I’ve learned a lot more information about Abraham Katz and his family since connecting with my fourth cousin Marsha and her father Henry. They also generously shared some family photographs with me. What a blessing it has been!
According to family history notes written by Abraham’s grandson Henry in September, 1988, when Abraham arrived in the US, he lived in Baltimore with a family named Gump who were cousins of his mother (Rahel Katzenstein). I knew this had to be the same Gumps who were married to my Mansbach cousins, the children of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who was a sister of both Rahel Katzenstein Katz, Abraham’s mother, and my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.
And sure enough, I went back to look at the research I’d done about the Gump family, and there was Abraham, living with Gabriel and Henrietta (Mansbach) Gump in Baltimore on the 1870 census:
According to the family history notes written by Henry Katz, Abraham lived with the Gumps in Baltimore for about two years and learned English and bookkeeping. Then he left for New Orleans where there was another family member. The family does not know the name of that family member (there were no Gumps then living in New Orleans), but family lore is that Abraham was searching for an older brother who had fought in the Civil War and might have gone to New Orleans to look for him. He never found that brother, and I have no records regarding this brother. (More on that in a later post.) While in New Orleans, Abraham chased after a man who was attempting to steal from the family’s business and injured his knee, an injury that affected him for the rest of his life.
After some time in New Orleans, Abraham moved to Horse Cave, Kentucky, married Amelia Nahm, and had ten children, as I’ve described in an earlier post. Here is a photograph of the family home in Horse Cave and one of Amelia:
The family history notes described Abraham’s business in Horse Cave:
He carried dry goods, hardware, buggies, and Studebaker wagons. A water well was in the center of his store. He would barter with the farmers for their products. He would store eggs and dairy products in a basket in the well. He later established a second store.
(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)
According to the family history notes, when Abraham and Amelia moved their family from Horse Cave to Louisville sometime before 1900, it was to be closer to an established Jewish community. All ten children were living at home in Louisville in 1900, as seen in this census record:
In Louisville, Abraham operated a dry goods store as well as a glove factory, according to the family history notes.
Thanks to the generosity of Abraham’s great-granddaughter Marsha, I now have a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and nine their ten children. As best I can tell from the ages and birth order of the children, either Lester or Sidney is missing from this photograph. Since the youngest child, Milton, was born in 1901 and appears to be about five years old in the photo, I am guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1906—before the family left Kentucky.
My guess is that the back row standing are the two oldest sisters, Rachel and Blanche, with either Lester or Sidney between them. In the front row from left to right would be Henrietta, Abraham, Ben, Bertha, Florence, Milton, Sigmund, and Amelia:
UPDATE! Thank you so much to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, upon whose expertise I have relied before. Ava advised me that the clothing styles date this photograph as more like 1900-1901. Thus, the “missing” child would have been Milton, who wasn’t yet born. I now think that I was wrong in my identification of the children in the photograph. Looking at the ages of the children again, I now think that in fact they should be identified as follows:
Back row: Rachel, Lester, Blanche. Front row: Henrietta, Abraham, Sidney, Bertha, Florence, Sigmund, Benjamin, and Amelia. Thank you, Ava!
When a recession hit the region around 1908, Abraham’s business was affected, and he faced labor problems in his glove factory. The family history notes go on to describe how Abraham decided to leave Louisville:
During this time his nephews Jake and Ike Katz [to be discussed in a later post] … were enjoying good business in their store in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma had become a state in 1907, and things were booming. … Abe sent Lester [his oldest son] to Oklahoma to visit his cousins in Stillwater to survey the situation to see if the family would not be better off in a new state.
(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)
Lester reported back favorably, but as of 1910, Abraham, Amelia, and eight of their ten children were still living in Louisville, and Abraham was still a merchant in the dry goods business. The children at home ranged in age from 27 down to eight.
As for the two sons who were not living at home, Sidney, as noted in an earlier post, was living with his uncle Samuel in Omaha (mislabeled as his son):
And Lester was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, working as a salesman in a dry goods store. Also boarding with Lester in Stillwater was Lafayette Rothschild, who was Samuel Katz’s brother-in-law and also working as a salesman in a dry goods store. Both Lester and Lafayette were probably working in the Katz Department Store belonging to Jake Katz.
Not long after the 1910 census, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in Sapulpa, a town about 15 miles from Tulsa.
Why Sapulpa? Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Sapulpa had exploded, going from 891 people to 8,283 people; by 1920, it was up to 11,634 people. During that time, industry had begun to develop in Sapulpa, including brick and glass manufacturing. Presumably, Abraham and his nephew Jake saw this as a growing community in need of a dry goods store.
There was no established Jewish community in Sapulpa, but Tulsa was only 15 miles away and had an overall population of 72,075 in 1920 and two synagogues; a Reform synagogue was formed in Tulsa in 1914 and an Orthodox one in 1916. There were also synagogues during that time in other cities in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, it must have been somewhat of an adjustment for the Katz family after living in Louisville, which had an overall population of 234,891 in 1920 and a big enough Jewish community to support eight synagogues.
The move was a successful one, and Oklahoma continues to be home for many of Abraham and Amelia’s descendants. Here is a photograph of the Katz family home in Sapulpa:
Between 1910 and 1920, many of the Katz children married and moved out of the family home. More in the next post.