We see a small glimpse into the life of a Mohawk resident in this turn of the 19th century photo of Elizabeth Matheis Fiedler (1859-1931), d/o Theobold and Nettie.
Elizabeth Matheis Fiedler
Elizabeth is leaning out the window of the Cafe she owned with her husband William, on this celebration day…watching it all from her roost.
In 1878 Elizabeth married William Fiedler in OTR at St. Peter’s German Evangelical Church. William Fiedler like Elizabeth, was born of two German-born parents. Elizabeth and William had eight children, all but one reaching adulthood. The Fiedler family lived on various streets near Renner in OTR….West McMicken and Klotter.
Elizabeth and her husband William (1857-1917) owned the White-Fiedler Cafe at McMicken and Central Parkway.
These joined families exemplify the culture of the times–turn of the 19th century German heritage, the breweries, the commerce and a community engaged.
Elizabeth Matheis was born a twin with brother Charles, and had 3 sisters, Mary, Carrie, and Anna.
Elizabeth’s father Theobold (b. Bavaria 1821 d.1891) and mother Metta/Nettie Matheis (b. 1830 Bavaria d. 1898) lived all their lives in the heart of the working class OTR at 215 Renner Street.
Elizabeth Matheis was born a twin with brother Charles, in Mohawk at 215 Renner Street.
The Theobold Matheis family never moved ‘up’or out of Mohawk (evident by the censuses). Matheis was a stonemason by trade, like dozens of other men in Mohawk, as the censuses show page after page of them alongside each other.
Matheis’ house on 215 Renner Street, South side, faced the massive stone reinforcement wall directly across the street; it is still standing today, on the North side of Renner. Close by are the remains of a spring house. I surmise the huge stone walls and an incline/ramp at a 45 degree angle heading east-west, may have been part of the Bellevue Incline/Bellevue House and brewery compendium.
215 Renner Street
We see how it all worked together in the attached illustration below on the Northern portion of Mohawk, part of Over–the-Rhine historic district.
Looking at the illustration, to the * far left, center we see the smallest of structures just below the Bellevue House, on what is the very deep curve in Clifton Avenue today; it is actually just above the Renner Street house.
* The small structure in the illustration on the curve looks down onto Renner Street…..out of sight in this illustration just over the hillside.
Examining this illustration further, we see many stone retaining-walls; it shows the dynamic and the geography involved in Mohawk between brewing, the incline, and the residences integrated in between brewing and other industry at that time.
Cincinnati has one of the oldest continuous operating telescopes in North America; and our city is the ‘Birthplace of American Astronomy’.
The telescope arrived in Cincinnati after coming up the Mississippi then the Ohio Rivers to Broadway Street, near January 25, 1845. Dozens of boxes came with the telescope, filled with European astronomy books. It had already come across the Atlantic Ocean from Germany unrattled.
It wasn’t easy, even from day one in 1842 of the purchase by 34-year-old Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, for the Merz & Mahler telescope. Getting the telescope to Cincinnati from Munich took much more than the initial investment by the mathematics professor and astronomer Mitchel; father of 6. To be sure.
In between Germany and Ohio in 1844-1845, unfinished roadways, rickety vessels, pirated sailing ships, tired horses, and crazy weather worked against, rather than for, a telescope, its lens, brass and wood casings. Sinking ships, corduroy roads that would shake and curdle milk in 10 minutes, climate changes, no cranes or forklifts, no bubble-wrap, comes to mind.
Thomas Jefferson Halderman was Captain of the Yorktown Steamer that brought the telescope unscathed to Cincinnati, at the foot of Broadway. Halderman had a reputation, even before the Cincinnati Astronomical Society gave him honorary (and his crew) membership in the Society; because of their heroism, nothing short of it.
Jacob Strader 1854
Jacob Strader Steamboat 1854, attributed to E. Hawkins
Reading the accounts of multiple steamboat explosions, ice sheets-a thing called frazil slush, sand bars, low waters….in the Daily Gazette, 1844-45 makes it a near-miracle a fragile telescope made it from Munich, Germany to Cincinnati, via the Atlantic, the Mississippi and the Ohio Rivers. It also diminishes considerably the romantic, dreamy steamboat excursions, the calliope playing, lights aglow, cocktails held high, all we now regard as standard ambiance on these vessels. That illusion sinks reading these harrowing and drowning depictions of Captains trying to save cargo and passengers, who first?
There were publication days in the Cincinnati Gazette when there were more than 10 steamboat explosions, from New York to New Orleans…it was one of the most important news elements of the times. Between explosions and fires (the College Hall building the telescope was to be received in after reaching Cincinnati, burned to the ground a matter of days before it arrived there) it’s a combination of good fortune, good thinking by a riverboat captain, and good timing the telescope floated into Cincinnati looking good.
Watching for news of the telescope, several weeks in between, Cincinnatians read of it being more on its way than not. Riverboat Captain Halderman played not only a decision-making role on the river, in December and January ice and other obstructions leading to disaster if not knowing what to do; he also brought the newspapers to shore for the townsmen/women to read the news first hand from other ports and towns. The telegraph had not been perfected to yet to connect all river cities to give news in the moment. The newspaper in the hands of a riverboat captain would work fine; it had to.
The telescope had an observatory built on a newly named hill, Mt. Adams, to its purpose, created by the hands (with help) of the astronomer who started the project in the first place. Today the telescope is part of a National Landmark, the Cincinnati Observatory, The Birthplace of American Astronomy; celebrating its 175th anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone by John Quincy Adams in 1843. The Merz & Mahler telescope is a centerpiece of any visit to the Observatory.
It is Captain Thomas Jefferson Halderman, “TJ” to end with here. Halderman’s partner was George Washington Walker, anyone surprised? Not really. Halderman went on to become the first steamer boiler inspector in the major river port of Cincinnati. He also testified as an expert witness in a Supreme Court case and wrote copious letters to Congress, newspapers, etc., advocating particular safety steps that the explosion-prone steamer industry could take. Captain Halderman retired, left his nice house on Fourth Street near Broadway, took his well-earned money and family then moved to sedate, elegant Glendale, Ohio. He invested in a paper company, and became mayor of Glendale. His portrait hung in the town hall back in 1870 and maybe that’s the next thing to research. We can think well of and thank Captain Halderman for his river years; for his foresight and instincts that got that telescope to the right place at the right time.
Sisters Laura and Helena McDonald-Stallo were born into a lot that was going right when their Scotch-born grandfather, Alexander McDonald became a real live oil tycoon and millionaire in the late 19th century, as President of Standard Oil of Kentucky working with partner John D. Rockfeller. Their mother Laura Palmer McDonald died in 1895 at age 25 when Laura and Helena were tragically young.
There was soon to be double those dollars and pleasure, in spite of the mournful loss of their mother for the two granddaughters; being toted around the world (Egypt, France, Italy, England) as young debutante socialites by their insanely wealthy and loving grandparents. The McDonalds had a son that died in infancy. Their only daughter, the mother of their two granddaughters, had died when they were young girls, so it wasn’t long before their son-in-law, Edmund, Cincinnati lawyer and son of the US Ambassador of Rome, was gate-keeping the family fortune. When googling Edmund, we find legal requests for revoking letters of administration of Alexander McDonald’s estate holding Edmund Stallo as the administrator. It’s complicated, and apparently connected people were full of questions and not too happy with the arrangements. When a lot of money is at stake, some people will do anything and everything to get a cut of the deal; apparently Edmund fell into this pit.
In 1881, when life was still oil-rich bliss, McDonald hired Samuel Hannaford to build his Gothic estate named after his Scotch childhood home, Dalvay, in the heart of Clifton, Cincinnati, Ohio; surrounded by other baronial estates. It sat on 6 acres on the best corner in the village back then. Today the site is home to a Cincinnati Public School, the house was demolished in the 1960’s. Surrounded by exquisite wrought iron fencing, the front gates are the only vestiges of the past when driving by on Clifton Avenue; the surviving carriage house in back of the school and the rear stone-gate entry of the former estate is the size of a Midwestern modestly-priced family home. Children, (including my young granddaughter), run circles around the large stone and timber carriage house; parents gather at the back gates to wait for their children to rush out the school doors at the end of the day.
Alexander McDonald had bought land in Prince Edward Island Canada to spend summers away from broiling Cincinnati; where he named another estate ‘Dalvay-by-the-sea’. A manor of even more grandiose architecture than his home in Cincinnati; it would be frequented by the McDonald’s until the end of Alexander’s life in 1910. It replicated a miniature Vanderbilt’s Biltmore.
Fast forward to Laura and Helena’s teen years…Grandfather millionaire McDonald dies in 1910. The two girls inherit $15 million, ages 16 and 17. At first, things still ran rich and smooth, like the finest Creme Brulee…the girls’ father, Edmund Kirkbride Stallo managing the bank accounts and estate for his darling daughters, until they reached inheritance age. McDonald family members decided European husbands would do for Laura and Helena; they skipped right over the Blue Book list of eligible Cincinnati’s elite young men…and the young heiresses married a French Prince (a nephew of Napoleon’s nephew no less) and an Italian Prince.
Both men apparently had princely dollar signs in their eyes. Helena’s favorite
diversion, in her San Francisco Call engagement announcement, was tennis. She’d called off her previous engagement to Nils Forman, as the article said, she had changed her mind. She wed in Paris at St. Honore. Laura and her prince had children, Francesca and Camilla, living in Italy and other cities. Aristocratic names were handed down with elegant foreign sounds in the first degree. The blood lines, the duchess connects, the hierarchy created through these though brief marriages with children, is mind-bending even at a glance.
What could go wrong with a $15 million dollar estate? Well, bad investing at its worst, can be bad..really bad. Alexander McDonald spent $10,000. a year on his already paid-for estate, the stables of horses added up, the lavish parties for entire villages of people also added up…the tennis courts, the solid cherry flooring, the carriage collection, the indoor bowling alleys, simply exhausting. Son-in-law Edmund apparently wasn’t as savvy as his father-in-law; or maybe he took things for granted…an endless pool of money won’t run out until just about when it’s over when you’re not looking. His investment in a Gulf States Railway System is said to have failed (though this railway is famous and up and running).
The whittling down of funds soon led both baronial princes from France and Italy to throw in their wedding towels for divorce papers by 1930, and both marriages of the McDonald heiresses were over. So was most of the money, gone by 1932, the stock market undoubtedly taking its own particular toll on the estate wealth. The sisters lives would never be as it had been before their funds were depleted. Though educated, they may not have had a great amount of personal resourcefulness (chutzpah) to establish themselves or succeed in business on their own. Laura remarried another Frenchman and had three more children, living until 1972. Helena died of cancer early in her life near age 45, having one daughter. Helena lived not in poverty, but barely made ends meet. Helena’s grandson is New York born actor Rene Murat Auberjonois noted for his role as Father Mulcahy in the 1970 film version of MASH.
The Prince Edward Island estate Dalvay-By-The-Sea was sold for back taxes from Princess Laura in New York to caretaker Hughes for $486.00 who in turn sold it to a rum-runner who goes bankrupt who sells it to one of his creditors, who happens to be the Lt. Governor of the island, where it becomes a part of the federal government for inclusion into the National Park system. In 1994 Dalvay became a National Historic Site of Canada. The nearest touch with the legacy of Helena and Laura if you visit…a grand hotel of a place.
In the states, you can visit the carriage house Laura and Helena once scrambled out to for a seat in the best carriages in town…the carriage house stands in Cincinnati, at the end of Wood Avenue, a short street of 12 houses. The stone pillars are visible at the end of the street, holding the hinges of the massive wrought iron gate you can saunter on in through history itself. Laura and Helena would love to know the gate is still there, the Old English letter “M” for McDonald crafted in wrought-iron, letting everyone know who once lived there.
The troubled film producer Harvey Weinstein has pushed millions of women to react and respond to the recent accusations by women in the entertainment field, who have not fared well whatsoever in his presence. It prompted me, in lieu of me too in social media, to say something about coming to Southern California 5 decades past…when I was an ingenue in most senses of that word, and found myself in the midst of the movie industry’s world capital both then and now; good old Hollywood. No matter when that was, there’s a price to pay for being female..and here’s one tepid account. (a fire-y account would be one in which I did not escape unscathed; and those women know who they are, and what I mean)
Go to California I did, and alone. When you arrive in Los Angeles with a small suitcase in your hand, a tiny velvet bow in the center of your teased hair-do, in an outfit similar to Patty Boyd’s in “A Hard Day’s Night”, and though movies was not my goal…..even so, you can find yourself in a situation without even doing anything but stand in one public place.
My introduction to California was in a setting which replicated a movie set; (and movies have been made there) it was the Fred Harvey Restaurant, inside Union Station in Los Angeles. It has recently been restored in May, 2017. In 1967 the restaurant was finally closed, just 3 years after I walked through it for the first time, it’s now been brought back to the public to everyone’s cultural satisfaction.
By 1964 I was 16 and had lived in 5 states, and I’d seen 7 schools. Heading West is something young women have done before, including Harvey Girls. They have their own book; and it’s without too many tawdry tales citing their own harassment. As for getting successfully into California, I was not a genius, but I’d learned to read into situations for myself heading West. This mattered more than anything on one particular day in California when I stepped off the Greyhound.
In September of that same year I arrived from Indiana alone and into the center of Los Angeles, off a Greyhound bus at Union Station. I carried a suitcase about the size of the one Cherry carries in the film ‘Bus Stop’. The suitcase wasn’t heavy, I carried it around with me and discovered as I walked, the magnificent Fred Harvey Restaurant inside Union Station.
Were any further clues required saying I was a new kid in town?
In 1964 the 1930’s Art-Deco Fred Harvey Restaurant was tired and smoke-stained. It had been used up by thousands of travelers…I saw a patina of time and people on it. I kept moving through the restaurant because I wanted a telephone and didn’t know what Los Angeles phone booths might look like. At the same time, I had little money with me and apprehensive about that; my instructions from my engineering-vagabond-new-to-California-father was to “Call this number when you get in town”.
It’s late afternoon, and I’m wandering around Union Station; it’s bigger than any building I’ve ever been inside that I could remember, it was huge and beautiful. I’m in California, though I hardly feel it. I am a born a red-head, and though looking like a young Sally Field, I’m already meaner than spit. My mother had decided to move on from her 5 kids, so I found ways to deal with that by being as observant as the highest-paid technician watching a spacecraft land on Mars from NASA.
I find a telephone, and that important paper with the number to call.
“Uh-huh, ok, sure, ok”…I say to my father’s new wife on the other end of that phone. I’m told it won’t be for two hours toward eternity, in the middle of California where the hell am I ? until I will be picked up. (Whittier is 18.9 miles away from Alameda Street, home of Union Station, what’s their problem?)
I give an ok as a response.
Union Station— I sit, then I stand, then I walk, I fiddle with my suitcase, then I sit. I walk back through Fred Harvey Restaurant, and I suddenly realize a man is standing on this winding Nora Desmond-Cher staircase exuding more Hollywood; and he’s eyeing me. This man is straight out of casting for To Kill A Mockingbird ; no, not Atticus, but Harper’s antagonist that damned Bob Ewell. He is creepy, a drifter maybe. He’s on that stairs, so I move…but he’s following me yards behind; stopping along the way so as to not to be creepy-suspicious. Though that’s exactly what he looked like in reality.
At first I think, this creep, he’s not much; but then I see he follows me every single place I go, even to the women’s restroom. He’s standing right outside, and I swear to heaven, he’s leering at me. When I walk away, I look right at him. I don’t have a plan, that’s for certain…but I don’t shy away, because, what the hell, he’s a creep. I gave him, what I thought at the time was, a What are you looking at? kind of glare. The place was loaded with witnesses, what could go wrong? I had no idea men would go to this much trouble to bother the living hell (but he was in for more, I hadn’t known that) out of a 16-year-old female clearly not with this guy on her teen-radar mind in any way. I had mine on The Beatles, that worked just fine, thanks.
I walk around some more and eventually I begin to realize,”‘Oh my god, this man is following me, and he can see I have no place to go because I’m just here, and not leaving.” Well hell, I say to myself, I have to switch my situation…Now, I’m on the teeter-totter of afraid and/or cautious. I saunter back to that cool Hollywood-ish Fred Harvey Restaurant where people who work there will talk back to you (when you’re 16 and don’t have big bucks, places like this are a bit off limits, you all know that)…but there’s soda-fountain service in the Fred Harvey, I could do that.
I walk across the room to the counter to a chrome-backed stool and sit down, suitcase in my lap.
As if on cue, my shoulders drop a little.
A waitress (and she’s a friendly one, she’s Marge, with black sewing-machine embroidery on her pocket sort of waitress) comes up to me while at the same time wiping the counter and says, “Honey, what’ll you have, you here on your own”?
(In retrospect, I believe good old Marge knew things were getting uncomfortable with me and Mr. Bob Ewell).
I said, “Yes, I am. here by myself”
Marge handed me a menu, I said, “Oh, no thanks, I don’t have a lot of cash on me right now.”
Marge tells me, “Well, honey, we have free cokes on Thursday’s and you’re just in time.” (really, Marge?)
Marge sits a Coke down right in front of me, in a Coke-shaped fountain drinks glass.
(I’m that close to Hollywood!)
Marge then hands me a folded up L.A. Times saying, “Here’s all the latest…want to read?”
Um, thanks much, Marge, I’ve been wondering the latest, I have…
Marge eventually pulls enough info from me to glean I’m waiting for a late-arrival dad to come get me.
Marge tells me, “Don’t worry, honey, no matter how late people get picked up here at Union, we never close, nice…huh?”
Yes, Marge, very very nice.
I look over my shoulder; that damned Bob Ewell is just outside the entry to Fred Harvey. I am definitely now bonded with Marge, the fountain-service counter and Fred Harvey. That Bob Ewell creep, was he banned from this place for some lurid act before I even bought the Greyhound ticket?
Seeming out of nowhere, a bright-faced uniformed bellhop walks in and sits right alongside me at the counter saying, “Hey Marge, how you doing today, how about a coffee?” He gives me a big brother smile, and it’s the real deal; he grabs for the sugar on the counter, the only kind he’d grab and you could tell.
At the fountain-service counter of the Fred Harvey Restaurant good forces that will do no harm have gathered round me, and I feel empowered. Marge is checking on my ice for the Coke, the bellhop is nonchalant, but an overseer of the whole place. (And that’s the gist of this story; that people would do that for someone else. They can sense what someone might need at just the right time. It’s grand when things work like that).
At the counter I’m drinking Coke, and the L.A. Times is unfolded enough to just read the headline… President Johnson…blah, blah, blah. I want to peer over Marge with her perky waitress crown-hat, to the restaurant entrance, just to give a confident sneer to the creepiest man I’d ever seen in my life, leaning against the doorway, but I pass on that, I’m 16 for god’s sake, I want to survive this arrival so I can go to my new high school, simple as that. That Bob Ewell standing over there could see these Union Station-Fred Harvey employees in the heart of Los Angeles in the middle of this massive train and bus station, were not going to let a California fledgling like me get lured off by him.
I can bet 50 years later now, Marge and the bellhop knew this ;lurking Union Station fly’s routine. If not for the people who kept their eyes open, I may have had a very different encounter in Union Station coming through Los Angeles’ portal that September day. Lots of young women and girls have stories they can’t even tell, that mimic mine but with a very bad outcome. It’s on this I think as I write.
The bell-hop drank all his coffee, sunny and upbeat while sitting with me, and when he got up, he held out his hand and said, “Well, welcome to California, kid”.
I said, “Thanks a lot”…feeling reinforced enough so that I could sincerely mean it.
Fred Harvey, Marge and the bell-hop had let me in California’s door that day in 1964 with nothing more than an afternoon at the Counter of My Belonging.
No one on our mother’s side of the family had a sense of business, except if it came through a pen, a paintbrush or a needle.
Aunt Dorella Kruea was the best to us when we were growing up..
We knew she had been a Becker.
Her mother was Lily, a dressmaker in the census of 1910; a daughter of German immigrants (Kohlbrand), Hamburg/Jewish. LiIy’s mother was a ‘costumer’ in 1909 in Over-the-Rhine district of our city,.
Dorella’s father was an ‘Ornamental Painter’…and between the two of them had a wonderful child we got to call Dorella, a combination of Lily’s two sisters who died, Dora and Ella.
As children we thought Dorella was the best artist ever. Paintings of gorgeous women, artist of sheet cover music, and married to our amazing artist Uncle Charles. They had no children….
Dorella and Charles having no children, their house a stunning art object in and of itself, didn’t stop our mother, raised by these two people, from going to them every chance she could.
When Charles died in 1952 I’m sure Dorella was beside herself.
Her talent came forward…using Uncle Charles WWI Army flags, his uniforms, epaulets and trim, Dorella made for the 3 of us children the best outfits ever. Her version of Indian outfits. The costumes told of our own Native American heritage, a g-g-g-grandmother was a Shawnee of West Virginia.
October 12th is the birthday of another favorite aunt; Eva (her in the photo of a child holding the Victory flag). Born on that day we formerly know as Columbus Day, I can see her hand held high now in her kitchen when singing the Marseilles in tribute to her brothers (Charles and Fred) being on the Western Front in France….and reciting outloud patriotic poems she’d learned as a child in the 1900’s.
Those days won’t come again…a 90-year-old aunt showing her strength and Yankee resilience, not to mention, though she wouldn’t have joined, a candidate for the DAR, our other Aunt of Jewish descent, our Native American heritage going up in smoke because we are definitely not close enough to the origins to claim much but through ancestry records.
We’re just a small piece in the complicated genealogy pie, however. We are low on the percentage scale…..though our father’s surname, Williams, puts our family 5th on the list of hundreds of Native names used today in the United States.
Thinking on all this, maybe it’s okay NOT to burn this photo for my granddaughter to NOT see; given the shame our society is going through with this used to be Columbus Day we can all earn to live without. if we need to. As I said, I am in hope I don’t need to burn this little photo of the 3 of us kids in these politically incorrect as all hell outfits. All that’s left is the photo, the costumes have shredded from play long years past, and the fact that our hearts remain open with understanding that we’re alike, we’re different and we love that.
Even 170 years ago, Cincinnati buzzed in the spring….a veritable garden from the Ohio River up to Dr. Allison’s Peach Grove and beyond…..that continued to grow fine peaches long after the site of Ft. Washington had been transformed into the epicenter of our city. Mary Jane Irwin, born in 1829 in Cincinnati, took it upon herself to document one particular year , 1843, before she died of tuberculosis in 1847, at 18 years old.
Irwin’s pages are windows into a world and place…losing all sense of time and dimensions, if we pause to think when we read her words in indelible ink tucked away and preserved in her journal.
That former Fort became the literal front door of Mary Jane Irwin…her father’s house was where the Ft. Washington public memorial stands today. One of Dr. Allison’s peach trees apparently doesn’t know how old it is and currently presents peaches.
Irwin’s next door neighbor was Robert Buchanan….a popular and busy man about Cincinnati; a philanthropist in the greatest sense of the word. Mr. Buchanan, in 1843, had a garden behind his home on McAllister Street (now the site of Western Southern on 4th St.) He and his nice cronies (including Nick Longworth and Probasco) created the Cincinnati Horticulture Society that continues to this day. Their meetings were in Buchanan’s home, just across the unpaved, frequently muddy Fourth St., across from the Irwin’s where Mary Jane wrote her journal, day in and day out. A teenager, she undoubtedly thought this group to be just one more of her father’s so many associates crowding up the porch rails. (R. Buchanan also founded Spring Grove Cemetery).
Mary Jane Irwin (her family pew was filled every Sunday at Christ Episcopalian Church, just steps from her home) wrote in her journal about not attending a ‘heathen goddess celebration’, which apparently wasn’t okay to do, according to her instructor Mr. Van Doren and the rest of society, on Monday, May 1, 1843:
As there was no celebration, ANY WHERE, I attended school and received 25 good marks ‘for not being so foolish as to attend a party in honor of a then goddess’. Josey Lytle sent over for me…I spent the evening there, “non est” was quite amusing.”
By Friday the outlook was 100% better for Mary Jane and her socializing for spring.
Here she tells us what developed later that week; when she skipped school!
I did not go to school, as I wished to attend Miss Comstock’s “May Party”. Anna Hewson was Queen…and in the afternoon I went to Schnetz’s Garden. We bought cakes.”