My Great-Grandmother Hilda

I have now written about all of the siblings of my great-grandmother, Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, as well as about her parents and some of her aunts, uncles, and cousins.  I still have more of the Katzenstein extended family to discuss, but first I want to look back at the life of my great-grandmother.  Her story has been covered only in bits and pieces through the stories of her husband and children and through the stories of her parents and siblings.  Isn’t that all too often the case with women—that their stories are seen only through the stories of those who surrounded them? Especially since this is Women’s History Month, I wanted to be sure to give my great-grandmother her own page, her own story.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal, my great-grandmother

Hilda was the third daughter and sixth and youngest child of her parents, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt.  She was the third of the six to be born in the United States—in Philadelphia on August 17, 1863.

When Hilda was three years old, her sibling closest in age, Hannah, died at age seven from scarlet fever. Hilda was seven years younger than her brother Perry, who was the second closest to her in age, and so there was a big gap between Hilda and her surviving older siblings. Joe was fifteen years older, Jacob thirteen years older, and Brendena was ten years older than Hilda. My great-grandmother was the baby of the family, and I would imagine that after losing their daughter Hannah, her parents must have been very protective of her.

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Gerson Katzenstein and family 1870 census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 16 Dist 48 (2nd Enum), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1429; Page: 708B; Image: 96949; Family History Library Film: 552928

Her sister Brendena married Jacob Schlesinger in 1871 when Hilda was just eight years old. By the time Hilda was ten years old in 1873, her oldest brother Joe had moved to Washington, Pennsylvania, and within a few years after that her other two brothers, Jacob and Perry, had also moved to western Pennsylvania.  Thus, Hilda was still quite young when her older siblings left home, leaving her to live with just her parents.

Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

Katzenstein family Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Family History Film: 1255173; Page: 274B; Enumeration District: 219; Image: 0561

But her brother Joe’s move to Washington, Pennsylvania proved fateful for Hilda and for my family as it was there that she met her future husband, my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, who had only arrived in the US a few years earlier from Sielen, Germany.

The Daily Republican
(Monongahela, Pennsylvania)
11 Aug 1887, Thu • Page 4

Hilda married him in 1888 when she was 25 years old and settled with him in Little Washington where he was a china dealer.  Their first son, Lester, was born that same year.

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

Then a series of tragic events hit the Katzenstein family. In the spring 1889, Hilda’s brother Jacob lost his wife Ella and both of his sons, one before the Johnstown flood and two as a result of the flood. The following year, my great-grandfather Gerson died at age 75.  Hilda named her second child for her father; Gerson Katzenstein Schoenthal was born on January 20, 1892. A year later Hilda lost her mother, Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein, on September 6, 1893; she was 66.

Hilda did not have another child until August, 1901, when my great-uncle Harold was born—more than nine years after Gerson.  Just a few months after Harold’s birth, Hilda’s brother Joe died in December, 1901; just over a year and a half later, her brother Perry died in August, 1903.  Hilda was forty years old and had lost her parents and three of her five siblings.  Only Jacob and Brendena remained.

In March, 1904, my great-grandmother Hilda gave birth to her last child and only daughter, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal, named for Hilda’s mother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein.

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My grandmother, Eva Schoenthal

When my grandmother was just a small child, her parents decided to leave Washington, Pennsylvania, and move to Denver, Colorado, believing that the mountain air would be better for their son Gerson, who had developed asthma.

Thus, Hilda packed up her children and belongings and moved far away from her two remaining siblings: Brendena, who was living with her husband Jacob and family in Philadelphia, and Jacob, who by that time had remarried and was living with his second wife Bertha and their children in Johnstown.  I don’t believe Hilda or Isidore knew anyone in Denver, but somehow they started their lives over in this city far from their families back east.

They remained in Denver for at least twenty years, raising my grandmother and my great-uncles. During the many years that Hilda lived in Denver, her brother Jacob died, and her sister Brendena lost her husband as well as both of her daughters.  It must have been hard to live so far away from all of her family during those painful times.

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal

Isidore, Hilda (Katzenstein), and Eva Schoenthal in Denver

After many years in Denver, Hilda and Isidore moved back east. Their son Harold had gone back east for college, and my grandmother had moved to Philadelphia after she married my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, in 1923.  She had met him when, after graduating from high school, she’d gone to visit relatives in Philadelphia, probably Brendena’s family.

My father and aunt were born in the 1920s, and they were my great-grandparents’ only grandchildren at that time.  I assume that they were part of the reason that by 1930, my great-grandparents returned to the east and settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold lived and not far from my grandmother and my aunt and father.

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

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

Hilda and Isidore lived in Montclair until 1941 when they moved to Philadelphia so that my grandmother could take care of them, both being elderly and in poor health by that time. Hilda died from pneumonia  on August 17, 1941, just seven months after the move to Philadelphia; she died on her 78th birthday. Her husband Isidore died eleven months later on July 10, 1942.  They were buried at Restland Memorial Park in East Hanover, New Jersey.

Looking back over my great-grandmother’s life, I have several thoughts.  Although she was the baby of the family, she was also the only one who ventured far from where her family lived.  Her brothers left Philadelphia, but never left Pennsylvania; her sister lived in Philadelphia for her entire life after arriving as a child from Germany. Hilda moved across the state to marry Isidore Schoenthal, and Hilda was the only Katzenstein sibling to leave the east, moving with her husband and four children all the way to Colorado.

Her life was also marked by many losses, some quite tragic: a sister died as a young child, her parents died before Hilda was thirty years old, and two of her brothers died before Hilda was forty.  Several nieces and nephews also died prematurely.  Her brother Jacob also predeceased her; she was 52 when he died. So many losses must have had an effect on her perspective on life.

On the other hand, she had a long marriage and four children who grew to adulthood.  She lived to see two of her grandchildren, my father and aunt, grow to be teenagers. My father remembers her as a loving, affectionate, and sweet woman; she loved to cook, and when for a period of time he lived near her in Montclair, she would make lunch for him on school days.

Hilda saw more of America than her parents and siblings, and she lived longer than any of them except for her sister Brendena, who survived her. She endured many losses in her life, but the love she received from her family must have outweighed all that sadness, for my father recalls her as a very loving and positive woman.

Are These My Great-Uncles?

As I wrote about here, while in Denver, I visited Temple Emanuel where the confirmation class photographs of my grandmother Eva Schoenthal and of her brothers Gerson and Harold were posted on the wall.  It was easy for me to find my grandmother in her class photograph as I knew her face well.  But it was more difficult to identify which boys in the other two class photographs were my great-uncles.

When I got home, I asked my father and also compared the one photograph I have of Gerson and several photographs I have of Harold to see if I could pick out Gerson and Harold in the confirmation class photographs.  Now I think I have, but I’d be interested in whether others agree with me.  My father said he really has no memory of Gerson, but agreed with me as to which boy was Harold.

This is Gerson’s class photograph.

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

Temple Emanuel 1908 confirmation class with Gerson Schoenthal

And this is the only photograph I have of Gerson as an adult:

Dad Uncle Gerson Eva

Here are some closer shots of the faces of the boys in that class:

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I think Gerson is the tall boy in the center of the top row (first boy on the left in the bottom photograph and the boy to the far right in the top photograph: same boy).  The one photograph I have of Gerson is of terrible quality, but there is something about the shape of the head and the ears that seems most similar to the boy in the middle.  Do you agree?

Here is Harold’s class photograph:

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And here are closeups of the boys in that photo:

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I think Harold is the first boy on the left in the top picture.  Here are some other photographs of Harold as a young man:

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

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

Harold Schoenthal

Harold Schoenthal

 

Again, the ears, the shape of the head, and the mouth seem most similar to the boy on the top left of the first photograph of closeups above.  Do you agree?

It would have been so much easier if they had listed the students in the order in which they were standing instead of alphabetically!

 

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Temple Emanuel 1916 confirmation class with Harold Schoenthal

 

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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:

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Going Back East: My Schoenthal Great-grandparents and their Family 1924-1942

Happy New Year! I am still on vacation, but had this post 90% ready before we left, so with a cloudy morning I was able to get it finished.  Here is the remainder of the story of my Schoenthal great-grandparents; I have one more post almost done which will wrap up the story of my grandmother and her brothers.

….

By the mid-1920s, my grandmother Eva Schoenthal and her brother Harold had left Denver and moved east.  My grandmother had married my grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen and moved to Philadelphia in 1923. She had two children by the end of 1926.

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925

 

My father and his mother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1927

My father and his mother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1927

 

My great-uncle Harold was in college at Columbia University, studying architecture; he would graduate in 1927.

The rest of the Schoenthal family was still in Denver, where as seen in the 1924 and in 1925 Denver directories, they were still in the same occupations in which they’d been employed earlier in the decade: my great-grandfather Isidore was still working for Carson Crockery; Lester was still a traveling salesman, and Gerson was a salesman for the Sunland Sales Cooperative Association.

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

Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 1925 Denver directory

In 1926, however, my great-grandparents and their son Gerson and his wife Gratice were the only family members listed in the Denver directory.  Lester is not listed in the Denver directory and does not reappear in a directory in the Ancestry database again until 1929, when he is listed in the Richmond, Indiana directory as a manufacturer’s agent; his wife is now listed as Grace. By that time Lester and Juliet Grace had moved back and forth between Denver and Indiana twice.  It’s hard to know whether Lester kept moving for jobs or because he and his wife couldn’t decide whether to be closer to her family or his.

1929 Directory, RIchmond, Indiana Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1929 Directory, Richmond, Indiana Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

On June 15, 1928, my great-uncle Gerson  was divorced from Gratice.

Ancestry.com. Colorado, Divorce Index, 1851-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Ancestry.com. Colorado, Divorce Index, 1851-1985 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Also around this time, my great-grandparents left Denver and followed their two youngest children back to the east.  They settled in Montclair, New Jersey, where their son Harold was working as a designer after completing his undergraduate degree at Columbia.  They were all living together at 16 Forest Street in Montclair in 1929, 1930, and 1931, according to the city directories for those years, yet they are not listed in the 1930 US census at that address or elsewhere.  The enumerator did include other people who were living at that address (presumably an apartment building), but not my relatives.  According to those directories, Isidore was working at The China Shop and Harold was a designer.  A later news article about Harold indicated that in 1931 he was working at the interior design firm Schulz and Behrle.

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

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

 

My grandparents, Eva (Schoenthal) and John Cohen, and their two children were living at 6625 17th Street in Philadelphia, according to the 1930 US census; my aunt was six, my father three and a half.  My grandfather was a clothing and jewelry merchant. But not long after the 1930 census, my grandparents’ lives changed dramatically.   My grandfather was diagnosed with MS, and in the aftermath of that diagnosis, my grandmother suffered a breakdown and was unable to care for her children. My grandmother ended up living with her parents and brother Harold in Montclair, New Jersey.  Her children were living with their ailing father and his mother, my great-grandmother Eva Mae Seligman Cohen, in Philadelphia, as I wrote about here and here.

As for Lester, he and his wife  were living in Richmond, Indiana, in 1930.  Lester was a traveling salesman and Juliet (listed on the 1930 census as Grace) an office manager for an insurance company, according to the 1930 census.  A year later, they had moved again.  In 1931, Lester and his wife (listed here as Julia G.) were living in Dayton, Ohio.  Lester was still a salesman. They are not, however, in the 1932 Dayton directory.  I do not know where they were until in 1935, when, according to the 1940 US census, they were living in Montclair, NJ, where my great-grandparents and great-uncle Harold were also living.

Thus, by 1930, Gerson was the only Schoenthal left in Denver. Gerson must have visited his family back East around 1930. That is my father in the photograph, and he appears to be about three or four years old in that picture.

Dad Uncle Gerson Eva

My father, his uncle Gerson Schoenthal, and his sister Eva Hilda Cohen

 

Although Gerson is listed in the 1930, 1931 , and 1932 Denver directories, like his parents and brother Harold in Montclair, NJ, he seems to have been missed by the census enumerator. Gerson is also missing from the Denver directories in 1934 and 1935, and when he reappears in the 1936 directory for Denver, he is listed with a wife named Maude.

Maude Sheridan was born in May 11, 1883, in Salt Creek Township, Kansas.  Her father died when she was just a young child, and she and her mother lived in Kansas until at least 1905.  By 1910, she and her mother had moved to Colorado Springs, where they were living with Maude’s father’s brother, Patrick Sheridan, a leather retailer.  Maude was working as a public school teacher.  She became a school principal in Colorado Springs, Colorado, around 1912, and had great success there.  In 1916, she signed a long term contract with Colorado Agricultural College, and she and her mother were living in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 1920.  Maude was working as a college instructor.

Maude Sheridan principal

 

 

By 1930 Maude had left her education career and was the owner of a restaurant in Alamosa, Colorado.  She was still single and no longer living with her mother.  Then sometime between 1930 and 1936, Maude married my great-uncle Gerson Schoenthal.  In 1936, she would have been 53, he would have been 44.

Meanwhile, back in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1935, my great-grandfather was continuing to work for The China Shop, and his son Harold continued to work as a designer, living with his parents at 16 Forest Street in Montclair and working in Newark. My grandmother was also living with her parents in Montclair. Lester and Grace also continued to live in Montclair where Lester worked as a salesman.  All of them were still in Montclair for the rest of the 1930s, although my great-grandparents and Harold moved to 97 North Fullerton Avenue by 1937.

Upper Montclair NJ

Upper Montclair NJ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1939, my grandmother moved back to Philadelphia to live with her children, who were then sixteen and thirteen.  Their father was in a long term care facility by that time, and their paternal grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen had died on   October 31,  1939.  According to the 1940 census, my grandmother was working as a saleswoman in the wholesale china business at that time.

Her parents and brother Harold were still living in Montclair where in 1940 my great-grandfather was retired and Harold was working as a designer in the interior decorating business.  Lester and Juliet had moved once again, this time to Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, where according to the 1940 census, Lester was working as a refrigeration engineer for a wholesale refrigeration business.

As for Gerson, for a long time I could not find him on the 1940 census.  Then when Ancestry added the Social Security Applications and Claims Index to its database collection, the mystery was solved.  This is what I saw:

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

Obviously, Gerson had changed his name to Gary Sheridan sometime between the 1938 Denver directory and the 1940 US census.  And for some reason he had changed his mother’s birth name (and his middle name) from Katzenstein to Kay.  Why? To sound less Jewish, I’d assume. Or maybe to sound less German as Europe and eventually the US were at war against Germany. Sheridan had been Maude’s birth name, and Gerson kept his initials the same, but otherwise he’d taken on a whole different identity.

Once I knew his new name, I found Gerson a/k/a Gary and his wife Maude on the 1940 census.  He was working as a salesman for the American Automobile Association, and Maude was working a manager of a tea room in Denver.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T627_488; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 16-148

Year: 1940; Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T627_488; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 16-148

In early 1941, my great-grandparents moved to Philadelphia to help my grandmother with her children and lived next door to them on Venango Street.  My great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal died not long after on August 17, 1941; she had only been living in Philadelphia for seven months when she died, according to her death certificate.  She was 77 years old and died from pneumonia.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal death certificate Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal death certificate
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

My great-grandfather Isidore died a year later on July 10, 1942; he was 83 when he died; he also died from pneumonia.

Isidore Schoenthal death certificate 1942 Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Isidore Schoenthal death certificate 1942
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

When I think about my great-grandfather’s life, I am left with many questions.  He was the second youngest child in a large family and the youngest son.  Of those who emigrated from Germany, he was among the last members of his family to arrive. He watched, one by one, as his older brothers and sisters moved away. Then he finally came to the US himself with his mother and younger sister Rosalie.  He lived in the small town of Washington, Pennsylvania, for the first 25 years of his years in the US, a town where his older brother Henry was a recognized leader both in the business and Jewish community.  Isidore had most of his siblings relatively close by once again.

Then suddenly in his late 40s he moved far away from his entire family, taking his wife and his four children far from everything they knew to start again in order to give his son Gerson a healthier place to live. He started over working in the china business. And then he started over one more time when he returned to the east coast twenty years later to be closer to his two youngest children.  In the end he and his wife Hilda ended up helping to care for his daughter and his grandchildren, including my father.  By the time my great-grandfather died, he had lost every one of his nine siblings as well as his wife and his parents.

 

Cologne, after bombing of World War II By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons HTML Attribution not legally required

Cologne, after the bombing of World War II
By U.S. Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. [2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My father recalls him as a very quiet man. He has a vivid memory of his grandfather Isidore crying when he learned of the bombing of Cologne by the Allies in May, 1942, during World War II.  My father had assumed that Isidore had lived in Cologne, and although his brother Jacob had lived in that city, there is nothing to indicate that Isidore had ever lived anywhere but Sielen when he lived in Germany.  Perhaps it was more the notion that his homeland was at war with his adopted country and that the land of his birth and his childhood was being devastated by Allied bombing that made him cry. Perhaps he had visited Jacob in Cologne and remembered what a beautiful city it was. Or maybe he was just crying for the memories of his nine siblings and his parents, living in Germany, when he was a child.

My father said that his grandfather didn’t talk about it, just sat with tears running down his face. He died just two months later. I will always wonder what stirred beneath the surface of this man who had led what seemed to be a quiet life but with so many twists and turns and so many losses.

In Part III, I will follow up with what happened to Lester, Gerson, Harold, and my grandmother Eva after 1942.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Grandmother, Eva Schoenthal Cohen

It’s time to turn another page in the history of my family, or I suppose I should say, to climb another branch on the family tree.  Thus far I have researched my mother’s maternal and paternal sides as far back as I’ve been able (not far enough yet, but as far as I can, given the lack of documentation) and my father’s paternal side as far as I’ve been able.  Now I turn my focus to my father’s maternal side—his mother’s parents and their ancestors.  His mother’s father was Isidore Schoenthal; his mother’s mother was Hilda Katzenstein.  I am going to start with the Schoenthal family and explore and learn what I can about my great-grandfather, his parents, his siblings, and his children, including my paternal grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen.

My Grandma Eva

My Grandma Eva

My grandmother Eva was a beautiful and refined woman.  She was born on March 4, 1904, in Washington, Pennsylvania, but the family moved to Denver, Colorado, by the time she was six years old because one of Eva’s brothers had allergies and the doctors had recommended the drier climate out West.  After graduating from high school in Denver in 1922, Eva traveled to Philadelphia to visit with some of her mother’s family who lived there.

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture

Eva Schoenthal high school yearbook picture

My grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, met her at a social event there, and he was so taken with her that he followed her back to Colorado to woo her and ask her to marry him.  She was very young when they met—only eighteen and right out of high school; my grandfather was nine years older.  Eva accepted his proposal, and they settled in Philadelphia after marrying in Denver on January 7, 1923.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Jr. 1923

Eva Schoenthal and John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr. 1923

John and Eva Cohen c. 1930

John and Eva (Schoenthal) Cohen
c. 1930

Their first child, my aunt Eva Hilda Cohen, was born a year later on January 13, 1924, and my father was born almost three years after that.

My grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen and my aunt Eval Hilda Cohen

My grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen and my aunt Eva Hilda Cohen

My grandmother and my father

My grandmother and my father

In 1930, they were living at 6625 17th Street in Philadelphia, and my grandfather was a merchant, selling jewelry and clothing at a store called The Commodore, as I’ve written about previously.  They even had a servant living with them named Frances Myers, according to the 1930 census.

Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2133; Page: 41B; Enumeration District: 1034; Image: 588.0; FHL microfilm: 2341867

Year: 1930; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2133; Page: 41B; Enumeration District: 1034; Image: 588.0; FHL microfilm: 2341867

But not long afterwards, their life as a family suffered two major blows.  My grandfather was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and by 1936 had to be admitted to a veteran’s hospital where he lived the rest of his life.  Meanwhile, my grandmother Eva, a fragile and sensitive woman probably overwhelmed by what was happening to her, had herself been hospitalized and when released was not able to take care of her two young children.  As I’ve written before, my father’s paternal grandmother Eva May Seligman Cohen took care of my father and my aunt for several years.  After my great-grandmother died in 1939, my grandmother was well enough to move back to Philadelphia to live with my father and aunt.  In 1940, the three of them were living at 2111 Venango Street, and my grandmother was employed as a saleswoman in the wholesale china business, according to the 1940 census.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3732; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 51-1431

Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3732; Page: 11A; Enumeration District: 51-1431

The 1940s must have been very difficult for my grandmother.  Her mother died in 1941, her father the following year.  My father and my aunt both served in the military during World War II and went away to college.  My grandmother remarried after World War II.  Her second husband, Frank Crocker, was the only “grandfather” I knew on that side of my family.  He was a kind and talkative man, much more outgoing than my shy, reserved grandmother.

My father and my grandmother at his college graduation in 1952

My father and my grandmother at his college graduation in 1952

Even as a child, I sensed that that my grandmother was a bit insecure and unsure of herself and perhaps uncomfortable around her three grandchildren.  I found her beautiful and refined,  and also somewhat mysterious.  Of course, as a child I knew nothing about her life.  Only by stepping into the family history and asking my father more questions did I develop a better understanding of who she was.

My grandmother died on January 10, 1963, when I was ten years old.  Her death was the first one I ever experienced.  (Although my mother’s father Isadore Goldschlager died when I was four years old, I really have no memory of his death.)  I remember being frightened and worried about my father and also confused because no one really talked about it before she died or after.  We weren’t (and still aren’t) too good at those things.

So as I start to delve now more deeply into her family history, I do it with the perspective of trying to understand who my grandmother was, where she came from, what her family was like, and how that all fits with the woman I remember.

One for the Road: How I Found Another Brotman

This will be my last post before we leave on our trip.  I wanted to leave on a high note with a new discovery—a Brotman line I’d not discovered until the last week or so.  Perhaps this is a good omen for what I might find when in Poland.  I might post a bit while away—depends on internet access, time, and energy.  But I will report on the trip either as it unfolds or after I return, so stay tuned.

*********

In my last post I reported on the conflicting results of my search through the records of the families of Moses and Abraham Brotman of Brotmanville, New Jersey.  I was looking for any shred of evidence that might reveal where they, and thus perhaps my great-grandparents, had lived in Europe.  What I found was that some records said Moses was born in Austria, some said Russia.  Same for Abraham.  And not one record named a town or city.  Thus, I had not gotten any closer to any answers.

But while reviewing the documents I had and checking and double-checking my tree, I did find something somewhat anomalous.  In doing my initial research of Moses’ family, I had not been able to find them on the 1920 census, as I mentioned in my last post.  In trying to find the family, I had searched for each of the children separately, and I had found a Joseph Brotman living in Davenport, Iowa, according to the 1915 Iowa state census.  I admit that I had not looked very carefully (BIG mistake) and had jumped to the conclusion that Moses’ son Joseph had been shipped out to Iowa to live with another family since I couldn’t find Moses or Ida or any of the siblings listed on that census.  (This is one reason I keep my tree private on Ancestry—I’d hate to mislead someone else while I am doing preliminary research.)

But in now reviewing my original preliminary research, this just struck me as strange.  So I went back to look more carefully.  First, I pulled up the census record for Joseph.  Instead of being a list or register as with other census reports, Iowa had separate cards for each resident.  Here is the one for Joseph Brotman:

Joseph Brotman 1915 Iowa census  Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest

Joseph Brotman 1915 Iowa census
Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest

You can see why I made that initial mistake.  He was born the right year (1902) and the right place (New Jersey).  He was Jewish, his father was born in Austria, mother in Russia.  All those facts certainly seemed to suggest that he was the son of Moses and Ida Brotman.  So I had entered this record for Joseph on to my tree in Ancestry.

But this time I took the next step—were there other Brotmans in Davenport on that census? First I saw a Lillian Brotman.  I thought, “Hmmm, maybe two siblings were sent to Iowa?” Remember—Moses had a daughter named Lillian, as did Abraham.  So I looked at Lillian’s entry in the 1915 census.

Lillian Brotman 1915 Iowa census  Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

Lillian Brotman 1915 Iowa census
Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

She was living at the same address as Joseph, was also born in New Jersey, and had a father born in Austria, a mother in Russia.  Like Joseph, she had been in Iowa for three years.  So I thought that this had to be Joseph’s sister.  But this Lillian was 16 years old, and Moses’ daughter Lillian was born in 1892, so she would have been 23 in 1915. Could it be Abraham’s daughter Lillian? She was the right age, but somehow that just didn’t make much sense.

I decided to go through the cards in the census by flipping backwards from Joseph’s card and then found several other Brotmans at the same address: Albert (2), Eva (37), and May (10).  May also had been born in New Jersey, Albert in Iowa, and Eva in Russia. Who were these people? Were they related to MY Brotmans in some way? I assumed Eva was the mother of these four children, but who was the father? And where was he?

So I searched for the family by using Eva’s names and the names of the children, and I found them on the 1910 census living in Philadelphia.  The husband’s name was Bennie, wife Eva (32), and four children: Lily (11), Florence (10), Joe (8), and May (6).  These ages lined up with the ages of the children on the Iowa census five years later, but the census record said these children were born in Pennsylvania, not New Jersey. The father, Bennie, was 33, born in Austria with parents born in Russia, and had immigrated in 1894, according to the census.  He was a cutter in a clothing business.  He and his wife had been married for 12 years or since 1898.

Bennie Brotman 1910 census

Bennie Brotman 1910 census Source Citation Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1386; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0019; FHL microfilm: 1375399

Bennie Brotman 1910 census
Source Citation
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1386; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0019; FHL microfilm: 1375399

What had happened to their daughter Florence? And where had they been in 1900? Were they related to my Brotmans? I first searched for their missing daughter, and I found an entry in the Iowa, Select Deaths and Burials 1850-1990 database:

Name: Flora Brotman
Gender: Female
Marital Status: Single
Age: 13
Birth Date: 1900
Birth Place: Philadelphia
Death Date: 23 Aug 1913
Death Place: Davenport, Iowa
Burial Date: 24 Aug 1913
Father: Ben Brotman
Mother: Eva Siegel
FHL Film Number: 1480948
Reference ID: p186 r59

 

This document provided me with Eva’s birth name and Flora’s birthplace.  I thought that the family must have been living in Philadelphia in 1900 if that is where Flora was born, but I could not find them on the 1900 census living in Philadelphia.  I searched again for Flora, and this time found a birth record—not in Philadelphia or even in Pennsylvania, as the death record and 1910 census had reported.  Rather, she was born in, of all places, Pittsgrove, Salem County, New Jersey, on July 19, 1900, to Benj. Brotman (born in Austria) and Eva Sigel (born in Russia).  Once I saw Pittsgrove, my heart beat a little faster.  This more and more seemed like a member of the Brotmanville Brotman family—someone I had not ever located or researched before.  Who was he? How was he related, if at all, to Moses and Abraham?

Name: Flora Brotman
Gender: Female
Birth Date: 19 Jul 1900
Birth Place: PIT, Salem County, New Jersey
Father’s name: Benj Brotman
Father’s Age: 24
Father’s Birth Place: Aug.
Mother’s name: Eve Sigel
Mother’s Age: 22
Mother’s Birth Place: Russia
FHL Film Number: 494247

 

I searched for them on the 1900 census again, but this time in Pittsgrove, New Jersey.  It took some doing, but finally found Benjamin listed as Bengeman Brotman, listed at the very bottom of the same page as Moses Brotman, just a few households away.  The census reported that he was 24, a cutter, and married for one year.  It stated that he and his parents were born in Austria, that he had immigrated in 1888, and that he was a naturalized citizen.  At the top of the next page were the listings for his wife Eva and daughter Lilly, just a year old.  The other children had not yet been born.

Bengeman Brotman 1900 US census

Bengeman Brotman 1900 US census

Ben Brotman's family 1900 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

Ben Brotman’s family 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Roll: 993; Page: 18B; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993

 

From this census, I knew that Benjamin Brotman had lived in Pittsgrove right near Moses Brotman, had married Eva Siegel and had had at least two children in Pittsgrove before moving to Philadelphia, where they were living in 1910.  By 1913, the family was living in Davenport, Iowa, where their daughter Flora died.  But where was Benjamin in 1915 when the Iowa census was taken? And was he related to Moses Brotman?

Looking one more time, I found him listed in the 1914 Davenport, Iowa, directory as a peddler, living with his wife Eva at the same address where she and the children were listed in the 1915 Iowa census. I also found him in the 1915 directory at that address, but with no occupation listed, and in the 1918 directory at a new address, 1323 Ripley, the same address given for his son Joseph, listed as a chauffeur, and his daughter Lillian, listed as a bookkeeper. A very similar series of entries appears in the 1919 directory. In both Benjamin still had no occupation listed.  If he was living in Davenport in 1914, 1915, 1918 and 1919, why wasn’t he in the Iowa census?

One more search of the I0wa 1915 census produced this result:

Benjamin Brotman 1915 Iowa census Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

Benjamin Brotman 1915 Iowa census
Ancestry.com. Iowa, State Census Collection, 1836-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Microfilm of Iowa State Censuses, 1856, 1885, 1895, 1905, 1915, 1925 as well various special censuses from 1836-1897 obtained from the State Historical Society of Iowa via Heritage Quest.

At first, I didn’t know why this card was separated from the family’s cards.  Looking at this card, however, revealed the reason: Benjamin is described as an invalid, and under “Remarks” it says, “Tuberculosis Hospital.”  He was not living with his family. Benjamin was sick with the dreadful disease that caused suffering for so many and their families.  Perhaps that is also what killed his daughter Flora.  Of note on this card is that his birthplace was Austria and that he had been in the US for 27 years, that is, since 1888, consistent with the 1900 census though not the 1910 census.  Also, as with the other members of the family, Ben had been in Iowa for three years or since about 1912.

But what happened to Ben after 1915? Did he recover? Is that why he appears in the 1918 and 1919 directories? On the 1920 census Ben is listed with Eva and three of their surviving children, Lillian, Joseph, and Albert, and a new son Merle, only four years old.  It would seem that Ben had not only recovered, but had returned home and fathered another child.

Benjamin Brotman 1920 census Year: 1920; Census Place: Rock Island Precinct 4, Rock Island, Illinois; Roll: T625_402; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 128; Image: 1078

Benjamin Brotman 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Rock Island Precinct 4, Rock Island, Illinois; Roll: T625_402; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 128; Image: 1078

The family was living in Rock Island, Illinois, right across the Mississippi River from Davenport, Iowa.  Ben was not employed, but Lillian was a bookkeeper and Joseph a salesman at a general store.  Their daughter May was listed on the 1920 census as an inmate at the Institution for Feeble-Minded Children in Glenwood, Iowa, over 300 miles away from Rock Island.  She was still there ten years later according to the 1930 census.

English: Downtown Davenport, Iowa looking acro...

English: Downtown Davenport, Iowa looking across the Mississippi River from Rock Island, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I followed the family forward into the 1920s, Benjamin seemed to have died or disappeared.  In the 1921 Rock Island directory, Eva Brotman is listed as a widow. And in the Illinois, County Marriages 1810-1934 database on FamilySearch, I found a marriage listing for Eva Brotman and Abe Abramovitz on July 26, 1923, in Rock Island.  In 1930, Eva was living with her second husband Abe and her two youngest sons, Albert (listed incorrectly as Abe) and Merle (listed incorrectly as Muriel), who were then 18 and 15, respectively.  They were all still living together ten years later, according to the 1940 census.

Eva Siegel Brotman Abromovitz and sons 1930 census Year: 1930; Census Place: Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois; Roll: 553; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0084; Image: 716.0; FHL microfilm: 2340288

Eva Siegel Brotman Abromovitz and sons 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Rock Island, Rock Island, Illinois; Roll: 553; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0084; Image: 716.0; FHL microfilm: 2340288

It seemed I had reached the end of the line for Benjamin Brotman, but I had no death record, and I still had no idea whether he was related to me or to the Brotmanville Brotmans.  I kept searching for a death record, and instead I found this:

Ben Brotman World War I draft registration Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1544482; Draft Board: 1

Ben Brotman World War I draft registration
Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1544482; Draft Board: 1

A World War I registration for a Ben Brotman born in 1876, no birthplace listed, living in Denver, Colorado.  I might not have given it much thought but for the name given as his nearest relative: Moses Brotman of Alliance, New Jersey, his father.  Moses Brotman of Alliance is the Brotmanville Moses Brotman (Alliance was the name of the community where the Brotmans settled, part of Pittsgrove, now called Brotmanville.).  This Ben Brotman was his son. The age fit exactly—the Ben Brotman living in Pittsgrove in 1900 was 24, thus born in 1876, just like the Ben Brotman living in Colorado in 1918, son of Moses. I had no child listed for Moses named Benjamin, and if this was in fact his son, he was born before Moses married Chaya/Ida/Clara Rice.  That is, this could be Abraham’s full brother from Moses’ first wife, whose name I did not know.

But could I be sure that this was the Ben Brotman who had lived in Pittsgrove, then Philadelphia, then Davenport, Iowa? And if so, what was he doing in Colorado in 1918 when this draft registration was filed? After all, Ben Brotman, Eva’s husband, had been listed in the 1918 and 1919 Davenport directories.

The draft registration listed the Colorado Ben Brotman as a porter at Oakes Home in Denver.  I googled that name and found that Oakes Home in Denver was an institution for patients suffering from tuberculosis.   Was Ben really an employee there or was he a patient?  There is no indication on his draft registration that he was in poor health and not able to serve in the military.  Had he gone there as a patient and recovered sufficiently to be employed but not yet enough to return to Iowa?

As you might imagine, I was now more than a bit confused.  If this was the same Ben, had he then returned to Iowa at some point in 1918, been there in 1919 and 1920, and then died by 1921, as Eva’s listing in the 1921 Rock Island directory suggested? I needed to find his death certificate, and I had no luck searching online in Iowa, Illinois, or Colorado.  As I’ve done before, I turned to the genealogy village for assistance.

I went to the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook and found a number of people who volunteered to help me.  One person found an entry on Ancestry from the JewishGen Online World Burial Registry for a Bera Brotman who died on January 4, 1922, who was born about 1877, and who was buried at the Golden Hills Cemetery in Lakewood, Colorado.  It seemed like a long shot.  Was Bera even a man? The birth year was close enough, but if Eva was a widow in 1921, the death date was too late.  There was a phone number for a contact person at the cemetery listed on the entry, so I called him.

Name: Bera Brotman
Birth Date: abt 1877
Death Date: 4 Jan 1922
Age at Death: 45
Burial Plot: 10-097
Burial Place: Lakewood, Colorado, United States
Comments: No gravestone
Cemetery: Golden Hill Cemetery
Cemetery Address: 12000 W. Colfax
Cemetery Burials: 3839
Cemetery Comments: Contact: Neal Price (303) 836-2312

The contact person checked the cemetery records and confirmed the information listed on JOWBR, but gave me one more bit of critical information: Bera’s last residence was the Jewish Consumptive Relief Society in Denver.  By googling the JCRS, I found that JewishGen had a database of records from there, and when I searched for Ben Brotman on the JCRS database, I found this record:

JCRS record for Ben Brotman from JewiishGen

JCRS record for Ben Brotman from JewiishGen

This Ben Brotman had to be the one who had been at one time living in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and then had moved to Davenport, Iowa.  This was the Ben who had married Eva and had six children.  He had twice been a patient at the JCRS.  First, he’d been admitted when he was 41 or in 1917, when he listed his status as married, and then he’d been admitted again when he was 45 or in 1921, when he listed his status as divorced.  The pieces were starting to come together.  Perhaps Ben had in fact been in Denver in 1917, recovered enough to register for the draft there in 1918, then returned to his family in Davenport sometime in 1918 through 1920.  He then had to return to the JCRS in Denver in 1921, where he died in January, 1922.  By 1921 he and Eva had divorced, and Eva had listed herself as a widow in the directory, as many divorced women did in those days when divorce was stigmatizing.

I emailed the cemetery contact person and explained that I thought Bera was really Ben, and he agreed to change the records.  But I still had some nagging doubts.  Was the Ben Brotman who had died in Colorado in January, 1922, and who had lived in Davenport also the one who was the son of Moses Brotman, as indicated on the draft registration?  I needed the death certificate to be sure, and perhaps it would also tell me where Ben was born, helping to answer the question that had started me down this path in the first place.

I ordered the death certificate, and it finally arrived just the other day.

Benjamin Brotman death certificate

Benjamin Brotman death certificate

Ben Brotman died on January 4, 1922, of pulmonary tuberculosis at the J.C.R.S Sanitorium.  He was 45 years old and born in 1876, and he had been a tailor.  He had contracted TB in Davenport, Iowa, and had had it for ten years, or since 1912, which would mean around the time the family had moved to Iowa.  (That makes me wonder even more whether his daughter Flora had also died of TB, since she died in 1913.)  The doctor at JCRS who signed the death certificate said that he had attended Ben since September 7, 1921, which must have been when he was admitted the second time.  The certificate stated that Ben had been a Denver resident for three months and 28 days, indicating that he had been elsewhere before returning in September.  It also reported his marital status as divorced.  Finally, his place of birth was given as Austria, and his parents were also reported to have been born in Austria.

And then the answer I’d been seeking: his father’s name was Moses.  This was then most definitely the same Benjamin Brotman I had traced from Pittsgrove to Philadelphia to Davenport to Denver to Rock Island and back to Denver.  This was the son of Moses Brotman, my great-grandfather’s brother.

And then the (hopefully accurate) big revelation:  his mother’s name was Lena.  For the first time I had a record of the name of Moses’ wife prior to Ida/Chaya/Clara Rice.  Lena.  She very well might have been the mother of Abraham Brotman.  I don’t know.  There is a big gap between Abraham’s presumed birth year of 1863 and Benjamin’s birth year of 1876.  There must have been other children in between, I’d think.  Or perhaps Lena was Benjamin’s mother, and Abraham’s mother was an even earlier wife of Moses. But since both Abraham and Benjamin named their first daughters Lillian and at around the same time, I think that both of these girls were named for their grandmother Lena, who must have died before 1884 when Moses married his second wife Chaya.

I made one more look back at the records I had for Moses and for Abraham and realized that I had not re-checked the 1895 New Jersey census.  Since it only listed names, not ages or birthplaces, I had not thought it important in my search for where they’d lived in Europe.  Moses and his family are listed on the page before Abraham and his family on that census.   Abraham is listed with Minnie and their first three children, Joseph, Samuel, and Kittella (presumably Gilbert).

Abraham Brotman 1895 NJ census Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: New Jersey Department of State. 1895 State Census of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ, USA: New Jersey State Archives. 54 reels.

Abraham Brotman 1895 NJ census
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: New Jersey Department of State. 1895 State Census of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ, USA: New Jersey State Archives. 54 reels.

Moses is listed with Clara and the five children they had had by 1895: Sadie, Katie, Lillie, Samuel, and “Abraham.”[1] But also listed with Moses is a name I had overlooked during my preliminary research: Bennie.  He was listed in the 5-20 year old category, and if this was the Ben Brotman of Iowa and Denver, he would have been 19 years old in 1895.  There he was—Benjamin Brotman, the son I had overlooked and who very well could have been the full brother of Abraham Brotman.

Moses Brotman 1895 NJ census Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007. Original data: New Jersey Department of State. 1895 State Census of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ, USA: New Jersey State Archives. 54 reels.

Moses Brotman 1895 NJ census
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1895 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: New Jersey Department of State. 1895 State Census of New Jersey. Trenton, NJ, USA: New Jersey State Archives. 54 reels.

What I don’t know and will likely never know is why Ben and Eva left New Jersey. Why did he go to Davenport, Iowa?[2]  The whole story is rather sad. He doesn’t even have a headstone at the Golden Hills cemetery.  I have identified some of his descendants, and perhaps when I return, I will try and contact them.

Although I was very excited to find this lost Brotman, unfortunately I still don’t have any record identifying a specific town or city where the Brotmanville Brotmans lived in Europe.  But soon I will head off to Tarnobrzeg, Poland, the town I still think is the most likely ancestral home of my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman.

 

 

 

 

[1] I found this very strange—did Moses really have another son named Abraham? The Abraham listed on the 1895 New Jersey census was five years old or younger, meaning he was born in 1890 or later.  Samuel was born in 1889, but must not yet have turned five; Lily was born in 1892.  The only other child born between 1890 and 1894 was Isaac (who became Irving), not Abraham, so I assume this entry on the 1895 census was a mistake and that “Abraham” was really Isaac.

[2] In doing this research I kept tripping over another Brotman family—a family living in Rock Island that owned the theaters in town.  However, they do not appear to be related.  The patriarch of that family, Jacob Brotman, was born in 1848 in Minsk, Russia, and had lived in London before emigrating to the US sometime after 1901.   Since Joseph and Moses were born around the same time but somewhere in Galicia, it seems unlikely that Jacob was a close relative.  But anything is possible.

My Great-grandmother’s Brother James Leon Seligman: Philadelphia to Santa Fe to Salt Lake to Santa Fe

My great-great-grandparents Frances Nusbaum and Bernard Seligman had three children who survived to adulthood: my great-grandmother Eva, whose adult life I’ve written about here, and her two younger brothers, James and Arthur, my great-great-uncles.  First, I will write about James and his family.

As I’ve already written, James was born on August 11, 1868, in Philadelphia, attended Swarthmore, and lived in Salt Lake City for a number of years between 1888 and 1900.  He married Ruth V.B. Stevenson in 1893, and they had two children:  Morton Tinslar, born in 1895, and Beatrice Grace, born in 1898.

The east side of Main Street (also known as Ea...

The east side of Main Street (also known as East Temple Street) in Salt Lake City, Utah. The photo was taken in the 1890s by photographer Charles Roscoe Savage.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By 1900 James had brought his family to live in Santa Fe.  According to the 1900 census, James and Ruth and their two young children were living with James’ parents Bernard and Frances, and James was working as a clerk in a dry goods store—obviously, Seligman Brothers.  James also became involved in Santa Fe politics and was elected in October, 1900, to serve on the executive committee of the Santa Fe County Democratic Central Committee. (“Democratic Central Committee,” Santa Fe New Mexican, October 24, 1900, p. 4)

It must have been not long afterwards that Bernard and Frances left Santa Fe and moved to Philadelphia, where Bernard spent the last few years of his life before dying in 1903.   In 1903 James became president and general manager of Seligman Brothers when the business incorporated and his uncle Adolph left the company.  In a very short amount of time, James had become a leader in the Santa Fe political and business community.

In 1910, James listed his occupation on the census as a retail merchant of dry goods and as an employer (as did his brother Arthur). By 1917, however, he was serving as the postmaster for Santa Fe. (“Troops Are Disappointed,” Albuquerque Journal, March 31, 1917, p. 3, mentioning James L. Seligman as postmaster of Santa Fe.) I do not know whether this was a full time position or whether he also continued to work at the family business.  His entry on the 1920 census only listed his position as postmaster as his occupation.   (His brother Arthur was the mayor for some of these same years, making me wonder who was really in charge of the Seligman Brothers business at that time.)

James’ entry in the 1920 Swarthmore Register lists many of his activities and does not even mention Seligman Brothers::

James Seligman in Swarthmore register 1920

James Seligman in Swarthmore Register 1920

Meanwhile, James and Ruth’s children were growing up.  Morton, after starting college at the University of New Mexico, was notified in May, 1914, that he had been accepted into Annapolis, the US Naval Academy.  He enrolled that June and graduated in June, 1918, in the top third of his class.[1]  His long career with the Navy will be discussed in my next blog post.

Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Ac...

Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Morton’s younger sister Beatrice also went away to school, The Wolcott School for Girls in Denver.  In May, 1917, she appeared in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors at the school, according to the May 13, 1917, Denver Post (p. 10).  I thought it a little surprising that Beatrice was so far from home, but then found the following news article:

“Word was received here last night of the death of Miss Beatrice Seligman, daughter of Postmaster and Mrs. James Seligman.  Miss Seligman has been ill for some time and was in Denver in the hopes of gaining better health through special treatment.  Mrs. Seligman has been with her daughter and Mr. Seligman left this morning for Denver.”  (“Miss Seligman, Santa Fe Girl, Dies in Denver,” Wednesday, July 28, 1920, Albuquerque Journal, p. 4)

Although I do not know what illness Beatrice was fighting, it must have been very hard for her parents to send her so far away in hopes of improving her health.  No matter how many times I read about a parent losing a child, it never fails to upset me and make me wonder how those parents coped with the loss.

As I wrote in my prior post, the 1920s were not good years for the Seligman Brothers business.  Although Seligman Brothers was still listed in the Santa Fe directory in 1928, the general manager was someone named Evelyn Conway, not anyone named Seligman.  James and Ruth Seligman had started a new venture, Old Santa Fe Trading Post, filed with the State of New Mexico in March, 1929. http://www.bizapedia.com/nm/OLD-SANTA-FE-TRADING-POST-INC.html   James described his occupation on the 1930 census as a merchant in the antiques business.  The 1930 directory for Santa Fe listed James as the president and his wife Ruth as the secretary-treasurer of the Old Santa Fe Trading Post, as did the directories for 1932, 1934, 1936, and 1938.  On the 1940 census, James again listed his occupation as an antiques dealer.

It would be interesting to know why James left Seligman Brothers and formed a different business.  As we will see, Arthur also had moved on to different ventures by the 1920s.  Did the business fail because the brothers lost interest, or did they move on because the business was failing?  Somehow I think it is more likely the former as both James and Arthur seemed to have other interests, both having served in public office.

James Leon Seligman died on December 15, 1940.  He was 72 years old. He was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Santa Fe.  His wife Ruth lived another 28 years; she was 95 years old and died in Coronado, California, where her son Morton lived for many years.  She was buried with her husband James back in Santa Fe at Fairview Cemetery.

james seligman obit edit

UPDATE:  My cousin Pete wrote about James Seligman, our mutual relative, on his website.  You can see it here.

[1] “Morton Seligman Is Notified that He Has Passed Examination,” Albuquerque Journal, May 8, 1914, p.3;  Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy 1918-1919 (US Government Printing Office), pp/172-173 at https://archive.org/details/annualregiste19181919unse

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