The ghost of David Komelfeld

Duvid Shaevich Komelfeld, a native of Odessa, was 29 when he died in the 1905 Odessa pogrom. Nothing else appears in the records about him or his family. But checking on an Ellis Island database (https://stevemorse.org/ellis2/ellisgold.html), there was a family of Komelfelds, 28-year-old Sura and her four children, Tauba, Schindel, Schaje and Rafael, between ages 7 and 3, leaving Hamburg for New York in August 1907.

komelfeld sura ship 1907 - Copy

Sura Komelfeld and her four children on the SS Blucher, 2 August 1907

Her closest relation in Odessa was her brother Schiel Burdman (Бурдман) who lived at 7 Srednaya St in Moldavanka, and she was going to her husband David Komelfeld at 197 Moore St in Brooklyn.

11 serednaya burdman

11 Srednaya St (7 is a modern apartment block)

odessa map 1888 mold

Moldavanka 1888

Srednaya St means Middle Street and it runs through the centre of Moldavanka from top to bottom of the map.

The name Komelfeld (Комельфельд) is extremely rare. Slightly more common is the name Kimelfeld, and both names appear in the Odessa records. It is also a name that is rarely spelt properly in the US records, probably because many of the records were done orally and the Russian or Yiddish pronunciation was difficult to interpret. The first record I found was the 1910 census with the name spelt something like Kobnmelfeld. Sarah was living with her brother, Joe Boardman, sister, Beckie, mother, Ida, and her three children on 79 Leonard St in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, an area with many newly arriving Jewish immigrants where the family stayed through the 1920s.

Graham Avenue Brooklyn

Graham Street Brooklyn 1935

Graham Avenue in Williamsburg 1930s

Sarah is a widow and one of her children, the eldest son, has died. She has two daughters, Tesie and Sadie, 10 and 8, and a younger son, Rafael, 5. It says on the census that Sarah originally had five children and three are alive. Her brother had arrived in the same year as she arrived, 1907, but her mother and sister came in 1908, possibly to help her after her husband died. She is working as an examiner of children’s suits and her brother and sister are also working in clothing factories.

Williamsburg Brooklyn 1918

Williamsburg 1918

What I did not notice when I first saw the 1910 census was another Boardman family consisting of Morris 24, Bessie 20, and their little boy Abe who was 2. Morris had arrived in the US in 1905 and had a candy store. Living with him was Ben Komarow, who had come alone from Odessa at age 14 in 1906. Ben married Sarah’s sister, Beckie, in 1911 and will come back into the Komelfeld story further on.

139 starr St 1920 Boardman

Starr St Brooklyn

It was difficult to find the old houses in Williamsburg on Google streetview in the area where the Komelfelds lived. The street above is just south of Williamsburg, where Joseph Boardman lived in 1920, a slightly more prosperous area. When I saw the two trees framing the picture I thought of the famous story written in the 1940s, A tree grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith, which I read and cried over as a child. It is the story of an 11-year-old Irish-American girl brought up with an alcoholic father in a poor Irish Catholic part of Williamsburg just north of the Jewish area. She describes in exquisite detail the daily life, the squalid tenements, the diet of day-old bread and the Saturday treat of fresh rye bread from the Jewish delicatessen, and at school, the vicious treatment of the poor children by the teachers, and of various hierarchies of children towards each other. It was quite clear to her from a very early age that her aim in life was to find a way to rise up and out of Williamsburg.

first edition tree

The older daughter’s name was Tessie, which was rare and eventually I tried searching for her in a database with no last name, looking for someone living in Brooklyn, newly married, age 20, with an immigration date of around 1907. A possibility came up with a Tessie Bernstein, 21, married to Edward, a salesman, living in Brooklyn, with a son, Irving, 2. In 1930, Tessie has Odessa written by her birth country and I knew I had found the right person. There was no marriage record for her or her husband. By 1930 she had 2 sons. Sadie was a much more common name and more difficult to find. I also could not find any more records for Sarah or Raphael. Before I found Tessie, I thought the entire family had disappeared, ghosts from the Odessa pogrom. Eventually I made a little headway.

I returned to looking for David Komelfeld‘s death record and after a long search went back to the original Odessa death record to see the full name of the Duvid Komelfeld who had died in the pogrom, which was Duvid Shaevich. The name of Sarah’s oldest son, the one who died, was Schaje which was probably Shaya. So was Shaya named after his grandfather, his father David’s father? Then who was the David who died in the pogrom who also had a father called Shaya? How could there be 2 people in the same family with the same name and the same father? For a short moment I thought that possibly the David Komelfeld who was waiting for Sarah and the children in Brooklyn was only a figure in her imagination, a real ghost from the pogrom. Maybe she was already a widow and joining a brother in New York. Then I realised Shaya may have been named after an uncle or another relation. Maybe the Davids were cousins.

After my third or fourth attempt, I found a potential Sadie – a Sadie Held, 19 in 1920, married to Jacob, a plumber. Her immigration date was correct, 1907, and there was no marriage record for her as there hadn’t been for her sister. By 1930 she had four children, one boy and three girls.

I now tried to find the death record of the 4-year-old son. Without knowing what first name they would have used for Shaya, and with a last name that was difficult to spell, I did not have much hope, until I thought to put in Sarah’s maiden name, Bordman, which would be on her child’s death record. It bothered me the most that I could not find any record for this little boy who had come all the way from Odessa to New York, would never grow up, and would surely be totally forgotten, lost from the records. But here he was:

Charles Cemberfeld
death: 19 November 1907, age 5, 117 Seigel Street, Brooklyn
estimated birth year: 1902, Russia
burial date: 19 November 1907
cemetery: Washington
father: David Cemberfeld, Russia
mother: Sarah Bordman, Russia

The Komelfelds had only arrived in August 1907 and three months later Shaya had died. And what about David, his father? Could he have been buried through a synagogue without a death certificate? Or are some records simply lost?

I found some old maps from the 1880s of Seigel St and the area around there where the Boardmans and Komelfelds had lived for so many years. This was the centre of Jewish Williamsburg.Although these are much older maps, it is interesting to see the narrow houses, the furniture factory, tailor, bakery, macaroni factory and other workshops scattered between the houses.

Seigel Brooklyn 1884

Seigel Street on the left 1880

throop Seigel St Brooklyn 1880

Throop Ave, Seigel St, Leonard St, and Moore St 1884

I returned to Sarah and Raphael and found that there was no sign of them after 1920. I tried with every possible spelling of Komelfeld, any name beginning with K, and even with no last name. There are very few Raphaels so I tried Ralph as well, but nothing came up that fit his approximate age and immigration date. As Sarah’s mother, Ida Boardman, had been living with them in 1920, I then looked to see where she was in 1930. She appeared living with Ben Komarow who had married Sarah’s sister, Becky Boardman. I went back to his ship’s record which had said he was 14 when he left Odessa alone in 1906. It said he was going to an uncle called Abraham Bradkovsky who ran a restaurant in Manhattan on Monroe St. Unfortunately, Bradkovsky died in 1909 when he was only 40 and Ben must have moved to the Boardmans in Brooklyn. Possibly they were relations or friends from Odessa. On the ship’s manifest it said Ben was a shoemaker at age 14, but on the 1910 census he was working, like the majority of Jewish immigrants, in a clothing factory as a ladies cloak cutter. After he married Beckie, Ben moved to Sumter, South Carolina, where he appears on the World War I registration as a merchant. He probably had a brother there as there is another young man from Odessa, Isidore Komarow, nearby. It is hard to imagine why two young Jewish men would find themselves in a small town in South Carolina, but immigrants travelled anywhere to get away from the intense competition for jobs in New York.

I still did not know whether Sarah and Raphael had changed their names, moved away or died. But as Sarah had been looking after her mother, and that job was taken over by her sister Rebecca, who had returned to New York from South Carolina at some point before 1930, possibly the Komarovs returned because Sarah moved away or died. If she died, that does not explain what happened to Raphael. She might have remarried and he might have taken his stepfather’s name, but that seems unlikely when he was nearing the age to set out on his own, and so far I have not found anyone that fits his description. Possibly she remarried and later he changed his name. Or he left the country. The possibilities are endless. Having settled for 13 years in Brooklyn, these two figures, the 42-year-old mother and 15-year-old son, fade away like their husband and father, David Komelfeld, ghosts of the Odessa pogrom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leonid Pasternak and his Odessa childhood

I have written about the impressionist painter Leonid Pasternak (Леонид Пастернак), the father of Boris Pasternak, in a previous post about the wealthy Moscow tea merchant, David Wissotzky, who had portraits of himself and his wife painted by Pasternak (https://wordpress.com/post/odessasecrets.wordpress.com/834). His children was also tutored by Boris Pasternak one summer. Boris fell in love with his daughter, Ida, and was inspired to begin writing poetry. There was a teacher called Leon Wissotzky who died in the Odessa pogrom and the Wissotzky’s had offices and warehouses in Odessa, using the port for their tea business. But what I never realised was that the Pasternaks were also from Odessa. It was only when I was looking up where Isaac Babel had lived in Odessa that the name Pasternak came up as well, as having stayed at Bazarnaya 78 over the years from 1885-1911 (like Jabotinsky and Kataev who had also lived on Bazarnaya), although he was living in Moscow at the time.78 bazarnaya Pasternak

Bazarnaya 78

So where was the artist born and what was his life like growing up in Odessa? From the Russian Wikipedia entry, I found that Leonid (Yitzhok-Leib or Isaac-Leon) had been born in 1862 on Kherson Street 20, now Paster Street 20 (по Херсонской — Пастера улице). This is an area outside the centre near the harbour, between the centre and Moldavanka. Just beyond, along the harbour, is Peresyp, and further inland is Slobodka. According to Wikipedia and many accounts of Pasternak’s childhood, when he was quite small his father rented a courtyard and inn, eight rooms for small landowners coming to market, in central Slobodka near the cathedral and market square. A footnote leads to a very long article on a Russian history website about Peresyp and Slobodka-Romanovka mentioning many Odessan writers and historians and descendants of local people vouching for the Pasternak’s having lived at what was called the inn of Baransky, at 9 (possibly changed to 11) Rozhdestvenskaya near the church and Market Square, and yet to many writers on Odessa it was also called Gruzdyev House (https://www.istmira.com/istnovvr/aura-odesskoj-peresypi-i-slobodki-romanovki-kraeve/page/40/). On the 1888 map of Odessa, you can see Slobodka on the bottom with the market square in the centre. The beginning of Kherson Street can be seen across the ravine and railway track at the top of the map.

Odessa 1888 slobodka Pasternak

Slobodka-Romanovka

9 vinnicnenko Pasternak

9 Rozhdestvenskaya just north of the central square

So I tried to find out more about Leonid’s early life in Odessa through his memoir, translated into English in 1982. He describes the bustling courtyard filled with the landowner’s horses and carts, which, as a small child, inspired him to begin drawing. He also describes his first trip outside at night, as a four-year-old, walking with his father to a special bakery on New Year’s Eve to collect a cake for their landlord. It is this detailed description of his walk to the bakery on Preobrazhenskaya near the City Gardens that makes one begin to doubt that the family lived in Slobodka. Then I came upon another story of his childhood on a website of biographies of famous Odessans. In this short biography, it says that Leonid’s grandfather Isaac came to Odessa from Galicia in the early 1800s and Leonid’s father, Joseph, was born in 1813. According to this story, Joseph’s inn was near the New Market (Новобазарная) on Koblevskaya between Olgievskaya and Konnaya, just across the ravine north of Slobodka (http://odessa-memory.info/index.php?id=243). New Market is the square towards the bottom left of the map.

Odessa 1888 old market

New Market (Новобазарная) and Koblevskaya (Коблевская)

I went back to the memoir and read more carefully how Leonid described his childhood home. ‘I can only properly remember my early childhood from the time when father’s affairs took a turn for the better and he rented the vacant area described above – the courtyard and wing. “Gryuzdov’s House” was known throughout the regions and visitors used to travel from afar since the rooms were very cheap. Where we lived, on the outskirts of the city, was very provincial, almost like a village. You could see the sea, as well as the little settlement Romanovka nearby.’

Pasternak Odessa 1870s

How could he live in the middle of Romanovka near the marketplace and see it from where he lived? He then describes the courtyard more fully:

One would have thought that my childhood imagination would have been confined to things urban, but in fact it was nourished on country impressions. Although we lived in the town, our courtyard was more like a village and we were surrounded by things rural. This courtyard with its carts and wagons, it horses and oxen, it’s chumaks and coachman and Tartars – helped enrich my artistic imagination enormously, as well as develop my sense of observation. Every evening peasants would arrive to stay overnight, bringing with them their bread to sell. Their lodging would cost them only a few kopecks. By nightfall the yard would be filled to overflowing with wagons, people and animals. There was a strong smell of manure and the sound of neighing and chewing was everywhere. Even now I can still smell that peculiar odour of horses’ harness and tar, I can still hear the muffled lowing of oxen, the snorting of horses quarrelling and somebody’s certain and penetrating cry: ‘You swine!’

Then I found a history online of the famous bakery, Duryan’s, where Leonid had gone with his father to buy the special New Year’s cake, for their landlord, Untilov. He quotes from Pasternak about the bakery and describes Pasternak’s early home as being at Koblevskaya 13 on the corner of Olgievskaya, a house which his father rented from Mikhail Untilov until 1873 when he was able to buy the property. This house is near the New Market and a reasonable walk to the bakery on Preobrazhenskaya. It is also at the edge of the city and near the ravine that separates the city from Slobodka-Romanovka. Koblevskaya 13 was destroyed in the war but here is another nearby house with courtyard.

Koblevskaya dvora Pasternak

Koblevskaya courtyard

I went back to the internet to search again for more about Pasternak’s childhood and found his memoir in Russian which had an extra sentence in the beginning which was not in my English edition. ‘Знаю лишь, что я родился на Старом Базаре, в 1862 году, 22 марта по старому стилю, и когда мальчиком бывал там, т. е. в центре города, то ничего такого старого не находил в нем, что отличало бы его от Нового Базара, куда мы перебрались, когда мне было 2–3 года.’ (I only know that I was born in the Old Bazaar, in 1862, on March 22, in the old style, and when I was a boy there, that is, in the center of the city, I would not find anything so old in it that would distinguish it from the New Bazaar, where we moved when I was 2-3 years old.) (http://az.lib.ru/p/pasternak_l_o/text_1943_zapisi_raznyh_let.shtml) Old Market is on the previous map towards the top right in the centre of town.

So Leonid had lived as a child near the New Market, but also says that he was born near the Old Market in the centre of the city. The only reference I had about where he was born was that it was Kherson St 20, a couple of streets over from Koblevskaya. The original detailed history of Slobodka mentions that the landlord Untilov, a member of the Duma, was listed in the directory as owner of Kherson St 20. Possibly this is where the idea of it being Pasternak’s birthplace came. But the article about the bakery says that Untilov was also the owner of the inn on Koblevskaya, which makes sense as they were buying the cake for their landlord. It seems that no one has actually looked into where Pasternak was born. I’m not sure why or how the story of Pasternak coming from Slobodka came about. It is and was a much poorer working class area and his family seem to have been an up-and-coming family who wanted their children well educated and eventually moved into the city centre. The inn on the edge of town was surely just as good a story as the childhood home of the famous painter.

Pasternak’s memoir continues with experiences at his local primary school and then moving on at age 10 to Richelieu High School, the most prestigious high school in Odessa and difficult to get a place in. He then moved to the Odessa State High School in the fifth year where he met a French teacher who was interested in art and introduced him to museums, galleries and exhibitions. Another stroke of luck was that the editor of various illustrated magazines, Mikhail Freudenberg, rented a room in his courtyard, and asked him to do some illustrations for him. In his last year of school, Leonid also began taking classes at the Odessa School of Drawing.

PasternakL01

Leonid Pasternak as a young man

When he finished school in 1881, Leonid entered the medical faculty of Moscow University which was the desire of his parents, hoping also to join the School of Painting but found there were no more places. He did not enjoy medicine so transferred to the Law Faculty, but really wanted to study art abroad and discovered that this was easier to do from the Odessa University so he transferred to the Law Faculty in Odessa, where he would be able to spend much of his time at universities and studying art abroad.

What interested me so much about Leonid Pasternak’s childhood in Odessa was his ability, from a relatively poor, uneducated Jewish family, to navigate the education system with the help of his incredible talent, study art in Odessa while at school and get a place at Moscow University in medicine, which was the career his parents wanted him to pursue. It presents another picture to the often described difficulties Jews had with education quotas and difficulties living outside the Pale. It is also interesting to look more closely at the description of his family as poor and uneducated, because when his father was a child he was probably brought up speaking Yiddish and going to a traditional Hebrew school so he may not have learnt an educated Russian. Because Odessa was known for its Russian education, even for Jewish children, families that spoke Yiddish or people who had just learnt Russian orally were looked down upon and families rarely admitted to knowing Yiddish. Leonid’s father may have been educated in the old tradition and Yiddish-speaking, but seems to have done quite well in his hotel business, so the family may have entered the middle-class when Leonid was still quite young.

Certainly all of Leonid’s paintings of his family life were in very middle-class settings, but he also documented the older Jewish generation and made one trip to Palestine where he drew the people and landscape. Another major part of his work were portraits and he was obviously proud, coming from his background, of getting to know some very famous people like Tolstoy, Rilke and Einstein, but his relationship with Tolstoy was probably the most important to him (he illustrated Resurrection and several scenes from War and Peace) and he was called by Tolstoy’s wife to draw Tolstoy just before he died. In the early 1920s he moved to Berlin with his wife and daughters for health reasons and then stayed, only leaving in 1938 to settle in Oxford where one of his daughters lived.

I will end this post with a series of drawings, paintings and a few photographs predominantly relating to his own family, time spent in Odessa, and Jewish life from the late 1880s through the 1920s.

Pasternak 1889 Odessa

Odessa 1889

Leonid_Pasternak_-_News_from_Motherland_(1889,_GTG)

Letter from home 1889 (first large-scale painting)

Pasternak old Jewish woman 1889

Old Jewish woman 1889

Odessa 1890 Pasternaks

Leonid and his wife, recently married, 1890

Boris 1892

Boris 1892

Tolstoy 1893 Pasternak

Tolstoy 1893

Odessa Pasternak 1896

Odessa 1896

Odessa 1896 Pasternak family with Boris

The Pasternaks and Boris 1896

On the Sofa circa 1916 by Leonid Pasternak 1862-1945

On the sofa 1916

Pasternak 1924 Palestine

Palestine 1924

Pasternak Palestine drawing

Palestine 1924

 

 

 

Happy families – Levitin and Levit

Why happy families? Feeling I was having extreme good luck in finding the two family names, Levit and Leviton, both names in the pogrom death records, on ships to America in 1906, and in the US records, I delved deeper and found two families who seem to have had successful professions or businesses, married, had children and generally thrived in the US, one family in Chicago, the other in New York.

There was no sign of insane asylums or orphanages. And so, to some extent, they may have been happy families, as happy as any family can be who may have had relations killed in the pogrom and felt forced to flee their home. And possibly, with so little to go on, Tolstoy is correct that ‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ But I was interested in why these families might have been as happy or successful as they appeared to be.

I will begin with the Levitin (Leviton) family who emigrated from Odessa to Chicago. They may have had a young son killed in the pogrom, as Moishe Levitin, in the pogrom records, was 26, and the young Levitons on the ship from Antwerp on 30 June 1906, were all in their 20s. There was an older woman, Golda, 56, and her daughter, Rochiel, 28, a nurse, travelling to Sophia Leviton, Golda’s daughter and  Rochiel’s sister at 363 W. North Street, Chicago. With them was Motel, 19, a student, and Gerschon, 24, a dentist, nephews of Golda who were travelling to their brother, Jacob Leviton who lived at the same address.

Golda Levitin and family June 1906

Later I found Sara Leviton, 20, travelling to America in 1904, to her uncle, David Leviton, who also lived at 363 W. North Street in central Chicago and had emigrated to America in 1893. I also found that the two brothers, Motel and Gershon, were the sons of Isaac Leviton, who was travelling with his wife on the same ship with them and Golda although listed on a separate page. Golda’s husband, Aaron, came later.

I first looked up Jacob Leviton, as he was already settled in Chicago. When I started this search I thought that all the young people on the list were the children of Golda and Aaron which led to endless confusions, especially as each of these Leviton families had a Harry or Jacob or David or Morris. And most of the girls had married a Harry or Jacob. I found that this particular Jacob, who was Jacob Isaac, had only arrived that same year, 1906, and by 1910 was married with two small children, living in an area of West Chicago called Wicker Park, an immigrant area of narrow three-storey houses and tree-lined streets reminiscent of many streets in Odessa. During the 1910s and 1920s, most of the enormous extended Leviton family, the brothers David, Isaac and Aaron and their many children, were living around the area of Wicker Park.

Wicker Park Chicago 1912

The older generation of Levitons were businessman, Odessa merchants, but many of their children took up professions – doctors, pharmacists, dentists and an architect. There were two other extended Odessa families in Chicago, related to the Leviton family by marriage, the Schoenbrods and the Mesirovs, Golda’s family. There were also Schoenbrods married to Mesirovs, and often the families lived within one or two houses of each other, on various streets around Wicker Park – Fowler St, Evergreen Ave, Potomac Ave, Le Moyne Ave, Milwaukee Ave, Hoyne Ave and Wicker Park Ave, where Golda was living when she died in 1915.

1351 Wicker Park Ave Golda’s house 1915

Potomac Ave, Wicker Park, the Schoenbrod house in 1900; Jacob Leviton lived on this street in 1910; his father Isaac and the rest of his family lived around the corner on Evergreen Ave.

Evergreen Ave

Fowler St across from Wicker Park where Aron Leviton and his daughter Rose Mesirow lived as did Morris Leviton and Solomon Schoenbrod; Aron died there in 1924

It was this closeness which made me feel that this was a happy family. The families of Aaron and Isaac, one of whom probably lost a son in the Odessa pogrom, were the only two families arriving as late as 1906. David and his family settled in Chicago in 1893 and there was a Morris Leviton who came in 1892.

Wicker Park 1910

Division Street from Wicker Park, now full of cafes and bistros

The records for Chicago, particularly the birth records that list the mother’s maiden name, made it possible to discover the married names of the Leviton daughters. Rochiel became Rose Mesirov, marrying a relation, an insurance salesman. She had two sons and lived in the same area as the rest of the family, gradually moving further out from the centre. She died at age 59 in 1939. Her husband died a year earlier. Neither of the two sons, Abner and Raymond, are listed in the 1940 census. They would have been 27 and 28 years old when their mother died. They both married, had children and lived long lives.

Sarah married Abraham Kaminsky, a teamster, and lived some distance away in South Chicago. She had 5 children, plus one stillbirth. She died in 1928, age 45. Abraham brought up the children alone until he died, aged 55, about 10 years later. Abraham appears on the 1930 census with his children but none of them appear in the 1940 census, which may have been shortly after he died. The eldest, Fanny, never married, possibly because she became the mother of the other children. There are no definite records for two of the others, Vivian and Robert. Goldie married and had one son.

Sophia Leviton, the daughter Golda listed on the ship’s manifest, came to Chicago in 1905 and married Harry Welcher, a cigar manufacturer and they settled near Wicker Park on Le Moyne St. Harry had a prosperous enough business that in 1918 he applied for a passport to travel to Japan, China and the Philippines. On his application he said he was born in Pereyaslav (now Pereyaslav-Khmelnytsky), an old city south of Kiev, perched high above a tributary of the Dnieper River, where many of the Levitons, Schoenbrods and Mesirows were from. Another Welcher living near Wicker Park, Joseph, listed his district of birth on one of the censuses as Poltava, the district of Pereyaslav , and he was also married to a Sophie from Odessa. Sophie and Harry had two children, one of whom died at birth. On the 1930 census, Sophie was already a widow, her husband having died the year before, 1929, at age 54. She was living with her 20-year-old daughter, Alice, and her single brother, Jacob, 52, who emigrated in 1912.

So this was Jacob Aaron, the son of Golda. Jacob was a salesman for a cigar company and I thought of Sophie’s husband. The only other record I found for Jacob was a 1930 naturalisation form where he lists his sister, Sophie’s, address in North Chicago. Later I searched again on the Ellis Island website, using the full name Jacob Levitin (as it was usually spelt on the manifests) and therefore not bothering to narrow the search with the town, Odessa. This time I found another manifest, which only listed Russia for last residence, for Jacob and his parents, Golda and Aaron, travelling with Mesirov relations in 1911. Becoming more creative with spelling, I also found Aaron travelling to New York with his son Jankel (Jacob), 35, in 1908, shortly after Golda . Jacob is described as married, although he is listed as single on the 1930 census. At some point Golda and her husband had returned to Odessa and were now going back to Chicago with their son Jacob and more of Golda’s family, the Mesirows. I will continue the story of Jacob and the Levitons  returning to Odessa as it finally shows a picture of these interrelated families before they came to America.

Sophie died in 1941, age 66, and her daughter, who married and moved to California, died two years later, in 1943. There is a Jacob Leviton who died in California, in 1932, age 55, about the correct age, but it is not an uncommon name. Alice married Robert Simonoff in 1939 in Los Angeles and had a daughter Harriet in 1940. Alice died in 1943. Robert remarried and died in 1995.

When I realised that the two brothers on the 1906 ship from Odessa were the sons of Isaac, it became clear that Gershon, the 24-year-old dentist, became George, who in 1910 was married, working as a dental technician and living near Wicker Park on a main street, Milwaukee Avenue.

Milwaukee Ave near Wicker Park

He was the one brother who left Chicago and became a businessman in Indiana and later California. He and his wife lost two children while they were in Chicago, one Bella at just over one year old. They had two more daughters in Indiana.

Motel was a student at 19, so might have been studying for a profession. There is a Morton Isaac Levitan, an architect born in 1889, who emigrated in 1906. I finally found the Isaac Leviton family on a 1910 census (the last name had not been understood properly) with all the family and their emigration dates. The parents had arrived in 1906 with the youngest son Morton, although he was listed (Motel) with his aunt, Golda. Max, with no profession listed, and Henry, a doctor, had arrived in 1904 and the eldest brother, Harry, a cigar maker, had arrived in 1905. The father was working in real estate. Morton became an architect but does not appear in the records except for his naturalisation form and his World War I registration, where he states that he is an architect and is living at the family home.

Max became a doctor, like his brother Henry. He married Anna Livshis in 1912 and in 1920 he and Anna were living with her parents and their two children, Lawrence and Alice. Anna died in 1930 when their children were 15 and 12. None of the family is on the 1930 census. In 1940, their son Lawrence, 25, is working as a resident physician at a maternity hospital. I found a 2003 obituary for him. He was an Army medic during the war and then became a paediatrician, moving to Florida in the 1950s. He was particularly interested in child mental health. His sister, Alice, became a librarian and never married, but I found her, in 1946, aged 28, on a ship back from France. I wondered why she might have been by herself in France right after the war, and somehow the word Nuremberg came into my mind. I seem to have decided this family did not always take the easy route. I studied the manifest more closely. At the top of the document it said ‘War Department Civilians – American Red Cross, so my instinct was correct and she was doing war work.

The Levitons were the first family I have investigated where many of the younger generation went into professions, either in Odessa or later in America. Most seemed to have no problem picking up with their education, training or finding jobs. In Isaac’s family, who had only arrived in America between 1904 and 1906, there were two doctors, a dentist, an architect and a lawyer among the many sons. An older son Philip first became a bookkeeper and then studied law. Another son, Harry, became a millinery manufacturer, and Jacob was an insurance salesman. David Leviton, also from Odessa, who had arrived first in Chicago in 1893, had three sons, a doctor and two pharmacists. Two of David’s sons, the pharmacists, Samuel and John, worked together and lived in the same building. Although the Leviton family were all living in Odessa, many put their town of birth as Kiev or Pereyaslav, as had Harry Welcher.

Kiev and Pereyaslav 1893

Possibly this large extended family had such resilience because they stayed together, worked together and helped each other, both through their professions and other ways. All of their naturalisation forms were signed by a brother and a lawyer in the family, Nathan Schoenbrod.

Dr Henry Isaac Leviton naturalisation form

There were quite a few early deaths in the family of husbands, wives and infants. When there was only one spouse, he or she seems to have been able to keep the family together and look after the children. Sarah Kaminsky died at 45, Abraham Kaminsky at 55, Martin Leviton at 46, Harry Leviton at 56, Jacob Leviton possibly at 55, Alice Welcher at 32, Harry Welcher at 54, Rose Mesirow at 59, and Henry Leviton, at 55. Interestingly, it was the two families who arrived after the pogrom, the children of Isaac and Aaron, whose children most often died in their 40s or 50s. David, who possibly came out of choice rather than from necessity or fear, and whose children were younger when they came, mostly lived into their 70s and 80s and one of the daughters lived to over 90.

Moishe, who died in the pogrom, age 26, born in 1879, was probably the son of Isaac or Aaron, who emigrated after the pogrom, and as Isaac was the younger and had seven sons born in the 1880s, Moishe was most likely the son of Aaron, who only seems to have had one son, Jacob, born in 1875 or 1877, a few years before Moishe. Just as I was finishing this post, I made one more search for Jacob on Google and discovered a family tree of the Aaron Leviton family and a new branch of the family. This family tree included Aaron and Goldie, Rose Mesirow, Sophie Welcher and another sister, Shifra Pines (age 39, born 1868), who came to Chicago in 1907 with her four teenage children to meet her husband Jacob who was staying with the Harry Welcher. In 1910 the Pines family was living on Evergreen Avenue next to Isaac Leviton and the sons were working in cigar making like the Welchers. Another example of this tightknit family. The Pines were from Ekaterinoslav, which is south of Pereyaslav and near to where Aaron was born at Bassan.  Shifra, the eldest in the family, was born at Ekaterinoslav, possibly where the Levitons originally lived, before they moved to Pereyaslav, Kiev and then Odessa, and she either remained there or returned when she married. Jacob Aaron does not appear on this Leviton family tree; nor does Moishe.

In the next post, I will look a little closer at Jacob’s life, as for some reason he returned to Odessa and, unlike the rest of the family, lived in New York for some years, although he never seemed to have settled down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ulitsa Gospitalnaya (улица Госпитальная) or Hospital Street

When I was writing about Malaya Arnautskaya, the Weitzmans and anti-semitism, I puzzled over the problems I had finding the street at the beginning of Malaya Arnautskaya running parallel to the coast, called Belinskaya on several websites, until I finally discovered that it was called Leontovicha on modern maps. Then I realised that possibly people carry on using the old names if they prefer them. And I wondered about other name changes in the streets of Odessa which I had noticed on various maps and whether any had been influenced by the 1905 pogrom, for instance the central street Evreiskaya or Hebrew Street. This was changed in 1908 to Skobelevskoi or Skobeleva (Скобелева). Another street in central Moldavanka where many families in the pogrom death records lived, and in the area investigated by the police, was Ulitsa Gospitalnaya or Hospital Street, the street of the Jewish Hospital. It is now Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street (Богдана Хмельницкого). This was also the street with the highest population density in Odessa at that time.

Gospitalnaya 45

Gospitalnaya 7

The first Jewish Hospital was set up in 1802, only a few years after the start of building of the new port of Odessa designed by Catherine the Great, which previously had been mainly a Tatar fort and small fishing port. Before that  there had been a Jewish society for visiting patients called Bikur Holim. In 1829 the hospital purchased a house on the corner of Gospitalnaya and Myasoedovskaya which had 60 beds and one doctor. A new building, the building still in use, was built in 1865.

The Jewish Hospital building

Jewish Hospital doctors 1898

The hospital was closely connected with Jewish life in Odessa. In 1905, the courtyard of the hospital was turned into a camp for the many displaced families whose homes were destroyed. They were provided with free food and medical care. In the highly populated area of Hospital Street, when the police were brought in to quell the pogrom riots, there was a battle between the police and the Jewish defence group where 11 were brutally killed. https://evreimir.com/9198/

Gospitalnaya 1904 (lower left, third street from bottom, upside down with hospital marked) http://www.retromap.ru/show_pid.php?pid=g4039

The name Gospitalnaya or Hospital Street remained from the early 19th century until 1911, when there was a 50th anniversary celebration of the liberation of the peasants from serfdom. Gospitalnaya became 19 February 1861 Street, a name which never took hold, as happened with many of the multiple street name changes over the years. And strangely the name kept ricocheting back and forth between 19 February and Hospital Street. It is interesting to think why this one small street should have been chosen to have its name changed at that time. Did they want to change the Jewish identity of this street?

Odessa 1914 Baedeker 19 February 1861 St

https://archive.org/details/russiawithtehera00karl

This is a rare map in English from the 1914 Russian Baedeker on the eve of World War I and coming revolution. Interestingly, it is also a rare map that does not indicate the Jewish Hospital on 19 February 1861 St or the Jewish cemetery just below the Old Cemetery. It does however mention the Plague Cemetery, which I had not noticed before which is called Plague Hill (Чума Гора) on Russian maps.

 

19 February Street map from 1919

https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/Одесская_ эвакуация_(1919)

In this 1919 map, just after the revolution, the individual buildings of the Jewish Hospital are clearly drawn as are the Jewish Cemetery, Old Cemetery and Plague Hill. A map from 1924 was made for the purpose of showing the name changes that followed the revolution. Many of the centre streets have been given names like Lenin and Karl Marx Street and the old history of multicultural Odessa with its Hebrew and Greek Street has been wiped away. Hospital Street has regained its name and 19 February has been written in brackets.

Gospitalnaya (19 Fevralya) map from 1924 http://kraeved.od.ua/map/odessa.php

By 1931 there were more name changes and changes of spelling. The street that crossed Gospitalnaya at the corner of the hospital, Myasoedovskaya, had now become Sholom Aleichem Street. What was Gospitalnaya is difficult to read because the first letter is on a fold of the discoloured map, but the name seems to be лютого, which I discovered is Ukrainian for February, so it has reverted to 19 February Street.

1931 map  http://www.retromap.ru/show_pid.php?pid=g4026

By 1947, the street is again Gospitalnaya. At some point after 1947 there was one more change which has lasted until today. The first appearance I have is a map from 1962 with the name Bohdan Khmelnytsky Street. Bohdan Khmelnytsky was the leader of a Cossack rebellion against the Poles in 1648. He united Ukraine and was considered a saviour but also tried to rid the area of Jews, killing tens of thousands and destroying their towns. That this famous figure in Ukrainian history, who caused possibly the greatest massacre of Jews before the Holocaust, should be used as a name for what had been called Hospital Street after the Jewish Hospital, in the heart of Jewish Moldavanka, seems quite horrific. It may have been a way of clearly stating that finally the Holocaust had completed what Bohdan Khmelnytsky had wanted to accomplish, as there were no longer enough Jews in Moldavanka to resist the name change.

As I was looking at these maps I did not recognise the name Bohdan Khmelnytsky until I looked him up and realised that I had once read about the Cossack uprising of 1648. At the base of my 1812 family tree is the very famous Jewish Rabbi David ben Samuel Halevi (1586-1667), an ancestor most people wanted to have on their family tree, especially a rabbinical family like mine, although it appears this was often only wishful thinking. On my tree, above the name of the great Rabbi is his son, Shmoul, then his son, Shimson, and then Rabbi Shlomo, the son of Yehiel, unrelated and obviously my ancestor who came from northern Ukraine like David Halevi. And to complicate matters further, the translator wrote ‘son of Shmoul’ below David Halevi but in a diagram at the end indicates that Shmoul is the son of David. It is, however, easiest to read a family tree as one generation following another, whatever the names, and my family believed that the famous rabbi was their ancestor. One sees what one wants to see until suddenly the lack of continuity pops out at you and the fantasy dissolves. Possibly none of the first three names on the tree are related or could they be?

Stem of my family tree with my variation on a 1990s translation

In the meantime I had read about the life of David ben Samuel who built a majestic synagogue in the small northern Ukrainian town of Ostrog, Volhynia. He was rabbi there for many years until he was forced to flee from the massacres of Khmelnytsky and the Cossacks.

David ben Samuel Halevi

Ostrog Synagogue

Another name that comes up when searching Hospital Street is Isaac Babel, whose well-known Odessa stories took place in that area of Moldavanka at the time of the 1905 pogrom. It is also thought that one of the models for his bandit, Benya Krik, was a gangster who lived on Hospital Street. But that will be in the next post, as I will probably want to puzzle over Babel’s relationship with Moldavanka and the 1905 pogrom… and the mysteries of his life in general.

 

 

The Mesonzhnik family: from Odessa to Arpin, Wisconsin

Slowly working alphabetically, backwards, through the death records, I had reached M, which I put into the Steve Morse Ellis Island search, with the residence Odessa and the years 1905-1908. I could then look through names whose spelling seemed similar to a name on the list, and also look out for children travelling alone, or mothers with many young children who might be travelling to meet their husband or might be widows joining another relation in America. One of these mothers was 30-year-old Feige Mesonschnik (Mesonzhnik or Месонщник) with four children under 5 – Simoche 5, Momzi 4, Moische 2 and Chaim 1 – travelling from Rotterdam on 19 June 1906. She was travelling to her husband, and I would not have continued researching this family except that I was intrigued by where they were going – an isolated settlement called Arpin, Wisconsin. And her husband had changed his name to Finkelstein. J.W. Finkelstein. How did a family from Odessa come to be travelling to Arpin, Wisconsin? Were they joining relations called Finkelstein?

Feige Mesonschnik SS Noordam, Rotterdam 19 June 1906

When I first began to research this family, I could only find a Jacob and Fanny Finkelstein of the correct age with three children of similar ages and names, Celia, Morris and Hyman, living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1910. The second child must have died and the middle child, Morris, seems to have taken the age of his older brother, being 8 instead of 6. Hyman, who must have been born around the time of the pogrom, is 5. On the 1910 census, there are spaces for the number of children born and the number alive. Every family on the page has listed how many children they had had except the Finkelsteins who left the spaces blank. Possibly their son had recently died. In the next census, Celia is working in a department store, Morris is studying medicine, and Hyman is working at a bookbinders. On the 1930 census, only Hyman, 25, is living at home with his parents and is working as a barber. In 1940, the parents are living alone although they put the absent Hyman, 35, as still living in their home. He appears on the census at the Milwaukee County Asylum and all the inmates on this page have been in the asylum for the past five years.

Milwaukee County Asylum

Although the censuses have different immigration dates on each one, 1905/6 in 1910 and 1907/9 in 1920, Jacob had gone to America a year or so before the rest of the family, so I tried to find him on the Ellis Island website and eventually found a Jankiel Mesaznik, age 30, an Odessa tailor, travelling from Trieste in October 1904. He was travelling with a friend from Odessa to the friend’s sister in Hoboken, New Jersey. Nine months after he left Odessa, his wife had Chaim (Hyman), in the summer of 1905, and she and the children left a year later for America. In the meantime, Jacob had gone to Wisconsin.

It was not until the second time I tried searching for the family that I discovered that Arpin had been a logging settlement on the new railway through Wisconsin in the late 1800s. Once the logging work was finished and the company moved on, there was an empty group of houses, shop and school. The New York Industrial Removal Office was trying to relocate Jewish immigrants outside New York City and Milwaukee was one of its first bases in the west. A rich German Jewish merchant and philanthropist, Adolph Rich, bought 700 acres north of Arpin, in the hopes of setting up a Jewish agricultural colony, which might become a magnet for Jewish immigrants in the west, a homeland for the Jews.

Arpin, Wisconsin 1920

In 1904, Rich arranged for 5 families, and then another two, to occupy the empty houses of Arpin, and begin to work 40 acres of land each. By 1906 the families were working 10 acres of land each. In an article by Louis Swichkow, The Jewish agricultural colony of Arpin, Wisconsin, Jacob Finkelstein is mentioned as one of the first group of seven families – Manny, Zefania and Jacob Cohen, Louis and Gedalia Smoller, Jacob Finkelstein, I. Classel, Samuel Pittelman, Sholem Antonovsky, and J. Weinberg.

The Pittelmans Arpin Colony 1909

The map below from 1928 shows all the owners of the lands around Arpin but none of the above. Most look German with some Scandinavian but there are none that look Russian and only one that is most likely Jewish, Jacobs.

Arpin 1928

Actually Jacob first appeared in the Wisconsin records in the 1905 census when he was boarding with a farming family in Saratoga, Wisconsin, next to another farmer called Sam Finkelstein, a widower with four children, who had immigrated to America in the early 1880s from Russia.

Wood County, Wisconsin, Arpin upper centre, Saratoga bottom right

I eventually came upon a newspaper headline about the murder of Sam Finkelstein’s wife Ida (called Rebecca in the article) in March 1905 by a Russian lodger in their house who felt he had been cheated by Sam into buying land that was not as it has been described to him. Sam, who, according to the newspaper, had previously been living at Arpin, had worked for a real estate agent in Chicago selling land to Jewish settlers, so possibly was setting up a similar type of colony at Saratoga. The lodger tried to plead insanity but was given life in prison. The trial was written up in great detail including a list of the jurors as if trial by jury was new in these western territories.

Sam, also known as Simon, married again in 1906 to a woman from Arpin, Sarah Robinowich, and possibly joined her in Arpin along with Jacob Finkelstein.

Sam, who had come to America in 1885 when he was 17, had previously been married to a Russian woman called Mary Quater and they had had 6 children in Chicago and Indiana. On the 1900 census, Sam was living with Ida in California Township, Starke County, Indiana, close to Chicago, and had had a seventh child, Samuel. One wonders whether Sam came to America with family, with a group of Russian colonists, or whether he was a lone pioneer.

California Township, Indiana

Bathers at Bass Lake (Cedar Lake) Indiana, 1900

The only discrepancy on the census is that although it says Ida has had one child, it also says that Sam and Ida have been married for 18 years. By 1905 they had a second child Morris. Sam next appears on the 1910 census as Simon with his wife Sarah in Milwaukee. They are living with the two youngest children, Simon (Sam) and Morris , who are 10 and 8. Both Simon and Sarah say they have been married once before, and Sarah apparently had two children no longer alive. She does not appear on the 1905 census so possibly had not been in America for long. She may have had as tragic a story as Simon.

Simon and Sarah do not appear on the 1920 census but in 1930 they are living together without any children. There are marriage records for Simon’s oldest son, Barney, who moved out to Portland, Oregon, and also his daughter Sadie, who, having been widowed, married again in Los Angeles in 1948. She died in California in 1956. On a Wisconsin Jewish burial database there is a Sam and a Samuel Finkelstein, one who died in 1917 and one in 1923. Possibly one of these is Simon and Ida’s son. On the 1940 census, Simon is 80 and in a chronic diseases hospital in Milwaukee on the same site as the asylum Hyman was in. Simon is a widower and has been there over five years. He died that year and is the only one in the story I found a gravestone for. It is hard to know what the man who was widowed three times and had at least eight children and may have deceived the man who killed his wife, was like, but at least one of his children probably remembered him with a marble gravestone. There seems to be no trace of Mary Quater, Ida Silberg, or Sarah Robinowich.

Once Jacob was settled in the Arpin colony, he must have sent for his wife from Odessa. They did not remain long in Arpin as by 1910 they were living in Milwaukee. Several families left Arpin, although a core remained until the 1920s. As there was no secondary school in the area, several families drifted to cities for their children’s education. Both Jacob and Simon were farmers in Saratoga, and in Milwaukee they both did manual jobs of different kinds. Jacob was a machine hand, a labourer for a cement block company, a fish peddler, and both men were watchmen at one point, one for a scrapyard and one for a tannery.

Jacob and Fanny lost one of their children and then, sometime after 1930, Hyman was admitted to the Milwaukee County Asylum, in Wauwatosa, just west of Milwaukee. Conditions were probably quite basic in asylums in the 1930s, and there were bound to be unpleasant and difficult experiences, so no parent would want their child admitted unless they could not cope with them at home. Several children born around the time of the Odessa pogrom found themselves with a similar fate. One might have thought it would have been the 2 or 3-year-old who suffered most during that period, but it was the babies or even those born just after the pogrom whose mothers were in such difficult situations they could not give them the attention they needed in those first months and years. Feige was alone in Odessa with four small children aged from a few months to 4 years old in the midst of the pogrom and then preparing to travel to Wisconsin – across Europe, across the Atlantic and then across America. And when she arrived, she would have found herself in the middle of nowhere, Arpin, Wisconsin, alone in a flat empty land, with a handful of other, probably older, Jewish families. Possibly I stuck with this story because my grandmother also had a child in 1905 just before they emigrated from Russia, who drowned when he was 23, his life and the cause of his death remaining a mystery.

The only record I found at first for Jacob and Fanny’s other two children was a Chicago birth record for Morris’ son Samuel, born in 1924, when Morris was 22. His wife was Minnie Perlman, and strangely there were a couple of other Morris Finkelsteins, born at different times, married to women with variations on the name Minnie Perlman having children in Chicago at that time. But this Morris was born in Odessa in 1902. Morris had been studying medicine when he was 18 but no more records appear for him so he may have done something completely different or possibly died young. One Russian Jewish Minnie Perlman of the right age that I found in the records as a child in Chicago belonged to a family of travelling actors which was unusual.

I had not looked for Morris’ sister, Celia, because without marriage records it is difficult to trace women, but as she also moved to Chicago, her maiden name appears in the birth records of her children, and she had become Celia Sachs. Her husband, Abraham, was 10 years older and had come to Chicago as a baby around 1890. He had first worked selling shoes and later had a sporting goods shop followed by a furniture repair shop. They had three children. Abraham lived until 1980, 90 years old, and Celia until 1991 when she was 91. At some point they had retired to 1020 W. Laurence Avenue in uptown Chicago, an art deco apartment block which had been built in the 1920s as luxury hotel apartments with a swimming pool, a long way for Celia from 1905 Odessa and her parents’ new start in the Wisconsin wilderness.

1020 W. Lawrence Avenue, Chicago

How much Celia, who was 5 when she left Russia, remembered the name  Mesonzhnik, her early childhood in Odessa and the trip to America, the death of one brother, and the background to Hyman’s move to the asylum, and whether she passed any of it on to her children… and if she did, whether they kept it to themselves…. who knows?

 

 

 

 

 

From Odessa to North Dakota

Shneer Motev Chersonsky (Херсонский, Khersonsky) from Tiraspol, was 32 when he died in the Odessa pogrom. Yankel Chersonsky, 29, who sailed from Rotterdam to New York in May 1907, with his wife, Leah, and their one-year-old daughter, Maria, may have been his brother. An M. Chersonsky owned a house on the outskirts of Perecyp, near Soldatskaya Slobodka, partially shown on the far left centre of the map.

slobodka-baltovka

I followed this family because they were on their way to Leah’s brother, Chaim Skadron, in Anamoose, North Dakota, and I was intrigued by a family travelling to the emptiness of North Dakota and a settlement named after a moose.

anamoose-welcome

I discovered that North Dakota had been settled mainly by Russian Germans, Germans who had been encouraged by the Russians after they took over Ukraine, in the late 18th century to settle in and cultivate the huge empty areas of the steppe in the southern Ukraine, bringing much needed up-to-date knowledge of farming to the area. In the early 1800s, Jews were also encouraged with the promise of free land to leave the overcrowded towns of Belarus and farm in colonies in southern Ukraine. This was intended to also give the Jews a more productive occupation than peddling and being middleman, having never been allowed to own land previously, although Jews often managed farms and estates for Russian landowners. Many of these colonies sprang up from the mid-1800s and several people in the pogrom death records came from agricultural colonies: two Grinbergs from the Novo-Podolsk colony in Ekaterinoslav Gubernia, Balanovsky from the Gelbinovoi Kamenets colony in Podolsk Gubernia, two Borsch brothers from the Bogachevka colony in the Balta region, and a nine-year-old boy, Ber Duvid Bosakov, son of a farmer from the Abazovka colony in the Balta region. There is quite a lot of online information about the Jewish agricultural colonies in Ukraine on the following websites.

http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/colonies_of_ukrain/Chaim’s%20Introduction.htm

http://evkol.ucoz.com/colony_kherson_en.htm

Several of the colonies can be found on this 1902 Balta map to the east of Balta at the bottom of the map.

http://easteurotopo.org/images/new%20rmt-126_2014/XXVII-8_s126_Balta_LC_1902.jpg

abazovka-colony-balta

Abazovka Colony, Balta

gelbinova-colony-balta

Gelbinova Colony, Balta

Many of the colonies were not successful because the government promises of help with housing and equipment did not materialise and there were high rates of illness and death. But many of these colonies were begun and some lasted until the Second World War. On this map the Jewish colonies are specifically labelled but there are also many places where Kol is written so there may have been many tiny colonies as well, whether Jewish or not. The idea of agricultural colonies was taken up by Zionists and others thinking about Jews settling in countries where they could have the equal rights of full citizens which had not been true in Russia but was gradually occurring in other nation states. The idea of Jews finding a new home, whether in Palestine or elsewhere, came to a head after the 1881 pogroms and small groups from southern Russia set off to form socialist agricultural colonies in Palestine, Canada, America and Argentina. The first two agricultural colonies in the US, in Louisiana and South Dakota, were organised by Herman Rosenthal, who also wrote a 1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia which is online, with chapters on agricultural colonies in Russia and in the US.

1906 Jewish Encyclopaedia 1906 by Herman Rosenthal

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/908-agricultural-colonies-in-russia

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/909-agricultural-colonies-in-the-united-states

Many of these colonies did not succeed for similar reasons to the colonies in Ukraine – lack of proper management, falling through of government or charity promises, lack of knowledge of farming, inappropriate land, mounting debts for equipment and materials – but a few were successful and carried on for some years and some settlers would remain in the area either farming or as shopkeepers. Often it was disagreements, different philosophies, and breaking into factions that led to the death of colonies.

Two of my great uncles were part of the first groups to set up colonies in the US in 1881 and 1882. One went from Odessa to New Odessa in Portland, Oregon in 1882, and this colony possibly deserves its own entry. Several members of this family eventually helped set up a colony in New Jersey, where there were many early experimental colonies, which lasted until the 1950s. The other was part of the first colony in America in Sicily Island Louisiana, an almost uninhabited piece of wetland along the Mississippi River, which was not an ideal place for Russians used to a northern climate to settle. There were very few locals to help with appropriate farming methods and after a malaria outbreak and a severe flood, the colony disbanded, and many moved north to South Dakota, then still called Dakota Territory, near a town called Mitchell. There were also several colonies in North Dakota, the most successful one called Painted Woods.

mitchell-main-street-1880s

Mitchell Main Street 1880s

 The South Dakota colony, called Cremieux, was near a tiny settlement called Mount Vernon. The land was divided into squares called townships bounded by numbered streets. My great uncle, Joseph Petrikovsky, a socialist journalist, took part in both the Louisiana and South Dakota colonies, and wrote about them in the Russian Jewish press and as stories. In a semi-fictionalised story for an English newspaper he describes his party of four Russian merchant families and a dozen single male students on a four-day train journey to South Dakota.

Most of Mitchell’s 1000 population is at the depo waiting to see the foreigners. The town consists of 200 wooden cottages, a couple of two-storey hotels, a few boarding houses, lumber yards, three drugstores, a few country stores, three newspaper printing offices, a school, a photographer, three churches, four banks, and several land offices. All the 168-acre homestead claims were taken in south-west Aurora County, 22 miles from Mitchell and 17 from Mount Vernon, the little town with a railroad station.

By the end of two months, my great uncle had his own little cabin and was surrounded by new houses, barns, artesian wells, cattle and fields growing with corn, flax, oats and sorghum. According to a local newspaper, the leader of the colony, Herman Rosenthal, had a 1000 acre farm and an eight room house which was also used for schooling the children. In the winter, the Russians had musical gatherings which were popular with the locals.

cremieux-map

Cremieux colony

The area does not look like it has changed much since the time of the Cremieux Colony in the 1880s.

baker-township-262-street-x-394-avenue

Baker Township (Google streetview)

As Russian Jewish immigration increased after 1881, Jewish charities in the big cities began to encourage immigrants to become settlers in the West and they set up programs and networks to help accomplish this. The New York Removal Office, which helped find apprenticeships in towns across the country for Jewish orphans, was attempting this. But it seems that the Skadron and Chersonsky families chose their own route to North Dakota. In 1902, Shulim, 45, and Chaim Skadron, 25, from Kherson, travelled with a large family called Hirsch, Russian Germans, also from Kherson, who were travelling to relations in Harvey, North Dakota, a settlement very close to Anamoose. Two other Russian German teenagers, Friedrich Wohl and Christian Engel were travelling with them and had family in and around Anamoose and remained as farmers in the area.

Soo Line Depot and Elevator 1928 http://www.anamoose.com/images/Soo%20Line%20Depot%20and%20Elevator%201928.jpg

anamoose-north-dakota-2Anamoose, North Dakota

petes-tractor

Shulim and Chaim do not appear again in the census records but Salomon Skadron, his wife, eldest son and family, and several younger sons, are on the 1910 census, along with the Chersonsky family, farming in Alexander in McKenzie County, further west in North Dakota.

alexander-north-dakota

Solomon and Chaim, his eldest son or brother, may have gone to North Dakota to settle in before Solomon’s wife and family arrived. The only discrepancy between Solomon and Shulim is that Solomon says that he emigrated in 1907 rather than 1902. There is no trace of Chaim, the brother Leah was joining in Anamoose. The Chersonskys, later Cersonsky, went on to have five more children, and eventually the elder Skadrons and Chersonskys moved to a nearby town, Williston, and became shopkeepers.

A diary by a Jewish settler to Anamoose, who came from the Odessa area to America in 1905, Charles Losk, is in the North Dakota archives and presents a picture very similar to the Chersonsky and Skadron family experience (http://www.prairiepublic.org/radio/radio-programs-a-z/plains-folk?post=60250). They proved up homesteads which involved farming them for five years, married Jewish women from nearby towns, and eventually moved to nearby towns like Williston and Watford City. Another brother, Moses Losk, is on the 1915 North Dakota census with Sam Skadron and his family in McKenzie County, but that census only enumerates people without addresses or occupations. By 1920, Sam was a butcher in a nearby small town on the Missouri River, Sanish, and Moses had a dry goods store in Watford city.

The younger Cersonsky generation were scattered in the area, mostly in small towns. The father, Jake, died in 1931 at only 51. Two of the children died young, Kathryn at 18 in 1934, and Mayer at 33 in 1944.

kathryn-cersonsky-1916-1934-minot-ward-north-dakota

Miriam, the eldest, born in 1905 in Odessa, was the only one to remain in North Dakota where she died the same year as her husband, 1973, and was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Minot, North Dakota. The others gravitated to other Western states, Colorado and Texas, and produced a long line of farmers, business people, doctors and lawyers. They probably all knew of their Russian ancestors, Jacob and Leah, who courageously, with a small child, followed relations to take up homesteads in North Dakota, but they probably do not know what propelled them to leave Russia, the 1905 Odessa pogrom, and the death of a relation, just as they were beginning out in life.

Maps of Eastern Europe

In the course of my search for the people listed in the Odessa pogrom death records, I have looked up many of the towns which were the birthplaces of those in the records, many of which were very difficult to find either because the spelling or name has changed. Often there were many variations over the years depending on whether the Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish or Polish name was used. JewishGen has a town-finder database which lists many different names and spellings for towns throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. But still not every village or every spelling is covered. Another way to find the old names in the records are on old maps. Old maps of Odessa are useful for finding original street names and small villages around Odessa, but most of the people in the death records came from all over Ukraine, Bessarabia, Moldova and some as far north as what is now Belarus or Lithuania. Most of the oldest maps are lacking in detail, but from the late 19th century there are some incredibly detailed maps which seemed to get down to the level of individual trees. I would not have been surprised by individual blades of grass.

berdichev-outskirts-1909

Berdichev outskirts 1909

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/view/view.php?map=s84index&section=Berdichev

berdichev-street

gorodishche-very-close-up-1930

Gorodishche near Baranovichi (west of Minsk) 1930

http://www.mapywig.org/m/WIG_maps/series/025K/P35-S42-H_HORODYSZCZE_WSCHOD_1930.jpg

Old maps, either written in Russian or Polish, can be very helpful in finding small towns whose names, size or importance have changed dramatically over time. Towns that were once important Jewish centres of learning and commerce may have declined if they were not near railways as rivers were no longer so crucial for trade. My great grandparents were rabbis in the small town of Gorodishche (above) near Novogrudok in Belarus, which had been a thriving town, but almost ceased to exist when the main railway from Moscow to Warsaw came a few miles to the south and the town of Baranovichi was built. It is only by looking at earlier maps that one can discover that what are now tiny towns were once important centres. The same great grandparents originally came from what is now a village near Pinsk, Lubeshov, in a marshy area of northern Ukraine, well supplied with rivers and now a national park. On old maps it is quite a prominent town. The 1837  map below shows both Gorodishche south of Novogrudok and much further south, Lubeshov south of Pinsk.

minsk-pinsk-1837

Minsk to Pinsk 1837

lubeshov-close-up-1929

Lyubeshov and surrounding marshes 1929

The 1837 map below shows many of the small towns and villages that the people in the Odessa pogrom death records originated from. Although many Jews had a hometown where their family had lived for generations, probably an equal number travelled from place to place whenever they heard of new jobs and opportunities.

odessa-area-1873

Odessa and its surroundings 1837

Listed below are the websites mentioned above of maps of Eastern Europe (although the David Rumsey collection is worldwide, including some brilliant very detailed maps of New York City from the late 1800s into the 1900s by G W Bromley.

bromley-map-1899-plate-25-clinton-street

Bromley New York City map 1899 E. Houston Street and Clinton Street

There are also two websites with historical maps of Odessa.

1837 map of Eastern Europe (close-up maps of Minsk area and Odessa area)

http://easteurotopo.org/images/regional%20maps%20of%20eastern%20europe/European%20Russia/Kriegsstrassen%20Karte%20eines%20Theiles%20von%20Russland_1837.jpg

Topographic maps of Eastern Europe – many from US Library of Congress and David Rumsey maps

http://easteurotopo.org/maps/  and links to other map sites

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/s84/alphabetical/ index of towns

Karte des westlichen Russlands (KdwR) Prussian military map 1917

includes Pinsk, Lubeshov etc in German

http://easteurotopo.org/indices/kdwr/

David Rumsey map collection

http://www.davidrumsey.com/luna/servlet/view/search?QuickSearchA=QuickSearchA&q=+Russia&sort=pub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_list_no_initialsort%2Cpub_date&search=Search search page for Russian maps

Maps of Poland

http://igrek.amzp.pl/mapindex.php?cat=WIG25

close-up 1920s to 1930 maps of certain areas of western Russia which comes from this Polish website http://polski.mapywig.org/viewpage.php?page_id=29

Polish Jewish shtetls

http://www.sztetl.org.pl/en/selectcity/  includes those in western Russia

Historical maps of Odessa

http://www.citymap.odessa.ua/?30

http://www.retromap.ru/show_pid.php?pid=g4032