A Decade of Heartache for Caroline’s Family

The 19th century ended badly for the extended family of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler.  Their daughter Eliza Wiler Simon died in August 1897, and their son-in-law Daniel Meyers, Clara’s husband, died in 1902, following several years of financial distress and legal problems.   Unfortunately, it only got worse as the 20th century began.

First, on April 23, 1901, Flora Simon’s husband Nathan Strouse died from myasthenia gravis.  He was 24 years older than Flora, but only 58 years old when he died.  Their son Lester was only thirteen years old when he lost his father.  I found it rather interesting that Nathan’s occupation on the death certificate was given as “gentleman.”

Nathan Strouse death certificate

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JDLH-SJ1 : accessed 11 February 2015), Nathan Strouse, 23 Apr 1901; citing cn 22852, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,845,290.

 

Two years later Flora married Alfred C. Heulings, a New Jersey lawyer who, in contrast to her first husband, was almost twelve years younger than Flora.

Then in 1904, there was another disaster for the family.  Minnie Simon, the younger daughter of Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon, committed suicide.  Her death certificate stated that she took her life “by inhaling gas while temporarily insane.”

minnie simon death cert 1904

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JDGP-4DQ : accessed 11 February 2015), Minnie Simon, 05 Aug 1904; citing cn 19898, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,004,045.

 

Apparently her death created some controversy based on this news article from the Philadelphia Inquirer, August 9, 1904,  covering the coroner’s inquest:

minnie suicide 1

 

minnie suicide 2

 

minnie suicide 3

minnie suicide 4

Paper: Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 151 Issue: 40 Page: 5 August 9, 1904

From Joseph’s description of his sister’s personality, today she might have been diagnosed and treated for bipolar disease or depression.  But in 1904 that was not possible, and so Minnie succumbed to mental illness and took her own life.  She was only 26 years old.

Two years after losing his daughter Minnie and nine years after losing his wife Eliza, Leman Simon passed away on October 13, 1906, from a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was 72 years old.

Leman Simon death cert

“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JK98-3Q6 : accessed 11 February 2015), Leman Simon, 13 Oct 1906; citing cn 25343, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,319,469.

 

Thus, in the ten years between 1897 and 1906, the family lost five members:  Eliza Wiler Simon, Nathan Strouse, Daniel Meyers, Minnie Simon, and Leman Simon.  The Simon family in particular must have been quite devastated.

Not all was sad, however, in the first ten years of the 20th century.  Nellie Simon married Louis Boughen Loux on April 30, 1908.  They were married in the Eleventh Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.  Louis was 21, and Nellie was 33.  Like her sister Flora’s second marriage, this was a marriage between a man and a significantly older woman, which must have been quite unusual in those days.

Thus, by 1910, the family had changed quite a bit.  Leman and Eliza Simon were both gone, as was their daughter Minnie.  Flora was living with her second husband Albert Heulings and her son Lester Strouse at 913 North 16th Street.  Albert was practicing law.  Lester, who had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1909, was now 21 and working in the advertising business for the Quaker City Publicity Company.  There were also two servants in the household.

As for Flora’s siblings, I am once again having a terrible time finding them on the census.  Nellie Simon and her husband Louis Loux had a child Florie born on March 3, 1910, in Philadelphia, but I only know this from Florie’s death certificate.  I cannot find a birth record, nor can I find Nellie and Louis on the 1910 census.  I found a Leon Simon listed in the 1908 Philadelphia directory at 541 Fernon Street, working as a bookkeeper, but he is not at that address on the 1910 census.  Joseph Simon’s address in 1904 was 136 Farson Street in West Philadelphia, according to the news article about his sister Minnie’s death.  But he is not at that address on the 1910 census.  I have some possible listings for Joseph, but given how common his name was, I just am not certain.

As for the family of Clara Wiler Meyers, Clara in 1910 was a widow, still living at the long-time family home at 920 Franklin Street, with nine of her children. Her oldest son Leon Meyers (36 in 1910) had by 1902 become an optician and was still living at home as late as 1904.  In 1910 he was living at 1628 North 13th Street, according to the Philadelphia directory, yet he is not listed there on the 1910 census, nor is he listed on the census at 1904 Somerset Street, where he is listed as residing in the 1911 directory.  I think Leon, like his Simon cousins, just eluded the census taker.  His younger brother, Benjamin Franklin Meyers, 25 years old in 1910, was living as a boarder in Trenton, New Jersey, where he was working as a watch maker in a watch factory.

The other nine Meyers children were still living with their mother Clara.  All were unmarried.  Samuel (34) was like his brother Leon an optician.  Harry (33) was a tailor.  Isador (30) was a “commercial traveler” for a men’s clothing business.  Max (28) was a draftsman for a machine works business. Clarence (24) was a cotton yarn salesman. Frank (22) was an optician like his two older brothers Leon and Samuel.  The three youngest children Lottie (20), Miriam (17), and Milton (14) were all at home and not occupied.

Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1394; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0334; FHL microfilm: 1375407

Source Citation
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1394; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0334; FHL microfilm: 1375407

I cannot imagine what this house looked like that accommodated all of those people.  I’ve tried to locate a photograph, but have had no luck.  Google Street View shows a modern apartment building at that address today.

Fanny Wiler Levy’s three sons were also still single and living with their father Joseph and stepmother Bella at home at 2122 Camac Street in 1910.   Their father Joseph Levy was living on his “own income,” according to the 1910 census.  Alfred, now 41, was a lumber salesman, and Leon (37) and Monroe (35) were clothing salesman.  Their half-sister Miriam (27) was married to Arthur Hanff, a traveling shirt salesman.

Levy family 1910

Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1403; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0750; FHL microfilm: 1375416

 

Levy occupations 1910

Simon Wiler, the only son of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, was living in a large boarding house on Spruce Street in 1910.  He was working as a salesman in a paper warehouse.  Simon died the following year on October 23, 1911.  He died from shock after a prostatectomy, according to the death certificate.  Although the death certificate says he was residing at 1905 Diamond Street prior to his death, he is not listed there on the 1910 census.  The informant on the certificate was A. Freed, the undertaker, who did not know the names of Simon’s parents, but given the name, the age, and the occupation, it seems reasonable to conclude that this was Simon, the son of Caroline and Moses.  Like the other members of his family, he was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Thus, as of 1911, the only child of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler who was still alive was Clara Wiler Meyers. Between 1897 and 1911, there had been many deaths, but only two weddings and only one birth.  There were a number of adult cousins still living at home with their parents.  The next ten years  brought continued heartache and loss.

 

 

6 thoughts on “A Decade of Heartache for Caroline’s Family

  1. It never fails to amaze me how misfortune can befall a particular family like a storm. A branch of my own family seems to be cursed in this way – of fifteen Taylor family members alive at the turn of the Millennium only three remain. Just four (including these three) attained the age of sixty, and a further three were killed in accidents of one kind or another. Freakish!

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    • It really does seem so unjust. I don’t believe it’s retribution or punishment, just very bad luck, bad genes, whatever. I do find it very wearing on my spirits after a while, although it also makes me very grateful for how blessed I have been.

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  2. Good gravy – what a list of tragedies! How terrible for this poor family. There is a leaf in my tree who also died after “inhaling gas while temporarily insane”. Untimely deaths by accident or illness are difficult enough to process, but suicides…well, you put it best, they are wearing on one’s spirits.

    Thank you for sharing your family story.

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  3. Pingback: Life’s Injustices « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. Pingback: Death Certificates: Answering Some Unanswered Questions « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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