Abraham Katz Moves to Oklahoma

I’ve learned a lot more information about Abraham Katz and his family since connecting with my fourth cousin Marsha and her father Henry. They also generously shared some family photographs with me.  What a blessing it has been!

According to family history notes written by Abraham’s grandson Henry in September, 1988, when Abraham arrived in the US, he lived in Baltimore with a family named Gump who were cousins of his mother (Rahel Katzenstein).  I knew this had to be the same Gumps who were married to my Mansbach cousins, the children of Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who was a sister of both Rahel Katzenstein Katz, Abraham’s mother, and my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

And sure enough, I went back to look at the research I’d done about the Gump family, and there was Abraham, living with Gabriel and Henrietta (Mansbach) Gump in Baltimore on the 1870 census:

Gabriel Gump and family
1870 US census
Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6, Allegany, Maryland

According to the family history notes written by Henry Katz, Abraham lived with the Gumps in Baltimore for about two years and learned English and bookkeeping.  Then he left for New Orleans where there was another family member.  The family does not know the name of that family member (there were no Gumps then living in New Orleans), but family lore is that Abraham was searching for an older brother who had fought in the Civil War and might have gone to New Orleans to look for him.  He never found that brother, and I have no records regarding this brother.  (More on that in a later post.)  While in New Orleans, Abraham chased after a man who was attempting to steal from the family’s business and injured his knee, an injury that affected him for the rest of his life.

After some time in New Orleans, Abraham moved to Horse Cave, Kentucky, married Amelia Nahm, and had ten children, as I’ve described in an earlier post. Here is a photograph of the family home in Horse Cave and one of Amelia:

Katz home in Horse Cave, Kentucky Courtesy of the Katz family

Amelia Nahm Katz, courtesy of the Katz family

The family history notes described Abraham’s business in Horse Cave:

He carried dry goods, hardware, buggies, and Studebaker wagons.  A water well was in the center of his store.  He would barter with the farmers for their products.  He would store eggs and dairy products in a basket in the well.  He later established a second store.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

According to the family history notes, when Abraham and Amelia moved their family from Horse Cave to Louisville sometime before 1900, it was to be closer to an established Jewish community. All ten children were living at home in Louisville in 1900, as seen in this census record:

Abraham Kaz and family 1900 US census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: 530; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0053; FHL microfilm: 1240530

In Louisville, Abraham operated a dry goods store as well as a glove factory, according to the family history notes.

Thanks to the generosity of Abraham’s great-granddaughter Marsha, I now have a photograph of Abraham and Amelia and nine their ten children. As best I can tell from the ages and birth order of the children, either Lester or Sidney is missing from this photograph.  Since the youngest child, Milton, was born in 1901 and appears to be about five years old in the photo, I am guessing that this photograph was taken in about 1906—before the family left Kentucky.

My guess is that the back row standing are the two oldest sisters, Rachel and Blanche, with either Lester or Sidney between them.  In the front row from left to right would be Henrietta, Abraham, Ben, Bertha, Florence, Milton, Sigmund, and Amelia:

UPDATE! Thank you so much to Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, upon whose expertise I have relied before. Ava advised me that the clothing styles date this photograph as more like 1900-1901.  Thus, the “missing” child would have been Milton, who wasn’t yet born.  I now think that I was wrong in my identification of the children in the photograph. Looking at the ages of the children again, I now think that in fact they should be identified as follows:

Back row: Rachel, Lester, Blanche. Front row: Henrietta, Abraham, Sidney, Bertha, Florence, Sigmund, Benjamin, and Amelia.  Thank you, Ava!

Abraham Katz and family c. 1906
courtesy of the Katz family

When a recession hit the region around 1908, Abraham’s business was affected, and he faced labor problems in his glove factory. The family history notes go on to describe how Abraham decided to leave Louisville:

During this time his nephews Jake and Ike Katz [to be discussed in a later post] … were enjoying good business in their store in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma had become a state in 1907, and things were booming.  … Abe sent Lester [his oldest son] to Oklahoma to visit his cousins in Stillwater to survey the situation to see if the family would not be better off in a new state.

(Henry Katz family history notes, September 30, 1988)

Lester reported back favorably, but as of 1910, Abraham, Amelia, and eight of their ten children were still living in Louisville, and Abraham was still a merchant in the dry goods business.  The children at home ranged in age from 27 down to eight.

Abraham Katz and family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Louisville Ward 5, Jefferson, Kentucky; Roll: T624_485; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0107; FHL microfilm: 1374498

As for the two sons who were not living at home, Sidney, as noted in an earlier post, was living with his uncle Samuel in Omaha (mislabeled as his son):

Katz family on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Omaha Ward 11, Douglas, Nebraska; Roll: T624_844; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0082; FHL microfilm: 1374857

And Lester was living in Stillwater, Oklahoma, working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Also boarding with Lester in Stillwater was Lafayette Rothschild, who was Samuel Katz’s brother-in-law and also working as a salesman in a dry goods store.  Both Lester and Lafayette were probably working in the Katz Department Store belonging to Jake Katz.

Lester Katz on 1910 census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Stillwater Ward 3, Payne, Oklahoma; Roll: T624_1269; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0200; FHL microfilm: 1375282

Not long after the 1910 census, Abraham Katz and his family moved to Oklahoma, settling in Sapulpa, a town about 15 miles from Tulsa.

Why Sapulpa? Between 1900 and 1910, the population of Sapulpa had exploded, going from 891 people to 8,283 people; by 1920, it was up to 11,634 people.  During that time, industry had begun to develop in Sapulpa, including brick and glass manufacturing. Presumably, Abraham and his nephew Jake saw this as a growing community in need of a dry goods store.

There was no established Jewish community in Sapulpa, but Tulsa was only 15 miles away and had an overall population of 72,075 in 1920 and two synagogues; a Reform synagogue was formed in Tulsa in 1914 and an Orthodox one in 1916.  There were also synagogues during that time in other cities in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, it must have been somewhat of an adjustment for the Katz family after living in Louisville, which had an overall population of 234,891 in 1920 and a big enough Jewish community to support eight synagogues.

The move was a successful one, and Oklahoma continues to be home for many of Abraham and Amelia’s descendants. Here is a photograph of the Katz family home in Sapulpa:

Katz home in Sapulpa
Courtesy of the Katz family

Between 1910 and 1920, many of the Katz children married and moved out of the family home. More in the next post.

 

 

Some Perspective on my Nusbaum and Dreyfuss Ancestors

Right now I am pretty absorbed in following up on the Seligmann trail in Germany and the US and in preparing for my trip, both in terms of travel details and in terms of trying to find as much information as I can about the Brotmans.  I’ve been spending time going back over the Brotmanville Brotmans, hoping to find some clues I missed before the DNA results corroborated the family story that Joseph and Moses Brotman were brothers.

But before too much time goes by, I want to reflect a bit on my Dreyfuss and Nusbaum ancestors.  In many ways they typify the German Jewish immigrants who arrived in America in the 1840s and 1850s.  They started as peddlers, they eventually became the owners of small dry goods stores in small towns, and for many of them, they remained dry goods or clothing merchants.  Unlike my Cohen relatives, who were pawnbrokers for the most part, or my Seligman relatives, who started as merchants, but became active in politics and civic and military matters in Santa Fe and elsewhere, my Dreyfuss and Nusbaum ancestors began and stayed Pennsylvania merchants, even into the 20th century.

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

In addition, the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum families almost all stayed in Pennsylvania where they started.  There were some who went to Peoria, though most returned to Pennsylvania, and a few who went to Baltimore, but overall the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum families started in small towns in Pennsylvania and in Harrisburg and eventually moved to Philadelphia.  As far as I’ve been able to find them, many if not most of their descendants also stayed in the Philadelphia area.

But beneath what might appear to be a very consistent and predictable pattern of living was a lot of turmoil.  These were families who endured terrible tragedies—many children who died young from disease or from accidents, and many children who lost a parent at a very young age.  Tuberculosis ravaged the family, as did heart disease and kidney disease.  One member of the family died in the Great Fire of San Francisco.  There were also a tragic number of family members who took their own lives.

In addition, this was a family that went from poverty to comfort and then suffered financially when the 1870 Depression struck, causing many of the stores to close and forcing family members into bankruptcy.  Yet the family in general rebounded, started over, and once again became merchants with successful businesses in most cases.

The other pattern I’ve noticed in the Nusbaum and Dreyfuss lines is assimilation.  Although there were certainly examples of intermarriage and conversion among the Cohen and certainly the New Mexican Seligman lines, that tendency to assimilate and move away from Judaism seemed even more widespread among the Dreyfuss and Nusbaum descendants.  There were fewer people buried at places like Mt Sinai in Philadelphia, fewer indications of synagogue membership or other participation in the Jewish community.  Perhaps those early years in the small towns where they were likely the only Jews in town took a toll on the role that Judaism would play in their lives and their identities.

Overall, these two lines were very hard to research and write about.  Not because they were hard to locate, although the Fanny Wiler mystery kept me going for quite a long time.  But because there was just so much unhappiness, so much suffering.  When I think back to their roots, coming from two small towns in Germany, Schopfloch and Hechingen, I wonder whether those early immigrants ever questioned their decision to leave Germany.  I assume they left for economic opportunities and freedom from the discrimination they faced as Jews in Germany.  Presumably they believed they had found both when they arrived and as they settled into life in Pennsylvania.  And in many ways they had.  They were free to worship, or not worship, as they saw fit.  They were able to make a living, own property, even own businesses.  They survived.

Schopfloch

Schopfloch

But all the tragedy and loss they endured had to wear on them in many ways.  Many of the family lines ended without any descendants.  I have had more trouble finding current descendants than I’ve had with the other lines I’ve researched.  I don’t have one relative with the name Nusbaum, aside from my father, whose middle name is Nusbaum.   The family seems to have disappeared, blended into other names, other families, other traditions.

For that reason, as hard as it was, I am happy that I was able to document and tell their story: where it began in Germany, how it continued in Pennsylvania, and what happened between their arrival in the 1840s and in the century that followed.