Jacob and Chaya Riva Grossman

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Jacob Grossman was born in Sudilkov, Ukraine in December, 1855.  Joy Marcus claims that he had a brother Noah who was the father of Leah, Moishe, Chaya Fraida and Ethel Pearl.  Noah, whose second child Moishe was born in 1859, must have been approximately two decades older than Jacob.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Noah and Jacob had numerous siblings born between about 1835 and 1855.  Minneapolis Hadras informed me that Jacob’s parents were named Moishe and Zeesle.  I calculated that they were probably born around 1810 or 1820.

            As I explained above, Jacob married Chaya Riva Berman (Aug 1856-4 Jul 1935) in 1873 at the age of 17 or 18, probably in Sudilkov.  Chaya Riva, also called “Ida”, must have been only 16 or 17!  This was the earliest Grossman-Berman union which I was able to identify.

It is impossible to determine what Jacob was doing in Sudilkov before he emigrated at 36 years old, however he must have spent a good portion of his time studying religious texts, since he was reputed to have been a very learned man.  The 1900 Federal Census reveals that he entered the United States in 1892, certainly no later than September, when his sixth child Harry was conceived.  He definitely came without his family, and possibly by himself.  He first appeared in the 1893 Minneapolis city directory as a “teacher” working on 801 North Lyndale Avenue, on the northwest corner of 8th Avenue North.  

Jacob Grossman, 1893 Minneapolis City Directory

 I do not know whether he also resided at that address.  We can suppose that he taught Hebrew or Talmud at a small makeshift school for Jewish students.  At the same address, only three years later (1895), a group of five Bermans, possibly related to his wife, were working and living at 801 North Lyndale; these were Samuel, a 48-year-old peddler from Russia who had come to America in 1891, Miss Lena (cigarmaker), Alexander (bookkeeper), David (peddler) and Ephraim (peddler).  By 1905 the latter three had founded Berman Bros. Fur and Wool Company, located at 227 First Avenue North.  

Berman Bros. Fur and Wool Co.,  227 1st Avenue North, 1950

Jacob’s wife Chaya Riva arrived with their five children Mechel (later Ethel’s husband), Rose, Morris, Frieda and Edward in 1895.

As I explained above, Jacob was the only Grossman immigrant not to have resided at 609 North 2nd Street, which was the first home of his nephew Moishe and niece Chaya Fraida.  Instead, he lived together with the aforementioned Bermans at 801 North Lyndale until late 1895 or early 1896.  At that time he moved to 517 North 2nd Street, only a block from his nephew and niece, with whom he and his family probably attended the same synagogue.  In the 1899 city directory Jacob was listed as a teacher living on 617 8th Avenue North, kitty-corner from where he was teaching in 1893.  In all likelihood he was still teaching there in 1899.

By the turn of the century Jacob and his family were living and working at 624 North Dupont Avenue, between 6th and 8th Avenues North.  Nathan Eisenstadt, the same enumerator who visited Moishe’s family for the 1900 Federal Census, showed up at Jacob’s home only one day earlier, on June 13.  

Click for enlarged image show Jacob Grossman and family on the 1900 Census formOn the census form it is stated that Jacob could read, write and speak English, as could Chaya Riva.  He worked as a  “Jewelry Peddler” while the latter was a “House wife”.  Clearly, he had had some business success because he already owned his house and was paying a monthly mortgage on it.  Chaya Riva, the daughter of “Russian” parents like her husband, had given birth to eleven children, but only eight of them were living.  Seven of the eight were living at home, although for some reason Sylvia, the youngest, is not listed.  In traditional fashion the sons are listed before the daughters.  In 1900, the year of the census, the Grossmans were the only Jews living on their block.  In addition to selling jewelry, Jacob also had a Jewish stationary business which he ran from his home—this, according to the 1900 city directory.

By the year 1905, after having worked as a teacher, peddler and stationer, Jacob finally found his calling as a grocer.  He ran a grocery store in the same building where he lived, at 1101 North 4th Street, on the northwest corner of 10 ½ Avenue North.  In that year his son Ned worked as a “clerk” there while in 1908 Maurice was a “steward”.  In the 1907 and 1908 city directories Jacob had himself listed as “Jacob Grossman feed 1101 N 4th r same”.  Apparently, he sold both animal feed and produce.  Strangely, in the 1909 city directory he is listed as a “peddler”, almost as if he had not yet founded a business.  Jacob continued to own the grocery store at the same address until the end of his life.

According to the 1912 Sanborn map, 1101 North 4th Street was only 1,400 square feet at ground level.    It consisted of a single room opening onto the street with two small closet-like spaces behind.  I suspect that there was also a second level where the family lived, but I cannot be sure because the structure no longer exists.  By 1915 the Grossmans had made the building next door, no. 1103, their residence, while no. 1101 remained their business address.  No. 1103 was slightly smaller than no. 1101, and may or may not have had a second story.  The 1920 Census confirms that Jacob and his family resided at 1103 North 4th Street at a time when many Jews had already moved west of Lyndale Avenue North.  The census form reveals that he and his wife lived with their two youngest children, Sylvia and George (?).  It also states that Jacob was born in “Russia, Poland” and naturalized in the United States in 1898.

Jacob Grossman, location of home and business, Sanborn Map, 1912

According to the 1925 city directory, Harry worked in his parents’ grocery store while living at 1130 Lyndale Avenue North.  George both worked and lived at the store.  The situation was the same in 1927 except that Harry had moved back with his folks.  Curiously, only a block further south, at 917 North 4th Street, a Rudolph H. Grossman worked as a cook for Nick Mannick in 1928.  I do not know whether he was related to his Grossman neighbors.  In 1930 Chaya Riva lived at 1103 N 4th Street without her husband, suggesting that by then he lived in a home for the elderly or a hospital.  Jacob passed away on February 27, 1934 at the age of 78.  According to Minneapolis Hadras his funeral cost $122. Vernon Rockler (14 Nov 1920-) remembers his grandfather Jacob as a Jewish scholar who went to shul twice every day, first to Mikro Kodesh on Oak Lake and then to the “Bryant Shul”.  He sold and repaired jewelry out of his home on North 4th Street.  Over the years he and his wife managed to purchase some low-price property in the neighborhood and rent out flats for 20 dollars per month.  They had a horse-and-buggy which they kept in a barn-like structure nearby.  Vernon accompanied Jacob on Saturday afternoons, around 3 to 5 p.m., to the “Shala Sheides”, where his grandfather would discuss the Talmud in Yiddish with fellow scholars.  Vernon recalls that he had a gray beard and was bald.  He dressed in black and always wore a hat around the house.  Vernon told me that he had nice smile and was always engrossed in work or study.  The Rocklers were at his place every Friday night along with Harry’s family.  Beverlee Fine sent me a vivid 1923 photograph of him and his wife at their fiftieth anniversary celebration.  

Jacob and Ida Berman Grossman, 50-year wedding anniversary photo,1923

The latter, another grandchild, also remembers the dark cloths, hat and beard.  She told me that he was a sweet, quiet man who had a small grocery store on 4th Street, next to a Catholic church and nunnery.  According to her, Jacob was a “rabbi” and scholar who had a good-sized library of Hebrew texts.  He was also an early teacher at Talmud Torah.  Interestingly, Beverlee claims that he had a Sephardic prayer book, which makes me wonder whether the Grossmans had lived in Spain or the South Mediterranean before relocating to Ukraine.  It is possible that the Grossmans were originally Sephardim in Spain before being expelled with the other Spanish Jews during the Inquisition.  They then may have moved to Germany for a period, and then to Sudilkov, perhaps in the early to mid 1800’s.  Of course, my theory is highly speculative, but not without some faint traces of supporting evidence.

Lenore Abrams, another of Jacob and Chaya Riva’s grandchildren, told me that her grandfather was a warm, lovely man with “a twinkle in his eyes”.  She saw him in Minneapolis perhaps twice in her life.  He was a scholar of the Bible who had a very long beard and wore a black outfit.  Lenore’s younger sister Bobby Silverberg said that Jacob was an important person in the Jewish community and was a real “mensch”.  She also recalls that he had “a twinkle in his eyes.”

Chaya Riva Berman was born in August ,1856 in Kornitsa, Ukraine, the first of Herschel and Bayla’s six children.  She emigrated to the United States in 1895 with her four kids.  Beverlee Fine and Vernon Rockler both told me that she was the “businessman” of the family and effectively ran the grocery store.  She was short, heavy and rather quiet.  Bobby characterized her as “sharp and brittle”, not very warm-hearted.  Muriel Fischer, Chaya Riva’s grandniece, visited her and Jacob every summer.  She remembers Chaya Riva as a big woman who was also lovely.  She kept a stash of money under her mattress because she trusted no one!  Chaya Riva died on July 24, 1935, and is buried beside her husband at the cemetery on 70th and Penn Avenue South.  

Jacob and Ida Berman Grossman tomb

Jacob and Chaya Riva Grossman had a total of eight (surviving) children.  The oldest, Mechel (1873-17 June 1954), I treated above.  He married his first cousin Ethel Pearl Grossman (Sep 1881-26 Sep 1948) and had seven children.  He had already left his parents’ home before the 1900 Federal Census.  He moved with his family to St. Louis sometime before 1915, only to return to Minneapolis after World War II.

Jacob and Chaya Riva’s second child, Rose (also “Cilie” or “Cecilia”) S., was born May, 1884 in Sudilkov.  She emigrated to the United States with her mother in 1895 and could read, write and speak English by 1900.  In 1896, when she was only 12 years old, she worked as a cigarmaker for “Germie German”.  By 1899 she had become a furrier.  In 1900 she worked for the Canadian Fur Manufacturing Company and was still living at home.  According to the 1905 city directory she worked next door to Mikro Kodesh synagogue, at 712 Oak Lake Avenue.  Rose married a man by the name of Margulis (possibly “Margolis”) and had three children.  The oldest, Charlie (11 Aug 1906-June 1986), became a famous jazz trumpeter and played in several Chicago big bands, including perhaps the most famous, the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.  

Paul Whiteman Orchestra, with Charlie Margulis circled in red, 1928

  He was very close to his second cousin (once removed) Willie Berg, who, as I explained above, manufactured jazz instrument accessories in Chicago.  Rose’s other two children by Margulis were Jessie, who married a man named Backman, and Francis (born around 1907-1910).  At some point Rose got divorced and then remarried a man named Gilman sometime before 1919.  She had a son Benjamin with him.  I am a little bit confused about Benjamin because I found a Benjamin Grossman working as a furrier and living at 613 8th Avenue North in the 1908 city directory, only two doors from where Jacob and his family lived in 1899.  The problem is that if Benjamin were Rose’s son, he would have been far too young to be working as a furrier in 1908!  It is an enigma which has yet to be solved.

The third child of Jacob and Chaya Riva was Morris (or “Maurice”) H., who was born in April, 1885 in Sudilkov.  I wish to point out that Morris may instead have been “Morris P.”, but I am not certain.  In 1900, at the age of 15, he worked as a newsboy and could read, write and speak English.  As I stated above, in 1908 he worked as a “steward” at his parents’ grocery store.  Eventually, he got a job working for the railroad.  He ran on the tops of trains to make sure everything went smoothly.  Once he fell and was injured so badly that he limped for the rest of his life.  Morris married and had one child.

The fourth child of Jacob and Chaya Riva was Frieda (or “Freda”?) Grossman, born in September, 1886 in Sudilkov.  In the 1910 Minneapolis directory I found the following entry: “Fried Grossman (wid. Harry) r 624 Emerson av N”.  This leads me to believe that she married a Harry and was widowed young.  She decided to list herself under her maiden name.  Frieda then married Max Simons and had five children: Jeanette, who married a Kunin; Norman; Lily (born about 1910), who married a US narcotics agent named Cross; Arnold (born 1916-1919); and Donald (born 1921-1922).  Curiously, in the 1925 city directory there is a Frieda Grossman who worked as a clerk for Grossman Bros. and lived at 911 Fremont Avenue North with Abraham, Gussie (widow of Louis), Joseph, Louis, and Rose Grossman.  However, I do not know whether these Grossmans are related to our family.

The fifth child of Jacob and Chaya Riva was Edward (also “Ned or “Nathan”) B. Grossman, born in May, 1888 in Sudilkov.  On the 1900 Federal Census form he is listed as “At School”.  Vernon Rockler told me that he was good-looking, spoke many languages, had rosy cheeks, was medium height and had a lot of personality.  Vernon recalled that he married and had at least two children.  In 1905, when he was 17, Ned was a clerk at his father’s grocery store.  In the 1907 directory Ned listed himself as a clerk employed by Boosalis Bros & Co., the address of which was his parents’ home.  This must have been the famous Boosalis Ice Cream and Candy Emporium, a photograph of which I located online.

Boosalis Ice Cream and Candy Emporium, circa 1905

  According to the 1908 directory, Ned was living at 40 South 6th Street but working as a “waiter” for his parents; I suspect that the listing is erroneously reversed, and that he lived at home while working on South 6th Street.  In 1909 and 1910 Ned was still working as a waiter.  Unless his parents had a soda fountain or restaurant of some kind attached to their business (which seems very unlikely), he must have worked at a restaurant somewhere in town, perhaps the one on South 6th Street.  In 1912 he was waiting tables at “The Kaiserhof rms”, which can be seen towards the left in a 1906 photograph. 

Kaiserhof Rooms, Washington and Nicollet, circa 1906

Between 1925 and 1935 things get confusing, because there were at least three Edward or Nathan Grossmans living in Minneapolis.  Edward J. Grossman worked for Eureka Vacuum Cleaner Co. in 1925. 

Eureka Vacuum Cleaner display, 1957

Nathan Grossman was a tailor who worked for Louis Berman (another Grossman-Berman connection?) and eventually became the manager for Loring Tailors.  In 1929 Edward A. Grossman lived on 300 West Broadway.

John Marcus told me that (our) Edward had connections to the local movie houses.  Still someone else told me that he had been a singer in Minneapolis.  Norman and Harold Grossman (Lou’s sons) and Marion Shapiro informed me that at some point Ned moved to Pocatello, Idaho.  

Pocatello, Idaho, Center Street, circa 1925

Sylvia, Norman’s wife, explained to me that Ned was very close to his mother and was visited by her all the time.  In Pocatello Ned was the acting rabbi and is cited in the book Who’s Who in American Jewry?  On a United States Army Internet site I found a Ned Benjamin Grossman, born May 7, 1885, who was resident in White Bannock, Idaho and had been drafted into World War I!  Although the birth date is off by three years, I have no doubt that this is the same man.  The Nathan Grossman who was the manager of Loring Tailors married a woman named Tillie (died 19 Feb 1966) and died on October 6, 1959 at age 72; he is buried at 70th and Penn next to Norman G. Grossman, Ethel and Mechel’s son.  It seems impossible to me that this is the same man as Ned in Pocatello, but it is indeed strange that there is a Nathan Grossman buried next to Ned’s nephew.  All of this needs further attention.

Jacob and Chaya Riva’s sixth child was Harry F. Grossman, born June 22, 1896 in the city of Minneapolis.  I confirmed his birth date in the Social Security Death Index as well as the 1900 Federal Census.  Harry first appeared in the Minneapolis city directory at the age of 19, when he was a clerk for a business called “Reinhard Bros. Co.”  

  Reinhard Bros. Building, 11-17 South 9th, 1921


Reinhard Bros. Co., 1925

  He next showed up in the directory working as a grocer for his father in 1925 and again in 1927.  Of all Jacob’s children, Harry seems to have been the one most involved in the family business.  By 1928 he had moved the family grocery store to 1905 Plymouth Avenue, while he resided at no. 1902.  In 1929 he was running a grocery store not only on Plymouth Avenue, but also on 2423 19th Avenue North.  By 1930 Harry was able to move away from his place of business to 1211 Oliver Avenue North.  By that time he had married Frances Hurwitz (1897-1960), who appears beside him in the city directory from 1930 onwards.  Harry and Francis had two children together, Mildred “Millie” (born 1914-1918) and Merlin (born 1920-1930).  Frances is buried by herself at the Jewish cemetery on 70th and Penn Avenue South.  After she passed away Harry moved to North Hollywood, California, where he married a woman named Ilo (born 1900-1910).  Harry passed away in December, 1971 at the age of 75.

According to the 1900 Federal Census, the seventh child of Jacob and Chaya Riva was Fannie, born in August, 1908 in Minneapolis.  Joy Marcus thinks that her name was actually “Tzivia”, which is certainly possible, since Jewish Americans in that period often had a second name in Yiddish.  In 1915 Fannie worked as a seamstress while living at home on 1103 North 4th Street.  Some time later she married a man named Fealander, but must have divorced rather early since she had no children with him.  However, it is not to be ruled out that he died young.  In 1925 a Fannie G. Grossman lived and worked as a stenographer at 1618 Thomas Pl. along with Ely, Rose and Samuel, but I doubt it is the same woman.  No later than 1908, Fannie married a second man named Weiss who, according to Vernon Rockler, was deeply involved in an orthodox synagogue, but I do not know which one.  I do not know whether Fannie had any children by either husband.  I was unable to locate her grave.

Sylvia F. Grossman, Jacob and Chaya Riva’s eighth child, was born on October 23, 1899 in Minneapolis.  She married Louis A. Rockler (15 Mar 1895-25 May 1989) on January 18, 1920 and had three children by him: Vernon (14 Nov 1920-), Beverlee (6 Feb 1925-) and Sheldon (Oct 1929-). 

Sylvia Grossman and Lou Rockler wedding photo, 1920

Marion Shapiro remembers Louis as a wonderful man: “He had the greatest sense of humor, Lou Rockler.  He was a doll.”  My grandfather Bud knew that he and Sylvia Grossman were related but never understood how.  Because of the rift in the family which had opened at about the turn of the century, he did not know that his friend Sylvia was his first cousin, twice removed!  The Rocklers lived at 1218 Russell Avenue North.  Sylvia and Lou are buried in the cemetery at 70th and Penn.

Vernon married Marcella Goldman and had Charlie, Carol and Marilyn.  Beverlee married Ralph Fine (8 Dec 1920-1995) on June 26, 1945 and had David and Gary, both doctors.  Sheldon married Sarah Krieger and had Elisabeth, Sheeri and Michelle.

As unlikely as it may seem, Jacob and Chaya Riva may have had a ninth child, George, in 1908.  That means that Jacob and Chaya Riva were 53 and 52 years old respectively!  According to the 1920 Census Index, Sylvia (age 20) and George (age 12) lived at home.  Next to the name Sylvia there is a letter “D” for daughter and next to George there is a letter “S” for son.  In the 1925 and 1927 city directories George is listed as living and working at Jacob and Chaya Riva’s store.  In the 1930 directory I found a George Grossman married to Rose and living at 1918 19th Avenue North, but I do not know if it is the same man.  Vernon helped me when he told me that George took the name “Grossman” and moved in with Sylvia Rockler, but eventually settled down in Wisconsin or Michigan, perhaps Detroit.  This means that George was in fact either a son of one of Jacob and Chaya’s daughters, or was adopted outright from another family.  Whichever the case, I cannot believe that Chaya Riva had a son at 52 years old!  Vernon thinks that George may still be alive somewhere.

Beverlee Fine sent me an impressive photograph of her extended Grossman family which was taken in 1923, in honor of Jacob and Ida’s Golden Anniversary.

 Jacob and Ida Grossman, 50-year anniversary with family, 1923

She was kind enough to identify the people in the image.  From left to right, they are the following: (back row) George Grossman, Jeanette Simons, Harry Grossman and his wife Frances Hurwitz, Max Simons and his wife Frieda Grossman with Donald Simons (their fifth child), Mechel and Ethel Pearl Grossman with Beatrice (their seventh child), Rose Grossman Gillman and her husband and son Benjamin, Jessie Margulis (Rose’s second child), Sylvia Grossman Rockler and her husband Louis and son Vernon, Evelyn and her husband Ned Grossman; (middle row) Millie (daughter of Harry and Frances), ?Merlin (son of Harry and Frances), Norman Simons (Frieda’s son), Ida and Jacob Grossman, ?Charles Margulis(Rose’s first child), Frances Margulis (Rose’s third child); (front row) Arnold Simons (Frieda’s fourth child), Lillian Simons (Frieda’s second child) and ?Jeannette Simons (Frieda’s daughter). 

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