My maternal grandfather Harry Agin was born on December 13, 1900 in South Brunswick, New Jersey. He died in North Brunswick, New Jersey in July 1970.
Harry’s parents were Jacob S. and Tillie Agin. His father was born in East Amwell, New Jersey and eventually settled in Kingston I believe. His mother immigrated from Germany as a young girl, somewhere between 1880 and 1883.
From census records, I see that Harry had at least seven other siblings: Ada (born 1894), Jacob (1897), Mary (1904), William (1906), Mildred (1912), Lillian (1914) and Vivian (1917). I never knew any of them. It also appears from census records that one other sibling died before 1900. With the exception of Ada, who married a guy named James Cronen, I have not been able to trace any of my grandfather’s family members beyond the 1920 census. But I’m planning a research outing with my sister Cathy to the New Jersey State Archives in Trenton to see if we can fill out the picture.
By the time he was 19, Harry was living with his widowed grandmother Mary Vannote (Tillie’s mother) in South Brunswick and working as a machinist in a factory (not sure where exactly).
Harry married my grandmother Anna Sabol in 1924, give or take a year. (I have been trying to get a marriage certificate but it’s been a challenge because I haven’t been able to ascertain Tillie’s maiden name. I also don’t know if anyone has a wedding portrait.) They had three children: Matilda (born 1925), my mother Lillian (1928) and Harry (1931). I also remember my grandmother telling me she had another child who died at birth.
By 1930, the family settled in New Brunswick, New Jersey where Harry started his own plumbing business that later included his son.
Harry’s interests included hunting and fishing. As a child, I remember enjoying fresh bluefish from my grandfather’s fishing outings. And I loved looking at photographs of him holding up impossibly large fish. I never did inherit the family mania for fishing, which infected the Kowal side of the family as well, as it didn’t take much to make me seasick.
I remember that he lost the tips of three fingers on one hand. When I would ask him what happened he said he was injured by an airplane propeller during the First World War. I somehow doubt that was the case. He was only 17 when the war ended. It sounds like the kind of story you might tell a curious young boy. I’m guessing it was the result of a work-related injury.
Most of what I know about my grandfather comes from the stories my grandmother told us over the years. She particularly liked to tell the story of how my grandfather drove his car along the railroad tracks, earning him the nickname, “The Flying Dutchman.” But she left out one detail in the story. Toward the end of her life, she revealed to my sister Cathy the reason he indulged in this particular pastime. Seems he was helping some priests from a local seminary to deliver bootleg wine during Prohibition. Riding on the train tracks was a way to avoid the police!
Harry always seemed to dote on my mother, Lillian, who had a special place in the family because of her deafness. My grandmother told me how hard it was on him to have to take her to her deaf boarding school in Princeton.
As I scanned some of the old slides and photographs, it’s not hard to see that my grandfather could be a lot of fun. I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to know him better.
More on him in a future post.