What would have brought a 71 year old Massachusetts jewelry manufacturer together with a 68 year old suffragette from Birmingham, Alabama?
As I wrote last time, Attleboro Manufacturing, the jewelry company that ultimately supported four of the children of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer, was founded by their oldest child, Maurice Jay Baer. This post tells the story of the rest of Maurice’s life and his mysterious marriage to a woman named Bossie.
Maurice somehow eluded the census taker every decade after 1900, that is, every decade after he moved out of his parents’ home in Pittsburgh. In fact, I am not even sure he was still in their home in 1900 since by then he and his future brother-in-law Samuel Stone had founded Attleboro Manufacturing in Attleboro. And Maurice does not appear on the 1910, 1920, 1930, or 1940 census as best I can tell.
What makes this particularly strange is that he does appear in many directories for the city of Attleboro in the years ranging from 1907 through 1933, and for almost all of the years in which he appears, his residence is 224 County Street in Attleboro. That is also the address he gave on his World War I draft registration form.Maurice’s sister Tilda Baer Stone and her husband Samuel Stone (ne Einstein) also were living at 224 County Street in Attleboro, according to the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census records. If Maurice was living at that address with his sister and her family, why wasn’t he included in those census records? Was he hiding from the census enumerator?
Making it even stranger is the fact that there are numerous passenger manifests listing Maurice as a passenger on ships going back and forth to Europe during the 1920s and 1930s, and on a number of those manifests, Maurice gave a New York City address as his residence. Perhaps he had a pied a terre in New York as well as a home in Attleboro, but he doesn’t appear on any census record in New York for those years either.
Although his absence from census records made it hard to determine whether Maurice had married or had children, I assume that at least until 1945 he had not married. Then on June 19, 1945, Maurice married Julia Hendley in Tryon, Polk County, North Carolina. I know this is the correct Maurice because of the marriage license application identifying the names of his parents:
The marriage register for Polk County lists Maurice’s residence as New York City and Julia’s as Birmingham, Alabama.
So who was Julia Hendley? And how did Maurice meet her and decide to get married, presumably for the first time, in 1945?
According to the marriage license application, Julia’s parents were Frank P. O’Bride and Indiana McBride, both deceased as of 1945. But my research suggests that Julia’s father’s name was O’Brien, not O’Bride. For one thing, it just seemed odd to me that the mother’s birth name was McBride and the father’s O’Bride. Plus I could not find a Frank O’Bride in Birmingham, Alabama, but I did find a Frank P. O’Brian married to a Dannie O’Brien on the 1880 census in Birmingham, and Dannie seemed like a possible nickname for someone named Indiana.
That census lists four children of Frank and Dannie O’Brian: Mary, Anna, Margaret, and a fourth daughter named Dannie, born in 1876. The only one who is close in age to “Julia” would be Dannie, as Julia claimed to be 68 when she married in June, 1945, so she would have been born in either late 1876 or early 1877. Could the daughter Dannie be Julia?
I also found Indiana McBride (or McBryde) in other sources, and several trees on Ancestry report that she was married to Frank P. O’Brien (spelled with an E). One tree included a three page biography of Frank O’Brien, saying that his wife was Julia Indiana McBride. Perhaps Dannie, the daughter, had her mother’s full name and also had a first name of Julia that she didn’t use except for legal documents? I contacted the owner of the tree with that biography of Frank O’Brien to ask about the name, and apparently it was written by a now-deceased family member in 1969, and the tree owner did not have any other source for the name Julia for either Frank’s wife or daughter.
I did, however, find a great deal of information online about Frank P. O’Brien. He was a Civil War hero (on the Confederate side) and a beloved mayor of Birmingham, Alabama. The Alabama Pioneers website wrote this about O’Brien:
Frank P. O’Brien was one of the best known and most popular citizens of Birmingham. He born in the city of Dublin, Ireland,. February 29, 1844…. [His family immigrated to Pennsylvania when Frank was a young boy.] Frank P. O’Brien attended school from the age of five until fourteen years of age, when he ran away from home, at which period he began to learn the trade of scenic and fresco painter, under the instructions of the celebrated artist, Peter Schmidt, who secured the second prize for merit at Washington for work in the Capitol buildings. Mr. O’Brien followed his trade until 1874, coming to Montgomery,Alabama, in 1859, with Mr. Schmidt, who had contracted to paint the scenic and fresco work of the Montgomery Theatre. … Mr. O’Brien erected some of the most substantial buildings in the city. … Mr. O’Brien was one of the most enterprising and popular men of the city, and as a manager, through his determination to exclude all companies that did not furnish entertainments of an elevating nature, has established the reputation of Birmingham as one of the best theatrical cities in the South. …. O’Brien was Jefferson County Sheriff from 1896 to 1900. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor against incumbent George Ward in the 1907 mayoral election. He was elected in the 1909 Birmingham mayoral election and served most of one term as mayor, before his death in 1910….. – See more at: http://alabamapioneers.com/biography-frank-p-obrien/#sthash.9DEYGNLZ.dF0taqNz.dpuf
This photo of Frank P. O’Brien appears on the same site:
There is more information about his life here.
But was this Frank P. O’Brien the father-in-law of Maurice Jay Baer, my cousin and co-founder of Attleboro Manufacturing? Was Julia Hendley, wife of Maurice Jay Baer, in fact the daughter of Frank P. O’Brien? Was she the daughter identified as Dannie on the 1880 census?
The next clue I found was a listing in the Alabama Select Marriages database on Ancestry for the marriage of Daniell McBryde O’Brien to Oscar R. Hundley on June 24, 1897, in Birmingham, Alabama. It seemed likely that this was the same person as the daughter named Dannie on the 1880 census. Her middle name was the same (albeit spelled with a Y, not an I) as her mother’s birth name on the marriage record to Maurice, and her surname matched her father’s surname.
When I then searched for the actual record on FamilySearch, I saw that the bride’s name was actually Dannie, not Daniell, and thus was convinced that this was in fact the daughter of Frank P. O’Brien and Indiana McBride/McBryde who later married Maurice Jay Baer.
So why did Dannie O’Brien Hundley later marry Maurice Jay Baer using the name Julia Hendley? Since the marriage record for Maurice in 1945 had misspelled the bride’s father’s name as O’Bride instead of O’Brien and the mother’s as McBride instead of McBryde, certainly Hundley might have been misspelled as Hendley. It also recorded Maurice’s age as 65 when he was actually 71. I still was baffled by the bride’s first name, but was now quite sure that the woman who married my cousin Maurice was the daughter of Frank P. O’Brien and Indiana McBryde and had once been married to Oscar R. Hundley.
On the 1900 census, however, Dannie O’Brien Hundley was using yet another first name: Bossie. She and Oscar, a lawyer and for a short time a federal judge, were living in Huntsville, Alabama, with a servant.
They would have a daughter Margaret in 1909, and on the 1910 and 1920 census records, Dannie is also named as Bossie (spelled as Bessie in 1920).
In addition, she is listed in several Birmingham city directories as Bossie O’Brien Hundley. That this had become her legal name (or at least the name she used on all formal and informal documents) is further evidenced by the fact that when Oscar died in 1921, the petition for probate was filed by Bossie O’Brien Hundley.
And Bossie O’Brien was not just the daughter of the mayor of Birmingham and the wife of a federal judge; she was a well-known person in her own right: a woman who fought for the right to vote in the Suffragist Movement in the 1910s. As noted on the BHAM Wiki, a website about Birmingham, Alabama:
[Bossie O’Brien] Hundley joined the Birmingham Equal Suffrage Association soon after it was formed in 1911 and quickly rose to a position of leadership in the group. She became president of the Birmingham Chapter and then legislative chair of the statewide association. In 1914 she organized a petition drive which collected over 10,000 signatures calling for a referendum on women’s voting rights. She and fellow suffragist, Mrs A. J. Bowron, drove across the state on a publicity tour in her Hudson Six. She debated Congressman Tom Heflin in front of a crowd of thousands in Wetumpka. Despite her efforts, the legislature ignored the AESA’s demand for a referendum.
The story of her confrontation with Congressman Heflin was described in the Montgomery, Alabama Daily in 1915, and is reprinted here.
Wayne Flynt in his book, Alabama in the Twentieth Century (University of Alabama Press, 2004) p. 260, wrote this about Bossie:
Bossie O’Brien Hundley, daughter of Birmingham’s mayor from 1908 to 1910, was a Catholic graduate of a Kentucky convent school and the wife of a federal judge and a power in the state’s Democratic Party. As chief strategist in the 1915 lobbying effort on behalf of enfranchising women, she sat in the gallery while one legislator after another quoted Scripture to justify denying women the vote. Hundley finally offered a proof text of her own, Psalm 116:11: “All men are liars.”
Bossie sure sounds like someone I would have liked to have known—a strong woman who didn’t back away from confrontation.
But how did she meet my cousin Maurice Jay Baer, a man from Massachusetts?
After her first husband died in 1921, Bossie took several trips to Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. Maurice, as noted above, also took numerous trips to Europe during those years. In fact, both traveled to Europe in 1926, 1928, and 1929, although on different ships arriving home in different months. But in October 1930, they were on the same ship returning to New York, listed together on the ship manifest (the last two names on this page):
Were they in fact traveling together? Or had they met on that ship and coincidentally ended up listed one after the other on the manifest? It certainly seems that they knew each other by at least October 1930. But they didn’t marry for another fifteen years.
Bossie continued to live in Birmingham, but by 1940 she moved to Black Mountain, North Carolina, where she was living at the Monte Vista Hotel. What would have prompted the move at that point in her life? Was this a place where she and Maurice could be together?
She married Maurice five years later on June 19, 1945 in North Carolina. Sadly, Maurice died less than a year later on April 25, 1946, in Asheville, North Carolina, from pyelonephritis, that is, a kidney infection. He was 72 years old.
There are a number of strange things about this death certificate. For one, it reports that Maurice was single, not married. The informant was his brother-in-law, Jerome Grant. Did he not know that Maurice was married? Also, it shows his residence as New York City. Did he and Bossie live together in New York? North Carolina? Or did they live separately?
And Maurice was buried in Philadelphia at Mt. Sinai Cemetery with his parents and brother Alfred and sister Hattie.
His death notice in the New York Times did not even mention Bossie as one of his survivors, just his siblings.
Maurice must have left a fairly substantial estate. The New York Times reported on May 16, 1946. that a petition had been filed to probate the estate in New York County Surrogate Court and that Maurice had left money to a number of charitable causes and institutions:
I was hoping to obtain a copy of the will, but it appears to be quite costly to do so ($90 just for the court to do a search and then $1.50 per page for photocopying the will if they find it). If I can find a less costly way to obtain the will, I’d be very curious to see whether his will named Bossie as a beneficiary.
Records certainly suggest that Bossie and her family knew about and acknowledged her marriage to Maurice. Bossie lived another twenty years, dying on November 15, 1966, at age ninety. Her death certificate describes her as a widow, and it names Maurice Jay Baer as her husband. She died in Asheville, North Carolina, and at the time of her death had been still residing in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where she and Maurice had married in 1945.
Her obituary describes her as the widow of Maurice Baer.
But she was not buried with her husband Maurice at Mt. Sinai nor with her first husband Oscar Hundley in Alabama. She was buried in Black Mountain, North Carolina, where her daughter Margaret was also living. Margaret was buried there as well when she died a month after her mother.
Something is quite odd about all this. Had Maurice not told his family about his marriage? If not, why not? I don’t know. My best guess is that the religious differences were the issue: Maurice was Jewish, Bossie Catholic. Her family certainly knew she had married him, so was he hiding it from his Jewish family because they might have objected to his marriage to a Catholic woman?
Maurice Jay Baer was an intriguing member of my Hamberg family, an oldest son who started a successful business, a man who appears on no census record after 1900, a man who seemed to have had homes both in New York CIty and Attleboro, Massachusetts, and a man who married late in life, just a year before he died, but whose family seems not have known or at least acknowledged his marriage to a Catholic woman from Alabama who had been an activist in the movement for women’s suffrage.
So many unanswered questions. How did Maurice and Bossie meet? What drew this lifelong bachelor to a woman from such a different background? Where did they live after marrying? Why didn’t his family know about the marriage?
I’m afraid these are questions that are not likely to be answered in official documents or even newspapers, but will remain unanswered. Unless somebody out there either has the answers or some suggestions for where I might find them?