From the New York Tribune, 9/26/1900, p. 9, c. 4
MISS ELIZABETH VAN LEW.
Richmond, Va., Sept. 25 (Special). – Miss Elizabeth Van Lew, who during the Civil War furnished the Union forces with valuable information against the Confederate government, assisted escaping prisoners and who, after the war was rewarded by General Grant with the postmastership at Richmond, died at her home here this morning.
Miss Van Lew, who was eighty-four years old, was the daughter of John Van Lew, a New-Yorker, of Dutch descent, who married Elizabeth Baker, a daughter of Hilliary Baker, Mayor of Philadelphia, who died in the yellow fever epidemic of 1798. Her father, as a hardware merchant in the firm of Van Lew & Taylor, prospered after settling in Richmond. His family was received in the best society, and the wit and beauty of his eldest daughter charmed the young gallants of the Virginia capital, so that Elizabeth, of Puritan descent, became a belle even in the Cavalier society and sentiment of that time and place, but she never married.
When the Civil War commenced she took a pronounced stand against the South, and gave her sympathies and allegiance to the Union, and more. She remained in Richmond, and spied upon the Confederacy and all its agents, civil and military, and such were her intelligence and acumen that she found means to communicate with the Federal Army during the years it thundered at the gates of the Confederate capital. In this capacity she rendered the North services exceeding in value those of any other woman, certainly in the confines of the Confederacy.
When Grant hovered about Richmond Miss Van Lew was in constant communication with him. Flowers cut in her garden in the morning found their way to Grant’s table at City Point before nightfall. After the evacuation of Richmond General Grant visited Miss Van Lew, and remained as most substantial evidence attested, her warm friend until his death.
When the war was over and General Grant had been made President one of his first acts was to appoint Miss Van Lew postmaster at Richmond, March 19, 1869, fifteen days after his inauguration. Four years later he reappointed her, but she went out of office at the end of her second term, President Hayes yielding to the importunities of politicians, appointing Colonel W. W. Forbes, who succeeded her. After remaining out of office for a while Miss Van Lew secured a departmental appointment at Washington, which she held until the first Cleveland Administration, when she was reassigned, causing her to resign.