Friday, May 16, 2014

UNDER THE ARCH - Wolf, Mattie and Louis Goldstein

Last Sunday, as a favor to a Find a Grave friend, I drove way out to the south side of Chicago to Oakwoods Cemetery, the final resting place of many famous Chicagoans.  But I wasn't looking for a grave in Oakwoods; instead I was searching in the small Jewish Cemetery just adjacent to Oakwoods, but not owned or managed by them.

The trip was unsuccessful in that I did not find the grave I was looking for, and also because I managed to pick up several ticks who went up my pants legs as I was searching through the tall, untrimmed grass.  I did, however photograph roughly 400 graves from this forgotten cemetery.  As I was searching row by row, I came across an interesting monument to the Goldstein family:

The arch covered three graves:  Mattie Goldstein (1855-1917), Wolf Goldstein (1854-1935) and Louis Goldstein (1898-1903).  I decided that the Goldsteins would probably provide an interesting story for this blog, and so I set out to find out what I could "dig up" about them.

Wolf Goldstein was born March 17, 1853 (even though that does not agree with his tombstone) in Vilna, which was then a part of Russia.  He arrived in the United States in 1872 when he was nineteen years old.  In 1875 Wolf Goldstein married Mattie Grobgeld who was born August 2, 1854 (that doesn't agree with her tombstone either) in Russia-Poland.  Mattie had come to the US in 1870 when she was sixteen.

As early as 1877 Wolf Goldstein is shown in the Chicago Directory as a merchant of "Notions" at 447 Clark Street (now 1200 N. Clark Street).  The building that was there in 1877 is long gone.

The 1880 US Census shows the Goldstein family living at 415 Clark Street (now 1124 N. Clark Street).  A highrise building now occupies that spot.  Wolf worked at a clothing store, Mattie (or "Mite") was "Keeping House", and they had been joined by son Israel/Theodore (1875-1964) and daughter Minnie (1877-1964). 

By 1887 he was listed in the Chicago Directory as "W. Goldstein & Co. - Shirts" at 154 Fifth Avenue (now 647 N. Wells Street) in Chicago (now a parking lot) with his residence still at 415 Clark Street.  The 1890 US Census for Illinois is, of course, lost. 

On October 18, 1892, Wolf Goldstein registered to vote.  He listed his address as 1256 Wabash Avenue (now a gas station).  He said he had been at that address for two years, in Cook County for nineteen years, and the State of Illinois for twenty-three years.  He was not allowed to vote, however because his papers were "Suspect."

For the 1900 US Census the Wolf Goldstein Family was living at 3248 Wabash Avenue (now the Illinois Institute of Technology).  However, the family has grown significantly.  Joining Wolf, Mattie, Israel/Theodore and Minnie are  Meyer/George (1884-????), Louis (1886-????), Harry (1888-????), Katie (1891-????), and Anna/Annette (1897-????).  Missing is Bernard (1880-1882).

Tragedy struck the Goldstein family in May of 1903 when seventeen year old Louis Goldstein died of scarlet fever.  He died at 155 East 33rd Street (now 411 E. 33rd Street) on May 21, 1903 and was buried the same day - either because of the worry of scarlet fever contagion or because of the Goldstein family's Jewish faith.  Louis had been ill only seven days.  411 E. 33rd Street is now part of the Lake Meadows housing complex.

It was at that time that the Goldstein family bought the cemetery plot at the small Jewish cemetery adjacent to Oakwoods Cemetery, although the large arch had not been erected yet.

The 1904 Chicago Directory showed Wolf Goldstein at 504 63rd Street in Chicago (now a vacant lot).  The 1906 Directory has him at 512 63rd Street (another vacant lot).

The 1910 US Census shows the Goldsteins living at 3436 South Park Avenue in Chicago (the 3400 block of Park Avenue no longer exists).  Wolf listed his occupation as "proprietor of a department store."  The only ones left at home with Wolf and Mattie were Theodore, Katherine and Annette.  The Goldsteins also had a live-in servant, Nellie Belt.

Mattie Grobgeld Goldstein died on March 1, 1917 at the age of sixty-two. 

She died of myocarditis complicated by diabetes. Her address was listed as 5138 S. Michigan Avenue, where she had lived for two years.

5138 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Unfortunately today, it is a vacant lot.  Her previous address was listed as 5243 Michigan Avenue.

5243 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago

Here is her Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of March 2, 1917:

When Mattie was buried next to Louis, Wolf Goldstein decided to commission the construction of the arch monument to commemorate his family:

On May 15, 1918 Wolf Goldstein married Ida Krom in Chicago.  Both were said to be sixty years old.

The 1920 US Census shows Wolf and Ida Goldstein living at 3349 Fifteenth Street in Chicago (there is a new apartment building on that site today).  Wolf listed no occupation but told the census taker that he was sixty-nine years old and his wife was sixty-two.  Both said they were from Russia and their mother tongue was Yiddish.
By the 1930 US Census, Wolf and Ida Goldstein were living at 6805 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago. 

680-5 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago

Seventy seven year old Wolf listed his occupation as a retail merchant of dry goods.  Ida was listed as being seventy four.  Wolf told the census taker that he had come to the US in 1864; Ida in 1880.  Wolf said that he had been nineteen when he was first married; he actually had been twenty two.  As the years pass, people's memories for dates tend to get "fuzzy."

Wolf Goldstein's second wife, Ida Krom Goldstein died January 26, 1933 in Evanston, Illinois, leaving Wolf a widower for the second time.  Ida was buried at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, not "under the arch." 

Wolf Goldstein died on October 16, 1935 at 1246 Pratt Boulevard in Chicago.

1246 W. Pratt Boulevard, Chicago

The cause of death was myocardial degeneration with generalized arterio-sclorosis.  He was 82 1/2 years old.  He had had this heart disease for eight years, according to his doctor.  Here is his Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 18, 1935:

Wolf Goldstein was laid to rest under the arch, beside his first wife and son.  

As a retired merchant of note, the death of Wolf Goldstein merited a special article in the Chicago Daily Tribune on October 18, 1935:

Today, Wolf, Mattie and Louis Goldstein rest "under the arch" in a forgotten corner of the forgotten Jewish Cemetery next to Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago.

Well, maybe not forgotten anymore...

May they rest in peace.

Friday, May 9, 2014


Dartmouth College has put together what they call the "The Life Change Index" but what is more commonly known as "The Stress Test".  It ranks life events by the amount of stress they cause in one's life.  The top 10 stress-producing events are: 

1.  Death of spouse
2.  Divorce
3.  Marital Separation
4.  Jail Term
5.  Death of close family member
6.  Personal injury or illness
7.  Marriage
8.  Fired at work
9.  Marital reconciliation
10.  Retirement 

These events cause stress in our lives to be sure; however sometimes even the possibility of the event is enough to cause stress that can sometimes be overwhelming.

The Chicago Daily Tribune from May 24, 1928 carried this shocking story:

The body of a young teacher of Columbia University who shot himself because of fear that he was going to lose his job was found in his department today when he was to have been notified of his reappointment.
He was David Halfant, instructor in economics and a former teacher at the University of Missouri.  Halfant, described as an able instructor and a brilliant scholar, formerly attended the University of Chicago.  He had completed two-thirds of a course for a doctor of philosophy degree at Columbia and was also engaged in research work.
Columbia University authorities indicated Halfant was of a melancholy disposition.  His library, they said, consisted chiefly of German philosophic works of a generally pessimistic nature.  Two sealed letters found near the body were addressed to Bessie Halfant, 2601 Douglas boulevard, Chicago, and to Russell Bander, University of Missouri.  

This is a tragedy, to be sure.  Let's see what we can find out about David Halfant before his untimely death.

David Mandel Halfant (sometimes spelled "Helfant" or "Helfont") was born in Russia on November 17, 1897 to Max Halfant (1868-1941) and Lena  (1879-1948).  He would be joined by a sister, Bessie (1903-1993), in 1903.  The Halfants left Russia in July of 1904, travelling to New York, and then on to Chicago.  Max Halfant was "in the salvage business" which was a polite way to say that he was a junk man.

The Halfant family did not participate in the 1910 US Census, but when David registered for the draft in September of 1918 he listed his address as "1512 Edgemont Avenue" in Chicago.  Edgemont avenue was renamed Grenshaw Street, and the block where David lived is now known as "University Village" a housing development for students of the University of Illinois at Chicago. The entire neighborhood was razed for the building of the university in the 1950s.

As mentioned in the story about his death, David Helfant attended the University of Chicago, graduating January 15, 1920 with a Ph. B. degree.  He was also a member of the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society. 

The 1920 US Census has the Halfant family still living at 1512 Edgemont Avenue in Chicago.  The Halfant family owned the building and occupied one of the apartments, and rented out the three other apartments in the building.  They told the census taker that their mother tongue was "Jewish."  

After graduation from the University of Chicago, David Halfant stayed on for postgraduate studies.  In 1921 he won the prestigious Julius Rosenwald Prize for scholastic excellence and was awarded an A.M. degree.

After graduation he was employed as an instructor at the University of Missouri at Columbia from 1922-early 1928.  In February of 1928 he took up his position as an economics instructor at Columbia University in New York, renting an apartment at the rear of 44 Morton Street in the West Village neighborhood.  It was here that he took his own life on May 23, 1928.

44 Morton Street, New York City

Since the tragedy happened in New York, the New York Times carried a detailed story:

David Halfant, Ph.D. Candidate, 30, Found Dead in Room With Glasses and Hat On.
Was About To Make Trip
Reading of Pessimists Blamed by University - Friends Say He Suspected Discrimination.

A light burned all day Monday in the room of David Halfant, graduate student and instructor in economics at Columbia University, in a three-story building in the rear of 44 Morton Street.  It was noticed again on Tuesday.  Acquaintances of Halfant rang his bell but obtained no response.

When the light was burning yesterday for the third consecutive day, a tenant thought something was wrong and went for Patrick Burns, the caretaker.  He opened the door with a pass key and found the student lying dead on a run in front of the mantelpiece.

The student was fully dressed and his spectacles were in place.  Just over the right eyebrow was the wound of a .45-calibre army bullet.  the revolver lay on the floor.  Several books on the mantelpiece had been knocked down, apparently by the recoil of the revolver.  The circumstances indicated that the student, whose belongings were all packed up for a trip to Washington in connection with research he was doing for the Institute of Economics, had suddenly changed his mind, abruptly decided to commit suicide, had steadied his arm by resting it on the mantelpiece and fired.  His hat lay beside him.  Apparently he was all dressed and ready to go out when the sudden decision to kill himself came upon him.

Two Letters Found.

Because the man was wearing his hat and glasses at the time that he was shot, Captain Athur A. Carey of the Homicide Squad personally visited the room with several detectives, thinking it might be a murder case.  There were no signs of the presence of a second man, however.  Two letters were found on the table in the room, one addressed to his sister Bessie Halfant of 3603 Douglas Boulevard, Chicago, and the other to Russell Bander, University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.  Both of these were sealed and whether they disclosed an attempt to commit suicide was not learned.

Mr. Halfant had been worried, according to a statement made on behalf of Columbia University, by the fear that  he would not be reappointed to his position as an instructor in a Columbia University extension course of economics.  He had been so appointed, however, and a letter had been sent to him to notify him of the fact before it was known that he had taken his life.  According to members of the Faculty in economics, Mr. Halfant was a brilliant student and a good instructor.  He had completed two-thirds of his work for a degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Columbia and seemed to be assured of a successful academic career.

 Among the books thrown to the floor, apparently by the recoil of the revolver were Conrad's "Lord Jim," Adam Smith's "Wealth of Nations" and a volume of Nietzsche.  A report was given out at Columbia University that the reading of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and other pessimists had induced a pessimistic state of mind in the student.

Suspected Discrimination.

Freinds said, however, that his worries were about his own future rather than about the speculations of the German philosophers.  It was said that he had sought appointments, conditional on his obtaining his Ph.D. in New York University, the University of Oklahoma and Brown University, but that he had met with refusals and that he believed these refusals were due to discrimination against him because he was a Russian Jew.  He apparently surmised erroneously that he was in danger of losing his Columbia post on the same grounds.

Mr. Halfant was educated at the University of Chicago, where he received his Ph.B. degree in 1920 and his A.M. in 1921.  Before coming to Columbia he had been an instructor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, Mo.  He came to Columbia last February, obtained his instructorship and enrolled as a candidate for the Ph.D.

Maybe I am just suspicious by nature (or I have seen too many Perry Mason programs) but this sounds fishy to me - and not just to me.  I gave a draft of this article to a co-worker to read and without any prompting she said "It looks like murder to me."  Perhaps if we knew what the contents of the two letters were, that might change things, but suicide is rarely a spur of the moment act.  Halfant was packed and had his hat on ready to leave for his trip.  How often does someone lean against a mantlepiece and shoot themselves with their hat and glasses on?  If Halfant had received the rejection letter from Columbia that would be different - but he hadn't.

The New York Times had a small follow-up article about the death of David Halfant:

No matter who did it, or why it was done, the fact remained that Professor David Halfant was dead.  The family now had the grim task of getting all of his possessions out of the apartment where he died, and transporting his body back to Chicago for burial.

There was a small Death Notice in the Chicago Daily Tribune on May 26, 1928:

Professor David Halfant was buried at Gate 8 - Chevra Shomer Hadas of Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park.  His family gave him a beautiful tree-type monument with his information enclosed in a heart.  I'm sure his family and friends were bereft.

Professor David Halfant, a brilliant scholar and respected teacher - may he rest in peace.