The first of the Rey family came to Middle Village in l847. Jean Baptiste de Rey was born in l80l in Toulon, France. He attended the University of Toulon and earned a degree in chemistry. With his wife, Elizabeth Lorraine, he immigrated to America in l830. They entered through Ellis Island and settled on l4th Street in lower Manhattan. Jean Baptiste became a real estate agent but he longed to have a piece of land and a garden as his family had in France. He used to take the Williamsburg ferry across to the open countryside of Long Island (the trip cost two cents at that time).
Finally, he found four acres to his liking in Middle
Village on the south side of Metropolitan Avenue between
73rd Street and 78th Street. It had a pond and reminded
him of his father's orchard. He was determined to go into
business for himself and erected a two-story factory where
he began to produce chocolate for the bakers' trade as
well as elixirs and remedies from recipes that he had
brought with him from France. The necessary machinery was
run by a one-horse-power treadmill.
The family moved to Middle Village in l847 to a two
story house that was part of Scheinfeld's Department
Store. From the cupola atop that house, the family could
watch the 4th of July fireworks going off in lower
Brooklyn. Jean Baptiste De Rey, was very happy in the
open countryside that was Middle Village. His business
prospered and he had his garden planted with grapes and
young fruit trees.
The De Rey Family (now Rey) was growing: J.D. was born in
l844; J. Rodolphe in l845; George Washington in l86l.
Later, George owned a hardware store in Maspeth and
helped the Mt. Olivet Cemetery to get started by supplying
The second son, Rodolphe, was two years of age when
the family moved to Middle Village. When he was sixteen,
the Civil War was on and he ran off to join the Grand Army
of the Republic to fight for the Union. He enlisted in
the l02nd Infantry Co. of the New York Volunteers at the
recruiting office in Cypress Hills. His mother knew what
he intended to do but did not try to stop him. She gave
him a Bible and her blessings.
Rodolphe fought through every major campaign of the
Civil War. He served under Stonewall Jackson at Cedar
Mountain where l50 men were lost; he was in the second
battle of Bull Run; at Antietam in October of '62; with
Greens' Brigade in the Chancellorsville campaign in '63.
At Fredricksburg he dug trenches with his bayonet, the
only tool at hand. At the Battle of Gettysburg, he fought
at Culps Hill which was on the left flank of General
Meade's command. He was part of the pursuing Union Army
that chased Lee's armies south through Harper's Ferry all
the way to Tennessee. He was in the Battle of Chattanooga
and at Lookout Mountain, Georgia where the mists were so
heavy that they couldn't even see the enemy.
In November of l862, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected
President. The "old campaigner", Rodolphe Rey was able to
vote for him because he was now eighteen years of age. In
December of the following year Lincoln asked all the Union
volunteers to re-enlist until the end of the war. Those
who answered the call were given a furlough in Washington
and were greeted by President Lincoln. Rodolphe Rey was
In l864, the l02nd joined the Atlanta campaign under
General Sherman. They fought through the battles of
Kennesaw Mountain and Peach Tree, Georgia. They lost 55 of
their men and the l02nd had to be consolidated with the
78th Company. Sherman's army spread out over a fifty mile
width, laid siege to Atlanta. Rodolphe was now a
Corporal. After the Confederate forces finally withdrew
from Atlanta, the New York Volunteers returned home.
On April 9th, l865, General Robert E. Lee surrendered the
Confederate forces to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appamattox
court house. The Civil War had ended and Rodolphe Rey had
survived. By the time he returned to Middle Village his
mother had passed away. His experiences during the war
led him to seek a place for spiritual growth and he found
it with the Methodist congregation right across
Metropolitan Avenue from his home. He became active in the
church and on November 30, l870, he married Adelaide Losee
whose father worked as a stone cutter in Middle Village
and whose mother was a Remsen, one of the first families
to settle on Long Island. The Remsen family cemetery,
l735 to l790, is situated just off Woodhaven Boulevard
near Metropolitan Avenue. Colonel Remsen was Commander of
the American forces at the Battle of Long Island during
the Revolutionary War.
Now that he was home, Rodolphe worked in the family
business preparing "hooping" cough medication and an
effective pile remedy but the new Food and Drug
Administration began limiting access to some of the
ingredients, such as morphine, so the production of
remedies and elixirs was discontinued and a macaroni
factory was established at l06-l08 Furman Avenue.
Rey's macaroni factory may have been the first one of its
kind to be established in America. An l895 price list
shows that 25 pounds of packaged macaroni sold for 5 l/4
cents and 25 pounds in bulk was 4 l/2 cents. When Jean
Baptiste died around l895, at the age of 96, Mr. Rey was
the oldest inhabitant in the village.
Rodolphe Rey carried on the business. During l0 months of
the year that the factory was in operation, he used about
2,000 barrels of flour. Each pound of flour made a pound
of macaroni, so that fully 392,000 pounds of the food was
shipped every year to wholesale dealers exclusively.
Rodolphe and Adelaide had four children, Frank, Adelaide,
Bertha and Joseph Rodolphe, Jr. Rodolphe, Sr. became a
Trustee and Superintendent of the Sunday School, a
position he held for over 50 years. He also taught the
senior boys class and could hold the teenagers enthralled
with his stories of the Civil War.
Adelaide Rey passed away in l905. Rodolphe lived until
l926. He finally was awarded his Civil War pension of $50
a month in l920 and received it for the last five years of
J. Rodolphe Rey, Jr. married Helen (*Nellie) Wesser and
they had three sons; Durwood, Alfred and Milton. At
first, they lived on 79th Place but in l924 Rodolphe, Jr.
built an extension onto his father's house on 79th Street
and the young Rodolphe Rey family moved into the newly
created two family home. Al Rey had vivid memories of
climbing up on the roof where you could see the open
countryside for miles around. He remembered going to
Juniper Swamp to shoot muskrats for which he was paid l0
cents a piece. He remembered the huge turtle that was
found in the swamp and carted it off to Niedersteins to be
made into turtle soup. He also remembered the trip on the
trolley to Batterman's Department Store in Williamsburg.
Al worked each summer from the age of l2 until he was l5
years old for a Mr. Wilson who owned a ten acre farm on
80th Street across from P.S. 87, not a part of St. John's
When he was old enough, Al learned the plumbing trade but
he developed an interest in being a fireman, perhaps
because of the admiration for his uncle, Fred Wesser, who
drove the horse drawn fire wagon for the Fearless Hook and
Ladder Company #7, located on Metropolitan Avenue across
from the Lutheran Cemetery.
Al married Josephine Giel in l938 and in l937 he became a
fireman. He retired in l970 after 32 years of service.
Al and Josephine had three children; Thomas, Mary Ann,
and Daniel. Thomas and Daniel both became firemen.
Daniel died tragically, in the line of duty, in October
l966. After this tragic loss, Al Rey was transferred from
his active duty as a fireman to the post of Curator of the
Fire Museum at l04 Duane Street in Manhattan. There his
life-long interest in history was put to very good use in
the service of the Fire Department and the City of New