The Memoir of Julius Loewenthal Part II: The Cholera Epidemic and Moving to Eschwege

Last time I shared the first part of the memoir of my cousin Julius Loewenthal, graciously shared with me by his granddaughter Joanne. We saw that Julius grew up in Frankfurt in the midst of the large and loving extended Goldschmidt family with his uncles and his grandmother and his grandmother’s siblings. They were a successful and wealthy family, but also a family that observed Jewish law and holidays. And Julius was a hard worker—both as a boy in school and then as an apprentice starting when he was fourteen.

The next section of his memoir describes his young adulthood, starting with a description of his experience with the cholera epidemic in 1892, an experience that strikes such a familiar chord in these days of the COVID19 pandemic.

After 2 years of apprenticeship I joined my father in his small wine business. It was small, and at the age of 17 I was forced to go out travel and sell. It was very hard for me; a lot of effort was needed to get business. The main customers of the business was the family, who however used large amounts of wine.

I travelled to Hannover, Berlin, and Hamburg, where in the year of 1892 I went through the Cholera epidemic. The town official withheld the information as to the serious nature of this sickness from the population. Thus, when it became known, panic set in and as hundreds died, everybody fled town, and I was unable to buy a railroad ticket for several days. The train went through several medical check points where we were examined and were only allowed to travel until Hannover.

Cholera epidemic at a hospital in Hamburg, 1892,

We arrived in the middle of the night and unable to get a Hotel room I went to an all-night Coffeeshop where because of lack of sleep and food I passed out. Fortunately, the Doctor on duty was my cousin Dr. Rafael Hirsch who took me into his home where I recovered. There is no question that he saved my life because had it not been for him I would have been sent to the Clinic which received all the late Cholera cases which were diagnosed at the check points. Most of the people sent to that Clinic never did come out.

After recovery I continued on to Eschwege to visit my dear uncle Levy Brinkmann and his lovely wife. [Levy Brinkmann was married to Lina Stern, sister of Kiele Stern Loewenthal, Julius’ mother.] …The Police made me stay in a Hotel in quarantine for 3 days and then I continued on to Frankfurt.

During this time I made up my mind not to stay in my father’s business but to join a larger Firm where I could find success and fortune. I joined with the permission of my father the firm of Sahl & Co. in Reudesheim and travelled and sold wine for 2 years. I visited Paris, Baden Baden and did nice business.

I was only 19 years old and not in strong health. I learned foreign languages and was an enthusiastic love of nature. Thus, I made the decision, and upon completion of my trip, to walk through the Black forest and the Odenwald back to Frankfurt. [See map below—this is a 158 miles walk that Google Maps estimates would take 53 hours.] This I did alone. It was wonderful and I found other tourists who walked with me for several days. I slept in small villages in order to save money because I had little money to spare. I sketched the mountains and the castles which I saw and saved some of those drawings to this day. I was indeed talented in drawing and played the piano well. It was my first vacation ever. [Editorial comment: I was amazed by how a young man who left school at fourteen was able to engage in so much self-education.]

When I was 20 years of age my uncle Levy Brinkmann visited with us in Frankfurt and offered me a position in his business LS Brinkmann in Eschwege. I was unsure and after several discussions I agreed and moved to Eschwege. In this beautiful little town surrounded by beauty of nature the Brinkmanns became my second parents because they treated me and surrounded me with love and kindness which gave me the opportunity to open up, and Eschwege became my home, my real home, where I felt protected and comfortable until I was forced to leave forever.

Eschwege, Germany
User: Celsius at wikivoyage shared / CC BY-SA (

…The Jewish congregation of Eschwege had a nice Synagogue, a Jewish school, and a Rabbi…. Jewish life in Eschwege was not like I had been accustomed to in Frankfurt. Kosher meat was purchased at the gentile butcher, whose assurances had to be accepted that the meat was kosher….The strict Jewish life as was known in Frankfurt was not known in Eschwege.

….The congregational life in Eschwege however was a very close one. We had meeting hall, and every Saturday night everybody met to play cards, talk, and the youth danced and had fun…We had a large number of young people, mostly well to do, well mannered and educated. During the summers …the young people made excursions into the forests and mountains of the surrounding [area] which was blessed with nature’s beauty… It was a happy and carefree time and only later when everything was over with, the memory remained like a fairy tale.

In the house Brinkmann lived on the second floor the partner and brother-in-law of Levy Brinkmann, Max Werner.

[Ed.: Max Werner was married to Helene Katzenstein, who was in fact a first cousin of Lina Stern, Levy Brinkmann’s wife. Helene and Lina were both granddaughters of Meyer Goldschmidt, the great-grandfather of Julius Loewenthal.]

In addition, as Julius describes, Helene Katzenstein had previously been married to Levy Brinkmann’s brother Moritz, who died six years after they were married in 1872; Helene then married Max Werner. So Helene was both Levy Brinkmann’s sister-in-law and the first cousin of his wife Lina.]

[Julius then described the business of Brinkmann and Werner—a wholesale business manufacturing stockings that were sold in the nearby villages.]

Max Werner was a beautiful human being. He contributed much to the happiness of all our lives. He was a personality, a very good businessman and a deeply religious Jew. Soon my uncle [Levy Brinkmann] expanded the business.  We tried to export and were successful with business transactions with England. It has to be considered that my uncle was born in a tiny village without a proper education and had deep drive and ambitions. In addition, he stuttered when he spoke which often caused much laughter in which he always participated. He knew how to tell stories and everyone was spellbound by it.

….I was 20 years old when I came to Eschwege. I was full of ideals and saturated with the teachings of Rabbi Hirsch. My Jewish education was extensive. Thus, every Saturday afternoon the Werner children had to come to my room and I had to teach them in Jewish history. All the children of the Werner household became religious Jews, even though the opportunity to became thus in Eschwege was not of the best….The third daughter Elsa, who was an extremely happy child, became my wife because I fell in love with her. The oldest son Moritz Werner became my partner….

After I had been in the bookkeeping department for better than a year events took place which brought me to new opportunities. One of our salesman left the firm and his post became available. My Aunt made the suggestion that I take his place and sell for the firm. …

I had opened a new sales territory in southern Germany…To travel was not an easy thing for me. I was young and could do it but to travel and remain strictly kosher was indeed a difficult task. I only lived on Eggs and Bread. … I was forced to fast more often than not….

Through my sales activity I acquired knowledge and feeling for the merchandise I was selling. I was exposed to the world…. This motivated me at the age of nearly 30 years old to study at the Textile School and Institute in Reutlingen, which remains one of the top schools to this day. My uncle became upset when I spoke of this plan. However, I knew that I had to have the technical knowledge if ever I wanted to become a success….and when I returned at the end of the year I was able to take charge with my newly acquired technical knowledge. I was very proud.

The original building of the Reutlingen Textile School and Institute, Vux / CC BY-SA (

[Julius described how he convinced his uncle to purchase knitting machines and modernize the business as well as expand its product line from stockings to other knit goods.]

I don’t really know why I bother to write all that down because the Lord managed to take it all away again. However, I take the time to write it down so that our children know how big we once were, brought about through hard work and prayer.

I will end this segment here with Julius not yet thirty years old, but already a leader in his uncle’s business, a self-educated and self-made man whose ambition and intelligence helped him become a business success. In the next post I will post the sections from Julius’ memoir that cover the first three decades of the twentieth century from 1900 to 1930.



Number Thirteen, the Caboose: Abraham Cohen 1866-1944

Caboose 995 at the Transportation Museum.

Caboose 995 at the Transportation Museum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of the thirteen children born to my great-great-grandparents Jacob and Sarah Cohen, only one was still alive in 1928.  He was also the only one to live through not only the 1930s, but into the 1940s as well.  He was one of only three to live into his seventies and the only one to live past 75 years old.  He was also the last born, the baby of the family, Abraham.  Like all his siblings, he had a life that had plenty of heartbreak.

Abraham was born on March 29, 1866.  His oldest sibling, Fanny, was twenty years old when he was born and was married that same year.  Joseph, his oldest brother, was married two years later.  But in 1870 Abraham had ten older siblings still living in his household at 136 South Street.  His first real heartbreak occurred when he was thirteen and his mother Sarah died in 1879.  Fortunately he still had six siblings living at home as well as his father. By the time he was fourteen in 1880, he was already working in his father Jacob’s store.

On February 9, 1886, Abraham married Sallie McGonigal, daughter of James and Sarah McGonigal, in Camden, New Jersey.  Their first child, Sallie, was born in 1886.  I do not have a birth record for her, but sadly, I do have her death certificate.  Sallie died on November 1, 1892, when she was six and a half years old from scarlet fever. She was buried in at Old Cathedral Catholic Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Sallie Cohen death certificate

Sallie Cohen death certificate

Assuming that the child Sallie was born then in April or May, 1886, either she was born very premature or Sallie was already pregnant when they married. Abraham and Sallie would both have been only twenty when they married, although their marriage record listed their birth years as 1864, not 1866.  I am speculating here, but since they were married out of state and under age and since it seems likely that Sallie was pregnant and since Sallie was apparently Catholic and Abraham was Jewish, I am going to venture a guess that their parents did not approve of the relationship.

But Abraham and Sallie’s marriage survived.  They had a second child, Leslie Joseph Cohen, who was born on May 20, 1889.[1] In December, 1891, they had a third child, Ethel, who only lived four weeks.  She died from convulsions on January 27, 1892.

Ethel Cohen death certificate

Ethel Cohen death certificate

Then ten months later, they lost Sallie to scarlet fever. Sometime after those deaths, the family moved from where they had been living at 622 Annapolis Street to 707 Wharton Street, where they remained for many years.

The young couple weathered those terrible tragedies and had a fourth child, Raymond, on February 15, 1894.  He died eight months later from gastroenteritis and was also buried in Old Cathedral Catholic Cemetery with his sisters Sallie and Ethel.

Raymond Cohen death certificate

Raymond Cohen death certificate

In the space of just over two years Abraham and Sallie had lost three young children.  Three years later, Abraham and Sallie lost another male baby to premature birth on October 11, 1897; he was stillborn.  Interestingly, that baby was buried at Mt Zion cemetery.  Would a Catholic cemetery not accept a stillborn baby?

Stillborn baby Cohen death certificate

Stillborn baby Cohen death certificate

In 1900, Abraham, Sallie and their one surviving child, Leslie, were still living at 707 Wharton Street, and Abraham was working as …. a pawnbroker, of course.

Abraham Cohen and family 1900 census

Abraham Cohen and family 1900 census

Unless I missed the birth and death of other children, it seems that after not having any children for over ten years, Abraham and Sallie had one more baby.  Arthur was born on December 9, 1907, according to the Pennsylvania birth index. Assuming that Sallie was born in 1866, she was over 40 years old when he was born.  In the 1910 census, Abraham, Sallie, Leslie, and Arthur were all living at 2433 North 17th Street; in addition, Sallie’s sister, Mary McGonigal, was living with them as well as a servant whose duties were described as “nurse girl.”  I assume she was taking care of Arthur.  Abraham was still working as a pawnbroker.  Leslie was nineteen and an apprentice machinist.  Arthur was two years old.

Abraham Cohen 1910 census

Abraham Cohen 1910 census

In 1917 Leslie registered for the draft.  He was working as a machinist at Remington Arms in Eddystone, Pennsylvania, where his Aunt Hannah’s husband, Martin Wolf, was also employed during that period.

Leslie Cohen World War I draft registration

Leslie Cohen World War I draft registration


Leslie served in the military from 1917 to 1919, according to one record.[2]  He served in Aero Squadron 490, as seen on his headstone below.  I was able to track down a detailed five page document from Gorrell’s History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919,  describing the service of  Leslie’s squadron during World War I by using the website.

490 Squadron report, p. 1

490 Squadron report, p. 1

I cannot capture all the details of his squadron’s service, but in brief, the squadron trained in San Antonio, Texas; they then traveled by train and boat from there to Long Island City in New York to await their orders to ship overseas.   They received those orders and shipped out of New York to England on November 22, 1917.

leslie service partial quote

The report details the rather uncomfortable conditions the men encountered while traveling from New York to Halifax to Liverpool, England over a sixteen day period, although they did not face any danger from enemy forces while traveling.  They arrived in Liverpool on December 8, 1917, and then left for France on December 13, 1917, where they were first stationed at Saint Maixent and then at Romorantin.  In both locations, the squadron was engaged in building barracks and other buildings for the soldiers.  They also built over sixteen miles of railroad.  The report described in detail the facilities at their second location and the work that was done.  It ends after the Armistice was signed, saying that the squadron was awaiting their orders to return to the United States.  Leslie J. Cohen is listed three times in the course of the report on the roster of men who served with the 490 Squadron, including on the final page shown below.

Leslie J. Cohen on roster

Leslie J. Cohen on roster

(M990;Publication Title: Gorrell’s History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, 1917-1919
Publisher: NARA
National Archives Catalog ID: 631392
National Archives Catalog Title: Gorrell’s History of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Service, compiled 07/05/1917 – 08/31/1919, documenting the period 05/26/1917 – 03/31/1919
Record Group: 120
Short Description: NARA M990. Historical narratives, reports, photographs, and other records that document administrative, technical, and tactical activities of the Air Service in the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.
Roll: 0021
Series: E
Series Description: Squadron Histories)

Back home in Philadelphia, Abraham’s wife  Sallie died on March 14, 1919, and surprisingly was buried not with her children at Old Cathedral Catholic Cemetery, but at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania. The family was residing at 5926 Cobbs Creek Parkway when she died, which was only a mile from Holy Cross Cemetery; nevertheless, Cathedral Cemetery, where so many of her children were buried, was only three miles away.  I wonder why she was not buried with her children.  Sallie died from influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis.  This was the time of the deady Spanish flu epidemic that killed millions of people worldwide.  Sally was about  fifty years old when she died, and her son Arthur was only eleven years old.

Sallie McGonigal Cohen death certificate 1919

Sallie McGonigal Cohen death certificate 1919

As of January 10, 1920, when the next census was taken, Abraham, now a widower, was still living at 5926 Cobbs Creek Parkway with his sons Leslie and Arthur, his sister-in-law Mary McGonigal, and a servant.  Abraham was still a pawnbroker; Leslie was a machinist in the shipyard, having returned from military service.  Arthur was in school.

Sometime later in 1920, Abraham married Elizabeth Beisswagner Grady, whose husband Robert Grady had died in 1918 and, interestingly, is also buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon, Pennsylvania.  Had Abraham met her at the cemetery? At the church? Elizabeth had several children from her first marriage, though all would have been adults by 1920.  Abraham was 54 when they married, Elizabeth was 46.

In 1927, Leslie reenlisted in the army, and on the 1930 census he is listed as a soldier in the US Army, stationed at Fort Hancock in Middletown Township, New Jersey.  He served from August 23, 1927 until August 22, 1930, when he was honorably discharged.

Leslie Cohen 1930 census

Leslie Cohen 1930 census

In the 1931 directory for the city of Richmond, Virginia, Leslie is listed with his wife Emma L. and was employed as a machinist.  Thus, sometime between the date of the 1930 census and the date of the Richmond directory, he had gotten married and moved to Richmond. He was later admitted to the Veterans Administration Hospital in Virginia on October 24, 1932, and released on February 3, 1933.  I cannot tell from the record why he was admitted or why he stayed for over three months in the hospital.  The hospital record also indicated that he was married to an Elizabeth L. Cohen (presumably a mistake; other records corroborate that her name was Emma), living in Washington, DC.

Leslie Cohen VA Hospital record

Leslie Cohen VA Hospital record

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Abraham, Elizabeth, and Arthur were living at 5530 Walnut Street according to the 1930 census.  Abraham was still working as a pawnbroker, and Arthur was working as a porter at a gas station.  Abraham, who was now 64 years old, had outlived all his siblings at this point as well as his first wife and several of his children.  I find it interesting that neither of his two sons became pawnbrokers, given the Cohen family’s overall involvement in that industry.

Abraham’s second wife Elizabeth died on August 4, 1939, from heart disease.  They had been living on Spruce Street, where Abraham is listed as living alone on the 1940 census.  He was still working as a pawnbroker at age 74.  Elizabeth was buried with her first husband Robert Grady at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon.

Abraham died on April 29, 1944, when he was 78 years old.  He also was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Yeadon with his first wife Sallie.  His death certificate was subject to a coroner’s inquest for some reason, but the inquest found that he died from arteriosclerosis.

Abraham death certificate 1944

Abraham death certificate 1944

abraham cohen amended death cert


The only strange thing about his death certificate is the description of his occupation: elevator operator.  After a lifelong career as a pawnbroker, why would Abraham have become an elevator operator?  The informant on his death certificate was Bernard Sluizer, Abraham’s brother-in-law, the widower of Abraham’s sister Elizabeth. Bernard would die just four months later.  Why would Bernard have been the informant? Well, all of Abraham’s siblings had died many years earlier, as had all their spouses except for Bernard and Jonas’ wife Sarah. Leslie was living in Richmond, Virginia.  I don’t know where Arthur was at that time.

Leslie and his wife Emma continued to live in Richmond, Virginia during the 1930s and 1940s.  According to the 1940 census, Emma was almost twenty years older than Leslie.  She is reported to have been 67 in 1940 while he was 48.  Leslie also appears never to have returned to his skilled position as a machinist.  On various Richmond directories throughout this period, his occupation is described as a helper, one time specifying at a Blue Plate Foods.  It is obviously hard to make too many inferences, but given his hospitalization and his low skilled employment afterward, it would seem that Leslie might have been disabled in some way after his second service in the army.   Leslie died on May 13, 1966, and is buried at Fort Harrison National Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

Leslie Joseph Cohen headstone

As for Arthur, I just am not sure.  There were two Arthur Cohens living in the Philadelphia area who were born in Pennsylvania in or about 1907, according to the 1940 census.  Both were married. One was working as a manager in a bottling company, the other as a mechanic in a garage.  Since Arthur was working in a gas station in 1930, I am inclined to think that it is more likely that he was the second Arthur, who was married to a woman named Claire.  They were living in Upper Darby, a Philadelphia suburb in 1940, but had been living in Philadelphia in 1935, according to the 1940 census.  If this is the right Arthur Cohen, it seems that he and Claire moved out to California at some point, living in Burbank in the 1970s and 1980s, and then to Las Vegas thereafter where Claire died on June 11, 1998.  I am still not positive I have the correct Arthur, so will continue to look for more records or documents to corroborate my hunch.

Thus, there are some loose ends here.  I don’t know the full story of Leslie and his wife Emma, but if the ages on the 1940 census are correct, it seems very unlikely that there were any children.  Arthur’s story is even more unfinished.  Without a marriage record or a death certificate, it’s impossible to be sure that I have found the right person.  I also do not have any idea whether Arthur had children.

Looking back over Abraham’s life is painful.  He lost so much—his mother when he was just 13, his father nine years later, and all his siblings between 1911 and 1927.    Three of his children died when they were very young, and he outlived two wives.  One son had moved away to Richmond, Virginia, possibly disabled in some way.  The other one seems to have disappeared or moved out west at some point.  I have this sad image of Abraham as a man in his seventies, living alone, working as an elevator operator, and having only his brother-in-law Bernard Sluizer around as his family (and perhaps many nieces and nephews as well).

I hope I am wrong.


That brings to an end, for now, the long story of the thirteen children of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, my great-great-grandparents.  I will reflect on what I’ve learned about them and try and synthesize it all in my next post.






[1]   Leslie’s birth year changed from record to record.  Sometimes it was 1891, sometimes 1892, sometimes 1893.  The record closest to his birth year was the 1900 census, which indicated that he was then 11 years old, giving him a birth year of 1889.  However, on the 1910 census, his age was 19, meaning he was born in 1891.  His two draft registrations also vary.  His headstone says 1892.  They all say his birthday was May 20, regardless of the year.

[2] U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

Original data: Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.