Now’s the time to resume the No Story Too Small challenge from last year! This time I am going to introduce you to my Great Great Grandfather, Samuel Hirsch Engel. He is the father of my maternal great grandmother, Tony. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past few years since I began researching Samuel’s life.
Initially as I researched, my main resource for clues was the autobiography written by my grandma, Shirley Krueger Morse. Her mother was the first child born in America to Samuel and Dora Engel. She wrote:
My knowledge of the ancestors starts only with my grandparents on my Mother’s side, and that is more or less from surmises, calculations, and memories. … Dora Fleckman and Samuel Engel were married around 1885 and their first son was born in 1887 who was called Otto…. they married in Austria. After this birth, they came to Chicago, Illinois, to settle. My grandfather had worked at a shoe repair trade. My mother, Antonia Jeannette Engel (Tony) was born on May 24, 1889, in their flat at Bunker and Halstead Streets. A second boy, Jacob (Jake) arrived on June 18, 1890. Following came Uncle Harry Engel born in 1892 at their next address of 600 Division St., Chicago. Blanche, the last daughter, was born August 21st, 1895.
In 1896 Grandfather Engel became a United States Citizen and gave up allegiance to the King of Austria making all the Engel children citizens too. They moved to South Bend just before 1900 and found an upstairs flat on Division St. (Western Ave.). While Grandpa worked at any job he could find, Grandma kept their flat neat, cooked, baked, and made the best chicken soup anywhere. Grandpa was a small robust man with dark brown hair and a mustache–very sweet tempered and unassuming with little small talk. He died when I was 9 years old, so I did not spend much time talking to him. I do remember he had diabetes and cancer and had to watch his diet. I caught him removing candy from his store in South Bend, and when I reprimanded him, he asked me not to tell Grandma. He was one of the founders of the Sons of Israel Synagogue on Taylor St. in South Bend. This is now where the Reconstructionist Temple holds services. … Both Grandpa and Grandma spoke almost perfect English, although they could probably speak Austrian, Hungarian, German and Yiddish.
When they moved to the South Bend area, they lived where many other Jewish immigrants lived–a little Ghetto from which each family lifted its way out of with work and prayer. By the time I was born, their residence was a big house on 126 E. Bronson St. Fern, my sister, Marvin, my brother and I were born there because my mother came home from Michigan City to have her children. I can still see each room of the home in my mind, for we spent may weekends there in the winter, and the family visited us in M.C. in the summer because we had Lake Michigan there.
Most of the Engel children finished High School at Central, but my mother, the oldest girl, had to stop school after eighth grade because her mother was sick. So mother had to quit school to help at home and at Grandpa’s shoe store. She always wanted to learn and did read as much as she could find time for. Otto, the oldest, was sent on to college after working several seasons at Olivers. He was graduated from the University of Michigan in business and advertising. He did become an advertising executive in Chicago. …
Engel’s Cut Rate Store opened in 1909. This business lasted 45 years in the Engel family, and then Uncle Jake sold to Laurence Britt, who continued it under that name for a few years more. Uncle Jake was the last Engel proprietor. The first store was at 401 S. Michigan where it remained for 20 years before moving to 107 W. Western across the street. (1)
Grandma may have discounted her knowledge of her grandparents, but there are so many wonderful details in there! I used this information and my acquired knowledge of genealogical records to unearth and confirm some of her narrative. It was surprisingly accurate!
Samuel Engel was born in May 1864 in the town of Lipany, Slovakia. He later moved to Presov where he likely met his wife, Dora Flekman. They married in about 1885 and in 1888 they had their first child, Otto Adolph.(2) The details of Samuel’s birthplace came from a Church Record with the birth of Otto Adolph on FamilySearch! What a find that was!
They then decided to emigrate to America. They initially lived in Chicago, Illinois where Dora gave birth to my great grandmother, Antonia “Tony” Jeanette Engel in 1889.
Together, Dora and Samuel had five children. Two girls and three boys. The eldest son was the only one born outside of the United States. Their other children were Jacob (1890-1962), Arthur Harlin “Harry” (1893-1939), and Blanche (1895-1946).
The family eventually moved to South Bend, Indiana. I have not been able to confirm the date, but by the 1900 Federal Census the entire family is listed at 222 S. Michigan Street.(3) Samuel was a shoemaker and it stated that he had immigrated in 1888 and was Naturalized. I actually have his naturalization certificate in my possession! According to his paperwork he was officially a citizen in 1896.
In the 1910 Federal Census they lived at 126 W. Bronson Street with Jeanette and Blanche. Samuel is listed as being a shoemaker and having a shop.(4)
In the 1920 Federal Census they lived at 126 E. Bronson (I’m guessing still in the same house). Samuel now owns a Cigar shop and all his kids work there too.(5) It was known as Engel Cut Rate Store located at 107 Western Avenue.
Grandma wrote some more details about Engel’s store that I think are pretty interesting:
Engel’s Store was successful, but Samuel Engel died of cancer at the age of 65. His sons continued the store for many years first at the corner, and then they moved across the street in the first block of Western Avenue. The Grand Trunk Railroad station was on the east corner of Michigan and Division. I remember waving to the engineer and the signal men. At one time the tracks had gone all the way west on this street, but eventually they were changed so that the Western Avenue was clear of tracks. My sister, brother and I would come to South Bend on the South Shore Railway, which terminated at LaSalle and Michigan Streets. We helped sell fireworks at our uncle’s store before the 4th of July. We stayed at Grandma’s house where Uncle Jake also lived. The store was three blocks from the house. Our reward for selling real fireworks was to take all the leftover fireworks to my uncle’s home near the Studebaker Golf Course and shoot them off. It was truly a celebration for us! As a service store, Engel’s gave advice on taxes, sold fishing licenses, and hunting and driver’s licenses. The soda fountain disappeared finally and the basis of their business was smokes, newspapers, over-the-counter medicines and novelties.(6)
On Saturday, 26 November 1927, my Great Great Grandfather passed away. According to the Probate records that I was able to get from the St. Joseph County Archives, at the time of his death the family was living at 518 S. St. Joseph Street and Engel’s Cut Rate Store was located at 401 S. Michigan. The store was taken over by Samuel’s son Harry and several of my cousins remember hanging out in the store.
A translation (thanks to Jewishgen.org’s Viewmate service) of his headstone reveals “Shmuel Natan, son of Mr. Yitchak Peretz Engel. Died on 2nd of Kislev, in the year 5688. May his soul be bound up for life eternal.”
And so, thanks to the Jewish tradition of including the father’s name on the headstone I now know my 3x great grandfather’s name. So exciting!
(1.) Shirley Morse, “Krueger-Engel-Morse Family History” (South Bend, Indiana, 1989), p 2-3 ; privately held by Jennifer Alford, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], [Utica, Ohio], [1 February 2014]. [Received on August 2008 from Jana Morse. Original copy was scanned to pdf and converted to Word format.]
(2) “Slovakia, Church and Synagogue Books, 1592-1910,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-267-12385-105662-66?cc=1554443&wc=9PQD-N3X:107654001,112073701,112205301,1160822102 : accessed 28 March 2015), Jewish (Židovská obec) > Prešov > Prešov > Births (Narodenia) 1886-1895 Births (Narodenia) 1895-1942 Births (Narodenia) 1902-1926 Marriages (Manželstvá) 1884-1885 Marriages (Manželstvá) 1886-1895 Marriages (Manželstvá) 1921-1933 Marriages (Manželstvá) 1887-1895 Marriages (Manželstvá) 1895-1942 Mar > image 14 of 474; state regional archives, Slovakia.
(3.) Ancestry.com, 1900 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 18), Year: 1900; Census Place: South Bend, St Joseph, Indiana; Roll: T623_402; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 129.
(4.) Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA.Original data – United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Thirteenth Census of the United), Year: 1910; Census Place: South Bend Ward 5, St Joseph, Indiana; Roll: T624_378; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 181; Image: 746.
(5.) Ancestry.com, 1920 United States Federal Census (Online publication – Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. For details on the contents of the film numbers, visit the following NARA web page: NARA. Note: Enumeration Districts 819-839 on roll 323 (Chicago C), Year: 1920; Census Place: South Bend Ward 5, St Joseph, Indiana; Roll: T625_463; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 253.
(6.) Shirley Morse, “Krueger-Engel-Morse Family History”, p 5.