Albert Vanderwyst (1825-1882)

Advertisement in 1879 Telegraph Directory

BORN: Uden, North Brabant, 1820s
DIED: Cleveland, Ohio, November 20, 1882
PARENTS: Hendrikus van der Wijst (1789-1853+) and Deliana van der Voort (1794-1844)
SPOUSE: Charity Amelia Thomas (1840-1926), married July 1st, 1856
CHILDREN: Ida Adelia Vanderwyst (1859-1943), Emma Dora Vanderwyst (1861-1945), Albert Joseph Vanderwyst (1863-1932), Harriet Amelia "Hattie" Vanderwyst (1867-1925), Stephen Vanderwyst (1870-1948), Andrew Vanderwyst (b.1872), Bernhard Jessie Vanderwyst (c.1876-1962), Charles William Vanderwyst (1877-1952) and Lila Mae Vanderwyst (1880-1902)


The family bible has Albert Vanderwyst being born July 15, 1827 at Uden, North Brabant. However, there is no official record of this. An Albertus van der Wijst was born August 17, 1825 to Hendrikus van der Wijst and Deliana Van der Voort of Hoenderbosch, a hamlet then just outside the town of Uden in North Brabant. There is no record of what became of this Albertus, but his brothers definitely emigrated to America in the 1850s and settled in Cleveland, Ohio around 1860. Given that there are no other Albertus van der Wijsts that were born in or around Uden in the 1820s and didn't die there, it seems likely that Albertus van der Wijst and Albert Vanderwyst are the same person (Streekarchief correspondance, 2000).

Albert Vanderwyst (sometimes referring to himself as merely "Albert Wyst" during his first decade in America) probably crossed the Atlantic under the name "Bernard van der Weijst" aboard the "Tuskina", landing in New York May 25, 1850 (Keeris, 2005). He disappears until July 1856 when he marries Charity Amelia Thomas (1840-1926) (family bible), probably in Trumbull Co. Ohio or Crawford Co. Pennsylvania (where Charity is known to have had relations). He and Charity disappear again until 1859 when they gave birth to their first child Ida Adelia in Pennsylvania (1870 census).

By 1860 Albert, Charity and Ida are living in Brooklyn Twp. just south of Cleveland, Ohio. Albert is working as a laborer and owns personal property worth $60, but no land. He describes himself as being able to read and write (1860 census). During the Civil War Albert volunteered with the 8th Independent Battery of the Ohio National Guard, Light Artillery, which guarded confederate prisoners at Ft. Johnson off Sandusky for three months in late 1864 (

By 1870 Albert owns $3000 worth of real estate in Brooklyn Twp. (Brighton village) and has an additional $1000 worth of personal property. He is now a cooper, which means he is a barrel maker (1870 census). At this time cooperage was the fourth largest industry in Cleveland, employing over 600 people. Barrels were mostly used by Cleveland's booming oil industry, but also to store and ship all sorts of goods (Cleveland: The Making of a City).

Vanderwyst Property Outside Cleveland

The Vanderwyst Property in Brighton Village, Brooklyn Twp., c.1860. The major North-South thoroughfare at the far right is modern day Pearl Rd., which leads directly to downtown Cleveland four miles to the north. The property is near the location of the Cleveland Zoo on the west. Some parcels of this tract remained in the family at least into the 1940s. The original surveyor's written note of Albert Vanderwyst's ownership is legible on the larger block.

Throughout the 1870s Albert was involved in a variety of partnerships in cooperages both in Brighton/Brooklyn and in the City of Cleveland proper. In 1871 he is listed as the proprietor of a cooperage called A. Vanderwyst & Co. at 45 Stone's Levee, right on the Cuyahoga River near downtown (1871-2 Telegraph Directory). In 1872 he is at the same location with an associate by the name of Charles Thomas (1872-3 Telegraph Directory). In 1873 his was one of 20 catholic families that founded Our Lady of Good Counsel (now Sacred Heart) parish at Brooklyn in July of 1873. From then until 1875, when construction of the first church was completed, the congregation gathered to hear mass first in Albert's home in Brighton, and later in a cooper shop located on his large landholding in the village:

"Each Saturday night the barrels and cooperage equipment were pushed aside, and a sheet was hung across the back of the room in front of the stove. In front of the sheet a large box was placed to serve as an altar. A few chairs were available, but most of the pews consisted of planks placed across nail kegs. Bits of hay sifted through the cracks in the floor above and fell on the heads of the little congregation (South Brooklyn, 1943)."

From 1876 to 1878 Albert is a partner in the firm Salisbury, Phiel & Vanderwyst on Willey St. The firm advertised the manufacture of flour and fruit barrels as well as being wholesale and retail dealers in "all kinds of cooper's stock", hard and soft coal. By this time Albert had a second residence at 100 York St., on the Near West Side (1878 Telegraph Directory). In 1879 he is listed as the senior partner in the firm Vanderwyst & Greif at the same Willey St. location. This firm is still in existence! Up until 2003 it was known as Greif Brothers after William Greif (the original partner) and his brothers. In 2003 it was renamed simply Greif, a slicker name for a modern company that deals primarily in industrial shipping containers. Greif is currently listed on the NYSE and has a website at GREIF CORP.

Greif Bros. Cooperage c.1884

The Greif Bros. Cooperage on Willey St. shortly after Albert Vanderwyst's death c.1884. This was derived from an 1886 fire insurance map. Several additional storage sheds are located across Willey St. and along the tracks. Red buildings are presumably faced with brick, yellow ones with wood (original map had solid and dashed lines instead of colours). For a sense of scale, the steets are surveyed to be 66 feet wide.

By 1880 Albert and his now much larger family are living at 275 Willey St., across the street from his business (1880 census). It is perhaps at this time that he is beginning to suffer from a debilitating desease that made the commute back to his home in Brighton impossible. By 1882 Albert was seriously ill from a disease described as "marasmus", which means "wasting away" (Cleveland Leader, Nov 24 1882). This vague description could mean anything from cancer to kidney failure. On April 18, 1882 he made a new will witnessed by his business partner William Greif outlining how he wanted his estate to be divided after his death. On November 20, 1882, Albert passed away at the age of about 56. He is buried at St. Mary's Catholic cemetery on Clark Avenue at W. 41st St.

This Entry Last Updated February 19, 2005