Aaron Bloch – born in Germany 1823 – date of death November 26th, 1897 in Saint Louis, MO
Charlotte Sarah Bloch (Alberti) born in Saint Louis 1864 died in Kansas City 1916
The past three weeks have been spent waiting for a competent AT&T technician to fix our broadband connection, and piecing together what information I have on my great-grandfather, Aaron Bloch, and his daughter, Charlotte Sarah Bloch.
If you’ve not read previous blogs, I should mention that Charlotte Sarah Bloch was the wife of Albert Anatole Alberti., who sues him later in life for his philandering ways. Charlotte was sixteen when Albert Anatole Alberti rented a room in her family’s boarding house in Saint Louis. Albert was visiting Saint Louis on a short vacation, but some things, once started, take months to play out. Charlotte became pregnant, and Albert, to his credit, extends his stay in Saint Louis until his first son, Wilford, is born. I can’t find a marriage certificate, and there are no clues as to whether the marriage was blessed by Aaron Bloch, and his wife, Mary.
Maybe Aaron and Mary were relieved to marry off one of their daughters to such a promising young man. Charlotte was one of two daughters by a previous marriage, and Aaron and Mary had eleven other children of their own.
Scandal seemed to follow Albert around in his storied life, but whether this was a union blessed by the parents, or something in between, I have no information. At some point Albert does the honorable thing and weds Charlotte.
After two other sons are born in New Mexico, Albert takes the family back to Saint Louis for a visit. Listening in on a life insurance pitch being given to Aaron Bloch from a Metropolitan agent, he becomes interested. This was the catalyst for his long career with Metropolitan Life.
The boarding house appears to be a two story brick building that is still standing today. It is one of a few buildings scattered about in a desolate, forgotten landscape of vacant flat land devoid of vegetation. It was once teeming with activity, conveniently close to the steamboats unloading immigrants at the Mississippi landings.
Today, the area is either part of some urban renewal plan, or just the disintegrating remnants of a once thriving neighborhood.
Sadly, there are no pictures in “the box” my sisters left with me of Charlotte Bloch, or her father, Aaron Bloch. I have found some information from separate notes my mother has written down. Much of the additional information comes from the leg work of Lynn Cox, my brother-in-law, who spent untold hours putting together the ancestry of the Sherman family.
He provided two census reports on the Bloch family, taken in 1870 and 1880, the Kansas City Star article where Charlotte sues Albert for divorce and maintenance and Charlotte’s death certificate. A lead on Aaron’s first wife, Sarah Purdy, who was the mother of Charlotte Sarah Bloch, was recently discovered by my great niece, Megan.
My mothers’ notes say Charlotte Bloch had brown hair, warm brown eyes, and loving ways. She adds that she was kind, and better to Mary Trulucia (my mother’s mother), than Mary’s own mother. Mary’s mother was Sarah (Sadie) Robertson. I described her, probably maligned her, in a previous blog, pointing out her numerous character flaws.
Charlotte Sarah Bloch shows up on the two census reports in 1870 and 1880. The two oldest daughters listed are Charlotte and Ida, who are daughters from a previous marriage. However Kezia and Rosalie were actually his two oldest children. Ida and Charlotte came later in 1862 and 1864. Megan found a marriage certificate for a Sarah Purdy and Aaron Bloch in Allen County, Indiana from 1857. They were wed on September 14th of that year.
An 1860 census from Davenport, Iowa lists A Block, age 37 from Prussia, working as a Broker with an estate of $1,000. His wife Sarah is shown at age 27, born in New York. Their two children, both born in Indiana are listed as Kezia, age 4 and Rosalie, age 2.
You can't help but wonder how Aaron met a girl from Madison,New York, married her in Indiana and then traveled on to Iowa, eventually settling in St.Louis, MO.
According to my mother, Aaron Bloch was a Jewish Rabbi, who owned a jewelry store in Saint Louis. She notes that he had thirteen children. On the census report I count eleven. The two missing children had either left the nest already, or may have succumbed to childhood diseases.
My mother’s only contact with the large brood of her grandmother was Esther, a step-sister to Charlotte Bloch. Esther showed up for my mother’s graduation from Chrisman High School in Independence, Missouri, and gave her a ruby encrusted diamond ring. I can’t help but speculate that it was made by Aaron Bloch. My mother gave it to her mother, Mary Trulucia White. When Mary Trulucia died from breast cancer, her husband Wilford, gave it to his second wife, Edna. Should it have gone back to my mother? You’ll have to ask one of those etiquette columnists, like Heloise or Dear Abby.
The 1880 St Louis Census is inaccurate. The sixteen people living at 2327 Warren Street are counted twice. A second census taker showed up the day after the first one and took information from one of the boarders. In the 1870 census, there were three boarders staying in the Bloch home: John Hett, a tailor from Germany (Prussia); Robert Lyles, a bookkeeper from Scotland; and Dan Curley, a mail carrier from Ireland. There seemed to be a little confusion in the census taker’s mind on the difference between Prussia and Russia. Aaron emigrated from Prussia, not Russia. Prussia was a prominent German State at that time.
Aaron Bloch probably immigrated to America late in the 1830’s, when he was a young man. It is possible he was brought in by his parents, but there are no records to support it. There was no concentrated settlement of Germans until the 1830’s. Before that, Saint Louis was not much more than a French Village where rafts and barges unloaded furs and lumber.
Saint Louis became a prime destination for Germans in the thirties due to a wealthy German named Dr.Gottfried Duden. He had lived in Saint Louis and the surrounding area for three years starting in 1827. The Bloch family was probably influenced by his writings. On returning to Germany, he wrote a book extolling in glowing terms the opportunities in Missouri, and the favorable environment. Additionally, he wrote of the political and economic freedom there. Germany, at the time, had neither. The book was wildly popular, and went through numerous editions. Dr. Duden likened the climate to the Rheinland, calling it the garden spot of the West.
Some Germans were not so impressed after arriving. One publicist printed in his Saint Louis German newspaper, that if Duden ever returned to Saint Louis, he should be hung in the nearest tree. Duden never did return, but he was the primary reason thousands of Germans ended up living in Saint Louis.
Many Irish, and I love ‘em, also came to Saint Louis, but they were unskilled farmers, who came because of the Irish potato famine. It was the influential German doctors, lawyers, bankers, brewers, and skilled craftsmen like Aaron Bloch, who made a lasting impact. Their influence still gives Saint Louis its German zest. Prost! Raise a glass of Anheuser Busch, to wash down that bratwurst, or hot dog. We have visited the famous Busch Gardens, and marveled at the Clydesdale horses that pull that famous beer wagon. There were many other breweries started by early German immigrants, but Anheuser, and his son-in-law Busch, were the most successful.
In 1834, Paul Follenius, a freedom loving lawyer, and his friend, Friedrich Muench, a philosopher, brought 500 Germans into Saint Louis in a single day. Their intent was to establish a German State. Interestingly, to me at least, Arkansas was their first choice. Unfavorable reports from an advance scouting party caused them to change their minds. Their plans for a new Germany came to naught because they were already divided into two groups by the time they arrived.
In the three years following the German Revolution in 1848, 35,000 Germans arrived in Saint Louis. Many neighborhoods were predominantly German. Even in 1838, when the first public school opened, there were so many Germans that they convinced the school system to adopt German as a second language. By 1880 there were 54 schools in Saint Louis offering German as a second language. One famous legend in Germany, or fake news if you prefer, was that a Congressional Committee missed by a single vote of making German the official language of the United States.
Aaron Bloch would have been 23 years of age in 1846, just before the massive immigration following the German Revolution. I know next to nothing about that part of German history, but along with the embedded prejudice against Jews in Germany, it may have been the impetus for boarding a steamship to America.
Although my mother notes that he was a rabbi, his second marriage to Mary Ellicock took place in a Protestant Episcopal Church in Saint Louis, and the christening of their son, Paul Bloch, took place in a Presbyterian church in Saint Louis. If Aaron celebrated any Jewish holiday, or attended a synagogue, there is no mention of it. He seemed to embrace the primary protestant religions of the non-Jewish immigrants in Saint Louis.
About the time Aaron Bloch was impregnating wife #2 with clock-like German proficiency, Alson Alexander White, was busy making a living in the burgeoning lumber business just over a hundred miles downstream from Saint Louis, in Hannibal, Missouri. (Alson is the subject of the first blog back in August).
There is little documentation of what Charlotte Bloch’s marriage to Albert Anatole Alberti was like before the scandal and divorce, but she died in 1916, in Kansas City, the same year that Albert retired from Metropolitan Life. The “certificate of death” lists the cause as “chronic interstitial nephritis.” A secondary cause was staphylococcus infection of the kidney. My mother said she died of a broken heart. My money is on the pair of scissors an incompetent surgeon left in her following a previous surgery. She was only 49 years old. She and Albert had two sons that survived, and the oldest, Wilford Alberti, becomes my grandfather on my mother’s side.