Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note to Amelia Phillips, Who Died in 1884

I know you were born in Prussia, though I'm not sure when, and moved at some point to London with your husband, the tailor Jacob Phillips, your son Phineas, and daughters Harriet and Esther. I'm not certain when you came to America, but in 1860 you were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with Harriet and her family, which at that time consisted of her husband, Herman, a chiropodist, plus 2-year-old William, and 8-month-old Ophelia.

At some point you and Jacob settled in Baltimore, Maryland with Esther and her family. Esther's husband, Charles, was a cigar manufacturer who shared a business address with Jacob's tailoring shop. After Jacob died, probably in 1868, you moved to New York City with Esther's family: Esther, Charles, and their children:  Isidore, Lena, Jacob, Harry, Minnie, Phineas, Oscar, and Bertha.

Two years after you arrived in Manhattan, Harriet died. By then she had five children, ages 18, 17, 14, 13, and 7. The youngest three, all boys, were placed in orphan asylums—the older two in Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest, Jacob, in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I hope Jacob went to New York so you and his aunt, uncle, and cousins could visit him. I don't know why the other two boys weren't placed there with him. And I don't understand why all three weren't able to live with relatives instead. So sad.

Herman said he worked all day and couldn't take care of them. He paid $100 to $150 each year for their care, and died himself 10 years later at age 58.

So this is what I mainly want to tell you: Esther's son Harry, with the beautiful singing voice, married Alice, also of a beautiful voice, and in 1903, after they'd spent some time performing together and separately, their son Harry was born. Three years later they had a daughter, and named her Esteare—Esther with a French accent. Your daughter must have been a good mother to have a granddaughter named for her.

Harry grew up, and—are you still following me?—when he was 40 had a daughter named Susan. C'est moi. Your great-great granddaughter. I was thinking of you today, Amelia, and just wanted you to know that.

Amelia Phillips' memorial on FindAGrave