Jake Katz: Pioneer and Entrepreneur

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.

Karl, Sprinzhchen, Regina, Jacob, Aron, Meier, and Isaac Katz

Jake, the oldest son, has taken on a legendary status in the family’s history.

Jake Katz
Photo found in Stanley Tucker Whitney Houston, Stillwater (Arcadia Publishing 2014), p. 38

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.

Jake Katz passport application 1923
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2232; Volume #: Roll 2232 – Certificates: 273350-273849, 23 Apr 1923-24 Apr 1923

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:

Jake Katz, 1895 Kansas census
Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, Kansas; 1895 Kansas Territory Census; Roll: v115_31; Line: 1
Description
Township or Location : Winfield
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Kansas State Census Collection, 1855-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

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:

Birth record of Seligmann “Ike” Katz
Hessisches Staatsarchiv Marburg: Standesamt Jesberg Geburtsnebenregister 1877 (HStAMR Best. 920 Nr. 3808) Jesberg 1877, p. 71

He was still using Seligmann when he immigrated:

Ship manifest for Seligmann Katz, 1892
Year: 1892; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 597; Line: 1; Page Number: 10
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 597
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

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.

Jake Katz and family 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 2, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0199; FHL microfilm: 1375282
Description
Enumeration District : 0199
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line].

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.

Ike Katz and family 1910 census
Source Citation
Year: 1910; Census Place: Pawnee Ward 3, Pawnee, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1268; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0181; FHL microfilm: 1375281
Description
Enumeration District : 0181
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA:

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.

Isaac Katz World War I draft registration
Registration State: Oklahoma; Registration County: Pawnee; Roll: 1852068
Description
Draft Card : K
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA

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…

 

17 thoughts on “Jake Katz: Pioneer and Entrepreneur

  1. Amy, I follow all your amazing family stories (which are like roller coaster rides most of the time because of the mix of joyful and then sad events). You didn’t say how Albert Jerome died, or is that for the next story?

    Liked by 2 people

      • That is what counts. I agree. My late Mom said her favorite jobs were the ones where she fulfilled the responsibilities of an executive assistant. There are some aspects of that job that I did and loved, too. Even things at such a fine level are carried in our DNA but get expressed in different combinations each generation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, I love watching my grandsons and seeing how certain traits are definitely genetic—my older grandson’s fascination with how things work comes from my father, the architect, and my younger grandson’s fascination with maps and words may be something from both our side and his dad’s. But these are interests that are definitely ingrained, not taught. It’s what they are naturally drawn to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, you do leave us hanging often enough don’t you? 😉

    The two big things that stood out to me are first – what a lovely photo of Jake Katz! And second – I have not come across a single arranged marriage in my tree. I know in many parts of the world it was (and still is) very common, but I haven’t come across it yet. I wonder if I will…?

    Great post, thank you for sharing Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think it was much more common in Europe when people lived in small towns and had no way to meet people. And for Ike, there were probably no Jewish women in OK so someone back home set up a meeting. But I’ve nothing but family lore to rely on for the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Amy, I heard that you were visiting with Hans-Peter just before I arrived. Your post on JEKKES about Jake Katz led me to check my tree as I have many Jesberg Katzes. Jake’s brother Karl married Jettchen Oppenheimer, my very distant cousin in the Plaut family. I haven’t had time to follow your blog, but, someday…..
    Dennis Aron

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Dennis—thanks so much for reading and for reaching out. I am in touch with Karl and Jettchen’s son Manfred (Fred) and their grandson Carl, among others. Fred has been back to Jesberg several times. So they are your cousins as well as mine! Let me know if you’d like to connect with them.

      I bet there are other connections between us as well if you had Katz family in Jesberg!

      And Hans-Peter and all the other people who helped us in Germany were just wonderful.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Jake Katz: Tragedy in the Family | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  5. Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree

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