Friday, March 17, 2017

Martin Rouse, an Irish Success Story

Martin Rouse was born on May 12, 1829 in Maugherabrack, in the parish of Kilglass, in county Sligo, Ireland. He was the son of Thomas Rouse and Margaret "Peg" Taylor.  His brother John was born two years later, and then around 1837, the family immigrated to America.

In the 1850 United States Census, he was still living with his parents in New York City.  He was working as a cooper, while his brother was a cartman. A year later, he was sworn in as a naturalized citizen of the United States.

36 & 38 Whitehall Street
By 1860, he had married Sarah Douglas and moved to Jersey City.  Although still listed as a cooper, by this time he had partnered with a tallow chandler named Goulard.  By 1870, the firm of Goulard, Rouse & Company had offices on Whitehall Street in New York, as well as Kansas City and Chicago.  He was a founding member of the New York Produce Exchange, and also served as the Chief Weigher for the Port of New York.

As Chief Weigher, his job was to set the value of cargo coming in the port. In the days before container shipping, cargo was packed into barrels to be worked into every nook and cranny of a freighter.  Actually weighing each individual piece as it came off a ship would have taken days, if not weeks. Instead, a weigher would examine the size of the ship, count barrels, consider the contents, and make a calculation that became the official figure for port fees and taxes.

Besides his business interests, Martin was also a long time member of Passaic Hose Company #4 of the Jersey City Volunteer Fire Department, and represented them in the Exempt Firemen's Association.

He died in January of 1894, after suffering from a long illness.  According to his obituary:
"He had been ailing for a long time before his death, his sickness really dating from the day after Grover Cleveland's election in 1892.  A huge game cock from Indiana was presented to him on the floor of the (Produce) Exchange by a friend, in token of the triumph that the result of the election was to Mr. Rouse, who was a fervent admirer of the President.  The fun-loving brokers took advantage fo the presentation to escort the old gentleman to the rostrum and prevailed on him to make a speech.  The rickety old structure gave way, and Mr. Rouse got a bad fall, from the shock of which he never wholly recovered." -- The New York Times, Jan 31, 1861
His death certificate notes that he died of blood poisoning.  He was interred at Arlington Cemetery in Kearny NJ on February 1, 1894.

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