Jonas Cohen, Sr., 1863-1902:  Another Tragic Accident and a Life Cut Short

The twelfth child of Jacob and Sarah Cohen was Jonas Cohen, sharing the name with his uncle, Jonas H. Cohen.  Jonas was born on August 15, 1863, and spent his childhood at 136 South Street.  When he was sixteen, he was already working as a clerk in the pawnshop, according to the 1880 census.

On February 21, 1892, he married Sarah Weil in New York City.[1]  Jonas and Sarah were living at 776 South 20th Street in 1895, and Jonas was working as a pawnbroker.  Their son, Jonas Cohen, Jr., was born on June 28 that same year.  In 1900, Jonas, Sarah, and their son were living at 2216 North Carmac Street; Sarah’s older brother Henry, who was also a pawnbroker and apparently in business with Jonas, was also living with them at that address.

Less than two years later, tragedy struck the family.

jonas news article

(“Untouched by Passing Train,” Sunday, October 20, 1901, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 145   Issue: 112   Section: Third   Page: 11)

Although the paper reported that Weil’s injuries were more serious, Henry Weil survived the accident.  Unfortunately, his business partner and brother-in-law, my great-granduncle Jonas Cohen, ultimately did not.  Over three months later, on February 10, 1902, Jonas Cohen died from “traumatic delirium from injuries” sustained from an accident with the Pennsylvania Railroad, according to his death certificate.  He would have been 36 years old just eleven days after he died.  He left behind his young wife Sarah and his son Jonas, Jr., who was not yet seven years old.

Jonas Cohen death certificate 1902

Jonas Cohen death certificate 1902

Sarah apparently never remarried and lived with her father and/or her brothers for most of the rest of her life.  In 1910, she and Jonas, Jr., were living with Simon Weil, her father, and three of her brothers, Henry, Aaron, and Monroe, and Monroe’s wife Maude at 2524 Broad Street.  Sarah had been born and married in New York City, but at some point her father and at least several of her siblings had all moved to Philadelphia.  Sarah’s brothers Henry, Aaron, and Monroe were all pawnbrokers by 1910.  Her father had been in the dry goods business in New York.  Had Sarah’s husband Jonas lured them all to Philadelphia by offering to go into the pawn business with them?

In 1917 Sarah and her son were still living at 2524 Broad Street, and Jonas, Jr., had joined the pawnbroker business, now called Weil Brothers, located at 16th Street and Jackson, according to his World War I draft registration.  His uncle Monroe was also working for Weil Brothers, though at a different address.  The city directory for 1918 lists both Henry and Aaron Weil also as working for Weil Brothers and living at 2524 Broad Street.

The same was true in 1920.  Sarah and her son were living at 2524 Broad Street with her father Simon and her brothers Henry and Aaron. (Monroe and his wife had moved on and had a place of their own.)  Her brothers were working as pawnbrokers, and her son Jonas was a seaman in the United States Navy.

By 1930, Simon Weil had died, but his children Henry, Aaron, and Sarah continued to live together at the same address, and Jonas, Jr., now 36 years old and out of the Navy, continued to live with them as well.  All three men described their occupation as “money lender.”  By 1940, Jonas had married and moved out, but Henry, Aaron and Sarah, now all around 70 years old, were still living together at 2524 Broad Street.  Henry and Aaron had never married; Sarah had never remarried.  They had been living together as adults since at least 1910, and probably from the time Jonas, Sr., had died in 1902.  Had the awful accident that had led to Jonas’ death also scarred all of them in some way, making it hard for any of them to separate and move on with their adult lives?

The Weil Siblings 1940 census

The Weil Siblings 1940 census

Jonas, Jr., however, did leave and start a life of his own.  In 1936, he married Sally Coleman.  In 1940, they were living at 2201 Venango Street[2], and Jonas was still working as a pawnbroker.

Jonas, Jr. and Sally Cohen 1940 census

Jonas, Jr. and Sally Cohen 1940 census

On his World War II draft registration he was living at 5929 Springfield Avenue, and his emergency contact was Sarah Cohen of the same address.  Unless Sally’s real name was Sarah, this would seem to refer to Jonas’ mother, not his wife, but I cannot be sure. Perhaps both his mother and his wife were living with him at that address.

Jonas Cohen, Jr. World War II draft registraiton

Jonas Cohen, Jr. World War II draft registraiton

Henry Weil died in 1945, or at least that is the date on the funeral bill paid by his brother Aaron.  It looks like he was cremated.  I could not find a death record for Aaron, but presumably he lived at least until 1945 since he paid that bill and since his death certificate is not in the database that runs up through 1944.  Neither Aaron nor Henry is buried at Mt. Sinai; their brother Monroe and his wife Maude Weil lived until 1953 and 1959, respectively, and are buried at Mt. Sinai. Perhaps Aaron and Henry were buried in New York at Union Field Cemetery like their father and presumably their mother.

Sarah died on June 18, 1959, and was buried at Mt Sinai next to Jonas, her husband of only ten years who had died almost 60 years earlier.  She was 89 years old, according to burial records.  Her sister Florence Weil Blaufeld had ordered her interment.

Sarah and Jonas Cohen’s son, Jonas, Jr., lived to be 90 years old.  He died on March 3, 1986, and is buried next to his parents at Mt. Sinai.  I could not find an obituary to help determine whether he ever had children or what he did from 1942 until 1986.  However, his interment order was authorized by someone named Sally Cohen.



[1] I thought that perhaps Sarah Weil was somehow related to Lewis Weil, who had married Jonas’ sister Rachel, but I cannot find a connection.  Even though Sarah’s father was named Simon, and Lewis’ brother was named Simon, even though both had ancestral roots in Germany, I could not find any definitive familial tie.

[2] My father was also living on Venango Street in 1940 with his mother and sister, according to the 1940 census.  I wonder if he knew that his father’s first cousin Jonas was living down the street.

7 thoughts on “Jonas Cohen, Sr., 1863-1902:  Another Tragic Accident and a Life Cut Short

  1. So sad, I think particularly so since it was first (very publicly) hailed as a “remarkable escape.”

    Ironically, the newspaper article makes it more tragic, but also lets us know the cause of “traumatic delirium” (a continuing slow subdural bleed or something similar?).

    Kate @ BJJ, Law, and Living


    • I assume it was something akin to what we would call PTSD. I doesn’t sound like it was anything physical. I am not sure how delirium kills someone though.


      • Oh, I didn’t think of that. I guess it could have been–that certainly would have been PTSD worthy. I was thinking that pressure on the brain from a bleed would have caused emotional and mental changes (and headaches) before eventual death.

        Either way, it must have been devastating for the family to witness over the following months. As you noted, they seem “stuck” afterwards.


      • Yes, all very sad. Amazing that both his wife and son lived so long. I wish I knew more about his son’s life. The search continues!


  2. Yet another reminder of how tenuous a hold we had on life in those days. Maybe sad, maybe not: a close family who seem to have kept Jonas’s memory sacred in a very real way. Although I have little real interest in genealogy as such I find these posts fascinating! Thank you and keep posting!


    • Thank you for your kind words! Yes, I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the awful things that happened to people back then—infant mortality, early deaths, terrible accidents, awful medical care, oppressive poverty, etc. Things may still be far from perfect, but life is certainly a lot less treacherous now.


  3. Pingback: Seeing the Forest: In Memory of Jacob and Sarah Cohen and All their Children « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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