Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A MOTHER'S DOUBLE SACRIFICE - Anton and Jesse Duschanek

I was in Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago recently doing some genealogy research.  There are many elaborate monuments at Bohemian National including a replica of a vine covered wall from Wrigley Field (containing cremation niches)

and the family mausoleum of the martyred mayor of Chicago, Anton Cermak, who will be the subject of a future post.

As I was strolling around the winding roads I came across a monument that made me stop in my tracks.   It was a simple square gray stone monument but it was topped with two dough boy hats from World War I.  This stone marked the final resting place of two brothers who gave their lives in the war and its aftermath:  Anton and Jesse Duschanek.

Anton Sr. and Mary Duschanek were immigrants from Bohemia. According to the 1900 census they were naturalized American citizens and all of their children were born in Illinois:   Ida in 1886, Jesse in 1887, George in 1891 and Anton Jr., the baby, in 1896.  The census did not recognize Bohemia as a country, so Anton Sr. and Mary were listed as being from Austria, as were most of their neighbors.  Anton Sr. was a cigar maker, as were my ancestors on my father's side (Craig Brothers Cigars - Lacon, Illinois).  The Duschanek family lived at 1161 South Irving Avenue in Chicago's famous 10th Ward on the west side of the city.

Ida, at the age of 14 was listed as a seamstress - the rest of the children were "at school".  In other words, the Duschanek family was a typical Chicago immigrant family of the time.

Anton Sr. died in 1911 at the age of 47 - life was hard in those days.

Ida went on in 1906 to marry Sidney Dini.  George Duschanek disappears after the 1900 census - he may have "Americanized" his last name.

Jesse and Anton, Jr. were in the military in World War I, like the good American boys they were.  We don't know whether they enlisted or were drafted, but we do know that they did not come back alive.

Anton Jr. was a corporal in Company L of the 131st infantry.  Company L was in many of the worst battles of the war:  the Somme Offensive, Picardy, Lorraine, and the battle that cost Anton Duschanek his life: Meuse-Argonne.  He was killed in action October 10, 1918.  The armistice was declared just 31 days later:  November 11, 1918 - not that that did Anton Duschanek any good.

Mary Duschanek had already sacrificed one of her sons for her adopted country.  I'm sure she breathed a sigh of relief on November 11th.  At least her son Jesse would be coming home.

Jesse Duschanek was a cook in the Transportation Corps.  Napoleon Bonaparte said that "An army travels on its stomach" so Jesse's job was as important as his brother the infantryman.  Jesse did survive the war, only to die on February 28, 1919 in Monteu Chaume Indre, France. Jesse's cause of death was not recorded, but I would bet that he died of the Spanish influenza, as so many did who survived the war only to succumb to the flu.

Mary Duschanek, buried between her martyred sons, is almost an afterthought.  She died in Chicago in 1937.

The Duschanek family plot can be found in Section S, Block 5 of Bohemian National Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

Stop and say a prayer for the Duschanek family - immigrants who made this country great by the shedding of their blood.  Mary Duschanek sacrificed not one, but two of her sons, for her adopted country.  We will never be able to adequately thank the Duschanek family for their sacrifice.  May they all rest in peace with the prayers of a grateful Nation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


I have met some very nice people through my genealogy research and Find a Grave.  Not only have I had the privilege of finding and photographing a grave for someone who lives in Jerusalem, I have also been contacted by cousins I didn't know I had.  Unfortunately some of the nicest people I have met are connected to some of the saddest stories.  Case in point:  Morris Shames.

The family of Morris Shames was not even sure that he had existed.  For so long he was thought to just be a figment of the imagination of one family member - no name no connection - always just a story about a 'brother' killed in Chicago during the time of Al Capone.  Then, late last year while one of the relatives was researching the family back in Lithuania they found an extra brother ... they suddenly thought that there may be some truth to the story - but how to prove it?  Well, the genealogy community is a very sharing/giving group.  Not long after the family posted a query to the Cook County Illinois Mailing List on RootsWeb voila! Morris was found.  But the deeper they got into his story the more horrific it became.  Here's the story from the Chicago Daily Tribune of December 29, 1927:


At the command to put up his hands, shouted from behind his back, Maurice Shams (sic), 31 years old, turned around inquiringly last night at 45th street and Wabash avenue.  Without another word one of two colored youths fired one shot.  The bullet struck Shams in the abdomen.  He died an hour later at the Chicago hospital.

Just before he died, Shams told Sergt. Arthur Specht that he was a newcomer in America and did not quite understand that the youths meant to rob him and that he was shot because of his failure to raise his arms quickly.  Shams was a Roumanian Jew and has no relatives here, police were told.

He was employed as a clerk and watchman for the Freeman Piano and Furniture company, 4504 South State street, where he had living quarters.  He had locked up the place to go for a short walk when halted by the robbers.  He was unable to give a good description of his assailants.
Chicago Daily Tribune - December 29, 1927. 

But by New Years Eve, "Chicago's Finest" had their men:


Two Negro boys confessed early this morning to police that they had murdered Maurice Shams (sic), 31, 4504 South State street, who was slain Wednesday night in an attempted holdup.  According to Lieut. Ed Murphy and Sergt. Edward Callahan, the youths are William Kindricks, 17, 4554 South State street, and Charles Pickett, 17, 4724 South State street.

An automatic pistol found upon Kindricks when he was arrested at 46th and State was purchased by mail, he admitted, for the purpose of committing robberies.  Shams, a Roumanian Jew and not long in America, was shot when he was slow about putting up his hands.
Chicago Daily Tribune - December 31, 1927

At least Morris' family could take some solace from the fact that his murders were caught and convicted - or were they?

There is a searchable database called "Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930"  (http://homicide.northwestern.edu/database/)  If you check the database for Morris Shames here is what you'll find:

December 28, 1927
Shames, Morris - Age 31 - Fatally shot 8 PM, 12/28/27 in front of 4501 So. Wabash Ave. by two young Negro boys who tried to rob him.  He did not understand their order to throw up his hands and was shot.  On 12/30/27 Wm. Kindricks and Charles Pickett, both 16 years old, were arrested and on 1/12/28 held by the Coroner.  3 Dist. 4/28/28 - Kindricks and Pickett acquitted - McGoorty.  Case number 9108 

Acquitted?  How could two confessed cold-blooded murders be acquitted - even in Chicago?  The database does not give details, just the results.  Justice in Chicago has always been "different".

And now we come to the final mystery in the strange case of Morris Shames - where is the body?  His death certificate is below:

Take a look at Box 18 - Place of Burial.  Genealogy researchers are usually good at deciphering handwriting but this one is tough.  It looks like South Helmer or something similar to that.  However, there is no "South Helmer" Cemetery in Chicagoland.  The folks on the Mailing List were consulted again and someone remembered that one of the gates at Waldheim Jewish Cemetery in Forest Park was called "South Side Hebrew Congregation".  A quick call to Waldheim verified that indeed Morris Shames was buried at Gate 33 - South Side Hebrew Congregation.

Unfortunately since Morris had no family in Chicago, they did not buy a family plot -- just one grave - and no one had the money to buy a tombstone.  Morris' grave is unmarked, but the nice people in the office at Waldheim gave me the approximate location of his grave.

Poor Morris Shames - he came all the way to Chicago from Lithuania to make a better life for himself. He had hardly started building his life in Chicago when he was murdered in cold blood.  Then to add insult to injury his murderers were acquitted.

Thanks to the persistence of  researchers and his family, Morris was not forgotten and he will live on through the miracle of the Internet. Morris, I am sorry that Chicago didn't treat you better, but I am telling your story to help make up for that.  May Morris Shames rest in peace. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Prior to the current occupant of the White House the most famous president who called Illinois home was Abraham Lincoln  (Ronald Reagan notwithstanding).  Although Lincoln himself is buried in Springfield, Illinois, many of his friends and intimates are buried in Chicago.  While in Rosehill Cemetery recently working on a roster of Civil War dead, I came across the imposing black stone monument to one of Lincoln's closest friends and associates Leonard Swett.  Forgotten today by all but a few Lincoln enthusiasts, Leonard Swett led a remarkable life - and there are those who say that Lincoln would never have made it to the White House if it had not been for the behind-the-scenes work of Swett.  The Chicago Daily Tribune gave Leonard Swett an impressive obituary when he died in June of 1889:

Leonard Swett

Chicago Thus Loses a Citizen of National Reputation.
One of the Most Prominent Lawyers of the Northwest, He Was the Intimate Friend of Lincoln, Whom He in Many Respects Resembled - A Sketch of His Career as Lawyer - Famous Cases That He Won.

Leonard Swett is dead.  Chicago loses one of her foremost lawyers and the country a man who has been prominently identified with its history and progress.

The particulars of Mr. Swett's death  are short.  He had been in unusually good health for two years.  He had not lost a day at the office nor before the court until last April.  At that time he went to Bloomington to deliver a lecture on Lincoln.  His old neighbors gave him dinner after dinner and reception after reception.  He came home ill.  A severe cold aggravated a case of diabetes, with which he had before been troubled.  After his return he was able to drive occasionally and to go to the office once in a while.  There was no apprehension whatsoever concerning his life until yesterday morning at 2 o'clock.  At that time he became unconscious.  Drs. Lyman, Johnson, Davis and Westcott were called, but nothing could be done.  He never regained consciousness.  At noon yesterday, Mr. Swett passed away.

The funeral will be held Tuesday afternoon at 2 o'clock, from the Third Presbyterian Church.  The Rev. Dr. Withrow and the Rev. Dr. Thomas will conduct the services.

His Career 

For a third of a century Leonard Swett has been one of the most prominent lawyers of the Northwest.  During all this time he has also been one of the most conspicuous citizens of Illinois and is thoroughly identified with the history of the State.  While he has been most eminent in the law, and though he has held but a few public offices, his influence in the policies of State and Nation has been great.

Mr. Swett was born near the Village of Turner, Oxford County, Me., on what is still known as the "Albine Richer farm."  His parents, John and Remember Swett, believed thoroughly in educating their children.  At the age of 12, having previously been in the schools of the neighborhood, he began the study of Latin and Greek with the Rev. Thomas R. Curtis, his parents having, as they supposed "elected" him for the ministry. When 15 years of age he went to North Yarmouth Academy and then entered Waterville College, now known as Colby University.  Having decided on the study of law he left college before he had finished his fourth year and entered the law office of Howard & Shepley of Portland.  He remained with them two years and then went South and West, seeking for a favorable location.  He reached Madison, Ind. and was there prompted to enlist as a private in the Fifth Indiana Infantry.  He was made Orderly Sergeant of the company, and was practically in command of the company as Captain.  He entered the City of Mexico.  In May, 1848, he was taken sick at Vera Cruz and lay in the hospital there till peace was declared.  He was then sent up the Mississippi River to the Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, where he was discharged.  On this trip one-third of the passengers died.  Although greatly shattered in health Mr. Swett survived his attack of sickness.

He came to Clinton, Ill. where he was admitted to the bar and began the practice of law.  He afterward moved to Bloomington, Ill.  From there he was sent for one term to the State Legislature and was also Attorney General for two years.  These were the only public offices he ever held.

His Intimacy With Abraham Lincoln

At Bloomington he became a close friend of Judge David Davis.  In his travels through the Eighth Judicial District in the years between 1850 and 1860 he met Lincoln, often practiced in the same courts with him, and they became the warmest of personal friends.  The admiration of each man for the other was genuine and strong.

Judge Davis and Mr. Swett both appreciated Lincoln.  They saw that he was the man the Nation needed, and it was largely their efforts which led to Lincoln's nomination.  Mr. Swett was a prime mover in this and was a controlling influence in planning and executing that remarkable campaign which resulted in his nomination and election.

The political prominence which his successful championship of Lincoln brought led to his being the most prominent candidate for Governor of Illinois.  He was defeated in the convention by the supporters of all the other candidates, who united on "Dick" Yates.

After Lincoln's election Mr. Swett went to Washington to urge the appointment of Judge Davis to the Supreme Bench.  Judge Davis had but a local reputation.  He was opposed by O.H. Browning, a man of National repute who had already made his mark in the United States Senate.  Lincoln heard Mr. Swett's plan and said:  "But what will I do with you?"

"I'll give you a receipt in full, " said Mr. Swett, "but if anything ever does come around to me give me something that will pay."

Lincoln acted on the suggestion and secured him the control of the great suit in which the California Quicksilver Mining Company and the great (New) Almaden mine were involved.  Mr. Swett came back from California with a fee of $104,000.

Mr. Swett's fund of reminiscences of Lincoln was perhaps as great as that of any man now living.  His friends will long remember his after-dinner stories of Lincoln and of pioneer times in Illinois.  It is a pity that these were never collected and printed while Mr. Swett could revise them.

Mr. Swett did not enter practical politics again after the famous campaign of 1860 until 1872, when he went into the National Reform Convention at Cincinnati which nominated Greeley.  He went there to nominate his old friend Judge Davis, and, failing in this, he came back and voted for Grant.  He was among those at the head of the Grant forces in the famous third-term campaign and was in important factor in enrolling the solid Illinois delegation with the "306", though he was not a member of the convention.

He was again a figure in National politics in the last convention.  The memory of his championship of Judge Gresham's cause is still fresh.

Swett As a Lawyer

As a young man it was said that Mr. Swett greatly resembled Abraham Lincoln in personal appearance.  He was tall, angular, and dark, with prominent features strikingly like his great friend's.  The coincidence in physical similitude extended in a considerable degree to the mental characteristics of the two men.  He possessed the same class of humor and often employed the same quaint, epigrammatic methods of expressions peculiar to Mr. Lincoln.

As a lawyer Mr. Swett stood in the front rank in the Northwest.  His special excellence lay in the direction of the trial of cases and possibly in the handling of criminal cases.  As a speaker he had few or no superiors at the bar.    He required scarcely any preparation and he was always ready with imagination, humor, and pathos in abundance.  He possessed the subtle power to touch effectively men's emotional natures.

His first murder case was that of a young man at Shawneetown.  The boy had shot down the clerk of the court because the clerk had posted some scurrilous matter about his father.  Lincoln had first been engaged to defend the boy, but he had said that Swett was the man to defend that case, and he had come.  Among the young lawyers who crowded the courtroom to hear the defense were John A. Logan and Robert Ingersoll.  Mr. Swett put in the defense of temporary insanity.  It was the first time that defense had been urged in this country, and it was successful.

Some Famous Cases

Mr. Swett afterwards tried many murder cases.  He never lost but one before a jury.  None of his clients except the (Haymarket) Anarchists ever suffered the extent of the law, and he only appeared in this case in the appeal to the Supreme Court.

Among other famous cases was his defense of Alexander Sullivan in his trial for murder.  He was successful in a great insurance case at Hartford, which involved a new application of the laws of conspiracy.  His argument in that case is still studied by attorneys.  He was engaged to defend some of the great whiskey cases from the charge of conspiracy against the United States.  He was asked when the case would come to trial.  "Come to trial?" he said, "This is not the kind of a case to come to trial."  And it never came to trial, though the similar cases which were tried landed the defendants at Joliet.

Mr. Swett was also retained in the Mackin case, but did not take an active part in the trial owing to sickness.

Mr. Swett was married July 20, 1854 to Laura R. Quigg, sister of his former law partner, Col. David Quigg.  They had one child, Leonard H. Swett.  Mrs. Swett died in February, 1886.  July 15, 1887, Mr. Swett married Miss Louise Decker, who had long acted as his private secretary.

When he came to Chicago in 1854, he engaged in practice first with Andrew Harvie, then with Joseph E. Gary and J.N. Barker.  In 1869 he became Corporation Counsel, and after several years in that position organized the firm of Tuley, Stiles & Lewis. IN 1879, Mr. Swett  and Pliny N. Haskell were associated together, and this continued until Mr. Haskell's death, in 1884.  The present firm was Swett, Grosscup & Wean, being composed of and besides Mr. Swett, P.S. Grosscup and Frank L. Wean.

Col. Munn's Reminiscences

Col. D.W. Munn was surprised last evening when a reporter called at his house, No. 458 West Adams Street and told him that Leonard Swett was dead.  Col. Munn had thought that Mr. and Mrs. Swett were in Germany, and had gone there in search of improved health for Mr. Swett.  Col. Munn said that he first met Leonard Swett as the Illinois Republican State Connvention held in Deactur in 1860.  At that time Mr. Swett was a prominent lawyer of Bloomington, and was a candidate before teh Decatur convention for the nomination of governor.

"His opponents in the convention", said Col. Munn, "Were 'Dick' Yates, Norman B. Judd and 'Tom' Marshall.  Subsequently Mr. Swett was active in the support of the nomination and election of Lincoln for President.  After that he dropped out of politics until David Davis, a fellow-townsman, became a candidate for United States Senator, when Swett supported his enthusiastically.  I don't remember exactly when Mr. Swett came to Chicago, but after his arrival here he soon became one of the most famous lawyers in the city.  Two of these died before Mr. Swett; they were W.W. O'Brien and Emery A. Storrs.  Swett was a man of ability and integrity.  In many respects he resembled his intimate friend, Abraham Lincoln and especially so in that he was a good jury lawyer and had the faculty of impressing a jury with the fact that he was an honest man-as he undoubtedly was." 
Chicago Daily Tribune - June 9, 1889

As we knew, Leonard Swett moved in impressive circles.  What the Tribune article doesn't say, is that Swett and Louise Decker were personally married by Patrick A. Feehan, the Archbishop of Chicago:

As I mentioned above, Leonard Swett's impressive monument can be found over his grave in Section 104 of Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois.

Patriot, statesman and close friend of Abraham Lincoln, may Leonard Swett rest in peace.     

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

ABSOLUTE TERROR REIGNED - Harry Smith a/k/a Aaron Iglowitz

I have previously told the stories of Meyer Iglowitz, who drowned on a trip to Michigan in 1913, and Harry, Lottie and Bessie Iglowitz who died in an arson fire in 1911. Another tragedy befell a member of the Iglowitz family on December 5, 1927 when actor/waiter Aaron Iglowitz, under his stage name of Harry Smith was gunned down in cold blood in front of the Parody Cafe in downtown Chicago.  Harry was just in the wrong place at the wrong time - or was he?  It made the front page of the Chicago Daily Tribune on December 5, 1927:

Parody Cafe Is Held Up by 6 Armed Men

Absolute terror reigned early this morning among nearly 200 guests of the Parody Cafe, 1023 North State street, when six masked men, armed with sawed-off shotguns and a pair of sub-machine guns, stalked out on the floor while more than fifty couples were dancing and ordered every one to throw up their hands...

It even made the New York Times:

Six Policemen, Guests in Chicago Night Club, Fight Gang of Bandits
200 Merrymakers in Panic
Five Intruders Shot Down, Another Arrested - Waiter Killed, Girl Singer Critically Hurt

The wildest Wild West hold-up in the history of Chicago night clubs resulted in the death of one person and the wounding of eight others shortly before 3 A.M. today when half a dozen masked robbers invaded the Parody Cafe' in North State Street and fought with pistols, shotguns and machine guns against a half-dozen policemen who happened to be guests, while 200 panic stricken merrymakers threw themselves on the floor to save their lives.

"When they say hello, they mean hello" sang two girl entertainers above the moaning of saxophones and the laughter of guests in the packed and dimly lighted cafe' as the leader of the robbers appeared suddenly closely followed by four others.

"When they say hello, they mean hello", he shouted. "Stick 'em up everybody."  A policeman, sitting at a nearby table, thought it was all part of the show.  Then to prod the slow ones, a couple of shots were fired into the ceiling.  "Hands up!", the leader shouted, brandishing his weapon.

The policeman, Sergeant Charles Cohen, shoved his wife under a table, drew his pistol, fired and missed.  The gang leader turned and fired, but missed the policeman, as one of the girl entertainers, who had been singing the "Hello" song, slumped to the floor.        

Then there was a fusillade of shots as other policemen joined the fight. In the melee, the lights went out.  When the shouting ended and the lights came on, a waiter lay dead in a corner, killed as he raced for the street to summon help.  In the middle of the dance floor was huddled the crumpled form of the girl entertainer.    Nearby, at another table, another woman screamed.

The bandit leader and four of his companions lay wounded near the entrance.  The terrified guests made a rush for the exits that knocked over tables and chairs and smashed dishes.  The police came to find the panic-stricken merrymakers hurrying into the dawn.

The gang leader, who doctors said probably would die, was identified as Edward Cummings, married and the father of two children.  The dead waiter was identified as Harry Smith, and the girl entertainer, whose condition is critical, as June Griffith, 20.  Miss Fanny Hillman, a guest, was shot through the hand as she held it  above her head. Sergeant Cohen was shot in the exchange with the robbers.

Others wounded, all believed to be members of the bandit gang included William J. Malone, Abie Schaffer, Benny Silverman, and Rocco Rotuno.  Another man, also believed to have been involved in the hold-up, was arrested and he, along with the wounded suspects, was booked by the police on charges of murder and several charges of assault with intent to murder.
New York Times - December 6, 1927

Back to the Tribune article, which described in more detail the murder of Harry Smith (Aaron Iglowitz):
"Harry Smith, a waiter, was killed when he ran out the front entrance. He ran square into one of the bandit lookouts, and the top of his head was blown off by a single charge.  He fell in the doorway, where many were forced to jump over his body.  Police advanced the theory that he may have been killed intentionally, because being familiar with numerous night club frequenters, he may have recognized the lookout."

Poor part-time actor and full-time waiter Harry Smith...poor Aaron Iglowitz.   Harry Smith finally made it big on the front page of the Tribune, but he had to get killed to do it.  His death certificate lists the cause of death as "Shock and hemorrhage due to a bullet wound through the head.  Shot during holdup."  Let's hope that he never knew what hit him.  

Aaron Iglowitz is buried at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, Gate 53 - International Order of B'rith Abraham, Lot 1627, Row 27, Grave 2 

Harry Smith (Aaron Iglowitz)

May Aaron Iglowitz rest in peace.