From the Richmond Times, 9/26/1900, p. 2, c. 4
MISS VAN LEW HAS PASSED AWAY
The Death Yesterday of This Distinguished Old Lady.
SKETCH OF HER CAREER.
Her Sympathies Were With the North During the War – Her Annual Protest – Other Deaths.
The Death of Miss Elizabeth L. Van Lew occurred yesterday morning at 4:10 o’clock at her residence on East Grace Street. Miss Van Lew had been in ill health for about two weeks, and had suffered severely recently from dropsy. She began to sink Sunday, and though she rallied considerably later, she became unconscious about 2 o’clock Monday morning and died shortly afterwards.
At the bedside were the children of her sister, her nieces, Mrs. Dr. Nichols, son and daughter, of Philadelphia, and Mrs. Charles A. Ricksecker, of Buffalo. Other relatives in Philadelphia have been telegraphed for and upon their arrival arrangements for the funeral will be completed.
The service will be conducted to-morrow evening or Friday morning from the residence, Rev. Robert A. Goodwin, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, where Miss Van Lew was christened and confirmed, officiating.
The old homestead, so redolent with memories of by-gone days, will be sold.
By a provision of the will of Miss Van Lew’s father, $10,000 of her estate will be divided among her sister’s children. The residue of her estate had been willed to her niece, but since her death a codicil has been added to the will, which is believed to transfer it to her younger niece.
Elizabeth L. Van Lew was the oldest daughter of John Van Lew, a native of New York, a man of sterling qualities, and of good old Dutch descent. Her mother, Miss Eliza Baker, of Philadelphia, was a daughter of Hillary Baker, Mayor of that city, who died of yellow fever during the terrible epidemic of 1798.
The story of her life reads like a romance. She received her education at Philadelphia, and with it imbibed much of the sentiment that caused her to cast her sympathies with the North. Her greatest hobby, however, was her love for the negro. “They have black faces, but white principles,” she was often heard to comment, and she lost no effort to try to uplift those around her, treating them almost as equals, and striving to educate them.
Through the installation of a trusted agent in the service of Jefferson Davis Miss Van Lew was able to furnish the Federal forces with the most valuable information, and that her services to the cause that she espoused were appreciated was attested by the acts of General Grant, who, after his army had entered the city, paid lengthy visits to her at the old home, and gave her services material recognition by appointing her postmistress of this city on the 19th day of March, 1869, only fifteen days after his own inauguration, and reappointed her in 1873, in which capacity she served until May 19, 1877., when Colonel W. W. Forbes succeeded her in office.
Miss Van Lew was of inestimable aid to the Federal officers who escaped from Libby Prison, and in making the success of their plans a possibility. In her house were sheltered those who were not recaptured by the Confederates and returned to prison.
Yet Miss Van Lew died friendless and alone. She was suspected by the authorities, but was not molested. One by one the friends of her youth, feeling themselves and their country outraged, dwindled away, and left her with only her thoughts for company.
Up to the last year, in which her strength had perceptibly failed, although her mind was as active and her will as strong as ever, Miss Van Lew had been a familiar figure on the streets of Richmond. But here she was pointed out, not as the Federal spy – which fact is little known and even less remembered, not as a friend of the poor – but as “Miss Van Lew, the former postmistress, who every year protests against taxation without the right to vote.” As certain as her taxes were paid the “annual protest” was filed along with them. She was a strong believer in woman’s rights, but refused to ventilate her views on the subject.
[other obituaries of the day were not transcribed – MDG]