of years ago and the only surviving member of the family is a sister, who lives abroad. Mr. Kemp's mother died at Rumson a number of years ago. She was over ninety years old. Mr. Kemp leaves a wife, but the couple had no children.

In 1872 Mr. Kemp rented the George D. H. Gillespie place on the Rumson road as a summer home. The Gillespie place was a part of the old Asher Hance farm, which extended at one time from the North Shrewsbury river to the South Shrewsbury river. Mr. Kemp bought the Gillespie place in 1879. It contained 194 acres and extended from the South Shrewsbury river to what is now the Ridge road. There was a residence and fine outbuildings on the place and also a farm house. The farm house had been occupied by T. W. Throckmorton, and Mr. Throckmorton's son Edmund was born in the house. Mr. Kemp subsequently bought 175 acres from W. W. Conover and 43 acres on the tract known as the sandfield. In 1881 he sold twenty acres to John Reynolds and this tract was afterward sold to W. F. Havemeyer. When he sold this property the road known as Kemp road was laid out. At the time of his death Mr. Kemp's real estate holdings at Rumson aggregated 500 acres. Land in that vicinity no more valuable than Mr. Kemp's has recently sold for $1,500 an acre, at which price Mr. Kemp's property is worth $750,000.

None of the buildings that were on the Gillespie place when Mr. Kemp bought it have been torn down, but a new cow house and a few other outbuildings have been built. A modern front was built to the homestead the year after Mr. Kemp bought it and it has been enlarged twice since, but the house retains much of its originality. No improvements have been made in any of the other buildings except to keep them in repair, and the old-fashioned style of the place was one of its principal charms for Mr. Kemp. For years he had had in mind the building of a magnificent residence on the elevation on his place on which is erected a memorial to the Seventh Regiment of New York, but he was loath to leave the old house on account of its associations. He had about determined to build a new house at a cost of $250,000 when he was stricken down with his fatal disease.

The raising of fancy stock was one of Mr. Kemp's hobbies. He did not raise the stock for profit but for the pleasure of seeing them roam over the place, and it always tickled his vanity to be called a farmer and to be "jollied" about the expense of his farm. He was the first to introduce the Holstein and Guernsey breed of cattle in this section and more recently he introduced the Ayrshire breed. His horses were French bay stock and he had a large herd of sheep of a fancy breed. He never killed any of the stock except pigs and he never sold anything off the place except milk. Whatever was raised on the place remained there until it died. If any of the stock got too old to be of any use or of any service it was kept until killing it became a humane act. Mr. Kemp gave away a good many horses to his friends but he never sold them. There are at the present time sixty horses on the place, forty head of cattle, fifty head of sheep and a lot of chickens of fancy strains. Enough hay and corn has always been raised on the place to keep the stock. Elmer Carlile, who was formerly Mr. Kemp's private secretary, has been his foreman for a number of years. A detailed account is kept of the farm expenses and just what each field costs to till and what it produces can be told every year almost to the penny.

Mr. Kemp's public benefactions were many. He raised more than half the money for building the old white bridge across the South Shrewsbury river at Gooseneck. He gave the property for the Ridge road that runs through his place and he advanced the money to the township committee without interest for the building of the road. All the roads that border on his property he kept in repair at his own expense. When the Rumson road was improved a number of years ago at a cost of $3,000 he paid for the improvement in front of his property. He was president and treasurer of the Rumson association, which keeps the Rumson road sprinkled during the season. He lent his influence to the building of the bridge across the river at Oceanic and he began the agitation for the new station that was built recently at Seabright.

Many churches in this vicinity were the beneficiaries of his generosity. He cleared the Seabright Catholic church of debt, and the Methodist and Episcopal churches of Fair Haven were also cleared of debt by him. He also gave the Fair Haven Episcopal church a bell and an organ, and for a number of years he gave the Sunday-school scholars their Christmas treat. He gave the Red Bank Baptist church $1,000 toward paying off its debt and more recently he gave his foreman, Mr. Carlile, $500 to expend for the benefit of Grace church of Red Bank. This money was used for a new furnace and a new range in the parsonage, and for other improvements to the pastor's residence.

Mr. Kemp was a member of the Seventh regiment of New York and of the Seventh regiment veterans' association. He erected a centograph on a hill on his place in commemoration of the dead of the regiment. He belonged to a number of prominent social clubs and to St. Thomas's church of New York. He was for three years president of the New York college of pharmacy.

Most pebbles in a brook or on the beach are rounded by the constant action of the water; but occasionally one is found of such rugged character that it maintains its individuality. So with men. The currents of life and the tides of trade wear off the edges and corners until all individuality is lost, and it would seem as though all men were made in a common mould (sic). As with the pebbles on the beach, so among men, one is occasionally found who retains his individuality in spite of his surroundings. Such a man was Edward Kemp, and many stories are related of him which show this individuality in marked degree.

Edward Kemp was a very liberal man, and few were the people who called on him for aid and went away empty handed. No matter what the cause might be which they represented, Mr. Kemp was ever ready to contribute. Any project which needed help, from Sunday-schools to political organizations, could get almost what it asked for. He helped Republicans and Democrats alike, without distinction, so long as he liked the individuals who came to him for aid, or so long as he thought they would further any plans in which he was interested. A check for a hundred dollars could always be got by anyone who represented a charity society or a religious organization, and frequently his contributions amounted to many times one hundred dollars.

Mr. Kemp was fond of displaying his power, and he liked the homage of the people among whom he had cast his lot. Gossips tell a story, which is probably more or less exaggerated, which illustrates this phase of his character. The story is to the effect that at one time, many years ago, he wanted the men who were employed on his country place to tip their hats to him when he met them. The men got together and agreed that they would not do this. The next time Mr. Kemp sauntered out on his lawn where the men were at work they looked up at him and then continued at their work without raising their hats. One man, who was working a little apart from the others, tipped his hat as Mr. Kemp came up. Mr. Kemp stopped, put his hand in his pocket, took out a five dollar bill, and handed it to the man. When the other men saw this they turned green with envy. According to the legend they went down to the barnyard and began to eat hay, saying that men who would not raise their hats for five dollars apeice (sic) ought to herd with cattle because they did not have human intelligence.

To his friends Mr. Kemp was more than generous. If anyone whom he liked was visiting him, and expressed admiration for anything on the place Mr. Kemp usually gave the visitor the article admired, provided it was something the visitor could use on his premises or in his own home. Mr. Kemp had everything he could wish for, but he got things, not for display, but because he wanted to use them or because he enjoyed their possession. Hr had little personal pride in his possessions, but he took great delight in making his possessions give pleasure to his friends.

Mr. Kemp was ready to spend money lavishly to carry out any plan on which he had set his heart. When his pride was hurt he was ready to go to any expense to relieve his wounded feelings. Years ago Jose de Navarro lived on the Rumson road near Mr. Kemp. Mr. Navarro had two sons, known as "Tode" and "Chap", who were then hardly of age. There was a great deal of interest taken in yachting on the South Shrewsbury river at that time, and the Navarro boys had the crack boat, the Elena D. They had plenty of money to spend in this pastime, and they rigged the boat to the extreme limit with everything that would make her speedy. They had an excellent racing crew, and the boat won almost every race in which it entered. As Mr. Kemp was driving home from the railroad station one afternoon the Navarro boys rode by in such a way as to give Mr. Kemp a great deal of their dust. This may have been by accident or by design and it happened once or twice afterward. Mr. Kemp did not say much about the matter. He sent to New York to one of the best known sailors of that locality, and had him pick out for him three of the very fastest boats that could be got, which were suitable for sailing on the South Shrewsbury. The price was no object, but Mr. Kemp's order was to get the fastest boats gettable. The boats were obtained, they being the Augusta, the Mollie Bawn and the Isonome. Money was spent without stint to put the boats in the very top notch of condition and to keep them so. The best trained sailors of the North and South Shrewsbury rivers were engaged as a racing crew, and this crew were trained and drilled till they worked like a machine. The best sailing master of small boats to be found in the East was hired, and with this sailing master, this crew, and the three crack sailboats. Mr. Kemp was ready for the Navarro boys. He entered one of the boats in every race in which the Elena D. was a competitor. He cleaned up everything on the Shrewsbury rivers and in the bay that year, and it is said that the Elena D. never got another prize thereafter. When the racing season was over Mr. Kemp entertained the crew and some of their friends at his place. Mr. Kemp was always a very hospitable man, but on this occasion his hospitality was unbounded. New washtubs were bought and were placed on the lawn. These were filled with champagne. Big tin dippers were furnished and the crew and their friends were told that the champagne was as free as water. The were even told that it was freer than water, for Mr. Kemp said that none of them could have water on his place that day. Other refreshments were served with the same proflgality (sic) as the champagne, and altogether it was one of the greatest days the crew had ever enjoyed. With the close of the racing season the three sailboats were put in the boat house and were never afterward sailed by Mr. Kemp, they having served their purpose with him.

Another story told about Mr. Kemp is that one morning many years ago he drove from his home to Seabright to take the train for New York. He drove over the Seabright drawbridge at a trot. The bridge was not built for that sort of traveling and the directors of the company which owned the bridge had made a rule, prohibiting trotting over the draw, and imposing a penalty of ten dollars on anyone who violated the rule. Mr. Kemp was remonstrated with by the bridge company officials, but to no purpose, and the bridge company declared that they would begin a suit against him to collect the penalty. Mr. Kemp did not care a snap about the ten dollars, but he did care a great deal about "the principle of the thing," as he called it. He retained Delafield Smith, then a prominent lawyer of New York who lived at Shrewsbury village, to defend his interests. Mr. Smith knew that there was no possible chance for Mr. Kemp to win such a suit, but the story goes that he asked what the amount of the penalty and expenses were and paid the entire bill. Then he went back to New York and with a victorious shake of the head he told Mr. Kemp that he would never hear of that suit again. No doubt Mr. Smith put in a good round bill for services and expenses in the case, and no doubt Mr. Kemp cheerfully paid it. Mr. Kemp was very proud of this victory over the bridge company, and it is said that he then and there made a vow that he would yet have a bridge over the Shrewsbury river at Seabright that he could drive over at a gallop with a coach and four if he wanted to. With the zeal and determination for which he was noted he kept this project constantly in mind, advancing it at every opportunity, and last year he saw the fulfillment of his hopes in this direction.

A dispute with Thomas Tindall of Little Silver showed another phase of Mr. Kemp's character. Mr. Kemp was led to believe that the line fence between him and Mr. Tindall was over on his property, and he took up the fence and moved it over on Mr. Tindall's land, where he though it ought to be. Mr. Tindall took the fence up and put it back in its original place. Mr. Kemp had the fence moved back again. Mr. Tindall knew of Mr. Kemp's stubbornness and determination, and he hesitated to do anything which would bring on a clash between him and his rich neighbor. He called on a lawyer and the lawyer told him that if he were sure that the fence, after Mr. Kemp had moved it, was over on his property, the thing to do was to take the fence up carefully, without damaging it any, and lay it down on Mr. Kemp's side of the line. Mr. Tindall did this. There were signs of a coming storm between the two men, but surveyors were called out and the line was found to be exactly where the fence was located in the first place. Mr. Kemp had the fence reset in its original position. The next time he saw Mr. Tindall pass his house he called him in and treated him to the best there was in the house, and ever after that Mr. Kemp and Mr. Tindall were the best of friends.

While Mr. Kemp was haughty on some occasions, he was very affable to the men in his employ. One of the men who was frequently hired by him was Eugene Hale, who died four or five years ago. Hale was an uncommonly well educated man to be found in the capacity of a day laborer. It was said of him that he had been educated for a Roman Catholic priest, but that drink and circumstances had prevented him from occupying that position. He was extremely witty, and his conversation was cultured, refined and bright. One morning, when Hale was first employed by Mr. Kemp, the latter, in strolling over the place before he started for New York, came upon Hale, who was ditching. He spoke to him, and being evidently struck with the man's reply, continued the conversation for ten minutes or more, until he had to hurry away to catch the train. The other workmen, who were out of earshot, were very anxious to know what it was that Mr. Kemp was talking to Hale about for so long a time. Finally the man who at that time was foreman on the place and who apparently feared that Hale might be trying for his job, demanded of Hale what the conversation was about.

"Why," said Hale, with the air of a man who was imparting a very confidential bit of news, "the old man was a little short this morning and he asked me to let him have a dollar to pay his fare to New York." And this was all the other workmen ever found out about this conversation, although Mr. Kemp subsequently had many other talks with Hale.

Another instance is narrated of Mr. Kemp's kindness to those whom he employed. Ten years ago the foreman on the place was George N. Fisher. Mr. Fisher had always made everything very pleasant for Mr. Kemp whenever he had come down to the place in the winter to spend a day or two. Nothing was too much trouble for Mr. Fisher if it would add to the comfort of Mr. Kemp. When the big Columbus parade was held in New York city, the windows along the line of march were rented out at very high figures, some of them costing upwards of a hundred dollars each. Mr. Kemp sent an agent out to lease a floor along the line of march, in the very best location obtainable for viewing the parade. The agent was instructed not to consider the price, but to get the very best windows that were to be had. Under these instructions the agent got very fine windows for viewing the parade, and Mr. Kemp sent the order, giving the privilege of occupying these windows, to Mr. Fisher and his family.

The cost of keeping up a big country place is very great. Many New York business men who had retired from active life had bought fine estates in Shrewsbury township which they were maintaining as country homes. A number of these men found the cost of maintaining these country places too great for them, and they had to retrench in their expenses or else give up their places entirely. Mr. Kemp had noted the large number of those who could not afford to keep their places up, and it was a favorite saying of his that the man who wanted to own a farm in Jersey had to have a farm in New York city to pay the expenses of running the Jersey place.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, Jan 1, 1902

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