My great-great-uncle Sigmund Seligman must have been an impressive human being. Born in 1830, he came by himself to the US from a small town in Germany before he was even twenty years old. Although I have no records of his arrival or where he might have settled first (although other facts suggest he first settled in Philadelphia), historical sources report that by 1849 he had settled in Santa Fe, first working as a photographer there and then joining up with Charles Clever to start the trading business that became Seligman and Clever and eventually Seligman Brothers, a business that flourished and eventually supported not only Sigmund, but also his two brothers, Bernard and Adolph, and their families.
By 1857, he had applied for US citizenship in Philadelphia, and by 1860 he reported on the US census that he had $20,000 worth of personal property and the same in 1870. According to two different websites I found for converting 1860 dollars to today’s money, that amount would be the equivalent of over $400,000 today. Not too bad for a thirty year old entrepreneur.
I found a number of interesting news articles about Sigmund, including one dated June 6, 1871, that announced Sigmund’s return to Santa Fe after being away for a year “in the states and Germany.” I would love to know what took Sigmund back to Germany in 1870-1871. There must have still been family members there, but I have no idea who he might have been visiting. Maybe he was looking for a wife—as Parish had said, many men traveled back east or to Germany to find a Jewish woman to marry. If that was the purpose of Sigmund’s travels, he seems not to have been successful as he never married.
I assume that his travels in the states included Philadelphia, where his brother Bernard and his family were living during at least some part of that time. Perhaps Bernard was traveling back and forth, as I suggested in an earlier post, to keep an eye on the business while Sigmund was away. Sigmund had applied for a US passport on April 26, 1870, in Philadelphia, presumably for this trip. Written across the letter are the words “Nat Dis Court Santa Fe, New Mexico, December 15, 1856. Paid.” I don’t know what the December 15, 1856 date refers to, but I assume that Sigmund applied for this passport in order to take his trip back to Germany. He also had become a US citizen on April 26, 1870, also in Philadelphia, signed by the same notary who wrote in support of his passport application.
A year is a long time to leave a thriving business, and Sigmund reportedly received a “hearty welcome from his numerous friends” when he returned. (Santa Fe Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), June 6, 1871, p. 1) Sigmund was apparently quite well liked. In an editorial dated May 21, 1875, the Santa Fe New Mexican singled out Sigmund for his generosity and civic-mindedness based on his support of a project to provide sprinklers for the streets of Santa Fe to control the dust that tended to develop there on what I assume were dirt roads.
(Santa Fe New Mexican, May 21, 1875, p. 1)
Unfortunately, Sigmund’s life was cut short when he was only 46 years old on October 4, 1876. He died at Fort Craig, New Mexico, a site that is 181 miles from Santa Fe, so quite a distance; it was a US Army fort, the largest in the Southwest. As his obituary described it, he was in a “far off portion of the Territory.”
He died of apoplexy, according to one death record, and his obituary indicated that he died “from a sudden and resistless stroke of disease.” According to MedlinePlus, “When the word apoplexy (with no organ specified) is used alone, it often refers to stroke symptoms that occur suddenly. Such symptoms can be caused by bleeding into the brain or by a blood clot in a brain blood vessel. Conditions such as subarachnoid hemorrhage or stroke are sometimes called apoplexy.” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000328.htm
The public reaction to his death was described in expressive terms in Sigmund’s obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican dated October 10, 1876. The paper reported, “At no time in the history of our citizens has there been a more spontaneous outpouring of the people to show a becoming respect to the memory of a departed fellow-citizen and friend.” A Jewish “burial service” was read by Lehman Spiegelberg, another Santa Fe merchant, and Sigmund was buried at Odd Fellows cemetery in Santa Fe on October 9, 1876. A eulogy was given by Edmund F. Dunne, “portraying in most affecting, generous and glowing terms the many virtues and excellent qualities of the deceased as a brother, friend, citizen and correct man of business.” The paper described him as “a beloved friend to humanity and an uncompromising lover of his country, her institutions and laws.”
There was only one thing that puzzled me about this obituary. It does not mention Bernard or his family at all. In fact, the paper describes Adolph as “the surviving brother” as if there was no other. Since Arthur Seligman, Bernard’s son was born in Santa Fe in 1871 and since Bernard appears as living there on both the 1870 and 1880 US census reports as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Academy in 1878, I would have assumed that Bernard would have been in Santa Fe in 1876.
Although Sigmund was initially buried in Santa Fe, his body was moved to Philadelphia in April, 1877, six months after his death, where he was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery, the same cemetery where his brother Bernard would later be buried as well as other members of Bernard’s family. Putting this information together with Bernard’s absence from Sigmund’s funeral makes me wonder whether Bernard had in fact moved back to Philadelphia between 1876 and 1877 and decided to have his brother buried in a proper Jewish cemetery rather than in Santa Fe’s Odd Fellows cemetery.
I am sorry that I do not have any photographs of Sigmund. He must have been an interesting man—adventurous, courageous, generous, respected, and well-liked by his fellow Santa Fe citizens. His life may have been short, but by going to Santa Fe, he not only made a good life for himself, he helped out his community, and he provided a good foundation for his two younger brothers and their families.