Now it is time to return to the story of the descendants of Rahel Katzenstein, sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. Rahel had married Jacob Katz, and they had had six children: Blumchen, Moses, Meier, Abraham, Sanchen, and Samuel. Thus far I have focused on the stories of Abraham and Samuel, both of whom came to the US as young men after the Civil War. Now I will turn to Meier Katz and his family.
As I wrote in my last post before we left for Germany, Meier Katz and Sprinzchen Jungheim had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood: Jacob, Aron, Seligmann, Regina, and Karl. Two of those children—Jacob (“Jake”) and Seligmann (known as “Isaac” or “Ike” in the US) came to the US as young men about twenty years after their uncles Abraham and Samuel; the other three siblings did not arrive until the 1930s after Hitler came to power.
Jake, the oldest son, has taken on a legendary status in the family’s history.
According to his 1923 passport application, Jake Katz was born on September 13, 1873, in Jesberg, Germany, and arrived in the United States in August, 1887, when he was not quite fourteen years old.
Family lore is that he came to work as a clerk in a dry goods store in Winfield, Kansas, owned by his mother’s brother, Eli Jungheim (spelled Youngheim in the US). Jake is listed in the household of Eli Youngheim in the 1895 Kansas state census:According to the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life, Eli Youngheim opened up a dry goods store in Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1894, and hired Jake to run the store. The family story is that there was a falling out between Jake and his uncle Eli and that Jake turned to his father’s brother, Samuel Katz, who was then in Omaha, and obtained from him financial backing to start his own store in Stillwater in 1896.
The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life provides an overview of the early history of Stillwater:
Settlement in Stillwater, Oklahoma began during the 1889 land run. The first settlers lived in tents pitched next to the creek that gave the town its name and survived on hunted wild game. From these rustic beginnings, Stillwater quickly developed after it was named the seat of Payne County and the site of Oklahoma’s land grant college in 1890. Cotton was the main economic engine of the area, and Stillwater became a commercial and processing center for the cash crop. By the time Eli Youngheim opened a clothing store there in 1894, Stillwater had a water system, public schools, and a downtown filled with commercial buildings. Stillwater never had a formal Jewish congregation, but a small number of Jews have lived in Stillwater since the late 19th century.
By 1899, Jake was well settled in Stillwater; he became a naturalized citizen there on May 12, 1899.
The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Life states that Jake’s younger brother Ike joined him in 1898 and helped him run the Stillwater store, which they named Katz Brothers. Ike, who was born Seligmann Katz in 1877, seems to have become Isaac or Ike in the US, arrived in the US on September 8, 1892. Here is his birth record from Jesberg as Seligmann:
He was still using Seligmann when he immigrated:My hunch is that Seligmann was his secular name in Germany, but that his Hebrew name was Isaac. He seems to have adopted Isaac/Ike as his first name once in the US. According to a ship manifest for a voyage Ike took in August, 1912, he was naturalized in October 9, 1899, in Oklahoma.
Jake was still single as of the time of the 1900 census, but according to the family he married Sophia Salzenstein in 1901. Sophia was the older sister of Mayme Salzenstein, who would later marry Jake’s first cousin Lester Katz, son of Abraham Katz. As I wrote in an earlier post, Wolf Salzenstein, father of Sophia and Mayme, was a German immigrant living in Athens, Illinois, working as a livestock dealer. His wife Caroline was born in Illinois, as were both Sophia and Mayme.
Jake and Sophia would have three children: Albert Jerome (1903), Helen (1904), and Margaret (1906). In 1910, they were living in Stillwater.By 1910, Ike Katz also was married. On May 26, 1909, he married Sophia Weil in New York City. Sophia was also a German immigrant, born in Freiberg, Germany, which is not far from Jesberg. According to the family, this was an arranged marriage. In 1910, Ike and Sophia were living in Pawnee, Oklahoma, where Ike had established a second Katz Brothers store. It was around this time that Jake contacted his uncle Abraham, who was still living in Kentucky, and asked him to move to Oklahoma to establish another Katz dry goods store. As I described in an earlier post, Abraham sent his oldest son, Lester, to Stillwater to work with Jake and explore the prospects of a store in another town in Oklahoma. In 1910, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Sapulpa, Oklahoma, and established another Katz store.
According to the family, in 1917, Ike decided to open a new Katz store in Oilton, Oklahoma. He asked his cousin Sidney Katz to run it for him. Sidney, who had recently married his wife Eulalia, had been operating a shoe store in Fort Scott, Kansas, in partnership with his brother-in-law Morris Kohlmann, but the business had not been profitable enough, so Sidney decided to accept Ike’s invitation to run a store in Oilton. Ike remained in Pawnee where on September 12, 1918, he registered for the World War I draft.The family business was thus thriving in the first two decades of the 20th century, but then Jake and Sophia Katz suffered a terrible loss on October 6, 1919, when Albert Jerome Katz, their son and oldest child, died four days short of his sixteenth birthday.
To be continued…