Sunday, July 15, 2018

52 Ancestors: Travel

This week’s blog prompt, Travel, causes me to focus on my 2x great grandfather, Louis Schwartz.  I’ve recently been reviewing the information I have on Louis and his wife, Rebecca Steen, as I have connected with someone who has an interest in the history of the house Louis built in Santa Cruz in 1865.

I know quite a bit about Louis, yet there is so much that I don’t know.  Fortunately, I’ve had some help along the way and have been able to piece together more and more every day. 

Louis Schwartz

I was fortunate to come across a book, The History of Santa Cruz, California, by Edward Sanford Harrison, Pacific Press Publishing Co., 1892, that provided me with details of Louis’ early life.  Additionally, the book Between the Redwoods and the Bay, by George Fogelson, has given me so much perspective about not only Louis, but the Jewish community in Santa Cruz in the early days.  You can read a little about it HERE

Louis Schwartz was born in Schildberg, Prussia on January 5, 1834.  His father (who might be Bendel or Bendusch Schwartz) was a cattle dealer and butcher.  While in Prussia, Louis was learning the trade of baker.

Louis left home when he was just seventeen years old and by the time he was eighteen, went to Hull, England and then to London.  There he learned to make mackintoshes (rubber coats).  After close to a year, Louis traveled on the Henry Clay, from Liverpool to New York.  The voyage was uneventful and once he arrived in America, he gained employment in a clothing store at Roundabout on the Hudson.

The following year (1854), he sailed for California on the steamer Northern Light via the Isthmus.  From the Isthmus to San Francisco he boarded the steamer Uncle Sam and arrived in San Franciso with just $7.00 (remember that figure) to his name.  In 1855 he moved on to Santa Cruz and opened a general merchandise store under the name of Schwartz & Brownstone.

Louis opened many businesses over the years – general merchandise and lumber yards, primarily.  He was a prominent stockholder and Director of the Bank of Santa Cruz County – I believe my dad held stock in the bank until his death which is now starting to make sense.  Louis was also a leading stockholder in the Butcher’s Union and the Pajaro Valley Bank of Watsonville.  He served a term as councilman for the Second Ward, was a member of a number of fraternal and social organizations, was Master of the Blue Lodge, F. and A.M. (ten years High Priest of the Chapter), Past Noble Grand of the I.O.O.F., Past Dictator of the Knights of Honor, and Past Chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, holding the position of District Deputy Grand Chancellor.  Much like his great grandson (my dad) years later, it seems that Louis was involved in just about anything he could be and still have time to sleep.

Louis was married on October 15, 1865 to Rebecca Steen, daughter of Hannah Plotzky and Joseph Steen, Louis' business partner.  Their marriage resulted in eight children, only four of whom lived into adulthood (Joseph, Bertha, Milton, and Colman).  He lived in a residence on Mission Street, which he built in 1865, until his death in 1893.

Schwartz House

I love old newspapers!  I found this article from the Santa Cruz Sentinel, April 30, 1881, page 3.

Louis Schwartz to Europe 4_30_1881

So what (or who) was in Europe?  I’ve been able to piece together a brother, Kaufman Schwartz, and a sister, although I have been unable to find her name.  Did he visit them?  Were his parents still alive at that time?  Where in Europe did he go?

In 1893, Louis and Rebecca went to Byron Springs resort, Contra Costa County, where he had gone for his health.  He died 23 May, 1893 from Bright’s (kidney) Disease – he was just 59 years old.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported on 26 May, 1893 that Louis’ remains had arrived back in Santa Cruz.

Louis Schwartz remains arrive Santa Cruz Sentinel 5_26_1893 pg 3

Later that day his funeral, one of the largest ever held in Santa Cruz, was held.  Flags flew at half-staff over many buildings and the home on Mission Street was crowded with many friends and family.

Rabbi Marcus Friedlander of Temple Sinai, the First Hebrew Congregation of Oakland, delivered an eulogy, some of which is included here:
“Louis Schwartz had traveled for sixty years on that free high-road of life which is dug with the principles of moral character, paved with elements of human greatness, and fenced with these conditions which indispensably result in honest achievements, that is, integrity, modesty and family affection.  These qualities which combine the traits of a good Jew, a loyal citizen, a true friend, a devoted husband and an affectionate father, may justly be recorded in the history of Louis Schwartz.
When yet a boy, Louis Schwartz left his home, his kindred and his country, to face the world’s good and evil friends and enemies, prosperity and adversity…..For over a quarter of a century he stood with a devoted heart and uninterrupted kindness by his beloved wife, who will forever mourn his loss.  He was most affectionately attached to his children.  They were the pride of his home and the joy of his heart.  There was nothing too much or too difficult for him, which, he thought, might add to their perfection and tend to their future happiness.
As a citizen Louis Schwartz was for thirty-six years intimately identified with the financial development and public improvement of this city.  He was entrusted with an honorable, responsible public office.  He was a member of the volunteer fire department; he was a director of a bank; and was always found the same honest, active and ostentatious aspirant.  His modesty, gentleness and sincerity won for him the good will and friendship of all those who knew him.
His honesty inspired confidence, his modesty won hearts, and his readiness to assist those in distress or difficulty gained gratitude  He was a devout and liberal-minded conservative Jew, and with his death one of the strongest pillars of this Jewish community has been removed  He lived and died with God in his heart and the Jewish confession of faith on his lips  Cheerfully and happily did he lull himself asleep with Jewish anthems, when, alas! he was kissed into eternity and entered into the enjoyments of immortality.”

Louis was buried in Home of Eternity Cemetery (the Jewish portion of Mountain View Cemetery) in Oakland and was later joined by his wife, Rebecca.

On June 2, 1893, the Santa Cruz Sentinel posted details of Louis’ estate.  Remember that $7 that Louis arrived with in his pocket?  In just 39 years, that number grew to about $150,000, or just over $4 million today! 

Louis Schwartz Estate Santa Cruz Sentinel 6_2_1893 pg 3

Just think where I’d be (or not be) if Louis had not set out on his journey at the young age of 17.  And, I am so fortunate to have so many photos and ephemera of Louis’ – once again, I’m thankful that my ancestors were packrats!

Schwartz Louis 3


  1. Isn't it remarkable what these teenage immigrants were able to accomplish? I am always in awe of their courage and determination. Great post, Debi!

    1. I agree - how did they have the courage to travel to the other side of the world and leave everyone they loved behind? It really is amazing.