Thank you so much to Marc Yellin, the author of the blog Abq Jew, for his delightful blog about my latest novel, Santa Fe Love Song. You can read his blog post here.
Thank you so much to Marc Yellin, the author of the blog Abq Jew, for his delightful blog about my latest novel, Santa Fe Love Song. You can read his blog post here.
I am delighted to announce that my newest novel, Santa Fe Love Song, has been published and is available in both paperback and e-book format on Amazon here. Like my first novel, Pacific Street, Santa Fe Love Song was inspired by the lives of real people—in this case, my great-great-grandparents Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum—and informed by my family history research. But as with my first book, Santa Fe Love Song is first and foremost a work of fiction.
It is a double love story—a story of Bernard’s passion for his newly adopted home in New Mexico and of his deep love for a young woman in Philadelphia. How will he resolve the conflict between those two loves? That is the heart of the novel.
But this is also an adventure story because the first part of the book tells of Bernard’s arrival from Gau-Algesheim, Germany, his adjustment to life in Philadelphia, and then his challenging and exciting trip on the Santa Fe Trail when he moves out west to work with his brother Sigmund. On that trip Bernard faces many different obstacles and learns to love the American landscape. He transforms from a German Jewish immigrant into an American pioneer and businessman.
As with Pacific Street, I wrote Santa Fe Love Song with my children and grandchildren in mind. This time I also decided to get my grandsons involved in the project. Nate, 10, and Remy, 6, became my illustrators. As I told them stories about Bernard and Frances, they created drawings that told those stories visually. I am ever so grateful to my two wonderful grandsons for their work, and I hope that someday their grandchildren will cherish these books and the illustrations and honor the memories of their ancestors Bernard and Frances.
I hope that you also will find Santa Fe Love Song a worthwhile and enjoyable read. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon. Thank you! I appreciate all your support.
A few days ago I received a package from Gau-Algesheim with photocopies of the birth records of Bernard Seligman and his siblings as well as a book about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden by Ludwig Hellriegel (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. Of course, the records were in German, as is the book. And the documents were also in Germanic font and in the old German script. Completely unintelligible to me. Here is an example, the birth certificate of my great-great-grandfather, Bernard Seligman or Bernhard Seligmann, as it was originally spelled.
And so I started with the book, which is at least printed in regular font. I first went through the entire book (about 110 pages), looking for the name Seligmann, not really expecting to find it. But there on page 52 was the name Moritz Seligmann, and there again a few pages later, and then a list of Seligmanns a few pages after that, and then a few paragraphs here and a few paragraphs there. But I can’t read German.
I painstakingly entered the passages that mention Seligmann into Google Translate and mostly got gibberish. Google Translate does not like umlauts or those funny double S symbols used in German, and typing in German is very hard when you do not know the language. Google Translate can do a word, but putting down a whole sentence leads to verbs and nouns and prepositions in places that just make it almost impossible to know what you are reading.
For example, what does this sentence mean?
Mr. Landauer of the Israelite Religious Community in Mainz has found that Moritz Seligmann who has led this protocol , although writes excellent German , but his burden with the Hebrew has unpunctured .
That is how Google Translate translated this sentence: Herr Landauer von der israelitischen Religionsgemeinde in Mainz hat festgestellt, dass Moritz seligmann, der dieses protokoll gefuhrt hat, zwar ausgezeichnet deutsch schreibt, aber seine Last mit dem unpunktierten Hebraisch hat.
So if there are any readers out there who can help me with translation, please let me know. I have no clue what that means except that perhaps my great-great-great-grandfather was very proficient in German. The sentence that follows discusses the fact that the Jews in Gau-Algesheim did not speak or read Hebrew except for religious purposes.
Now I am working on getting a better translation program or finding someone to translate the book for me. But here are a few random tidbits of information that I am pretty sure I did understand from my very poor translation of some of the passages.
Perhaps the most informative section revealed the livelihoods of two of my great-great-grandfather’s brothers, August and Hyronimus, and a third Seligmann whose name was Jacob, for whom I have no earlier record. August opened a business in October, 1891, for iron and also spices and playing cards. (That’s what Google Translate says anyway.) August died on May 14, 1909. Hyronimus also was in the iron and spice business as well in the wine trade; he opened his business on May 22, 1892. Jacob was also in the iron trade and the wine and spirits trade; his business opened June 5, 1898.
I also know from the book that at one time August and Hyronimus both lived and/or did business on Langgasse or Long Alley. I had posted this photo before without realizing that this was the street were some of my family lived or worked.
The paragraph that follows the one about the three Seligmanns and their businesses was a bit hard to follow with Google Translate, but from what I can decipher, August had a son named Julius born in 1877. Julius married a Catholic woman and converted to Catholicism. He had a hardware store in Gau-Algesheim as well as a spice business. If I am reading the German correctly, he closed the store on December 9, 1935 and moved with his family to Bingen on September 15, 1939. He had two sons, Herbert and Walter, who were both apparently still alive when the book was written. Julius also survived the war, but was killed in a fatal car accident on his way to church on March 28, 1967.
Julius had an older sister Frances, born on December 26, 1875, who married Max Michel, but divorced him and moved to Bingen. Frances died on December 19, 1933; her son Fred escaped to the United States in 1937.
The third child of August Seligmann was named Moritz, and he participated in the town’s cycling association. Moritz Seligmann, his grandfather’s namesake, was born in June 25, 1881. The book seems to be describing the skills of various members and seems to be praising the skills of young Moritz, who was nineteen when he joined the club. The end of this passage about Moritz says that he was single and had moved to Koenigsberg and that it was believed he was killed in 1941 in Theresienstadt.
The fourth child of August Seligmann was his daughter Anna. She was born on November 30, 1889, in Gau-Algesheim. She had moved with her husband Hugo Goldmann to Neunkirchen in Saarland. They and their three children, Ruth, Heinz, and Gretel, were all killed in the Holocaust.
There is also an entry for Elizabeth nee Seligman Arnfeld, who was born March 17, 1875. She had moved to Mulheim on the Ruhr in 1938 and wanted to emigrate to the United States. A woman named Leonara Morreau had vouched for them, but for unknown reasons they were never able to emigrate. Elizabeth died on January 23, 1943 at Theresienstadt. Her son Heinz survived the war. The book did not identify the parents of Elizabeth Seligman Arnfeld, but she could have been the daughter of Salomon or Benjamin, who unfortunately are not mentioned in the book, or of Hyronimus or Jacob.
Now that I have more names and more recent relatives, I am hoping that perhaps I can find out more about these people. I also now know that many of them moved to Bingen, so there may be records from that larger town that will tell me more about the Seligmanns who stayed in Germany. And from several other entries in the book, I know where they lived in Gau-Algesheim.
I would love to be able to read the entire book and learn more about the history and lives of Jews in Gau-Algesheim, but it took me a good part of two days just to translate these few passages, and those translations are not very reliable. It seems hiring someone to translate the whole book could cost me as much as $1000, and that is not in my genealogy budget by a long shot. If someone has any brilliant ideas on how to get the book translated for free or for a really reasonable price, please let me know.
What I did learn from the passages I struggled to translate is that my family was not untouched by the Holocaust, as I once believed, but that we lost many people just from Gau-Algesheim alone. I am hoping that I can find the descendants of the few who seem to have survived—Heinz Arnfeld and Fred Michel and Herbert and Walter Seligmann—and learn more.
In my next post I will discuss the birth records I received for the Seligmanns and how I was able to translate them. Then I will return to the Nusbaums.
 I found Leonara Morreau’s obituary and researched her a bit, but know of no reason that she would have had a connection to the Seligmanns in Germany. She was born, married, and lived in Cleveland. Her husband died in 1933, and she died in 1947. As far as I can tell, they never traveled to Germany. Leonara’s brother was Isaac Heller, who was also born in Cleveland, as was their father, Charles Heller. Although their grandfather was born in Germany, it was not even in the same region as the Seligmanns. Perhaps Leonara was active in trying to bring German Jews to the United States during Hitler’s reign, but I can find no evidence of that. Her obituary only states that she was active in charitable and religious causes.
By the 1890s, my great-great-grandparents were “empty nesters.” Their daughter Eva, my great-grandmother, was married to Emanuel Cohen and raising her family in Philadelphia. (I’ve written about my Cohen great-grandparents here.) Their son James was working as a draftsman for the Department of Interior in Salt Lake City, Utah; he would marry Ruth V.B. Stevenson in 1893 in Salt Lake City, and have two children, Morton Tinslar Seligman, born July 1, 1895, in Salt Lake City, and Beatrice Grace Seligman, born December 4, 1898, also in Salt Lake City. By 1900, however, James, Ruth and the children had moved to Santa Fe, where they were living next door to Bernard and Frances. James was working as a clerk in a dry goods store, presumably the Seligman store.
Arthur, the youngest child of Bernard and Frances, had returned to Santa Fe after college in Philadelphia, and in 1896, he married a widow named Frankie E. Harris in Cleveland, Ohio.
Frankie had an eight year old daughter Richie from her first marriage who became a part of the Seligman family. In fact for her ninth birthday on August 3, 1897, Bernard and Frances hosted a birthday party for Richie and 42 of her friends in their Santa Fe home.
(This same “gossip column” also reported that Arthur and James Seligman and some friends were going on a two week fishing trip soon after this birthday party.)
Arthur and Frankie had a son together just a year later; Otis Perry Seligman was born on February 14, 1898, in Santa Fe. Thus, by 1900, Bernard and Frances had four grandchildren living in Santa Fe plus three more grandsons living in Philadelphia, including my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen.
On the professional side, I could not find any specific references to Bernard’s political activities or his business activities during the 1890s although the 1900 census listed his occupation as a dry goods merchant. In 1894 he seems to have taken an extended trip to Europe, including to Germany and to Italy.
From this clipping it is hard to know whether or not he was traveling with Frances. I also wonder who the relatives were in Italy and who he was visiting on the Rhine. Was this purely for pleasure or was it a business trip? I don’t know.
At some point after this trip, however, Bernard and Frances moved back to Philadelphia. Bernard was living in Philadelphia when he died on February 3, 1903, at age 65 from myocarditis. He was residing at 1606 Diamond Street at the time.
When I looked back to see where my great-grandmother Eva was living at that time, I was hardly surprised to see that she, her husband Emanuel Cohen, and their three sons were also living at 1606 Diamond Street as of the 1900 census. In fact, in 1900, Emanuel’s brother Isaac and nephew were also living at 1606 Diamond Street after the death of Isaac’s wife. Thus, Eva and Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandparents, were housing not only their three children, but also at least four other family members, Eva’s parents and Emanuel’s brother and nephew.
According to his obituary, Bernard (and presumably Frances) had moved back to Philadelphia three years before his death, to “recuperate from over-work.” The obituary goes on to say that Bernard had been doing well until sometime in the prior year when he had a “severe stroke of paralysis which weakened him considerably.” The paper noted, however, that he had been improving and that no one thought that he was near death. The obituary described his death as “shocking” and reported that the day before his death he had appeared fine and had even sent a dispatch relating to business matters to his son Arthur.
The obituary recounts all of Bernard’s many accomplishments, both political and business, and describes him as follows:
“Mr. Seligman was a pioneer in New Mexico, and during his residence of over forty years in this city and territory, was one of the most progressive, shrewdest and brightest businessmen and citizens of the commonwealth. He was a man of the strongest integrity and keen perception and high courage, public spirited and thoroughly posted on public affairs, indeed a valuable and good citizen in every sense of the word, a loving husband and a kind and indulgent, yet at the same time, a firm and sensible father. He was a prominent and important factor in the building up of the commercial, educational, civic, moral, and material interests in this city and county and of the entire territory. A good and true man has gone to the great beyond.”
What can I possibly add to that? Only that I wish that I had known him. I stand a bit taller knowing that I am descended from Bernard Seligman.
Just two years later, my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman also died. She died in Philadelphia on July 27, 1905, at age 59.
She had been living at 1431 Diamond Street at the time of her death. Again, I checked to see where my great-grandparents Eva and Emanuel Cohen were living, and 1905 Philadelphia directory, their address was, not surprisingly, 1431 Diamond Street, and they still had their three sons and Isaac living with them in 1910 as well.
Frances was described in her obituary in very loving terms:
“She was a beautiful and accomplished woman, as good as she was beautiful and as beautiful as she was good, and of a most lovable and gentle disposition. She was an exemplary wife, a fond and good mother, and a dutiful and loving daughter. Indeed she was all that is implied in the phrase ‘a thoroughly good and moral woman.’ … She will be especially remembered by the poor people of [Santa Fe], to whom she was particularly kind. Many and many truly charitable deeds have been put to her credit.”
The obituary further commented:
“From the moment of her arrival to within a few years ago, when she commenced to spend most of her time in Philadelphia, she was a social leader, admired, respected and popular. She was a woman without guile and always ready to lend a helping hand in social as well as in charitable work.”
(“Gentle, Good Woman Gone,” Santa Fe New Mexican, July 27, 1905, p. 1)
While I was impressed and proud when I read my great-great-grandfather’s obituary, I was very moved and emotional in reading about my great-great-grandmother Frances. The words “good,” “gentle,” and “kind” are the same words that I have heard my father and my cousin Marjorie use to describe their grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen, the daughter of Frances Nusbaum and Bernard Seligman. She seems to have inherited or learned those very traits from her parents, two people who left the city of Santa Fe a better place by the time and the effort that they spent in caring for their community while they lived there. As I will describe, their surviving children also left their mark, my great-grandmother Eva by her kindness and caring for others, and her two brothers James and especially Arthur by their service to Santa Fe and New Mexico.
These two photos were given to me by my cousin Arthur Scott. They were taken from a video made by his sister of family photos in their home. The one of my great-great-grandmother Frances is so far the only photograph I have of her.
I want to thank my cousin Arthur “Pete” Scott for all his help with finding newspaper clippings (including some of the ones appearing in this post) and other information to try and fill in the timeline for Bernard and the other Seligmans. He has also contributed a great deal of information about our family at the Voces de Santa Fe website. Like my father, Pete is a great-grandson of Bernard Seligman and thus my second cousin once removed.
I have been having a hard time tracking the whereabouts of my great-great-grandfather Bernard in the 1870s. Although I know that Bernard and his family had moved back to Santa Fe sometime before their youngest child Arthur was born in June, 1871, it seems that Bernard was in and out of town during the 1870s. In 1873, he withdrew from the Seligman Brothers partnership:
The firm of S. Seligman and Brother was dissolved, and a new firm owned by Sigmund and Adolph Seligman and Julius Nusbaum was created named Seligman Bros. and Company. Who was Julius Nusbaum? He was Bernard’s brother-in-law, the brother of Frances Nusbaum, Bernard’s wife.
I cannot find an explanation for Bernard’s withdrawal, and he certainly was involved in the business again in later years. He had applied for a passport on April 3, 1873, and he served as a representative to the Vienna Exposition of 1873, so maybe that prompted his withdrawal.
Maybe it’s my modern skepticism that is coloring my perception, but it also seems possible that Bernard withdrew only in name, placing his wife’s brother in the firm in his stead. Was this done for political purposes to avoid at least the appearance of any conflicts of interest?
Henry Tobias, author of The History of the Jews of New Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 1990), writing about New Mexico in the 1880s and 1890s, described Bernard Seligman as “probably the most political of all the Santa Fe Jews” during that era (Tobias, p. 117). Ralph Emerson Twitchell, author of Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital (Rio Grande Press, 1925), wrote, “A public speaker of great force and convincing power, [Bernard Seligman] found time to engage in the public affairs of the country of his adoption and was elected and appointed to many positions of profit and trust.” (Twitchell, p. 477) Twitchell also pointed out that Bernard “was a linguist of rare ability; speaking with fluency the English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew idioms.” (Ibid.) Bernard must have been well suited for a career in politics and government in bilingual New Mexico.
Tobias wrote that Bernard became a member of the territorial legislature in 1880. (Tobias, p. 117) Both Bernard’s obituary (“A Good and True Man called Home,” Santa Fe New Mexican, February 3, 1903, p. 1) and Twitchell (p. 477 ) also state that Bernard served several terms in the Legislative Assembly for New Mexico. Another source reported that Bernard was instrumental in the passage of the mechanic’s lien law while he served in the territorial government, a law considered to be very important at that time. (George B. Anderson, History of New Mexico: Its Resources and Its People, Vol. 2 (Pacific States Pub. Co. 1907)).
One newspaper clipping shows that Bernard was the Democratic Party’s nominee for Santa Fe County Commissioner in 1884.(Las Vegas Daily Gazette., October 22, 1884, Image 2, at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn90051703/1884-10-22/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1873&index=5&rows=20&words=Bernard+Seligman&searchType=basic&sequence=0&state=New+Mexico&date2=1903&proxtext=bernard+seligman&y=4&x=6&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1 ). Twitchell wrote that Bernard was chairman of the board of the Santa Fe County Commission for three terms, presumably in the mid-1880s. (Twitchell, p. 477)
Bernard and the Santa Fe County Commission ran into some legal trouble when a local resident and attorney, Thomas Catron, sued the Commission, alleging fraud. Catron claimed that in 1886 the Commission had issued warrants to raise money for a new courthouse that would increase the county debt beyond the limits set by a new federal statute; he alleged that to avoid that new limitation, the Commission had falsely stated the issuance date of the warrants so that they predated the effective date of that new law. Bernard Seligman is named in the case as the chair of the Commission at the time of this alleged fraud. The Supreme Court of the Territory of New Mexico found that Catron had stated sufficient facts, if proven, to support a claim against the Commission and remanded the case for trial. Unfortunately, I cannot find any report on the final outcome of the case on the merits. Given Bernard’s future political success, perhaps Catron lost the case.
Bernard also encountered some controversy when the Governor of the New Mexico Territory, Edmund Ross, named him as his choice to be the treasurer of the territory. Thomas Catron was again involved in the fight against Bernard. Catron was himself a political leader in New Mexico, having served as Attorney General and US Attorney for the territory and later serving as one of its first US Senators when New Mexico became a state.
In July, 1886, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Governor Ross might appoint Bernard as treasurer:
I am curious about the reference to Bernard as a “medicine man;” I have no idea what it means in this context.
Governor Ross did in fact appoint Bernard Seligman to be territorial treasurer, but that appointment was then resisted by a man who claimed to be the sitting treasurer, Antonio Ortiz y Salazar, who refused to turn over his office to Seligman. Ortiz, represented by the same Thomas Catron who was suing Bernard for fraud in his role as County Commissioner, argued that the governor had not had authority to appoint Seligman because there was no vacancy to fill as Ortiz still held the seat and had not resigned or died.
Seligman brought a mandamus action against Ortiz, seeking to have him hand over the incidents of the treasurer’s office. Seligman claimed that the oath taken by Ortiz when sworn in for a second term in 1884 was void because of some irregularities. Ortiz responded that he had been properly sworn into office in 1882 for his first term, and thus he still had a valid claim to the treasurer’s office despite the governor’s appointment of Seligman. The trial court judge disagreed and ruled that Seligman’s appointment was valid and that Ortiz had to give up his seat. Ortiz requested a rehearing, and on review, a different judge reversed the first court’s decision and ruled in favor of Ortiz, concluding that the appointment of Seligman as treasurer was not valid because Ortiz still properly held the seat.
Henry Tobias saw this incident as an example of the resentment some New Mexico residents felt about the success of the Jewish merchants in New Mexico. In response to his appointment of Seligman, Ross was advised by one prominent resident that there were already too many Jews in Santa Fe politics and government. (Tobias, pp. 119-120.)
In December 1886, Governor Ross made a statement explaining his choice of my great-great-grandfather that upset some residents of the territory because of the insulting and discriminatory assumptions underlying that statement:
Perhaps there was prejudice on both sides: anti-Mexican prejudice by Ross and anti-Semitic prejudice on the part of those opposing the appointment of my great-great-grandfather.
Several sources, however, state that Bernard Seligman did serve as territorial treasurer: his obituary, Twitchell, and Tobias all refer to the fact that he served as treasurer. The Legislative Blue Book of the Territory of New Mexico (1911) lists Bernard Seligman as territorial treasurer from 1886 through 1891. None of these sources explain, however, what happened that allowed Seligman to continue in office after the court decision in favor of Ortiz in 1889.
Thus, for much of the 1880s Bernard was pursuing his political career. However, he also must have been somewhat involved in the Seligman Brothers business. This news clipping dated April 8, 1889, certainly suggests that Bernard was active in the business:
Meanwhile, at home his children were growing up. In 1881, my great-grandmother Eva, then fifteen years old, left Santa Fe for Philadelphia where she went to Swarthmore and later married my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen in 1886. Her younger brother James also went to Swarthmore, where he was a member of the class of 1888 and a member of the literary society.
Bernard and Frances’ next child, Minnie, also followed in her siblings’ footsteps and enrolled at Swarthmore as did her younger Arthur. Although Arthur was two years younger than Minnie, they both enrolled at Swarthmore the same year—1885-1886. In that year James, Minnie and Arthur were all students at Swarthmore, James a sophomore in the college and Arthur and Minnie as juniors in the preparatory school. I am not sure where Eva was living that year as she appears to have finished her studies at Swarthmore in 1884 and did not marry Emanuel until 1886.
With at least three of their children living in Philadelphia and Bernard busy with politics, I wonder whether Frances had also returned to Philadelphia to be closer both to her Nusbaum family and her children and whether Eva was also living with her mother there. Although Eva and Frances are listed on the 1885 New Mexico Territorial Census, so are the other three children, despite the fact that those three were enrolled at school in Philadelphia that same year. The news clipping above reported that Frances had stayed behind in Philadelphia “with friends” in 1889 when Bernard had returned to Santa Fe.
The family suffered a tragic loss on January 14, 1887, when Minnie, only seventeen years old, died from meningitis while in Philadelphia. The address on the death certificate was 829 North 5th Street, Philadelphia. Although I cannot find where the other Nusbaums were living in 1887, earlier Philadelphia directories list several members of the extended Nusbaum family living at residences nearby on North 6th Street and North Marshall Street.
This note in a Quaker publication says that Minnie died at the home of a relative:
Minnie was buried in Philadelphia at Mt Sinai cemetery, the same cemetery where her infant sister Florence had been buried in 1867 and where her uncle Sigmund Seligman had been buried in 1876 and where her parents and her sister Eva would later be buried. Although the family may have left Philadelphia for Santa Fe almost twenty years before, it is pretty clear to me that the ties back to Philadelphia remained very strong for the family of Bernard Seligman.
 Catron v. Board of Commissioners, 21 P. 60 (N.M. 1889)
 Swarthmore had a preparatory school as well as a college in those days, and my great-grandmother and her siblings all attended the preparatory school and then most attended the college for at least some time as well.