Tag Archives: Wichita

Rediscovering A Talk With My Husband’s Aunt (Part 1)

1 Apr

Cleaning out my house as we prepare to move has brought me several treasures.  One I have been looking for over the last few months, as my husband’s family had planned a family reunion in June, which has since been cancelled.  But what I was looking for finally turned up in a file cabinet drawer.

Over 30 years ago, I sat down with my husband’s Aunt Matt, who was his mother’s sister.  My husband’s Mom died of lung cancer when she was only 59.  After my daughter was born, I felt truly sad that she would never hear stories about her grandmother’s family.  So I asked Aunt Matt if she would be the substitute. She was delighted!

We used to spend a long weekend each March at the Lake of the Ozarks with Aunt Matt and her husband, Uncle Stan, in a time share they had.  This was the perfect opportunity.  My husband and his uncle took my daughter fishing, while Aunt Matt and I talked about her life in Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas, and I recorded her words.

Aunt Matt, whose real name was Marie, was filled with love for her parents and her nine siblings.  Her father, Leon, was from Romania.  He had both a law degree and a medical degree.  After college, at Sorbonne, he went to England where he met his wife, Esther. She was just 15 when they married.  (See blogs below about their marriage) Leon spoke 7 languages!

Esther and Leon

They first lived in London where the first three children were born: Molly, Joe and Jean.  They came to North America in 1912.   I understand that they came through Canada.   They first settled in New Orleans, where Leon taught at Tulane University.   (I had never heard this before!)

During the First World War, Leon entered the United States Army, where he became a colonel.  He stayed an extra year in Europe as he was put in charge of the exchange of prisoners.  (There is actually a photo of him with prisoners that one of my husband’s cousins owns.) 

Colonel Leon M.

While he was in Europe, his young family lived in Brooklyn with family. Aunt Matt said with their grandparents.  (I do know that Esther’s had family in NY. But I thought it was her brother.).  When he finally got back to the USA, the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Leon was in charge of a military hospital.  They lived in a home belonging to a family that gave it to the Army to use.  It was just 100 steps from the hospital.

Somewhere along the way, from Tulane, to Wichita for a bit, to Pennsylvania, four more children were born: Marie, Fred, Florence (Toots) and Ben (Bubsy).  When Leon was finally discharged and left active duty, he moved his family to Wichita, Kansas. Aunt Matt had no idea why they moved. (The names in parenthesis are family nicknames.)

The next baby, Leona ”Lee”  (Bubbles) was born in Wichita.  Her birth in 1925 was almost exactly one year after the oldest daughter, Molly, died while attending college in New York.  Bubble’s middle name, May, was for her sister.  This baby was important in my family, as she was my husband’s mother.  Aunt Matt said, “Lee was a born one year and two days after Molly died of pneumonia in 1924 while at Columbia University, where she was studying art.”

Lee was the only child born in Wichita.   While there, Leon had a private practice. But he was also part of a group that founded the first free clinic.  The St. Francis Free Dispensary was founding in 1922.

Aunt Matt did not know why the family moved once again to Leavenworth, Kansas. But they did sometime before 1927, because the last two children, Barbara and Richard were born when they lived in Leavenworth.  Leon had a private practice their specializing in OB/BYN and Surgery.  

Life changed for them after just a few years after moving to Leavenworth. When the youngest, Richard, was just two years old, their mother, Esther, died.  Aunt Matt was in college then.  She was told that her mother died of pneumonia.  But we know she died in childbirth.  (See blog below.)

This blog covers the first three pages of 17 pages of notes. The next ones will discuss the time in Leavenworth, Kansas.

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/09/more-on-esther-and-leons-london-wedding/

If you read these other blogs, you will find slightly different stories. We all have the stories our parent’s told us. With ten siblings ranging about 25 years apart in age, different grandchildren of Leon and Esther, were told slightly different stories. OR had slightly different memories. These are Aunt Matt’s memories.

More Family Legends Confirmed

6 Apr

img_2713

Esther and Leon wedding photo.

Now that I found my husband’s grandparents’ ketubah (Jewish marriage license), I can be definite about another family legend.

The rumor was that his Grandmother Esther was anywhere from 12 to 15 years old when she married her husband Leon, who was 25. My mother-in-law told me that her mother was 12 when she married.  My husband’s first cousin, also named Esther, told me that her grandmother was 15.  All agreed she lied and said she was 16 when she married in 1903.

I now have facts.  She was born October 4, 1889.  That means when she married on August 9, 1903, she was not quite 14.  I have to be honest, this shocked me.  I cannot imagine letting my 13-year-old daughter marry a man who was 12 years older, 25, even if he was a well-educated and kind physician.  I guess times were different.  However, it was London, England, and not the wild west. All that went through my brain, was: “What were her parents, Abraham and Rachel, thinking!!!”  But the marriage occurred, so they must have approved.  (See blog below.)

They lived in England, where their first three children were born.  The oldest was born when Esther was 15 years old. The next when she was 17, and so on until she had 10 living children.  She died in childbirth in 1933, when she was 44.  She is buried with an infant.  (See blog below.)

Leon immigrated to the United States in February of 1908.  And another legend is correct, they came through Canada.  It makes sense as she was a citizen of England, coming to Canada was not a problem.   Leon was born in Romania, but he had lived in England for a while.  But actually only he entered the USA at Vanceboro, Maine, which is located across the St. Croix River from St. Croix, New Brunswick, Canada.  There is a railroad that connects the two cities, which was opened in 1871.  I assume he came by rail.

Interesting there is an E Matassarin that took a boat to Canada around the same time.  But Esther and her three children actually moved to the USA on August 7, 1920, on the ship, Carmania. The three children were Malvenia (Molly), Joseph and Jeanne.  (I have to add one comment here.  Their third child, Jeanne, was born in England, supposedly in July 1908.  Either she was born a year earlier, making her 101 when she died, or they came a year later.  I think she was a year older!  A family member has confirmed the 1907 birthdate.)

When they arrived they stayed with family members from Esther’s side before they took the journey to Kansas.

Over the years, Esther’s age moved back and forth in the census.  In a 1925 census of the city in Kansas where she lived, she is listed as 35 years old and her husband is 47.  Their true ages.  She had six children living with them ranging from age 4-18.  Her oldest daughter had already died as a young adult.  (Her grave was moved from Wichita to Leavenworth so she could be buried with her parents.)

But in the 1930 census, just five years later, she lists herself as being 42, adding two years to her life, and now just ten years younger than her husband.  She has an additional two living children, including my husband’s mother. One more live birth would occur soon after the census.

They originally lived in Brooklyn in New York City after they immigrated to the USA. Then they moved to Kansas, living at times in both Wichita and Leavenworth.  I know that Leon became a naturalized citizen of the USA in September 1915 in Wichita.

My husband’s grandfather served as a doctor for the USA Army during World War 1.  He was shipped overseas on August 23, 1919 on a ship called, Chicago. He was stationed at the US Army Base Hospital #58, which was located in Rimaucourt, France.  The Army Hospital in Rimaucourt was the last US military hospital created in WW 1 and only existed until February 1919.  I am not sure where he went after this base closed.

He left the USA as a captain.  When he returned he held the rank of major. He left Brest, France, the main port the USA used during the war, on September 10, 1919, serving just over a year in Europe.  He arrived home on the ship, Mount Vernon, docking in Hoboken, New Jersey on September 19,1919.

One more item about Leon and his time during World War 1. He found a way, through the JDC, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to send $10.00 to his mother, and his sister, Anna, in Romania on October 17, 1917.  (I found this in the JDC Archives.)

He ended up in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he continued to work on the military base.  He was discharged from military duty in 1930 with the rank of Major. I believe he then went into private practice.  Unfortunately, his wife died just a few years later.  The memory my mother-in-law told me was that he went every day to visit his wife’s grave until he died.  Years ago, when I went to the cemetery, there was a stone bench next to her grave.  I believe her memory to be true.

My husband’s mother was about eight when her mother died and 17 when her father died in the middle of World War 2.  She was the third youngest child.  Some of her older siblings served during the war and were dispersed throughout the world.

I am so glad that JewishGen.org, the Archives.jdc.org  and Ancestry.com had records that helped me piece together this history.  I also used Wikipedia for info about towns in France and Canada.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

 

 

Cemetery Records Impacts Family Stories

11 Jan

Recently I received a cemetery record from a friend of mine, who grew up with my husband’s cousins.  Her grandfather and my husband’s grandfather were great friends.

In any case, she is researching her family history and did research on the Jewish Cemetery in Leavenworth, Kansas, where my husband’s grandparents and aunt are buried.  (Mount Zion Cemetery or Sons of Truth. )She found their funeral records as well, and sent them to me and other family members.  I sent it on to one more.  For me they were enlightening.  My husband’s mother had told me many stories about her family before she died.  And these records impacted these stories.

Story Number One:  Her mother, Esther, died in childbirth when she was in her 40s.   The cemetery records make this clear.  She died in the early 1930s and was buried with an infant.  This would have been child number 11, although her oldest daughter had died years before.  Born in 1889, she died in 1933, when she was just 43.  On another note,  her birthday was October 4; and many of her grandchildren are born October!

Story Number Two:  My mother in law was named for her older sister, Molly, who died in May.  I was told she died in the swine flu epidemic in 1918 or 1919.  Not true.  Molly died from the pneumonia in May 1924, when she was 19 years old.  What amazes me as well is that she was born and died on the same day in May just 19 years apart!Still a tragedy!  But what is true is that my mother in law was born almost exactly a year later.  And so was given her sister’s Hebrew name, along with another name.  This impacts me, as my daughter is named for her grandmother and so also for this great aunt.

A story we did not know, is that Malvina or Molly or Malcha, was first buried in Wichita, Kansas, where the family lived.   The family moved to Leavenworth some time after she died, leaving her grave behind.  But after her mother died, Molly’s remains were moved to Leavenworth in 1935, to be with her mother.

My mother in law told me that her father went every to visit the grave of his wife and daughter.  I have been at the cemetery and I know there is a bench there where he sat.

Story Number Three:  My husband’s grandfather died in the middle of World War 2 in Leavenworth, which impacted his three youngest children.  So true.  His date of death is listed as December 6, 1942.  Just one year after Pearl Harbor.  He had been a widow for nine years.  And was just 64 when he died.  The same age my husband is now!

At the time of his death, three children were minors, the others were married or serving in the military.  The oldest of these three was my mother in law.   She was a senior in high school.  We think she stayed with friends for the rest of the school year.  We know after high school, she moved to St. Louis to attend Washington University and live with an older sister and her family.

My mother in law told me that one day when she came home she saw her brother and sister sitting on the steps.  Some family friends were there. And she just knew something horrible had happened.  It had.  After losing her mother when she was only 8, she was now an orphan.

The two youngest, 12 and 14 at the time, were first taken to Wichita.  Remember the good friend?  She told me that her grandfather drove through a horrible storm to get the youngest children so they would not be alone.  He brought them back to Wichita.  From there they went to Arkansas to live with their oldest brother and his family.  Officially they were supposed to live in Kansas, according to my mother in law, but the state gave permission for them to leave the state to live with family during the war.

After the war was over, the youngest son was still a minor.  He went to live with another brother and his wife in Wichita.  The next youngest, a daughter, was in nursing school,  at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita,  but would stay with this brother as well during vacations.

That two of these youngest children went to college and one to nursing training,  I find amazing!  But I remember my husband’s aunt, the one who lived in St. Louis, telling me that although there was not a lot of money left after their dad died, there was enough for education, and the older siblings made sure the younger siblings went.

After I received the cemetery records, there was some serious texting back and forth between this friend and I, as well as an older first cousin who grew up in Wichita.  Her parents are the ones who took in the youngest sibling.

It is just amazing that different people know different parts of the same story.  But when you put it all together, a truer picture appears.   Most  amazing how finding the right records can answer so many questions!

 

Thank you to /www.findagrave.com/.  I was able to see grave stones.