More Questions Than Answers

I have access through my local library to, and I went there last night to see if I could find further information regarding the court case that I wrote about in the previous post. I found a single paragraph in the November 23, 1872, edition of the Savannah Morning News describing the results of the lawsuit in which my great-great-grandfather accused a man of stealing from him 156 boxes of cigars. It basically stated that the defendant was found not guilty. But that isn’t what this post is about.

This post is about something else I found in the archives of the Savannah Morning News. This is regarding an 1872 passenger list for a steamship bound for New York City from Savannah. It is a single-paragraph entry that seems to call into question not only where my great-grandmother, Helen Spiegel, was born but also when she was born.

Some background is in order…

Sometime after the Civil War, my great-great-grandparents, George & Sophia Spiegel, left New York City and relocated to Savannah, Georgia. According to the 1870 census, their first child, a son, George E Spiegel, was one year old in August 1870. This would place the family in Savannah by at least 1869. In addition to the newspaper entries, I mentioned in an earlier post, I found a half dozen more newspaper items citing either George C. Spiegel, his cigar manufacturing company, or his wife, Sophia. According to the U.S. Census records, George and Sophia’s first two children were born in Savannah, Georgia. Sometime around 1872, the family relocated to Dallas, Texas, and had three more children between them before Sophia died in the mid-1880s.

The earliest newspaper entry I found was dated August 31, 1869, and it appeared on page 7 of the Savannah Morning News. It was in a section that listed activities involving rail and steamship transport. The entries on page 7 provided details regarding stock, consignees, and passengers. Under the section labeled “Consignees,” the paper lists all companies receiving shipments arriving at Savannah from various ports. The steamship Rapidan from New York lists a firm named “Kobb and Spiegel” as a consignee. In my previous post, the court docket entries reference a company called “Kobb, Blun & Spiegel.” Note that as recorded in the lawsuit over stolen cigars, 96 of the 156 cigar boxes bore the name “Kobb, Blun & Spiegel.”

In the February 14, 1870, edition of the Savannah Morning News, the Consignees section on page 8 showed that “per steamship Leo from New York,” “G. C. Spiegel” was one of the consignees.

The August 21, 1871 edition of the Savannah morning news has a passenger list on page 5, and in that passenger list, George C Spiegel arrived from New York aboard the steamship Hermann Livingston. Only the first-class passengers are listed by name.

The SS Hermann Livingston was a side-wheel steamship. A ship like this moved at a top speed of about 10 kn and would take approximately four days to travel the 870 nautical miles from Savannah to New York.

In the Savannah Morning News on November 11, 1871, on page 6, there is an article regarding the sale of “special privileges” for the Fair of Industrial Association, an exposition being held in Savannah. The article describes companies who have paid for the privilege of keeping a booth at the exposition. Midway down the article, it states that “The next sale was the exclusive privilege of selling cigars and tobacco. This was sold to Messrs. Blun, Spiegel, and Company for $500. The bidding on this privilege was quite spirited though in small amounts.”

According to an online inflation calculator, $500 in 1870 is worth $11,156.34 in today’s dollars.

Finally, in the October 14, 1872, edition of the Savannah Morning News, on page 5 is a passenger list for the steamship San Jacinto bound for New York City. There are about a dozen first-class passengers listed. Two of those passengers are “Mrs. G C Spiegel and baby.”

This would be my great-great-grandmother Sophia B Spiegel, and the baby is most likely my great-grandmother’s older sister, Cassia. Sophia was born in New York City, where her parents lived. Her traveling from Savannah to New York City would not be out of the ordinary; however, the trip’s timing is problematic.

To explain why this is an issue, we have to examine the records for my great-grandmother, Helen Spiegel, beginning with her gravestone, which has engraved “1871 – 1950”. On her death certificate, from April 1950, the information provided by her son, my grandfather, records her birth date as November 19, 1871, and her birthplace as Dallas, Texas. Helen appears in the 1950 census record where her age is 76. This would give her a birth year of 1874. This information was reported by the staff of the convalescent home and is most likely incorrect.

The 1940 census states that her age is 67, meaning a birth year of either 1873 or 1872.

The census records from 1900 to 1930 show that Helen lied about her age. In the 1900 census, Helen (or someone in her household) gave her age as 25 and her birth date as “Jun 1874.”

Helen and my great-grandfather were married in 1901, and if the 1871 birth year was correct, that would make her 30 years old at the time.

In 1910, 1920, and 1930, the ages given for Helen would have meant the birth year of 1877. In all cases, her place of birth is Texas.

The birth year of 1877 does not hold water because the 1880 census gives her age as seven, not three years old! This and the fact that her older sister Cassie was born in March 1871, make it impossible for Helen to have been born in November 1871. So, what does this mean?

It means that Sophia Spiegel was eight months pregnant when she traveled with an 18-month-old daughter back to New York City; most likely to see her parents. And this raises the question of why did she go back to New York City, when did she return to Savannah, and when exactly did the family travel to Dallas?

In 1872, Dallas was a Boomtown. In the previous year, the city leaders of the village of Dallas paid the Houston and Central Texas railroad $5000 to shift the route of the railroad 20 miles to the west and build its north-south tracks through Dallas. Take that, Corsicana! By late 1872, the population of the city had jumped from 3000 to 7000.

For more information, see these other posts regarding the family of George C & Sophia Spiegel.

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