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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Booter Mathis and the French-Cramer Connection

We've gotten quite a response to the January 17th Blog entry "Ice Skating at Fletchers and Steam Shovel." One of the comments (See below) from Beverly Mathis Robinson asked if the Elizabeth French in the photos of the Steam Shovel was her grandfather "Booter" Mathis' half sister. That's what I enjoy about history and genealogy. They are intertwined, and you never know what questions will pop up. Often, these questions lead to a serendipitous journey that opens up gates to one's past that we never even knew were there. Such is the case here.

Hi Pete: Is the Elizabeth French pictured and mentioned in the article by any chance my grandfather's half sister? (Eugene (Boot) Mathis) I have other pictures of her when she was even younger. It sure is interesting to see my relatives pictured and mentioned in the blog.        Beverly Mathis (Robinson)

A young Steve Potter, Sr. (circa 1920) operating the steam shovel with Ester Sooy (left) and her girl friend, Elizabeth French, looking on. (Photo courtesy of Steve Potter, Jr.)

Yes, Beverley, the young Elizabeth French in the above photo of the Steam Shovel is your grandfather Eugene "Booter" Mathis' half sister. Following is a thumbnail genealogy of the relationship.

Booter's parents were John Oliphant Mathis and Ida Elizabeth Allen. 

Eugene "Booter" Mathis' mother, Ida Elizabeth Allen Mathis. She married Suwarrow French after "Booter's" father, John Oliphant Mathis, died. (Photo courtesy of Norman and Delilah Cramer.)

After John died, Ida Elizabeth married, on July 1, 1893, Suwarrow French. They lived in a large house on New York Road (Now Route 9) in the center of New Gretna. They had a daughter, Ida Elizabeth French, on July 21, 1904. That is the Elizabeth French in the Steam Shovel photo. 

The Suwarrow and Elizabeth French house looking North, on New York Road (Now Route 9) toward the Maple Avenue intersection. Circa pre 1920. Can anyone identify the other houses on the street? (Photo courtesy of Paul Steinhauer, Jr.)

The Suwarrow and Elizabeth French house in March, 2007. (Photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The young Ida Elizabeth married Earl Cramer on October 20, 1923, just a few years after the Steam Shovel photo. They moved in with Ida’s parents in the Suwarrow and Elizabeth French house where they lived out their lives. 

Earl (1895-1975) and Elizabeth (1904-1977) Cramer. (Photo courtesy of Norman and Delilah Cramer.)

Earl and Elizabeth's son, Norman, born May 2, 1930, married Delila Audrey Crowley, daughter of Harold Crowley and Adele Falkinburg. 

Norman and Delilah Cramer at their 1952 wedding. (Photo courtesy of Alston and Claire Allen.)

Norman and Delilah moved into Delbert Robins’ house when Delbert died, in 1967. (March, 2007 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

After their marriage, Norm and Lilah moved into the Swarrow French house with Norm's parent's. Delbert Robins lived next door. When Delbert died, in 1967, Norm and Lilah moved into Delbert's house. I particularly remember that house on Route 9, as I always knew it was deer season when I saw a deer hanging on Norm's front porch. It seems that Norm always got the first deer of each season.

Norman and Delilah raised six children in their Route 9 house: Jeffrey, Douglas, Gregory, Joan, Harold, and Charles. Customers of Allen’s Clam Bar on Route 9 in New Gretna probably know Joan, now Joan Cramer Adams. She has worked there since she was a young girl. 

I believe that would make Joan Cramer Adams, the grandaughter of the Elizabeth French on the Steam Shovel, a second (or third, perhaps once removed?) cousin to Beverly Mathis Robinson who started today's Blog adventure with her question about Elizabeth French  .   .   .   or, something close to that. I'm not the best at figuring out family relationships, so I'll leave it to someone else to figure out if I am correct.

Delilah passed away June 27, 1998, and Norman followed shortly after on July 8, 1999. They are buried in Miller Cemetery in New Gretna and will always be remembered as cherished friends and a part of New Gretna's rich history. They are greatly missed.

Pete S

PS- If you are interested in reading more about the French family, you can find "The French Family of Bass River Township, N.J." genealogy on our Bass River History Web Site. Click on the link below to go there. The Bass River Frenches start on page 87.


  1. WOW, Pete thanks especially for the picture of my great grandmother Mathis. One question (or maybe several) In the genealogy I have, her middle name is listed as Elvina not Elizabeth. Any comment on that?
    After the listing of decendents I am a little confused. I see Cramers and Adams listed. I know these are common last names in the area. My grandmother Estella Mathis was an Adams and the mother of John Oliphant Mathis was Mary Ann Cramer. How many more cousins (however far removed) do I have in the area. Hey, you all, chime in please. Thanks
    Beverly Mathis (Robinson)

  2. Beverly,

    I cannot say with certainty what Ida Allen's middle name was. Murray and Jean Harris on page 58 of their book, "The Mathis Family of Little Egg Harbor", just give the middle initial "E". I used "Elizabeth" in the blog entry, as that is the name that I remember Norm and Lilah Cramer using. I guess we could use some hard documentation (birth certificate, death certificate, etc.). Any help out there would be appreciated.

    Pete S

  3. Peter:

    It appears that both Joan and Beverly share the same great grandmother, so that would make them second cousins. The fact that they have different great grandfathers probably doesn't alter this relationship.

    Murray and Jean Harris