1875 – 1939

    A simple, albeit large, stone slab measuring about 8 ½ feet long, 5 feet wide and 3 ½ inches in depth along with an American Legion grave marker memorialize the Section M Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery resting place of the earthly remains of Joel E. Spingarn, of Troutbeck.

    The first paragraph of his local obituary published in the Evening Star June 27, 1939 reads:
    J. E. Spingarn Dies in New York

    “Joel E. Spingarn, 65, resident of Amenia and New York city, who was the country’s leading authority on clematis, former university professor and literary scholar, a poet, soldier, horticulturist and uncompromising critic in diverse fields died yesterday at his New York home, 110 East 78th street, after having been ill since January.”
    The headline of his obituary in the New York Herald Tribune on the same day reads:
    Col. Spingarn, Donor of Award For Outstanding Negroes, Dies
    “Author, Horticulturist and Soldier, He Battled for Liberties of Individuals”
    As this obituary continues. . . . .:
    “He was a delegate to the first convention which founded the American Legion and was the first commander of the Legion post at Amenia, N.Y.”

    The preface of a 1972 work by B. Joyce Ross entitled J. E. Spingarn and the Rise of the NAACP 1911-1939 describes Joel Elias Spingarn as an incorporator of the NAACP, Chairman of its Board of Directors, Treasurer and President.

    Much of the above is how those of us in Dutchess County recall to mind this famous person with an Amenia country estate. His first Dutchess purchase according to Dutchess County Deed records having occurred October 2, 1909 when Joel Elias Spingarn of the City, County and State of New York purchased from Martha E. Avery of the Borough of Brooklyn “part of the lands of William A. Benton, deceased”. The description in part abstracted as follows: 202 5/10ths acres in Amenia with exceptions including (among others), a family burial ground for the descendants of Caleb Benton, enclosed by a stone wall.

    However, as I gazed upon J. E. Spingarn’s grave and as a family historian, I wanted to know more about his family than what was told in the closing paragraph of Col. Spingarn’s 1939 Tribune obituary. “Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Amy Spingarn; two sons, Stephen J. and Edward D. W. Spingarn; two daughters, Hope and Honor Tranum Spingarn; his mother and three brothers. It was announced yesterday that his burial would be in Dutchess County and would be private.”

    As briefly as possible, I will attempt to share with you here what I have researched thus far.
    Amy Einstein, daughter of wealthy New York manufacturer David Lewis Einstein was born in 1883 in New York City, married abt. 1906 Joel E. Spingarn, first of four son of wholesale tobacconist Elias and his wife Sarah (Barnett) Spingarn, and died June 25, 1980. After her husbands death Amy was a patron of the “Harlem Renaissance and supported the work of many black artists and writers, such as Langston Hughes.”

    From Federal Census records it can be determined that Joel and Amy’s first child, Hope Spingarn was born about 1907. The New York Times announcement of her November 1, 1957 marriage in Bombay to Hitindra Malik of Bombay states that Hope studied at Sweet Briar College, the Sorbonne and the University of Grenoble in France. As a consultant in public relations, she went to India in 1955 served as a public relations consultant to the Family Planning Association of India. At this time the only further information on Hope comes from her sister Honor’s 2008 obituary which states Honor visited her sister annually in England and that she was predeceased by her.

    Stephen J. Spingarn was born September 1, 1908 in Bedford, New York, graduated from the University of Arizona in 1930 and the University’s Law School in 1934. He was an administrative Assistant to President Harry S. Truman 1949-50 and served with John F. Kennedy on the Democratic National Committee’s Small Business Advisory Committee 1956-57. Stephen died in August 1984

    Honor Spingarn was born in 1910 and educated and raised in New York City. On August 14, 1937 at Troutbeck in Amenia, she married Carl Tranum. Together the couple resided in the Virgin Islands. Honor, having started painting at the age of 5, became a painter herself and designed textiles. During the “New Deal” she painted frescoes in New York City as a part of WPA projects. She was also an avid gardener. Honor Spingarn Tranum died Sept. 9, 2008 in St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands. She was survived by her son Joel, 3 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren, she was predeceased by her son Mark. Honor was the last surviving child of Joel and Amy Spingarn and was predeceased by her sister and two brothers.

    Edward D. W. Spingarn was born October 22, 1911 in New York and spent his early years at Troutbeck. He graduated from the Kent School in Kent, Connecticut in 1929 and Bowdoin College in Maine in 1933. He also earned a master’s degree in modern history at Harvard and was an economist and educator specializing in Asian Affairs in the International Money Fund. Edward married Elizabeth Gray Morison January 25, 1941. Edward died in Washington, DC May 7, 2005 at the age of 93. He was survived by his wife and a daughter Phillida Morison Alcantar of Hawaii. He was predeceased by his son Christopher L. M. Spingarn on June 3, 2000.

    Research thus far has still left me wondering why Joel E. Spingarn, a son, a brother, a husband, father and more, is the single burial in the Spingarn Plot in Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery which he himself purchased July 9, 1938 approximately one year before his death. It certainly seems his children travelled far and wide and were very accomplished in their own right. This may very well explain why their father rests alone beneath the large slab of stone with the simple inscription that titles this article. Rest in Peace our friend and adopted Dutchess County son.
    Prepared for Friends of Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery by Virginia A. Buechele, Oct.19, 2008


  • Office Records – Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery
  • Honor Tranum [Obituary] – The Virgin Islands Daily News – Wed. Sept. 17, 2008
  • Hope Spingarn is Married – The New York Times – November 13, 1957
  •  http://www.jfklibrary.org – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library – Inventory of His Personal Papers – Biographical note – Stephen J. Spingarn
  • Tranum – Spingarn [Marriage] – New York Times – August 15, 1937
  • Amy E. Spingarn [Obituary] New York Times – June 28, 1980
  • Edward Spingarn [Obituary] The Washington Times – May 11, 2005
  • Court to Interpret Einstein’s Will – New York Times – November 24, 1913
  • J. E. Spingarn Dies in New York – Evening Star – Poughkeepsie – June 27, 1939
  • Col. Spingarn, Donor of Award For Outstanding Negroes, Dies – New York Herald Tribune – June 27, 1939
  • Dutchess County Deed 362:295 – Joel Elias Spingarn Grantee; Martha E. Avery Grantor
  • J. E. Spingarn and the Rise of the NAACP 1911-1939, B. Joyce Ross, Studies in American Negro Life, August Meier, General Editor, New York ATHENEUM, 1972 [Adriance Memorial Library, Local History, Poughkeepsie]
  • J. E. Spingarn by Marshall Van Deusen, University of California, Riverside, Twayne Publishers, Inc., New York, 1971 [Adriance Memorial Library, Local History, Poughkeepsie]
  •  Died – Spingarn, Elias [Obituary] – New York Times – November 20, 1916
  • 1900 U S Federal Census, Manhattan, NY City, NY County, NY State
  • 1910 U S Federal Census, Manhattan, NY City, NY County, NY State [West 73rd Street]
  • 1920 U S Federal Census, Manhattan, NY City, NY County, NY State


Friends of the Poughkeepsie Rural Cemetery, Inc.

342 South Avenue
PO Box 977

Poughkeepsie, NY 12602-0977

Cemetery Grounds Hours

Open Every Day All Year
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Interior Mausoleum Hours:
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