Friday, April 20, 2018

Anthony Koferl: A Life of Sorrow

At the end of the Civil War, Anthony Koferl was born in October 1864. He was the son of Henry and Amelia Koferl and the brother of my Grandfather, Henry Joseph Koferl. There were seven children born to Henry and Amelia. Anthony known as Tony was one of the seven children and was listed in the 1880 census as a glassworker or glazer is " a skilled tradesman responsible for cutting, installing, and removing glass." What did that mean in the 19th century"Many Glassworkers learned their trade as an apprentice or from another Glassworker.  Anthony's father was listed as a Jeweler on the 1870 Census, so Anthony would have apprenticed with another Glassworker. It is impossible to know of his level of mastery or skills that Anthony possessed. I am not even sure of where he worked. Glassworking is the main skill of a glass smith. The smith can create lenses, mirrors, dishware, small toys/art pieces, and windows all from his use and knowledge of glassworking. In most cities glass is for the rich and powerful. Gold and silks can be draped about by any fool, but glass is for those who can spend money."

Anthony met and married Annie Hoffman in 1892 in Kings County. According to the 1892 census, Anthony was no longer working as a glass worker but rather on a buttonhole machine. They lived on the same block and building as Anthony's parents. At the time of their marriage Anthony was eight years older then Annie. In 1900 they continued to live at 43 Johnson Avenue with their four year old son, John her mother Katie Hoffman and Anthony. According to the 1900 census Annie had four sibblings who predeceseaded her by this time. It also states that Katie Hoffman was born in Germany and immigrated to the United States in 1860 and a widow.

We know that somewhere between 1900 and 1904 the family moved to 248 Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn. It was in 1904 on October 22nd a tragedy struck the family. On that day their son, John at age 10 tried crossing the street while a large delivery truck came down the street. John was struck by the front wheel of the vehicle and he was killed instantly. The driver of the vehicle, James Hart was arrested and taken to the Stagg Street Police Station, as depicted below. James Hart was exonerated of all criminal action at a 
corners inquest. The minutes taken by the stenographer at the inquest were destroyed and no further information exist on the inquest.
One can imagine how Annie felt when she heard of the accident and came to identify her son who was lying on the street where she lived with her family.

The next year sees Annie and Anthony living in the same neighborhood. According to the census records from 1905. Annie is 32 and Anton is 40 years old and is listed as a tailor. At this time they are living on Bushwick Place and Manhattan Avenue.

Bushwick Avenue developed in the late nineteenth century as a residential center of industry in North Brooklyn. German brewers and other manufacturers built large villas and commissioned churches and other cultural institutions along the avenue. Smaller speculative row houses, infill tenements, and other multifamily dwellings from the late-nineteen to the early twentieth centuries housed the workforce and middle management of this small industrial enclave, and characterize the rest of the street and the remainder of the neighborhood. The elevated subway runs along Broadway, one block southwest, providing a few small shops and other commercial establishments, while at the west of the avenue, where it turns to the north, lie the historic breweries, warehouses, and other buildings that provided the economic foundation for the neighborhood's early growth. At their pre-Prohibition height, the fourteen breweries in Bushwick produced a peak output of 2.5 million barrels, supplying nearly 10% of all beer consumed in the United States. However, the advance of inexpensive rail transportation and mechanical refrigeration allowed entrepreneurs in other cities to make inroads into the market and brewing in Brooklyn declined. The closing of the remaining industry created an economic depression of the area. The population of Bushwick remained predominately German until the 1930s and 40s, when they were supplanted by Italian-Americans. In the late 1950s and 60s, African-Americans and Puerto Ricans migrated to the neighborhood, comprising more than half of its population by 1970. The economic downturn of the 1970s was keenly felt in Bushwick, when New York City's fiscal crisis prompted cuts to fire department service in the area at a time when abandoned buildings were subject to frequent fires, further devastating the neighborhood. Redevelopment efforts began in the 1980s and continue to this day.


On September 21, 1906 Annie passed away leaving Anthony as sole survivor and inherits $500 of real property. He then moves in with his brother Frederick and his family as seen in the 1910 census. He is listed as working in the trimmings business as a driver. They are living on Troutman Street in Brooklyn. On December 8 of 1910 Anthony passed away and is buried at the Evergreens Cemetery in Flatbush, Brooklyn. More research is being done on the cause of death Anthony and Annie and burial information.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mystery of the Miamogue Hotel Fire in South Jamesport


My Uncle Henry half brother to my father, Joseph was involved in a mysterious crime taking place in 1932. So far I haven't found any information proving who committed the arson. My attempt at checking the newspapers from 1932 gave me the information that I have reported in my article.

Built in 1875, this four-story waterfront inn had the distinction of being the tiny hamlet’s first big hotel. Destroyed by fire in 1895, the Miamogue was rebuilt two years later and expanded further when its owner, I. Seymour Corwin, purchased and then demolished a smaller neighboring hotel, the Sunnyside House. In 1932, the County Review reported that the Miamogue’s new owners, Henry A. Ramsauer and Henry Koferl, had been charged with second-degree arson for allegedly setting fire to the hotel in order to recover a $50,000 insurance policy. Nobody was injured in the incident, which took place before the hotel opened for the summer season. The Riverhead men were acquitted of the charges in May 1933, possibly because a defense attorney successfully indicated the fire was actually caused by two of the prosecution’s witnesses. The Miamogue Hotel was never rebuilt.


On April 27, 1932 a fire broke out in the attic of the Miamogue Hotel located in South Jameport, Long Island. Jointly owned by Henry F. Koferl and Harry A. Ramsauer it was recently purchased by the two plumbers who had a plumbing business in Riverhead. When firemen entered the fourth story of the hotel they found a lit candle near some oil soaked debris. Due to the find the fire was believed to be arson and the two owners were charged with second and third degree arson. Their lawyer, Harry Saxstien, of Saxstien & Scheinberg, filed a plea of not guilty and were secretly indicted by a Grand Jury. They were released on $7000 bail and were acquitted before Judge Hawkins on Monday after a jury had deliberated only 15 minutes.


Sometime after purchasing the hotel and between October 1931 and April 1932, Henry Koferl and Harry Ramsauer increased the insurance that they held on the hotel from $20,000 to $50,000. Two witnesses to the fire Jack Gerhardt, 40 of Riverside, and William Janis, 16 of Riverhead did not claim to know what started the fire were taken into custody at a local jail. They were released in May of that year after they had waived immunity rights and agreed  to testify in front of a grand jury.

The owners Harry Ramsauer and Henry Koferl were working on the hotel preparing it for the summer guest when the fire took place.



Lindenhurst Jewelry Store

My grandparents Anna and Henry Joseph Koferl in 1921 bought several lots of property in the village of Lindenhurst where they ran two stores Jewelry and Cigar right next to one another.  It was on the south side of Hoffman Ave on the west side of Wellwood Ave. According to the deed dated May 19, 1921 it was described as block number 43 lot 5 and 6. Below is a tax map showing the property. My father was 7 when they purchased the stores. He often reminisced crawling through a connecting closet between both stores. The businesses didn’t last long due to my grandfather falling ill when working on the house roof fell and damaged his heart muscles leading to his death in 1923. He died at home on the fifth of November. According to the obituary my grandfather started the business in 1914.

I am now interested in locating any photographs of the stores. My next stop is the town historian. I contacted the Town historian, Mary Cascone. She suggested I look through the Village Historical Society photo albums, especially the business volume. So off I go tomorrow hopefully to visit the Historical Society.





The below is a 1925 Sanborn map showing the same corner as the tax map found above. 


Another closeup of the same corner.



Another view of the same avenue looking down the street where we see a jewelry store listed. Is it competition or did they own another piece of property.












Monday, December 19, 2016

The Girl Who Loved Chestnuts

Now that Christmas is almost upon us memories come streaming back of my mother, Ottilia Theresa Ohnmacht and her love of roasted chestnuts. She really loved the holidays and introduced her family to many traditions from her past and new ones that she started for her own family. The picture to the left is of my mother when she was a child growing up in  New York City.

At age 15 she moved to Lindenhurst where she met my father Joseph Henry Koferl. Their first date was a double date with some friends and they went to the 1939 World's Fair. Her girlfriend coached my mother on what to say and do when the subject of paying for entrance fees came up. They were married on September 1, 1940 in the rectory of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst, NY. On December 7, 1941 they moved into a Summer bungalow and made that there permanent home. This is where they celebrated all but one of their Christmas together. My mother would recount the story of how they had very little money and she managed to buy a pair of slippers for my father only to have the mailman announce to my father that he was getting a pair of slippers.

Later on when we were old enough to write Santa we would get the big Montgomery Wards catalog out and write Santa telling him what we wanted from the catalog. Of course Santa's gifts would arrive by mail and would be stored in my parents bedroom closet. It seems that Christmas shopping are returning to past practices for I am spending a lot of my time buying online these days instead of going to the stores.

My mother grew up in a bakery but learned most of her baking and cooking skills when she was an adult. Her mother died when she was seven and her father when she was 20 years old. She would often ask our family friend Kenneth the Baker how to make a specific recipe. That is how she got her recipes for fruitcake and pfeffernusse cookies. Today my brother Steve still bakes the fruitcake at Christmas time.I have memories of our helping out with the baking and bringing platters of cookies to the neighbors and relatives. One time Mom left my older brother Joe and myself at home charged with the responsibility of baking some Snickerdoodle cookies. We started baking the cookies off but found out that we were enjoying eating them as much as baking them. Other cookies that my mother made for the holidays were the Candy cane, Rainbow, butter and cream cheese cookies. My mother would start preparing for Christmas in November when she would prepare her fruit cake and soak the cake with Peach Brandy. Then they were stored in the cooler on the porch were they would age for a month before they were given out at Christmas. The coolers were located in the game closet and often we would play hide and seek on a rainy day and I would hide in the closet. The fantastic aroma of the fruitcake with its Peach Brandy would come wafting up while I waited to be found.

On Christmas eve we would wait for Santa to come and each member of the household would take their turn opening up gifts after Santa had delivered them. It took hours to open up our presents because of this process but we learned to appreciate the gifts and the gift giving more because of this. Our stocking gifts were either saved till Christmas day or Little Christmas and we looked forward to receiving these gifts with just as much anticipation as we would have for our big gifts. One of my favorite gifts was chocolate Holland shoes which tasted wonderful. One year I left my box of chocolate under the tree forgetting about the dogs we had who roamed the house at their own discretion. When we came back from visiting relatives I found the dog under the tree with the empty candy box.

Another tradition that we had at Christmas time was decorating the house . We children were responsible for decorating the basement. That meant that we had to clean it and then put up a small Christmas tree and decorate the wooden fireplace with red brick crepe paper. Sometimes we would make paper chains to hang on the tree or from the ceiling. One year Steve and I got to take home the live tree from our classroom and we carried it home from school. One year we didn't spend our lunch money for food at school and used the money to buy a snow village for our basement tree. This brings back memories of my father who would take Steve and I out shopping to buy ornaments for our tree. He would also buy small gifts for us which he had hand selected.

While we were waiting for the Christ child to come, my Mother would celebrate Advent with an Advent calendar. The calendars were from Germany and each day one of us would take a chance reading the rhyme then guessing what would be behind the window. It was a nice way to get in the spirit of the holiday.

These are my memories of my Mother especially at Christmas time.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Family Dynasty and Madame Tussard


The first executioner in the family was Cunrat Grossholz, who was originally a knacker in Zurich. From 1473, the familyGrossholz served over generations as executioners in Zurich, and one of the first persons they executed was Hans Waldmann, on 6 April 1489. Some Grossholzs moved to Baden and Winterthur, and to Alsace and Germany, where they also became executioners. 

Cunrat was born in 1435 in Adliswil, Suisse. He moved to Zurich some time around 1460 where he worked as an executioner. I still haven't found any information on who his wife was but we do know that he had twin sons born in 1460 called Jakob and Peter. Jakob died in 1522.

Hans Waldmann (1435 - 6 April 1489)  was mayor of Zurich  and Swiss military leader. The son of apeasant in Zug, he married well and became Squire of Dubelstein. Waldmann leadthe Confederates in the Burgundian Wars defeating Charles the Bold with an armyestimated at 12,000 men. As mayor of Zurich and a representative of theoligarchs in the Confederacy, Waldmann sought to impose higher taxes onneighboring rural villages which, taken together with a disdain for his reputedaristocratic excesses, led to a peasant revolt.[2] 500 peasants from Knonau aresaid to have toppled Waldmann as mayor in 1489. Waldmann was beheaded on April6, 1489 following accusations of financial corruption, foreign connections andsodomy!


It is unbelievable! Not only did I have a line of executioners in my family but I am also related to Madame Tussard, the wax sculpture and inventor of the wax museum. It seems we have a common relative in our family who was Cunrat or Conrad Grossholz. It seems that "knacker" is a slang word for executioner or killer. Anna Marie Grosholz was baptised in St Pierre Le Vieux Church in Strasbourg on December 7, 1761. Her father Johann Joseph Grosholz who was born on February 16, 1716 was present at her baptism. Johann Joseph who entered the military was born in to Jakob Johann Grosholz an executioner who was by no means poor. His job including killing sick animals, whipped deviants, and made use of the gallows. Johann Joseph replaced his cousin Hans Michel in 1756 and retired in 1761. Anna Marie wanted to separate her self from the stigma that her family endured. Executioners were considered untouchables by society. She relied on her Grandmothers good name for she was Eslie Barbara Fuchs the daughter of a rector, Johann Fuchs Von Rogensburg. This was very unusual for an executioner to marry above his class. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Godmother, Aunt Erwina

Erwina Hagen was born on June 5, 1900 in Austria. At the time that she immigrated to America her father, Ferdinand Hagen lived in Lauterach which a village in the district of Bregenz in the Austrian state of VorarlbergHonorary consulates of Finland, and the United Kingdomare located in Lauterach.  Erwina was born in the same village. Before Erwina came to America she worked as a a servant in Bregenz. 

Bregenz is the capital of Vorarlberg, the westernmost federal state of Austria. The city is located on the eastern shores of Lake Constance, the third-largest freshwater lake in Central Europe, between Switzerland in the west and Germany in the northwest.

The ship that she came over on was the Mount Clay and it sailed on November 30, 1922, headed for the Port of New York. The S. S. "Mount Clay", formerly the German S. S. "Prinz Eitel Friedrich", is a fine modern twin -screw steamer of 8200 tons, and has been specially adapted for the conveyance of about 99 "Cabin Class" and 1006 Third Class passengers. The Cabin Class passengers have at their disposal a separate Promenade Deck situated amidships, Dining Saloon, Social Hall and Smoking Room. The Third Class passengers are also provided with a number of social rooms, and the equipment includes numerous bath rooms with hot and cold sea water. Aunt Erwina probably traveled third class.