The Colorado Coalfields War and Its Effect on the Mansbach Brothers

As we saw, between 1910 and 1920, there was a fair amount of growth in the families of Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg and Louis Mansbach, the two children of Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach who were still living in Philadelphia. Hannah’s daughters had married and had children as had Louis’s daughter, and Hannah’s son Arthur Dannenberg had become a doctor. Julius Mansbach and his family were living in Wunstorf, Germany.

The Colorado siblings—Amelia, Bert, and Meyer—were experiencing similar growth in this decade. Amelia and her husband Henry Langer were still living in Denver. Both of their sons registered for the World War I draft, and as you can see, both were in the field of photography, Joseph for the Denver Post and Lester a self-employed commercial photographer.

Joseph Langer, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1561841; Draft Board: 5
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Joe Langer enlisted and was assigned to the intelligence division, “marching away with his camera under his arm.”1

Lester’s World War I draft registration confused me.  For his nearest relative, it says “Mrs. Amelia Langer wife.” But that was his mother’s name, and on the 1920 census he was listed as single and living at home with his parents and brother Joseph. And I can find no record that he had been married to anyone named Amelia before 1920, nor can I find an Amelia Langer elsewhere in Colorado (except for his mother).

Is it possible someone else filled out the form and Lester only signed it and didn’t see the mistake? The handwriting on the form is similar but somewhat different from the signature—especially if you compare the Es in the signature to those on the line where Lester’s name is written at the top. What do you think?

Lester Langer World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1561841; Draft Board: 5
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Henry Langer and family 1920 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_162; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 245
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

As for Bert and Rosa (Schloss) Mansbach, their daughter Corinne had married Herbert J. Kahn in 1909, as noted in my earlier post, and on July 13, 1912, Corinne gave birth to their daughter Rosalynn.2 In 1920, they were living in Trinidad, Colorado, and Corinne’s younger brother Alvin was also living with them. Herbert was a produce broker, and Alvin was an electrician.3 Alvin had served in the US Army overseas during World War I as a regimental supply sergeant on an ammunition train and had returned safely home in 1919.4

Although Corinne and Alvin were thus in Trinidad in 1920, their parents Bert and Rosa Mansbach had moved to Albuquerque, where Bert is listed in the 1917 directory as a dry goods merchant.5 What would have taken Bert and Rosa away from Trinidad where both their children and their granddaughter were living and where Bert had been in business with his brother Meyer for so many years?

In 1912 both Bert and Meyer were still in Trinidad. They were listed in the Trinidad directory for that year as officers of The Famous Department Store, Bert as president, Meyer as treasurer.

Mansbach brothers, Trinidad, Colorado, City Directory, 1912
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

But Meyer also ended up leaving Trinidad; in 1914 he was listed in the Detroit, Michigan city directory as a milliner.6 What had happened?

Well, a search on genealogybank.com revealed the answer. The Famous Department Store had been forced into bankruptcy in the spring of 1914, according to this article from the May 10, 1915 Denver Post (p. 8) describing the sale of the assets of the store to a third party:

According to the first two paragraphs of this article:

One of the largest commercial transactions of the west, and one of supreme importance to the shopping public of Denver has been consummated in the sale of the entire $125,000 stock of the Famous Department Store of Trinidad, the largest and most complete department store in Southern Colorado, to the Golden Eagle of this city.

The Famous Department Store enjoyed the reputation of carrying one of the finest and highest grade stocks in Colorado and was established “many years ago.” Early last spring it was forced into bankruptcy through the general depression caused by the great Southern Colorado coal strike.

This ad, which appeared in the Denver Post on May 23, 1915, also reveals the demise of the Famous Department Store in Trinidad owned by Bert and Meyer Mansbach and its sale to the Golden Eagle:

The strike that caused the failure of the Mansbachs’ store is better known today as the Colorado Coalfields War and the Ludlow Massacre. Much has been written about this tragic chapter in US labor history, and I cannot give it adequate coverage here, but I thought that this summary from the Denver Public Library website provided a good overall description of the background of the strike and its aftermath. Here are some excerpts:

From 1884-1912, Colorado miners died at nearly double the rate of the national average, according the University of Denver’s Coal Field War Project. ….But unsafe work conditions were hardly the only problem Colorado coal miners faced as they headed to work. Thanks to a variety of unfair work practices, miners were paid by the amount of coal they pulled from the mine, not by the number of hours they worked. Even worse, miners were not compensated for the time they spent actually getting down the mine or the time they spent tunneling, laying track and other jobs that they referred to as, “Dead Time.”

By 1900, the United Mine Workers of America was actively organizing Colorado’s coal miners, and in 1913, after a few false starts, they launched a massive strike. … The 1913 strike involved nearly 90% of Colorado’s coal miners and involved an exodus from the mining camps to UMWA-sponsored tent cities that had a devastating effect on the families of the men walking the picket lines.

The strikers’ demands were relatively benign by today’s standards. Their conditions included:

An hourly wage for “dead time” and a 10 percent increase in the price per tonne paid.

The right to shop outside of company stores.

An 8-hour workday

The opportunity to elect their own representatives to operate the scales that weighed their output. (Apparently CF&I’s company men could not be counted on to provide fair and accurate measurements.)

Not surprisingly, the mine owners were not happy about the strike and were more than willing to use brutal force to suppress their rebellious workforce. Rockefeller’s representatives hired private security companies to put down the strike with violent results. .…

Tensions between striking miners and the men hired to put them down came to a head on April 20, 1914, when gunfire shattered the calm of a Sunday morning at a strike encampment at Ludlow. Though there are still disputes as to who started the shooting, there’s no question about who took the brunt of the violence that followed; innocent women and children.

When the gunfire subsided, 25 people were dead, including 11 children. Most of those children died from suffocation when a burning tent collapsed on a makeshift bunker where they’d taken refuge.

News of the murders in Ludlow spread quickly and ignited violence across the coal field as striking miners unleashed their pent-up rage on the coal mines and their absentee owners. The violence continued for 10 more days until Federal troops stepped in to break the warring parties apart.

The Colorado coal strike lasted for another seven months before desperate miners finally went back to work. Though they’d wrangled a few concessions from their bosses, the strike was anything but a victory for the men and women who put everything on the line in hopes of winning fair pay and safe working conditions.

Armed strikers, Trinidad, Colorado. By Survey Associates, Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This terrible event, about which I’d known nothing before, had ramifications most tragically for the miners and their families, but it also harmed those in the community who were not directly involved in mining, including Bert and Meyer Mansbach, who lost their business.

It is not surprising that they both left Trinidad for bigger cities where they could start over. Bert and Rosa were living in Albuquerque in 1920, Bert working as a retail dry goods salesman as an employee.7 It must have been hard to work for someone else after all those years owning his own business. In 1920, Meyer and his family were in Detroit where Meyer was a retail merchant in the millinery business; his son Arthur was in business with him.8

It’s sad that after working together and raising their families near each other for all those years that Bert and Meyer were separated by so many miles in 1920. Amelia Mansbach Langer was at that point the only Mansbach sibling still in Colorado where once five of them had been living there : Amelia, Bert, Meyer, Katinka, and Julius.


  1. “Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9 
  2.  Number: 181-09-2067; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  3. Herbert Kahn and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Trinidad, Las Animas, Colorado; Roll: T625_167; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 136. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  4.  Ancestry.com. Colorado, Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918. The National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland; Record Group Title: Records of the Office of the Quartermaster General, 1774-1985; Record Group Number: 92; Roll or Box Number: 75. Date Range: 12 Aug 1918-Sep 1918, Ancestry.com. U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists 
  5. Albuquerque, New Mexico, City Directory, 1917, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  6. Detroit, Michigan, City Directory, 1914, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  7. Bert Mansbach, 1920 US census, Census Place: Albuquerque Ward 3, Bernalillo, New Mexico; Roll: T625_1074; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 18.  Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  8. Meyer Mansbach 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 1, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_803; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 50
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. One thing puzzled me about this census record, in addition to Arthur (23) and Edith (18), the census lists two other children living with Meyer and his wife Ida who are identified as their sons: Harry (16) and Meyer (14). Both boys were listed as born in Colorado. But neither was listed with Meyer and Ida on the 1910 census, and neither was named as a survivor in the death notices and obituaries later published for Meyer and Ida. I cannot find a birth record for either boy in Colorado or elsewhere, nor can I find any other records for a Harry Mansbach born around 1904 or a Meyer Mansbach born about 1906. Was the census enumerator just wrong? Was someone pulling a prank on the enumerator? Or were these boys someone else’s children? I don’t know, but if they existed at all, I do not think they were the sons of Meyer and Ida. 

Thoughts While Driving from Denver to Santa Fe:  A Northeasterner’s View of the Southwest

Before this trip, I’d never been to Colorado or New Mexico before.  I’d never seen the Rocky Mountains, and although I had been to Arizona, it was almost 20 years ago, and I didn’t get the same perspective that I had this time.  This time I found myself truly marveling at the landscape, the mountains, the desert, the overall expanse of land that exists in so much of the United States.

After all, I am a Northeasterner: born in the Bronx, raised in the suburbs of NYC, and a resident of New England since I was eighteen years old.  I’ve never lived in the country; I’ve never lived more than 90 miles from a major metropolitan area.  I now live a few miles from Springfield, Masschusetts, and about 25 miles from Hartford, Connecticut.  Although Springfield and Hartford aren’t huge cities, they are densely populated urban areas without much open space.

It’s true that from our home we can drive thirty minutes or less and be in fairly rural places—farms are nearby, and the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire are just two hours away.  But even in those places, you don’t see miles and miles of empty road surrounded by undeveloped land with barely a sign or gas station or store to be seen.

So driving through Colorado and especially New Mexico was eye-opening for me.  We took I-25 south from Denver and headed to New Mexico.  Here we were on an interstate highway, the speed limit 75 miles an hour, and within a short distance from Denver, we began to see mountains.  I snapped photo after photo as we sped by, trying to capture the Rocky Mountains from the car.

20160524_183949615_iOS 20160524_190740985_iOS

20160524_203849284_iOS 20160524_213717579_iOS

 

Fortunately, we decided not to take I-25 all the way to Santa Fe, but stopped overnight in Raton, New Mexico, the first town over the state line from Colorado, about three hours south of Denver.  It was not a scenic place.  We stayed in a Best Western right off the highway, and the highest rated restaurant in town on TripAdvisor and Yelp was the place right in the Best Western.  It was not good.  But it was edible.   There was no nightlife in Raton, so we rose early to get started on the rest of our journey.

Before we left Raton, however, I’d spotted a brochure for “Historic Raton” in the motel lobby and asked the person at the front desk how to get there.  She very pleasantly gave me directions, though I have to think she wondered why I wanted to see the town.  The town consisted of two parallel streets of buildings (with two or three cross streets) about maybe a quarter mile long.  And almost all the buildings were empty, boarded up, out of business.  It was depressing.

Raton

Raton

downtown raton

Downtown Raton

But it was important for us to see.  This was a town that had once been an important mining town, according to the brochure.  Even more recently those stores and building must have been occupied.  What did the people who lived in Raton now do for work, besides work at the Best Western and the few fast food places near the highway?  Is this why so many people in this country feel so disenfranchised, so angry? Sure, there is poverty in all kinds of places all over the country.  Springfield itself has a large population of people who are unemployed or underemployed, living in desperate conditions.  But a whole town of almost all empty buildings? What must it be like to live in such a place?

We left Raton with a sense of gratitude for all that we have and with a sense of embarrassment that we generally take so much for granted.

And then we ventured on towards Santa Fe.  This time we took Route 64, a two-lane road running southwest into New Mexico.  For the first forty miles or so, the road ran straight and flat through miles and miles of ranch land.  The endless fields of dry beige and green grass, speckled here and there with cattle, were mesmerizing.  We both just kept saying, “This is incredible! Look at how much land there is.”  I wish my little iPhone camera could capture the scope of open land we saw.  There were mountains in the distance, but overall the land was flat and wide as far as we could see.

20160525_133838331_iOS 20160525_134745252_iOS 20160525_140635804_iOS 20160525_141154474_iOS

Then we entered the Cimarron Canyon area, and the terrain suddenly changed.  We were surrounded on both sides by walls of tall evergreen trees and then incredible stone formations above and in front of us as we followed the winding roads up and down and up and down the terrain.  It was like going from a huge empty room into a tiny dark hallway that twisted and turned so that you couldn’t see where it would end.  And it was gorgeous.  It was truly gorgeous.

Entering Cimarron Canyon

Entering Cimarron Canyon

20160525_142704356_iOS 20160525_143101662_iOS 20160525_143124185_iOS

And then it got better.  We passed through the canyon and emerged at the top of hill overlooking the Eagle Nest area with a large blue lake below us to the left and the mountains shadowing us to our right.  In just over sixty miles we had seen three very different types of terrain.  And barely a town or even many cars.  Who owned all those ranches? Who worked on them? Where did they live? We didn’t know.

20160525_144336328_iOS 20160525_144339466_iOS 20160525_144344554_iOS 20160525_144506423_iOS 20160525_144644707_iOS 20160525_144708507_iOS

From Eagle Nest we drove another thirty miles to Taos, passing through more open land and more mountain roads.  We stopped briefly in Taos to stretch our legs, but we knew we were coming back there after our stay in Santa Fe, so we did not take the time to look around.

Quick stop in Taos

Quick stop in Taos

After following Route 64 for about 100 miles (and for just over two hours), we picked up Route 68 in Taos to take the “low road” or “river road” to Santa Fe.  The first portion of Route 68 was awe-inspiring as we looked down at the Rio Grande and climbed high and twisted roads over the mountains and back down again.  In front of us and to our left we could see the white snow-covered peaks of the mountains while to our right we could see the deep gorge that the Rio Grande had carved into the land around it.

20160525_172606142_iOS 20160525_173012800_iOS 20160525_173018888_iOS 20160525_173044128_iOS 20160525_175017231_iOS 20160525_175022403_iOS

Finally, after passing through the rather non-scenic section of Route 68 near Espinola, we arrived in Santa Fe by lunch time.  And there we settled for the next four days, having now seen both how beautiful and inspirational our country can be and also how sad and empty it can be.

 

 

Denver and A New Portrait of My Grandmother

About 110 years ago, my great-grandparents Isidore and Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal and their four children, Lester, Gerson, Harold, and my grandmother Eva, moved from Washington, Pennsylvania, to Denver, Colorado.  Gerson had allergies and asthma, and doctors had suggested that the air in Denver would be better for him.  My grandmother was only a few years old, her brother Harold only six, and the two older brothers were teenagers when they moved.  My grandmother spent her childhood in Denver, leaving when she was eighteen to marry my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, of Philadelphia.

As I wrote about here, my great-grandfather had several jobs in Denver, but spent most of his years in Denver working for Carson Crockery, a major distributor of china and other related products.

isidore schoenthal mgr carsonsBy the early 1920s, the family members began to leave Denver. My great-uncle Harold left to go to Columbia University; my grandmother moved to Philadelphia after marrying my grandfather in 1922.  Lester, the oldest son, and his wife Juliet Grace Beck, moved between Indiana and Colorado and back again over the years.  And my great-grandparents moved back east by 1929, settling in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold had moved after finishing college. Eventually Lester and his wife also settled in Montclair.  Only Gerson stayed behind in Denver after the 1920s; he remained there until shortly before his death in 1954 in California, where he and his wife Maude had moved just a month beforehand.

Thus, for about twenty years, Denver was home to my great-grandparents and their children.  So when my friends and I decided to have our reunion in Boulder, Colorado, this year, I knew I had to spend some time in Denver to see the city where my Schoenthal family had lived in the early years of the 20th century.

My husband and I didn’t have much time in Denver—just one afternoon and evening and the following morning.  Nevertheless, I think we got a fairly decent feel for the downtown section of the city.  We walked through the downtown area all the way from the Civic Center and State Capitol building to Union Station and the bridge over the river at the opposite end of Sixteenth Street.  Denver is quite obviously a city that has changed dramatically over the last couple of decades, as the mix of older and newer architecture reveals.  Everywhere you look you see new, shiny glass skyscrapers next to older buildings, some of which could date from the era when my great-grandparents lived in the city.  I tried to capture that contrast in these photos.

20160523_211910873_iOS 20160524_144443866_iOS 20160524_145832178_iOS

20160524_152548004_iOS 20160524_153332663_iOS 20160524_154639120_iOS 20160524_155017162_iOS

Although we arrived on a weekday, expecting the bustle of a big city, Denver felt strangely quiet even in the downtown area during a Monday workday, at least as compared to cities like New York or Boston.  Not that the streets were empty, but there was definitely a slower pace and fewer people on the streets than we would have expected.

When my great-grandparents were living in Denver, they belonged to Temple Emanuel, where my grandmother and two of her brothers were confirmed. Temple Emanuel was then located on 16th Avenue and Pearl Street, a location about a fifteen minute walk from our hotel.  The building is still there, and it is beautiful. Although the Pearl Street building is now a church, the original building’s exterior has been preserved. (We did not see the interior.) The Star of David still appears in several places on the building, as does the name Emanuel, as you can see from these pictures.

20160524_151155406_iOS 20160524_151205779_iOS 20160524_151306771_iOS 20160524_151313831_iOS 20160524_151343268_iOS

Apparently the years that my family lived in Denver were years of growth for Emanuel as a substantial addition was built in the 1920s.  But after the war, the congregation left this downtown location and built a new building further out.

Before arriving in Denver, I had contacted Steve Stark, the current executive director at Temple Emanuel, to ask whether they would have any records or photographs from the era when my great-grandparents had been members.  He wrote back and told me that the confirmation class photographs from that time period were on the walls of the current building and that I was more than welcome to come to the building to see them.  So we drove out to Temple Emanuel’s current building after leaving downtown that morning.

I was very excited when I was able to locate the photographs of the confirmation classes of three of Isidore and Hilda’s children: Gerson, class of 1908, Harold, class of 1916, and my grandmother Eva, class of 1919.  I was struck by how formal and how elegant they all look.  It’s hard to imagine a class of fifteen year olds looking like this today.

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

20160524_165822156_iOS

Temple Emanuel 1916 confirmation class with Harold Schoenthal

 

20160524_165743558_iOS

Temple Emanuel 1919 confirmation class with Eva Schoenthal

Although I was easily able to identify my grandmother in her class photograph, I will need to get my father’s help to pick out Harold and Gerson in their class pictures.

My grandmother Eva Schoenthal, second from left

My grandmother Eva Schoenthal, second from left

We then stopped by the Temple library to see if there were any other records from the early 20th century, but we learned that all records from that time period are archived in a separate storage facility.  However, Rita Dahlke, the assistant principal of the religious school and librarian at Emanuel, very generously gave me a copy of Temple Emanuel of Denver: A Centennial History by Marjorie Horbein (1971).  Although my family is not mentioned in the book, it does describe the years from 1900-1930 as years of significant growth for the congregation.

We also asked Rita about the history of their current building, which was built during the 1950s and officially opened in 1960.  I had seen a photograph of their sanctuary on their website and noted the similarity to the sanctuary of our synagogue, Temple Beth El in Springfield.  We were curious as to whether their building had also been designed by the noted synagogue architect, Percival Goodman, and Rita checked and confirmed that in fact their building was designed by Goodman.  She then took us into their sanctuary so that we could see it for ourselves.  The resemblance is striking.

Percival Goodman sanctuary, Temple Emanuel, Denver, Colorado

Percival Goodman sanctuary, Temple Emanuel, Denver, Colorado

Percival Goodman sanctuary, Temple Beth El, Springfield, Massachusetts

Percival Goodman sanctuary, Temple Beth El, Springfield, Massachusetts

It was a poignant moment for us as our current synagogue is considering changes to our sanctuary to accommodate today’s smaller crowds.  Temple Emanuel took a different path and built a separate smaller chapel in the late 1980s rather than compromise the beauty of Goodman’s design.

I also wanted to see if I could find any of the houses where my relatives had lived, but after checking, I realized that two no longer existed. The one closest to downtown must have been torn down when the Denver Performance Center was built, and the other address no longer has any structure on the site at all.

Then we found this lovely building at what I thought was 1550 Downing Street, the address listed as my great-grandparents’ residence in the 1908 Denver directory.  I got out of the car and took a lot of pictures of this building, thinking that this was my grandmother’s home in 1908. Here are two of them:

20160524_163424642_iOS 20160524_163441694_iOS

But I wasn’t sure when the building was built, so in writing this post, I googled 1550 Downing Street to see if I could find that information.  But Google kept showing me a very different house.  I was confused.  So I looked more closely at the house I’d photographed.  You can see that I took pictures of 1530, not 1550.  SIGH.

20160524_163442901_iOS

Here, however, courtesy of the internet, is a photo of 1550.  According to Zillow, it was built in 1888 and sold in March, 2016, for $798, 200.  It appears to have been totally gutted and renovated, and probably the only thing left from the time my grandmother lived there is the claw-footed tub.  You can see more pictures here.

1550 Downing Street better

 

Our visit to Denver was a touching one—to be able to see the building where my grandmother had been confirmed and acted in plays for the Jewish holidays, to see her photograph on the walls of the new building, to pass the addresses where she and her family once lived.  In my head I could envision my great-grandparents and their four children living in this place a century ago.

Below is an interactive map showing the places where my family lived in Denver and the location of their synagogue.  Click on the red balloons to see more about the location.

In a recent conversation with my father about his mother, he commented that I had presented only a partial representation of her in my writing about her.  In my limited times with her when I was child (she died when I was ten), she had seemed quiet and fragile and somewhat withdrawn.  But my father pointed out that in her youth, she had been very outgoing—someone who had performed in plays both at temple and at her high school.  He described her as very social—someone who had many boyfriends after my grandfather died; she also worked outside the home to support my father and my aunt once she was able to care for them again, working in the china business, making lampshades, and doing drafting for the military during the war.

Grandma Eva 1915 Denver Post photo

Eva Schoenthal, top left, 1915

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture, 1922

John and Eva Cohen c. 1930

John and Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

Hilda (Katzenstein) Schoenthal, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, Eva Hilda Cohen, and Harold Schoenthal

And although I had thought that her parents had moved to Philadelphia to help her care for my father and aunt, in fact the opposite was true.  They moved to Philadelphia so that she could care for them, as they both had become quite ill and needed help in their daily lives.  They moved next door so that she could cook and care for them.   My grandmother was not a timid or weak person, but a woman who had survived the tragic illness of her husband and her own troubles to come back to take care of others.

Fortunately, my father shared these thoughts with me before my trip out west, and so as I walked the streets of Denver, I imagined my grandmother not as I knew her in the later years of her life, but as a young, vibrant, beautiful and happy little girl and young woman, surrounded by her parents and three older brothers, performing on the stage, and actively participating in her school activities.  I am so glad that my father corrected my impressions of her and thus allowed me to envision her childhood in a more positive way.

 

 

 

 

Coming Back Soon

As our vacation winds down, I am looking backwards at all I’ve seen and done and looking forward to writing about it.  Here’s a sneak preview of our adventures in Colorado and New Mexico.

First, I spent four days with three of my best friends in the world.  We met our freshman year in college and spent four years living in the same dorms, talking, laughing, debating, consoling, sharing, and confiding in each other.  Although it was hard to get together in the years we were all raising families, in the last ten years or so we have gotten together every couple of years.  We got together this time in Boulder, Colorado, where one of my friends now lives.  It was my first time in the Rockies, and we hiked and walked all over Boulder, ate great food, and enjoyed good company and beautiful views.  And as if not one day had passed since we graduated over 40 years ago, we talked and laughed and debated and consoled and shared and confided in each other.

20160520_170549732_iOS

20160521_183012098_iOS

 

20160519_222807641_iOS

 

Then I met up with my husband at the Denver airport, and we began our travels together.  We spent about 24 hours in Denver, and in that time we explored downtown Denver and then explored my genealogical roots in the city where my paternal grandmother spent much of her childhood. More on that to come.

20160524_152548004_iOS

20160524_151205779_iOS

From Denver we drove all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico, stopping in Raton, New Mexico, for a night, and arriving in Santa Fe the next day by lunch time.  I had lots of thoughts during that drive as we observed a part of the United States I’d never seen before, some of it incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring and other parts that made me appreciate the struggles that so many Americans experience day to day.  More on that to come as well.

Raton

Raton

20160525_143124185_iOS

And then we got to Santa Fe, the main destination of our trip.  Santa Fe is a city with an incredibly long and rich history, including my Seligman family’s own personal history there, about which I’ve written extensively.  Being in this place that had been the home of my great-great-grandfather and his family—and where they had contributed so much to its commercial and political development—-was very moving and exciting.  And then there is the art, the glorious landscapes, the architecture.

20160526_151032795_iOS

20160527_164958541_iOS

20160527_200612447_iOS

The last leg of our trip took us to Taos where I again was inspired to think about the history of this country as well as its amazing landscapes and vistas.  It’s no wonder that so many artists were inspired by the scenery and the light and the skies over New Mexico.

20160530_150420390_iOS

20160530_155656274_iOS

I will be writing about the trip in the days that follow, and then I will return to the story of my family.  I have much to do after all these days away from research and from blogging.  I have missed the work and my family, my cats, and my friends, but as always, it’s good to get a break, some new perspectives, and a chance to reflect on all the wonders that life brings.

My Grandmother’s Family in Denver, and A New Year’s Wish

When I last wrote about my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, he and my great-grandmother Hilda (Katzenstein) and their four children, Lester, Gerson, Harold, and my grandmother Eva had moved from Washington, Pennsylvania, to Denver, Colorado, around 1907, when my grandmother was just three, and her brothers were nineteen (Lester), fifteen (Gerson), and six (Harold).  They moved out west because Gerson had severe allergies and asthma and the doctors had recommended a drier climate than western Pennsylvania. My great-grandfather, who had been a glass and china merchant in Pennsylvania, became a salesman and then a store manager for the Carson Crockery Company out in Denver.

I wasn’t sure what kind of Jewish community existed in Denver in the early 20th century, but I learned from a newspaper search that my great-grandparents had joined a synagogue, Temple Emanuel, when they relocated, as evidenced first by this article listing my great-uncle Gerson as a member of the 1908 confirmation class:

 

Gerson Schoenthal confirmation 1908 Denver Post

 

Temple Emanuel in Denver has in fact a long and distinguished history, as described in their website:

Temple Emanuel is the oldest Jewish congregation in the state of Colorado, founded in 1874. It is the largest Jewish congregation between Kansas City and the West Coast. It had its early beginnings in a burial and prayer society that was organized in 1866. By 1874, two years before Colorado became a state, the congregation was officially incorporated by 22 members. Within the first year membership was almost doubled and on September 28, 1875, its first synagogue was dedicated. This was located at what is now the corner of 19th and Curtis streets. Early in 1876, the congregation engaged its first full-time rabbi.

The congregation grew and prospered with the community. It soon outgrew its original home. By 1882 a new synagogue was erected at 24th and Curtis Streets. Even though this structure was gutted by fire in 1897, the building still stands today. After the fire, the congregation decided to build at another location because many of its members no longer lived near Temple. The location at 16th Avenue and Pearl streets was chosen. In January of 1899, our third home was dedicated. In 1924 this building was doubled in size.

By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Temple Emanuel on Pearl Street, Denver.  By Jeffrey Beall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Denver thus had a thriving Jewish community by the time my great-grandparents arrived in the early 20th century.  According to several sources, one reason for the surge in the Jewish population of Denver was that it had become a popular location for tuberculosis treatment.  Just as my family moved there because of Gerson’s asthma, many others were attracted to the dry climate as a possible cure for tuberculosis.  (Some may recall the story of my cousin Ben Brotman who went to Denver for treatment and ultimately died there.)

Many Orthodox Jews settled in Denver seeking a cure for tuberculosis, the “white plague.” Two Jewish institutions were founded to respond to their needs and other sufferers of consumption from around the country. The National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives was opened in 1899. Its name was changed in 1985 to the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine. It is now the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, with a worldwide reputation in the research and treatment of allergy and pulmonary diseases. The Jewish Consumptives Relief Society was established just outside of Denver in 1904 to serve the religious needs of suffering Orthodox Jews.

The B'nai B'rith Building at National Jewish H...

The B’nai B’rith Building at National Jewish Hospital in Denver, Colorado. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One of the most well-known Jewish residents of Denver was Golda Meir:

The Golda Meir House Museum is where the future Israeli Prime Minister (1898-1978) lived with her sister and brother-in-law Shayna and Sam Korngold and niece Judith during 1913 and 1914, after she ran away from parents’ home in Milwaukee—she learned that they had a husband picked out for her…and that married women were not allowed to teach there. In her 1975 autobiography, My Life, she states, “It was in Denver that my real education began…” The Korngold house was considered a social and intellectual haven by numerous Jewish immigrants from Russia (Golda’s family had left Kiev in 1906), most of whom had traveled out west for medical treatment. In this environment, Goldie discussed politics, met her future husband Morris Meyerson and developed her future political philosophy. She became deeply involved with Zionism and made the decision to emigrate to what was then Palestine.

English: , Israeli PM. עברית: ראש הממשלה הרביע...

English: , Israeli PM. עברית: ראש הממשלה הרביעית של ישראל. Português: , Primeira Ministra Israelense Türkçe: İsrail’in dördüncü başbakanı Golda Meir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Golda was only a teenager when she moved to Denver, not much younger than my great-uncle Gerson and only three years older than my great-uncle Harold.  I wonder if she or the Korngolds ever crossed paths with my relatives.

In 1910, my great-grandfather continued to work as the manager of the crockery store. Lester, now 22, was in the US Navy, working at a hospital, and Gerson, 18, was working as a clerk in an office, according to the census record. Both were still living at home with their parents.

My grandmother and her brother Harold made the local newspaper in 1910; they are the adorable little girl and boy in Picture #3 below:

Denver Post,

Denver Post, July 27, 1910, p. 9

 

In 1915, when he was fourteen, my great-uncle Harold was busy with the Boy Scouts:

JPG Denver Rocky Mountain News article - Harold Schoenthal with pic BSA 1915-page-002

Denver Rocky Mountain News, November 20, 1915, p. 12

Boy Scouts continued to be a big part of his life, as I found several news articles listing him as a member of the Scouts.

Meanwhile, in December 1915, his sister, my grandmother Eva, then eleven years old, played the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe in the Temple Emanuel Hanukkah play.  She is the girl in the bonnet on the far left, top row:

Grandma Eva 1915 Denver Post photo

Grandma Eva 1915 Denver Post cast listing

Denver Post, December 5, 1915, p. 34

 

While Harold and Eva were still growing up, the other family members were busy working.  My great-grandfather Isidore and his middle son Gerson were employed in various ways during the 1910s, while Lester spent much of those years in the Navy.  In 1913 Gerson was a clerk for the Sam Lang Importing Company, and my great-grandfather Isidore now seemed to be in the insurance business.  (Interestingly, his brother Henry, who had also been a merchant for many years, had also turned to the insurance business after 1910.) The following year, 1914, Isidore was a bookkeeper for Court Place Liquor Company.  But in 1915, Isidore is listed once again working for the Carson Crockery Company as a foreman, and Gerson was a salesman for the Sam Lang Importing Company.  Even Harold, now fifteen, had a separate listing in the 1916 Denver directory, but without an occupation listed  as he was still in school.

Schoenthals 1916 directory p 1

1916 Denver directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1916 Denver directory

Harold was confirmed at Temple Emanuel in the spring of 1916; he was fifteen.

JPG Denver Post article - Harold Schoenthal confirmation 1916-page-002

Denver Post, June 9, 1916, p. 8

 

On June 30, 1917,  Lester Schoenthal married Juliet Grace Beck, sometimes referred to in later documents as Grace and sometimes as Julia.  Although Juliet was from Richmond, Indiana, and Lester from Denver, they were married in Deadwood, South Dakota, by an Episcopal rector.  Lester, no longer in the Navy, had been living at home and working as a traveling salesman for the Carson Crockery Company, according to the 1917 Denver city directory.  Perhaps he had met Juliet while traveling for work.

Lester Schoenthal and Juliet Beck marriage record Ancestry.com. South Dakota, Marriages, 1905-2013 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: South Dakota Department of Health. South Dakota Marriage Index, 1905-1914, 1950-2013 and South Dakota Marriage Certificates, 1905-1949. Pierre, SD, USA: South Dakota Department of Health.

Lester Schoenthal and Juliet Beck marriage record
Ancestry.com. South Dakota, Marriages, 1905-2013 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.
Original data: South Dakota Department of Health. South Dakota Marriage Index, 1905-1914, 1950-2013 and South Dakota Marriage Certificates, 1905-1949. Pierre, SD, USA: South Dakota Department of Health.

She was the daughter of Charles Benton Beck and Inez Cockayne, both of whom were born and raised in Indiana.  Her father was a salesman in a retail store in Richmond, Indiana, in 1910, and perhaps Lester had worked with him as the representative of Carson Crockery. Juliet was only 18 and had already been married briefly when she married Lester in 1917.

But why were they married in Deadwood, South Dakota? It’s true that Deadwood was a thriving town back then.  It had grown from a frontier town with a lot of gambling and prostitution at the time of the Black Hills gold rush in the 1870s to a well-settled town of over 3,000 by the time Lester and Juliet were married there.  The railroad by then connected Deadwood to the east and west, but that still doesn’t explain why they would have gotten married there. Deadwood is almost 400 miles from Denver and almost 1200 miles from Richmond, Indiana.  Did Lester and Juliet elope? Perhaps my great-grandparents didn’t approve of Lester marrying someone who wasn’t Jewish and/or Juliet’s parents didn’t approve of her marrying someone who was?  It sure seemed a long distance to go to get married in a place where neither family lived, especially in the era before planes and destination weddings.

Bella Union Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota

Bella Union Saloon in Deadwood, South Dakota (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Lester and Juliet settled in Colorado Springs after the wedding where, according to the 1918 directory for that city, Lester was working as a manager for the Boss Rubber Company.

My grandmother continued to participate in dramatic performances for the synagogue, taking part in the Hanukkah production again in December, 1917.  She is depicted here on the far right of the top row. She was then thirteen.

JPG Denver Post article -Eva SChoenthal 1917 in Hanukah play-page-001

In June, 1919, she followed in the footsteps of Gerson and Harold and was confirmed at Temple Emanuel:

JPG Denver Rocky Mountain News article - Eva Schoenthal confirmation-page-001

In 1919,  Lester and his wife had moved from Colorado Springs to Denver, where he was now working as a salesman for the Frankel Carbon & Ribbon Manufacturing.  His brother Gerson was a buyer for the Golden Eagle, and his father Isidore is listed as a clerk for the Carson Crockery Company. Lester was living with his parents at 1029 13th Avenue in Denver where they had been living for several years, but Gerson had moved out and was living at 530 St. Paul Street.

 

Schoenthals in the 1919 Denver directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Schoenthals in the 1919 Denver directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

In 1920, my great-grandparents had only their two youngest children living at home: my great-uncle Harold, who was now eighteen, and my grandmother Eva, who was fifteen, as of the date of the census. According to the census, Isidore was a manager for the crockery company (I assume the 1919 directory was mistaken in listing him as a clerk).

Isidore, Hilda, and Eva Schoenthal (woman in back unknown) about 1920

Isidore, Hilda, and Eva Schoenthal (woman in back unknown) about 1920

As for their oldest son, Lester, as of the 1920 census, he and Juliet had moved to Richmond, Indiana, where they were living with Juliet’s parents and siblings.  Lester was working as a representative for a rubber company. His father-in-law, Charles Beck, was now the postmaster in Richmond.

I have two listings for Gerson on the 1920 census.  On one, which is dated January 10, 1920, Gerson was listed at 530 St. Paul Street as he was in the 1919 Denver directory, and he was married to a woman named Gratice.  Gratice was born in Iowa, and her parents, Frank and Maude Johnson, were born in Missouri.  They had moved to Colorado by 1900 when Gratice was three.

 

Gerson Schoenthal 1920 census with Gratice

Gerson Schoenthal 1920 census with Gratice ear: 1920; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_162; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 288; Image: 947

 

But there is a second listing for Gerson on the 1920 census that is not dated.  On that record Gerson was living on 19th Street in Denver in a large lodging house, was working as a commercial salesman, and was listed as single.  I would have assumed that this was an earlier record since he was not yet married, but since the census record listing him with Gratice at that address is dated January 10, 1920, it would seem unlikely that the undated census was taken before January 10.  Plus since he was living at 530 St. Paul Street in the 1919 directory and as of January 10, 1920, it seems unlikely that Gerson had moved from 530 St. Paul Street to 19th Street and then back to St. Paul Street by January 10.   At any rate, Gerson was married to Gratice in subsequent years, so the January 10, 1920 record appears to be accurate. I’ve no idea what to make of the other census record.

Gerson Schoenthal in 1920 census, single Year: 1920; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_160; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 165; Image: .

Gerson Schoenthal in 1920 census, single
Year: 1920; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_160; Page: 12B; Enumeration District: 165; Image: .

 

The family continued to have a role at Temple Emanuel even after all of the children had been confirmed, as indicated by this brief article that mentions that my great-uncle Harold led junior congregation services there in April, 1921:

Harold Schoenthal leading services 1921 Denver

 

In 1922, my great-grandfather continued to work for the Carson Crockery Company as a department manager, and Gerson was working as a commercial traveler for the Sun-Maid Raisin Growers (a product I add to my cereal every morning).  Lester and Juliet had returned from Indiana to Denver, and he was working as a manufacturer’s agent; his wife Juliet (Julia G here) was working as stenographer.  Even my grandmother was included in the listing.  Only Harold was missing; he must have left for college at that point.  Harold started his college studies at the University of Colorado and finished at Columbia University, where he studied architecture.

 

1922 Denver directory

1922 Denver directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1922 was an important year for my grandmother.  She graduated from East Denver High School that year where she had been part of the Progressive Club (a music group, not a political group, as I had initially thought), a Big Sister, and a member of the Drama Club.  I guess her roles in the Hanukkah plays were just a small part of her teenage acting career.

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture Ancestry.com. U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original data: Various school yearbooks from across the United States.

It was after graduating from high school in 1922 that my grandmother went on a trip to Philadelphia to visit her relatives there and met my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, who followed her back to Colorado to court her.  They were married in Denver on January 7, 1923.  Eva was only 18 years old, and my grandfather was 27. She moved back east with him to Philadelphia where their first child, my aunt Eva Hilda (for her two grandmothers, not really as a “junior”), was born on January 13, 1924.  My father was born almost three years later.   My grandmother, although the youngest, was the first of her siblings to have children, and her children were the only grandchildren her parents ever knew.  (Harold would eventually have a child, but she was not born until long after both of my great-grandparents had died.)

 

John and Eva Cohen c. 1930

John and Eva Cohen
c. 1930

As the 1920s moved on to the 1930s, much was going to change for my grandmother and her family.  I will pick up with that part of the story after I return from a short break away from blogging.

In the meantime, happy New Year to you all.  May 2016 bring everyone peace and good health and happiness.  And may the world find some way to preserve our planet, to create a world where our children and grandchildren can be safe at home and at school and elsewhere, and to protect all its people from terrorism and despots and demagogues and from prejudice and hatred and fear.   We all wish for that, don’t we? There must be a way we can get there without all the rancor and stupidity and fear-mongering that seems to dominate our air waves and our political process.  At least I hope we can.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How They Met: The Cohens

In a much earlier post, I wrote about how some of my maternal relatives met—my grandparents, my aunts and uncles, my parents, and others.  When researching my great-grandparents Emanuel and Evalyn Cohen and my grandparents John and Eva Cohen, I wondered how they had met.  Fortunately, my brother had heard the stories years ago and shared them with me.

My great-grandmother Evalyn Seligman Cohen was born in Philadelphia in 1866, but her family had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, before 1880 (more on that at a later time).   Evalyn (later Eva May) was probably the first woman in my family to go to college.  She came back to Philadelphia to start college at Swarthmore College and met Emanuel Cohen.  They fell in love and married in 1886, and Evalyn never finished college.  (Maybe if she had, Swarthmore would have accepted me back in 1970 when I applied there. But then again, if she had, I would never have been born.)  She was only twenty years old when they married.  If not for her ambitious and independent spirit, she might never have traveled east and met my great-grandfather.

Swarthmore College

Swarthmore College (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

My grandparents also only met because my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen was willing to make the long trip back east.  She also was born in Pennsylvania, but her parents, Isadore and Hilda Schoenthal, had moved west to Denver, Colorado, by the time Eva was six years old.  Sometime in 1922 when she was eighteen years old (she had graduated from high school that June, so perhaps over the summer), she came east to visit with some of her family in Philadelphia.  She met my grandfather John Cohen at some social event while visiting Philadelphia, and as the family story goes, he was so smitten with her that he followed her back to Colorado to woo her and ask her to marry him.  She accepted his proposal, and they were married on January 7, 1923, when he was 27 and she was 19 years old.  As with her mother-in-law, if my grandmother had not been brave enough to travel from Denver to Philadelphia, my grandparents might never have met.

Denver Capital building

My father, the third Cohen man to fall in love quickly and marry a very young woman, also only met my mother because of her willingness to travel, although not across the country.  As I’ve recounted before, they met at Camp Log Tavern in the Poconos where my father was working as a waiter at an adult camp in the summer of 1950.  My mother, who was nineteen and living in the Bronx, came for a vacation, and my father fell in love with her at first sight.  She was less interested, so he had to track her down in the Bronx phonebook after she left.  They married in 1951 when she was twenty years old and he was twenty-four.  They will be celebrating their 63rd anniversary this September.

Camp Log Tavern Milford, PA

Camp Log Tavern Milford, PA

Do you see a pattern here? Not only the serendipity of how each couple met, but both my father and my grandfather had to pursue the woman they loved, my grandfather by taking a train across the country, my father by searching through phonebooks to find my mother.  Thank goodness for those impulsive and determined Cohen men and the traveling women they met and married, or my siblings and I would not be here today.

Florence and John Cohen 1951

Florence and John Cohen 1951