John G. Stenger – Callicoon Depot, New York Photographer

May 27, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Introduction

 

John G. Stenger was a popular photographer at the hamlet of Callicoon Depot in the 1890s to the early 1900s. He was noted for both his landscape and portrait work. Anthony Stenger, John’s father, also worked as a photographer for many years at Callicoon Depot and at the hamlet of North Branch.

 

Country Scene, by J. G. StengerCountry Scene, by J. G. Stenger

Country Scene, by J. G. Stenger. Author's collection.

 

Biography

 

John G. Stenger was born in March 1865, the son of Anthony Stenger (1839-1915) and Fredericka (Weingartner) Stenger (1840-1919), both natives of Germany. Anthony was born on September 8, 1839 at Darmstadt, Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1852. He resided in New York City for four years and then settled at Mileses in the town of Fremont, Sullivan County, New York.

 

In May, 1863, Anthony married Fredericka Weingartner. She was a native of Stuttgart, Germany who immigrated to the United States in 1859. Together they had four children, including John; Mary Anna (Stenger) Schonger (1866-1928), wife of Dr. Adolph H. Schonger, the well-known physician at North Branch; Henry J. Stenger (1866-1935), a painter and well-regarded musician, and later a foreman in the paint shops of the Long Island Railroad Company; and Anthony Stenger (1873-1939), an optometrist with the firm of Stenger and Stenger at 398 Broadway in Brooklyn for 30 years. Mary Anna and Henry were twins.

 

Anthony was a house painter by trade, and combined that occupation with photography and musical work. He was prominent in the musical scene of the area, being a member of several bands and orchestras. “Mr. Stenger was a musician with exceptional talent and has furnished the music for the dances in that section of the county for the last fifty years and was known and beloved by all.”[1]

 

Anthony first established a photograph gallery at Callicoon Depot sometime in the 1870s. At Stenger’s gallery, you could “get your photograph taken, which will be better looking than you really are.”[2] In 1881 the local newspaper noted that “Mr. S. is a good photographer, and no doubt he will do a good trade in his line.”[3]

 

After moving from Callicoon Depot to the hamlet of North Branch in the late 1890s, Anthony established another gallery there. The local newspaper noted in 1898 that “Anthony Stenger, the North Branch artist and photographer, is established in his new quarters and I learn is doing a good business. Mr. Stenger has had a long experience of his profession, and gives satisfaction.”[4]

 

Anthony Stenger continued to operate his photograph gallery until poor health no longer allowed him to work. He was a member of the Free Masons, being one of the first members of the chapter at Callicoon Center. He was also a member of the Knights of Honor.

 

Anthony was well regarded in the community. Upon his passing it was written that “Mr. Stenger was the kind of man it does you good to meet. His greeting was always happy, hearty and sincere; there was not an artificial streak in him. He was the personification of good nature, a genial companion, a true friend. He has added his full share of happiness to the world with the sunshine and melody which came forth from his soul.”[5]

 

Upon the death of Mary Anna, John’s sister, in 1928, the local newspaper wrote of her parents Anthony and Fredericka Stenger.

 

“The Stengers were a musical family, which added to their social atmosphere. The old folks, Pop and Mom Stenger, spent their later years on the Dietrichsen place just below North Barnch, where Pop had a photograph gallery and where many musical gatherings were held. Pleasant memories of the Stengers will long linger in the minds of those who have been so fortunate as to partake of their hospitality and good cheer.”[6]

 

Anthony passed away on January 30, 1915 at the age of 75 from a cerebral hemorrhage at his home in North Branch. He had been in poor health for some time, having suffered three strokes, two of which were within 48 hours of his death. The funeral services were conducted by Reverend J. E. Straub. Fredericka passed away in 1919 from pneumonia. Anthony and his wife Fredericka are both buried at Grace Lutheran Cemetery in North Branch, New York.

 

John G. Stenger, our subject, spent his youth growing up in the town of Fremont. The 1875 New York State census listed 10-year-old John as living with his parents Anthony and Fredericka, along with his sister and two brothers. Anthony was listed with an occupation of Painter.

 

The 1880 United States census listed 14-year-old John as living with his parents Anthony and Fredericka, along with his sister and two brothers. He was listed as being “at school.” Anthony was listed with an occupation of Laborer.

 

After receiving his education, Stenger lived for four years living in New York City, but afterwards moved to Callicoon Depot, New York in his home county.

 

Callicoon Depot is beautifully situated along the Delaware River in Sullivan County, New York. The hamlet takes its name from the New York and Erie Railroad train depot which opened there in 1848. In 1906 the “Depot” part of the name was dropped by the U.S. Postal Service, and became simply Callicoon.

 

Stenger followed the several trades of his father, being a painter, photographer and musician. John was a noted house painter, with numerous mentions in the local newspapers of his work painting the houses of various community residents.

 

As a photographer, Stenger’s services included both landscape and portrait work. Advertisements noted that outdoor views and groups were a specialty. One 1895 advertisement from Stenger that was published in the Sullivan County Record stated “Don’t neglect the family, Come and Bring the children. All Work executed in good style and at moderate prices. Buildings, groups, scenery, schools and other outdoor work.” His gallery was located on South Street in Callicoon Depot.

 

Portrait, Young Man, by John G. StengerPortrait, Young Man, by John G. Stenger

Portrait, Young Man, by J. G. Stenger. Author's collection.

 

Portrait, Baby, by John G. Stenger, Callicoon Depot, New YorkPortrait, Baby, by John G. Stenger, Callicoon Depot, New York

Portrait, Baby, by J. G. Stenger. Author's collection.

 

The 1900 United States census listed Stenger as residing in the town of Delaware, Sullivan County. He was listed with an occupation of “House painter.”

 

In March 1900 Stenger erected and opened at Callicoon Depot “a new photograph gallery on his premises adjoining the school building. It will be equipped with the most up-to-date appliances for that line of business.”[7]

 

Advertisement for J. G. Stenger, PhotographerAdvertisement for J. G. Stenger, Photographer

 

Advertisement for John G. Stenger, PhotographerAdvertisement for John G. Stenger, Photographer

 

In 1895 Stenger was appointed coroner by New York State Governor Levi Morton to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Philip Metzger of Jeffersonville. In November 1895 he won the county election to serve a full term of three years as coroner. The local paper noted that Stenger had won his election despite spending very little. His expenses totaled only $8.25, of which $1.50 was to hire horses and $6.75 was for “treating at various hotels while introducing myself.” Of the four coroners elected, Stenger had received the highest number of votes.

 

Prior to his marriage John may have had a reputation as a ladies’ man. The Sullivan County Record wrote in 1895 that “I noticed J. G. Stenger, Callicoon Depot’s photographer, riding about town Tuesday on the laps of two dearies of the same place. Most fellows are satisfied with one at a time, but Johnnie don’t ’pear to be one of ’em.”

 

Portrait of John G. Stenger, PhotographerPortrait of John G. Stenger, Photographer

 

Stenger eventually settled down and married Mary Mitchell (1872-1938), daughter of Elias Mitchell of Callicoon Depot, on January 21, 1902. The service was held at the St. James Episcopal Church at Callicoon Depot and was officiated by Pastor H. C. Briggs. There were only a few relatives present at the ceremony, including John’s brother, Anthony Stenger Jr. of North Branch, and Mary’s sister, Ollie Mitchell. John and Mary had one son, Albert H. Stenger (1903-1973).

 

Elias Mitchell (1839-1912), Stenger’s father-in-law, was one of the oldest and most successful rivermen and raft pilots along the Delaware River. Both his father, Stephen Mitchell, and grandfather, Timothy Mitchell, were also well-known lumbermen and rivermen. Elias began his life as a lumberman and raft pilot at the age of 19, and continued with the trade until the spring of 1911. He was reported to have made as many as 21 trips down the river in a single year. He was affectionately referred to as “Deacon.”

 

Like his father Anthony, John was also an accomplished musician. He served as the musical conductor for the Callicoon dramatic society. In the early 1900s he served as leader of the Callicoon Depot orchestra while playing first violin. The reviews of Stenger’s leadership of the orchestra were very positive.

 

“A masquerade ball will be held in Harmonie Hall Feb. 22. All who attend will be given an opportunity to hear our new band, which, under the leadership of J. G. Stenger, has surpassed all expectations of its advancement.” – Tri-State Union (Port Jervis, New York). February 15, 1900.

 

“The new orchestra recently organized here deserves credit for the progress it has made for the short time it has been in existence. The members and instruments are as follows: J. G. Stenger, first violin; Ed Starck, second violin; Ed Robisch, cornet; Edward Gardner, trombone; William Kothe Jr., piano. Mr. Stenger is director. They have played in public a number of times, and the music is much appreciated.” – Sullivan County Record (Jeffersonville, New York). March 29, 1900.

 

“Wednesday evening last found the upper grade room of the school building packed . . . Special mention should be made of the faithful and untiring work done by our orchestra, led by J. G. Stenger, for the entertainment of those attending the Wednesday night meetings.” – Tri-States Union (Port Jervis, New York). March 29, 1900.

 

John G. Stenger died suddenly at 43 years of age at his home in Callicoon in 1908. John and his wife Mary, along with their son Albert, are buried at Callicoon Cemetery Old in Callicoon, New York.

 

[1] “Anthony Stenger.” Sullivan County Republican (Monticello, New York). February 12, 1915.

[2] “Milesville Directory.” Sullivan County Record (Jeffersonville, New York). October 10, 1879.

[3] “Callicoon Depot.” Republican Watchman (Monticello, New York). March 18, 1881.

[4] Tri-States Union (Port Jervis, New York). July 28, 1898.

[5] “Anthony Stenger.” Sullivan County Record (Jeffersonville, New York). February 4, 1915.

[6] “Apoplexy Takes Mrs. Dr. Schonger.” Sullivan County Record (Jeffersonville, New York). May 3, 1928.

[7] Tri-States Union (Port Jervis, New York). February 15, 1900.

 


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