John Edward Bense & Nora Rowley

John Edward Bense John Edward Bense Sr. in 1949John Edward Bense Sr. in 1949. (who went by “Edward” or “Ed”) was born on November 25, 1892 in Philadelphia to German immigrants John Frederick Bense and Antonette Abeln. He grew up in the city’s Kensington neighborhood, where his father worked for a leather manufacturer. Sometime before 1900, the family moved into a home at 240 West Oxford Street, and Edward and his four older siblings probably attended school at St. Michael’s parish or at one of the public schools near their home. Before Edward was 14, the family moved to 2004 North Hancock Street, and Edward might have gone to school or attended mass at St. Boniface Church, one block north.

As early as 1910, when Edward was 18, the census and city directories record his occupation as a jeweler. On his 1917 draft card he lists his employer as Bailey Banks & Biddle at “13th Chestnut St.” (i.e., 1218 Chestnut Street in Center City). Bailey Banks & Biddle was founded in Philadelphia in 1832 and was best known for designing and manufacturing ribbons, medals, and other awards for the government, most notably the class rings given to graduates of the US Military Academy and the US Naval Academy. I cannot find records of Edward’s exact job at the company or of how long he worked there, but he was working as a jeweler as late as 1930.

Nora Agnes Rowley was born on January 6, 1898 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Thomas Rowley, a coal miner, and his wife Mary Agnes Ruane, both of whom had moved to the United States from Ireland several years before. The earliest record I can find of Nora is the 1900 US census, which shows Nora, her parents, and her sister at 35 Frederick Street in Wilkes-Barre. In the following years the family moved a block south to 58 Frederick Street, where they were living when Nora’s mother died in 1914 and when her father died in 1917. Afterward, Nora and her siblings moved in with an aunt and uncle on 42 Frederick Street.

In 1915 and 1916, Nora Nora Rowley in 1949Nora Rowley in 1949. is listed in a local directory with no occupation, but in 1917 she is listed as a “silkworker.” I believe she took up this job briefly to help support herself and her siblings before moving to Philadelphia later that year.

In 1919, her name appears in a local newspaper:

Two Wilkes-Barre young women, Misses Anna C. Murphy and Nora A. Rowley, both of 42 Frederick street, have been graduated from the Bainbridge Private Hospital training school for nurses at Philadelphia. They were awarded their diplomas on June 21. Both are socially prominent through the city.

The Evening News (Wilkes-Barre), July 4, 1919

I think the Anna C. Murphy the article mentions was Nora’s cousin who would go on to be the maid of honor at her wedding in 1923. I could not find a “Bainbridge Private Hospital” anywhere, but my best guess is that it might be related to the Ingersoll Training School for Nurses, a nursing school affiliated with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia when it was located near 18th and Bainbridge Streets.

Nora and Edward probably met in Philadelphia around this time. They married on April 15, 1923, when Edward was 30 and Nora was 25. Their wedding was described in a Wilkes-Barre newspaper: A PDF of the full article is viewable here.

Friends of Miss Nora Rowley, a former resident of Wilkes-Barre were agreeably surprised upon receiving cards yesterday announcing her marriage to J. Edward Bense a prominent young man of the Kensington district of Philadelphia. Many local and former residents of Wilkes-Barre attended the wedding which took place at St. Boniface Church, Philadelphia Wednesday, April 15. […]

A sister of the bride, Veronica Rowley acted as bridesmaid and George Brimmer as best man. The maid of honor was Anna Murphy and the flower girl Dolores Bense. Leo Aregood and Daniel Bense served as ushers.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, April 28, 1923

George Brimmer was Edward’s cousin, and Dolores and Daniel were his niece and nephew. Leo Argood was probably a friend of the bride and groom. The article goes on to describe the wedding party’s wardrobe.

The couple moved into a home at 3043 North Hope Street in the Fairhill section of North Philadelphia. In the years that followed, Nora’s sister Veronica and adopted brother Joseph would also move in with them. They had three children:

Sometime after 1930, Edward changed his occupation, becoming a “roller” at the US Mint in Philadelphia, which was located at 1700 Spring Garden Street. I don’t think this date is a coincidence. My father, Edward’s grandson, recalls hearing a story about Edward and his oldest son participating in a run on the bank around this time. A roller helped process metal stock by rolling the raw material through one or more presses, reducing its thickness and making it more uniform. The resulting metal sheet would then have circular “blanks” cut into it which would eventually become coins. This rolling process is also used to make some forms of jewelry, which indicates that Edward’s experience in that field was probably an asset to him at his new job.

In 1942, Edward and Nora moved to 5218 North American Street in the Olney section of North Philadelphia, More details about this might be revealed in the 1950 US census, due for release in 2022. where they would live for the rest of their lives. Edward’s obituary mentions that he was the treasurer of the Mint’s retirement association.

Edward died in Philadelphia on January 29, 1963 at the age of 70 after a pulmonary embolism. Nora died on August 1, 1964 at the age of 66 after suffering from a stroke. They are buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania.

Further reading

John Edward Bense’s and Nora A. Rowley’s entries on my Ancestry.com tree (requires a subscription). A few additional sources (mostly city directories) are visible here.

John Edward Bense’s and Nora A. Rowley’s pages on FamilySearch (requires a free account).

Sources

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M37L-JWX : accessed 21 September 2020), Edward Benze in household of John Benze, Philadelphia city Ward 17, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 324, sheet 6A, family 97, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,459.

“United States Census, 1900,” This census also records Nora’s uncle, Michael Rowley, living nearby at 25 Frederick Street with his family. database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M3QH-DHN : accessed 21 September 2020), Nora Rowley in household of Thomas Rowley, District 1 Wilkesbarre city Ward 14, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 179, sheet 17B, family 314, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,241,436.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG8R-SBR : accessed 21 September 2020), Edward Bense in household of John Bense, Philadelphia Ward 19, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 303, sheet 10A, family 195, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1393; FHL microfilm 1,375,406.

“United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MG8K-X9V : accessed 21 September 2020), Nora Rowley in household of Thomas Rowley, Wilkes Barre Ward 14, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 160, sheet 6A, family 104, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1371; FHL microfilm 1,375,384.

“United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHWD-6XZ : accessed 21 September 2020), John E Bense, Philadelphia (Districts 0751-1000), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 968, sheet 15B, line 99, family 269, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 2118; FHL microfilm 2,341,852.

“United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KQ48-NWL : 9 February 2020), John E Bense, Ward 33, Philadelphia, Philadelphia City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 51-1080, sheet 10B, line 57, family 204, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790–2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3722.

United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917–1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm. Link (requires subscription)

United States, Selective Service System. Selective Service Registration Cards, World War II: Fourth Registration. Records of the Selective Service System, Record Group Number 147. National Archives and Records Administration. Link (requires subscription)

Death Certificate of John E. Bense Sr., Edward’s son wrote “Thomas” in the box for Edward’s father; it looks like he got his grandparents’ names mixed up. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 005701–008550. Link (requires subscription)

Death Certificate of Nora A. Bense, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Box Number: 2400; Certificate Number Range: 077051–079900 Link (requires subscription)

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV2K-FDLW : 8 August 2020), John Edward Bense; Burial, Cheltenham, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, United States of America, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery; citing record ID 73395409, Find a Grave, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/73395409.

Bailey, Banks & Biddle records (Accession 2453), Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, DE 19807 Link

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia School of Nursing records. University of Pennsylvania Finding Aids, University of Pennsylvania. Link

“Local Girls Become Nurses,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Evening News, July 4, 1919; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA.

“Bense–Rowley,” A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Wilkes-Barre Record, April 28, 1923; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA.

Real Estate Transactions, A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20 1942; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Obituary for Nora A. Bense; A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4, 1964; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.

Obituary of John E. Bense, Sr.; A PDF of a clipping is viewable here. The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 30, 1963; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.