My Dad and his brothers knew that their Aunt Verva had died in a fire, and that her children had come to live with their grandparents, but knew little more than that. However, I've always been very interested in the circumstances of her death. And whatever did happen to her husband?
The accident that claimed the life of Verva Leslie Simpson Lutz was horrible but straight-forward. She died in February 1923 at the age of 31, attempting to start a fire with gasoline.
This type of accident was not unheard of in 1923. Homemakers sometimes used gasoline and kerosene to start fires in their stoves or to burn garbage in the yard, and clothing was far more flammable than today. In that year, 4,491 people in the United States died due to burns, 6% of all accidental deaths. However, almost 70% of those victims were children under 10 years of age. Verva was only 1 of 230 women in the United States, age 30 to 39, to die of an accidental burn or scald, which was not the result of a conflagration.
In 1913, Verva had married Charles Robert Lutz, five feet, six inches tall, a medium build, with grey eyes and black hair. The only son of Robert and Elizabeth Lutz, he had four sisters, three older, and one much younger. His parents were from Pennsylvania; his father a carpenter, his grandfather a brick mason. Charles' mother would die only two years after his marriage, in 1915. Her obituary praised her for being a respected woman of faith. His father soon remarried and he and his wife would move west, first to Colorado, and then to Oregon.
After Verva and Charles married, they moved to Dundee, Minnesota, where their first two children born: Robert Simpson in 1914, and Elnora Alta Mae in 1915. They then moved about Nebraska at least a few times, as Charles sought jobs as a mechanic in places such as lumber yards. They had four more children: Eloise Jeanette in 1917, twins Meredith Charles and Mary Beth in 1921, and Constance June in 1922.
After Verva's tragic death in 1923, her parents, Thomas and Emma Simpson, would take all the children back to Saskatchewan. Whether they insisted, or Charles requested, is unknown. However, we do know that Charles very soon moved out to California and that he would never return for them.
Four years later, in 1927, Charles married 34-year-old Marie Etta Hibbs, née Payne, a widow with three daughters, age 14 to 19. He would claim it was his first marriage. Charles and Marie would rent a residence in a suburb of Los Angeles, California, where Charles worked as an auto helper mechanic.
They were married for about eight years, but tragedy would strike again. On August 6, 1935, Marie was canning fruit, which involved sealing the jars with hot wax. The pan of wax on the stove caught fire, and then Marie caught fire. She very soon died of her burns. Present at the accident was Mrs. Frances Horton, who extinguished the fire.
Frances Horton was born Florence Elizabeth Lutz in 1899 and was the much younger sister of Charles Lutz. After their mother had died in 1915, Florence lived in Nebraska for at least two more years. In an unknown order, she changed her name to Frances, moved to California, and married Frank Manning sometime before 1930. That marriage apparently did not last because she married Roy Hugh Horton in 1932.
Roy was tall and lean, standing 6-feet, with blue eyes. He had been born in Arkansas but had grown up in Arizona, where he had a criminal record for theft, having helped himself to a supply of batteries. After serving his sentence, Roy married and had three children. However, only a few years later, he and his wife divorced, and he relocated to California, where he worked as a truck driver. In 1934, he was found guilty of not providing child support.
Almost 11 months after Marie Lutz died, on July 2, 1936, Charles Lutz and Roy Horton picked up Frances from a beauty salon shortly before noon. Frances squeezed into the front seat and sat next to the front passenger door, while her husband, the biggest person in the car, sat in the middle. Moments later, to avoid a machine backing away from the curb, Charles abruptly swerved the car. The passenger door flew open, and Frances pitched from the vehicle, striking her head on the pavement. She died of a fractured skull. An obvious accident, there was no inquest.
Each of these three deaths, as they were reported, appeared to be only an accidents. And yet, Charles had three women in his life die horribly, which is a disturbing trend.
I found it odd that Charles would vanish after Verva died. When he remarried, he claimed it was his first marriage, but Frances certainly knew it wasn't. Then his 2nd wife also died of burns, only witnessed by his sister, according to reports. Dying of accidental burns was not unheard of but was still very uncommon. Having two wives die of being accidentally set ablaze would be more rare than being struck by lightning.
Then Frances died in an accident. As described, it's preposterous that could be homicide. Intentionally flinging someone from a car at noon on a busy city street as method of murder would appear to have a low chance of success. However, its part of an exceedingly unfortunate, or disturbing, pattern.
Charles Lutz would remarry in 1937 to Margaret Cain, a widow with several grown children. After working over two decades as a mechanic, Charles would change careers and become a plumber. He and Margaret owned a single-family home in 1940, but only two years later they had moved into a more expensive neighbourhood a few blocks away. A few years after that, they moved to another pleasant house on a quieter street. Charles, 65, and Margaret, 72, died within a few months of each other in 1956.
All six of Charles' and Verva's children appear on the 1926 Canada Prairie Census with Thomas and Emma. Sadly, Emma died in 1932, when the children were still only age 10 to 18, but their aunts still lived nearby. I'm not certain what became of most of the Lutz children, only being able to find twins Meredith and Mary Beth.
According to his granddaughter, Meredith attempted to join the Canadian Air Force during World War II, but they found that he was not a Canadian citizen and deported him. He instead joined the U.S. Army. After the war, he lived briefly with his Uncle Everett in Roseville, California, but he soon moved east to Michigan, where he married Esther Gale and raised a family. He died in 1992.
Mary Beth moved to Saskatoon, where she married Alexander Crerar in later life. She died in 1984.
I've been looking a bit more into the Davis families in Leeds and Grenville Counties, Canada West. In my tree, I added Ralph Davis as the hypothetical father of my 4x great-grandfather, Joseph Davis, who was born about 1790, but that's highly - highly! -speculative. Mostly, I did added Ralph because I saw some DNA matches with some people who descended from him, but I thought I'd make some notes describing my thinking. These notes aren't a proof, just the basis of an hypothesis.
Catherine Davis and her children, Dorothy, John, Joseph, Jane, Henry, Catherine and Edward, migrated to Augusta Township, Grenville County, Canada West in 1847, or very shortly afterward. At least one child may have remained in Ireland, Margaret Davis, who married William Smith and remained at Garrynew, County Wexford, Ireland. Margaret likely died before 1860 since her daughter, Mary Jane Smith, appeared on the 1861 census in Augusta, Grenville County in the household of John Davis, Margaret's brother.
Reading the census records of these counties, you can't help but notice that Grenville and neighboring Leeds Counties were overrun with Davis families, many who lived very near Catherine and her children in 1852. Several of the Davis men were born in Ireland, specifically County Wexford, and belonged to the Church of England, including:
1) William Davis, who lived with his wife and several children in Elizabethtown. According to records, William was born about 1791 in Ireland. His son, Ralph Davis, was born about 1814 in Elizabethtown Township, Leeds County.
2) Peter Davis, who lived nearby with his wife and four children in Elizabethtown Township, Leeds County. According to various records, Peter was born about 1796 in County Wexford. His oldest son, Ralph Davis, was born in 1825 in Elizabethtown, and lived near him.
3) Edward Davis, who also lived in Elizabethtown. He was born about 1798 in County Wexford, and his oldest known child, Elizabeth, was born in Elizabethtown in 1832.
4) Richard Davis, who was born in Ireland about 1799, lived in Augusta Township with his wife, Dorothy, and several children. His oldest known son, Ralph, was born in Augusta about 1829.
5) Mathew Davis, who lived with his family lived almost next-door to Peter's son, Ralph Davis. Matthew was born in Ireland in about 1804, but his children, beginning with Mary Ann in 1831, were born in Elizabethtown.
6) Thomas Davis, born about 1797, lived over one hundred kilometres north of Augusta and Elizabethtown in Goulbourn Township, Carleton County. Many online family trees place him as a brother to the above Davis men, possibly because he too has a son named Ralph, born about 1841.
An Edward, William, and Ralph Davis owned land near one another in Elizabethtown Township in 1852. In 1861, Joseph Henry Davis, the son of Catherine Davis and my 3x great-grandfather, owned land next to Matthew and Richard Davis in Augusta.
Given that Peter and Edward had death records that explicitly stated their birthplace as County Wexford, and William, Peter, Richard, and Matthew all had oldest sons named Ralph, there appeared to be a good chance that most or all of these men were brothers. Thomas had a younger son named Ralph, and he lived distantly from the others, so he not have been related or he may have been more distantly related. They may not have migrated together, but William had a child born about 1814 in Elizabethtown, which placed him in the area very early.
It was also possible that their father's name was Ralph. Ralph Davis appeared on a November 1817 list of Protestants from Counties Carlow and Wexford who were to be transported to Quebec in 1818, with 11 people in his party. A family researcher wrote about this list, suggesting that the British wanted to populate Canada to keep out the Americans and that this list was composed of Protestants that showed their loyalty during the 1798 Catholic Irish uprising.
Although Catherine Davis and her family had settled right in the middle of these Davis men, it didn't prove a relationship. However, Joseph Davis was about the right age to be a sibling, and he may not have migrated with them because he had already started a family in Ireland. It also made sense that Catherine would have moved to someplace they had family.
It is also interesting that most family trees for Ralph Davis showed that he had a son named Joseph, born about 1790. None of the older trees showed that this Joseph was our Joseph, but it suggested that there is some as yet unseen evidence, such as a family document or a Will.
Back in County Wexford, "the representative of Ralph Davis" appeared up on the 1832 the Tithe Applotment Book in Ballinahorna Townland, only 2 km away from Garrynew, where Joseph was listed in 1831. Next to the representative was Edward Davis. If this was the same Ralph Davis and he was listed because he still held the lease, he would have lived very near to our Joseph Davis. Perhaps Edward was his brother and held onto the land; leases were valid for the lifetimes of the three people listed on it.
A Y-DNA test would be the best way to prove a relationship between the descendants of Joseph Davis and these other Davis men, and hopefully one day that can happen, but autosomal DNA did show some interesting hints. The great-grandson of my 3x great-grandfather, Joseph Henry Davis, through his oldest son, George, provided me access to his DNA matches on Ancestry. Additionally, I have those of my Dad and Uncle. Through them, we seem some matches with descendants of all but one of the six men listed above, although some of them are very weak.
* D.D. is the grandson of George Davis, B.S. is my Dad, W.S. is my uncle
** Relationship assuming Ralph is the father of Joseph Davis, my 4x-great-grandfather
*** These are Ancestry shared matches with Davis cousins where I know my relationship with them. There are usually several more shared matches but I am not certain about the relationship. These shared matches need to be at least 20 cM to appear on the list.
These matches suggested that Ralph Davis and Joseph Davis may be related in some way, but clearly it did not prove that Ralph was Joseph's father. Ralph could have been an uncle or a cousin or perhaps their wives were the blood relations. A Y-DNA test with a male-line descendant of one of these men, as well as more research into autosomal matches may go a long way to prove a relationship, but to actually prove a father-son relationship may need some records I haven't seen yet.
The nineteen-year-old Englishman must have been tremendously relieved as he stepped off the overcrowded ship onto the pier in New York City. The 400-foot-long, three-masted packet ship Devonshire had carried 581 German and British men, women, and children across the Atlantic Ocean from Liverpool, England. On this July 7, 1853, there had been no Statue of Liberty to sail past, and no Ellis Island or Castle Garden to screen the new wave of immigrants. Abraham Simmons merely declared himself before a Custom's Officer and then strode into the Lower East Side, widely known as Little Germany.
New York was in the midst of a decades-long population explosion; it would almost double in size over the next ten years, from six-hundred-thousand to over a million, driven mostly by Irish immigration. However, Abraham would not have been too intimidated by the sprawling city before him; he had grown up in one of the toughest neighbourhoods of the largest city in the world: the district of Whitechapel in London, England. He also would not have been entirely alone in his new city.
Asher Simmons had earlier arrived in New York in 1845, also from Whitechapel, also nineteen, also settling in the Lower East Side, where he found work as a furrier. A year later, he married Abigail Jones, who had lived near him in London, and a year after that, they had their first son, Morris, followed by a daughter, Sarah, in 1849. Asher's younger brother, Benjamin, a cigar maker, immigrated to America in 1848 and lived with Asher and Abbie for a few years before he moved to a boarding house. Back in Whitechapel, Asher and Benjamin had lived on Little Middlesex Street and then New Street, only a few short blocks from where Abraham grew up at #9 Bell Lane.
Abraham was the eighth of ten children born to Levy Simmons and Sarah Cohen, who had married May 24, 1818, at the Great Synagogue on Duke Street. Asher had been the first of ten children born to Joshua Simmons and Sarah Collins, who had married at the same Ashkenazi synagogue on September 4, 1822. Both of their fathers, Levy and Joshua, had been "general dealers," street sellers who peddled a variety of used-clothing and second-hand wares. They may have plied their trade in the Petticoat Lane Market, along Wentworth Street, around the corner from Bell Lane. Visitors to the market would have heard the sing-song cries of "old clo'!" from used-clothing peddlers. At the same time, other dealers would have pressed them with a wide variety of goods, such as fruit, sponges, combs, pocket-books, pencils, sealing wax, paper, pen-knives, razors, pocket-mirrors, shaving-boxes, old books, and glassware. Some dealers even hawked discarded cigar butts, scavenged from the gutters by industrious urchins. Sadly, Abraham's father, Levy, died some time previous to 1851, and his wife, Sarah, took up his trade. The families of Abraham and Asher undoubtedly knew each other; they may have even been relatives.
In 1853, New York was home to a thriving Jewish population of twenty-thousand, over twice the size of the London Jewish community. Most of the New York Jewry had recently immigrated from Germany, and by the end of the decade, their numbers would double to forty-thousand. However, while Asher, Benjamin, and Abraham were Jewish, they were also English, and they instead found lodgings in predominately English and Irish immigrant neighbourhoods. In 1855, Abraham shared a single room with Louis Lazarus, who had lived near him in Whitechapel, in a six-room brick building. Abraham apprenticed as a cigar maker in London, but now he and Louis served as clerks, for which they were likely well qualified. Most of the poor Jewish children in the Whitechapel District attended the Jew's Free School, located on Bell Lane, financed by private philanthropy, much of it from the wealthy Rothchild family, who purchased the children's new clothes every year. The Jew's Free School enrolled 600 boys and 300 girls, segregated into separate wings. While all students learned to read and write in English and Hebrew, the boys focused on trades, while the girls learned needlework and laundering. Abraham appears to have acquired the craft of cigar making.
Consequently, Abraham very likely found work as a cigar maker in New York at some point. Hand rolling a cigar was a skilled trade, especially without the tools that would come later, and the manufacturies in New York were still very basic. Abraham would have sat at a table in a tenement apartment with several other men, rolling cured, fermented tobacco leaves into cigars. Even if he had started as a cigar roller, he may later found other jobs, inspecting leaves or selling cigars from a street cart, which was where most new merchants got their start.
Everything changed on October 7, 1857, when the bark Quickstep tied up at the immigrant landing deport at Castle Garden on the southern tip of Manhattan, the precursor to Ellis Island. Among the 134 English, Scottish, Irish and German passengers were the family of Asher and Benjamin: 52-year-old Sarah Simmons and six of her children: Rosetta, Rachael, Rebecca, Sarah, Louis, and Agnes. Unhappily, their father, Joshua Simmons, had not made the journey; he had died of heart disease at the age of 61, at about a quarter past eleven on April 20, 1857, in the back apartment of a surgeon on Euston Square in London.
Abraham and Rachael may have begun their courtship very shortly after her arrival, as they registered their marriage with the City of New York less than ten months later, on July 28, 1858. Rachael gave birth to their first child, Sarah, on March 15, 1859, less than eight months after they registered their marriage. They would call her Sadie.
Three months later, on June 25, 1859, Aaron Simmons, Abraham's youngest sibling, nineteen-years-old, and also a cigar maker, walked through Castle Garden into New York. Whether Aaron's arrival inspired grand plans or the family merely tired of New York, they packed up and moved to Baltimore very soon afterwards. By 1860, Abraham and Aaron, both cigar makers, lived in the 4th Ward of Baltimore, a very ethnically diverse, working-class region of the city, populated by Germans, Jews, Poles, Irish, and African Americans, who worked as shopkeepers, cigar makers, bricklayers, shoemakers, and machinists.
At this time, Baltimore suffered an upsurge of nativist sentiment with many anti-immigrant "clubs," such as the Plug Uglies, Rip Raps, American Rattlers, and Blood Tubs. These clubs were frequently involved in parades and torch-lit processions that marched through many different neighbourhoods, often sparking clashes with residents that devolved into violent brawls and riots, where many of the participants armed themselves with picks, axes, and even muskets. These clubs attempted to keep control of the city government through acts of violence and voter suppression.
As an alien and not entitled to vote, the federal election of 1860 might not have greatly interested Abraham or Rachael, but the escalating rhetoric certainly would have had their attention. The newspapers darkly warned of secession and war should the country elect Abraham Lincoln. The election occurred in Maryland on November 6, 1860, and Lincoln received almost no support in Baltimore, which divided between John Breckinridge and John Bell, both of whom would support the Confederacy during the Civil War. However, Lincoln did win the national election and, as the southern states exited the Union one after another, many in Maryland organized to have their state also secede.
A week after the Confederate Army captured Fort Sumter, anti-war protesters and Confederate sympathizers blocked the transport of Union militia through the city by tearing up the railroad tracks. The Union volunteers from Pennsylvania departed the train and marched along Pratt Street toward the next station, their route passing within three blocks of the Simmons home at 72 North Eden Street. However, a destructive mob descended on the column, assaulting them with bricks and musket fire. The soldiers returned fire and the scene devolved into an uncontrolled melee, which left four soldiers and twelve civilians dead.
The Baltimore Jewish community was as divided about the conflict as the rest of the country. Orthodox Rabbi Dr. Bernard Illowy defended the right of the South to own slaves and to secede from the Union. Reform Rabbi Dr. David Einhorn unwaveringly condemned slavery and was run out of the city by an angry mob. Rabbi Dr. Benjamin Szold and Rabbi Henry Hochheimer were more circumspect. They called on their congregations to pray for the Union and to assist victims of the war, but otherwise, they remained conspicuously mute on the more contentious issues. Most of the Jewish community in Baltimore followed suit.
Over the next several months, the United States declared martial law in Maryland, arresting hundreds of politicians, judges, and citizens who expressed southern sympathies, criticized Lincoln, or inconveniently asserted their rights in defiance of martial law. None of this appears to have directly impacted Abraham Simmons, however, as he continued to run his business. Now forty-years-old, Abraham enrolled in the draft in 1863 but obtained an exemption since he was not an American citizen. He had a few minor problems. Two young boys stole some money and tobacco from him in 1863, but police caught and charged them. In 1864, Abraham was arrested and fined five dollars for selling cigars on a Sunday.
By the end of the war, the Simmons family had moved to a new house at 65 South Sharp Street in the 10th Ward, and then they moved around the corner to 74 South Howard Street. They likely needed a more substantial residence as their family grew. They had Rosetta in 1861, Jane in 1863, Agnes in 1865, Louis in 1867, Amelia in 1869, Joshua in 1873, and Lillian in 1875.
Abraham and Rachael owned several hundred dollars in inventory, but they were not so successful that the children didn't need to work. The children went to school until they were about twelve when they then learned a trade. Sadie became a dressmaker, and her sisters, Rosetta, Jane, and Agnes, found work as hatmakers. When the children grew older, Rachel joined her husband in the business, and they eventually became successful enough to hire additional cigarmakers.
Then sometime shortly before 1880, the family moved back to New York, to 608 3rd Avenue in the middle-class Murry Hill neighbourhood of Manhattan. This part of the city was then "uptown," only a few blocks from the wealthy Park and Madison Avenues. The makeup of their new neighbourhood was mostly German Jewish and Irish, and primarily working people, such as carpenters, masons, clerks, silk weavers, sailors and shop keepers but also gentlemen, missionaries, music teachers, and realtors. They had moved a step up in the world. Over the next fifteen years, the family moved several times, first in Murray Hill and then up to the neighbourhood of Lenox Hill, in the Upper East Side. The Simmons family was not untypical in this move; many immigrants, including the sizeable German Jewish population, moved here out of the Lower East Side as they grew more prosperous. However, the Lower East Side would soon become more crowded than ever.
The Jewish population in New York had lept from twelve thousand in 1848 to sixty thousand in 1880 or eighty-five thousand counting Brooklyn, and from fifty thousand to two hundred thirty thousand in the entire United States. However, beginning in 1881, years of violent pogroms and increasingly restrictive anti-Jewish laws in Russia provoked a tsunami of emigration from eastern Europe. By 1914, almost three million Jewish people lived in the United States, nearly half of whom lived in New York City, mainly in the Lower East Side. These newcomers did not readily assimilate with the existing Jewish community, which had predominately immigrated from German-speaking nations.
Jewish worship in New York and the United States had changed considerably from the forms in much of Europe. In many synagogues, Jewish ministers delivered sermons, some in English, and families sat together, rather than segregating by sex. Increasing numbers of Jewish families did not observe the Sabbath, a trend shared by many German immigrant groups. However, while forms of religious observance divided the community, Jewish cultural, charitable, and secular organizations flourished, creating a new shared identity. Although not German, Abraham and Rachael likely shared far more in common with that more assimilated Jewish community, rather than with the Orthodox, Eastern European immigrants.
Cigarmaking in New York had changed as well. Confined to tenement buildings and faced with falling wages, cigarmakers had organized into unions and held mass meetings and strikes. While governments passed laws to outlaw tenement labour, courts invalidated those laws as unconstitutional. However, the unions strongly pressured employers, who eventually moved production into large factories, provided more fair wages, and limited work to eight hours per day. At this point, Abraham was probably more of a cigar dealer than a manufacturer, but the conflict would have affected him. The cigarmakers union placed blue labels on the boxes of cigars produced in the large factories, and he would have likely had to choose sides.
On October 26, 1882, Abraham finally naturalized as a United States citizen in the Court of Common Pleas, with his brother-in-law, Asher Simmons, as the witness. American law granted a wife the same status as her husband, so Rachael also became a citizen, although she would never have the right to vote.
Abraham would live to see four of his children married. At twenty-six, Rosetta married Isador Meyer on October 2, 1897, and they had three children together. Jennie married Max Aaron on October 9, 1892, at the age of twenty-nine, and they had one son. On October 16, 1898, Louis married Annie Weisberg, and they had no children. His daughter, Sadie, led a more unconventional romantic life.
Beginning in 1885, Sadie pursued a seven-year romantic relationship with Isaac "Ike" Silverblatt, the son of a Harlem pawnbroker. Ike had a spendthrift lifestyle and borrowed small sums routinely from Sadie. Sadie broke off their engagement in January of 1892 when she read in the newspaper that Ike had become engaged to Jennie Newman, who lived only a few blocks away from Sadie. Sadie moved on, however, becoming pregnant early in 1893, and left for Philadelphia, possibly with the encouragement of her parents. In Philadelphia, she met Moss Aarons, who had immigrated there from Whitechapel in 1889. The couple travelled to New York and married on June 29, 1894. However, Sadie then left her husband and ran away with Isidor Teschner, a married man who had stood as a witness at her wedding, and they soon had two children together. At this point, she possibly became estranged from her family.
Abraham and Rachel would see a lot of change throughout these years. Not only did New York City continue to grow tremendously, but the city constructed famous landmarks, such as the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883 and the Statue of Liberty in 1886.
Abraham died of a stroke on March 2, 1899, at the age of about sixty-four. His family buried him three days later in the predominantly Jewish burial ground of Washington Cemetary, Brooklyn. His twenty-seven-year-old son, Joshua, died a little over seven months later.
At the turn of the century, Rachael lived with her remaining unmarried children, Agnes, Amelia, and Lillian, who worked as a saleslady, a teacher, and a cashier. In 1901, Amelia married Joseph Arrison, and Lillian married Jacob Klausner. Lillian and Jacob would have two children together. Rachael lived with Agnes until her death on January 11, 1913, about the age of seventy-eight. Agnes would marry Edwin Rosenfield the following year.
Over almost forty-two years of marriage, Abraham and Rachael had eight children and at least eleven grand-children, while running a successful cigar business. Today, their descendants live in New York, California, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, England, Alberta, and British Columbia.
Johnson, P. (2013). History of the Jews. London: Phoenix.
New York University Press. (2020). Jewish New York: the remarkable story of a city and a people.
Goldstein, Eric & Weiner, Deborah, On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore (2020), John Hopkins University Press
Additional research, including even more than I previous found late last year, has clarified my picture of Sadie Simmons and Isidor Teschner, so I added to the proof and tidied it up.
Who Were the Parents of Mildred Tabor?
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