Monday, March 14, 2016

Nettie & Jacob - a true love story with a few problems!

Nettie and Jacob Muhlstein (was Milstein) were first cousins who fell in love.....and stayed in love. Of the 3 weddings that happened to the Cotopaxi Colonists, theirs is the only marriage that survived.  And survive, it did!

I consider Flora Satt's thesis to contain some of the best material written about the Colony.  Here's what she wrote about Nettie & Jacob:

Thus it was that in 1878 Jacob Milstein left Brest Litovsk to seek out land for members of his family and those others who wished to emigrate with them.  He was to act as "advance scout" and to send back all the information on homesteading to his uncle, the leader of the proposed 'colony'.  Was the American government really as tolerant of Jews as they had been led to believe?  No special taxes?  Freedom of worship?  While he was learning these things, as well as the English language, his uncle Saul Baer would send him a monthly allowance to cover his living and travelling expenses.  But within a year of his departure from Russia Jacob had incurred the wrath of his uncle.  He received no more money and for a time the gravity of his offense threatened the plans for the entire group's migration.  Jacob's "sin" had been to persuade Nettie Milstein, Saul Baer's eldest child, with whom he had been in love for some time, to run away and join him in America where they could be married.  Nettie was her father's favorite child, and he had lavished on her all his affection and material wealth.  He had educated her as thoroughly as any of his sons and had taken her with him on business trips throughout Europe.  By the time she was twenty years old, in 1878, a confirmed spinster by Jewish standards, she was able to relieve her father of many of his duties at the commission house, in order that he might devote more time to his studies and pupils, as she preferred a business career to marriage, having refused to accept any of the suitors offered her by the "shadchens".  She was in love with Jacob, her first cousin, and since her father naturally opposed such a union, Nettie simply rejected marriage with anyone else, but when Jacob left Russia and the all-pervasive influence of his patriarchal uncle, Saul Baer, Nettie was impelled to flee and disregard convention, religion and social ostracism by going to Jacob in America.  Leaving Brest Litovsk in November of 1879, Nettie journeyed to the home of relatives in Hamburg, Germany, where she awaited passage money from her fiance.  Cut off from his uncle's support, Jacob Milstein took a job in a tin factory in New York City.  He learned English rapidly and also earned enough to put some aside as 'capital' with which to prospect for a colony site as well as passage money for his bride-to-be from Germany.  But he had worked little more than a year when an industrial accident deprived him of the sight of one eye.  It is noteworthy for those days that the owner of the factory recognized his responsibility in the matter of the accident and made arrangements for a pension to be paid his young employee-victim.  Jacob was thus able to afford proper medical care and rest without resorting to charity.  While recuperating, he became acquainted with the work being done by the well-know American Jew, Michael Heilprin.

Now, I think that's a pretty good story.  UNTIL....I found Nettie and Jacob's marriage certificate in Cotopaxi and UNTIL I found the ship's manifest for Nettie.

Let's review the ship's manifest first.  Yes, Nettie did come to America on a ship with her Uncle, Isaac Shames.  But she did not arrive her until July, 1882 - AFTER the Colonists were already in Cotopaxi!!!

Starting near the top and coming down, let me type the names with today's knowledge of who these people were.  About 9 lines down at the bottom of the crosslines:

Schammes, Itzig  49  (Isaac Shames)
Schammes, Riwke 47 (his wife, said not to have been in Cotopaxi, but was on the ship)
Schammes, Judel  17
Schammes, Chane  9 (Hanna)
Schammes, Rachel 5
Wassitzer, Scheick 18 (Joe Washer)
Wassitzer, Jente 18 (Nettie Washer became Nettie Altman, a daughter of Isaac Shames)
Breisand, Zattel 28 (Charles Perzant)
Breisand, Kele 26 (Clare Prezant - she had 2 sisters in Cotopaxi:  Freida Shames and Hanna Milstein)
Breisand, Itzig 8 (we think this is Joseph Presant)
Breisand, Hirsch 0 (we do not know what happened to him)
Milstein, Jente 18 (Nettie, daughter of Saul Ber, niece of Isaac Shames)
Milstein, Jankel 9 (Jacob, Nettie's brother, son of Saul Ber, nephew of Isaac Shames)
Schames, Freida 22 (wife of Michael Shames who is Isaac's son.  Michael was already at Cotopaxi    Sister of Clare Present above)
Schames, Ester 2 (daughter of Michael and Freida Shames)
Schames, Sara 0 (daughter of Michael and Freida Shames)

So, we can verify that it was true that Nettie Milstein came to America with her uncle, Isaac Shames.

BUT (and this is a rather significant note) the ship did not arrive here until July 16, 1882!!!

So when her daughter, Rose Ornstein, wrote in her diary that her parents were married in Central City in January 1882 - I don't think that actually happened!

Flora gave us these footnotes:

2. Jacob Millstein, 19, with his wife Nettie, 20. (The spelling of the name was changed on the
marriage license issued at Blackhawk, 1882)
37. In Novembver, 1881, Jacob Milstein left New York to survey the prospects in Colorado, and to look up Julius Schwartz. He never found Schwartz. From Blackhawk, Jacob sent for Nettie, his fiancee. They were married at the Gilpin County Courthouse in January, 1882. Jacob was then engaged in the mule trade. Perhaps to conceal the fact that he and his bride were first cousins, Jacob changed the spelling of his name to Millstein on the marriage certificate. Their children later changed the spelling still further. (Muhlstein)
But there is nothing in the records in Blackhawk, Central City or Gilpin County.   I went to the court house, the clerk & recorders office and there is no record of Nettie or Jacob being there, being married there, or applying for a marriage license application.   I have searched all possible spellings from 1878 to 1883.  Doesn't mean it's not there....I just can't find it.

We also now know that Nettie wasn't 20 years old in 1978, if she was 18 years old in 1882.  Yes, I know people put down the wrong age for a variety of reasons....but hold on, more on that in a minute!

We have found their marriage certificate in Cotopaxi:

It's the marriage license application that provides us with more information:

Nettie was 17 when she applied to be married.  She needed a guardian's permission to get married.  That was her uncle Isaac Shames.  They completed their marriage license application on 8/31/1882 and were married on 9/10/1882 and it was filed 9/27/1882.

If Jacob came to this country in 1878, then Nettie was only 13 years old at that time?  And in love with him?  You know, I have searched numerous ships manifests and cannot find a Jacob Milstein (using every possible spelling of those names) in 1878.  But I can find a possibility in 1880 coming from Breman, being from Russia, being Hebrew.

So, in the marriage license, Jacob is over 21, Nettie is 17.  But in the 1910 census, there is only a 2 year difference in their ages.  In the 1920 and 1930 census, they claim to be the same age.  And I think their ages are important to the overall timeline.

Next, we have to look at her parents and his parents and the ages they have given us.  I put it into a handy spreadsheet:

This leaves a lot to be desired!  Annie was 11 when Jacob Milstein was born?  Probably not!  If you give some thought to these dates, you can start to see the problems that we have.  I cannot find Nettie's parents in the 1900 census, and they were deceased by the 1920 census, as was Benjamin Milstein.

I worked at Social Security back in the 1970s - when absolutely no one born 65 years prior to that had a birth certificate (nor could they obtain one).  We used a process called "best evidence" to establish a date of birth for Medicare entitlement.  It was an interesting aspect of my job to say the least!  But based on that experience, here is what I come up with (look at the far right column).

I started with the best evidence which is Nettie's marriage license application.  Age 17 in 1882.  She would not have lied because if she were older than 18, why get your uncle to act as your guardian?

From there, we know that Jacob said he was over 21.  Was he?  Both of them (and the uncle) all stated that Nettie and Jacob were not related to each other.  I wonder how they ever explained the same surname?  Before I determined Jacob's possible birth dates, I needed to look at his parents.

Annie Milstein was consistent at claiming her date of birth as 1850.  Until her burial.  A 6 year difference.

Benjamin went from 1845 to 1847.  If Jacob was born in 1860, his mother was 10 and his father was 13?  So you have to build a "picture" of parent-to-child possibilities.

I have no problems with Nettie's parents as they were older and their dates work.

This is how I came up with my conclusions on the far right.  And when I find more evidence to support something different - I'll change them.

This, then, significantly changes the love story of Nettie and Jacob.  If she was 17 when she married Jacob, she was not 20 in 1878 as Flora Satt claimed.  But it does work with the fact that Ed Grimes was 17 when he arrived at the Colony.  The family stories tell us that Ed was in love with Nettie and while he knew she was in love with Jacob, he still followed her to Cotopaxi in the hopes that she might change her mind.  When he realized that wasn't going to happen, he walked all the way to Denver!
Interesting note is that Ed Grimes did marry into the Milstein family at a later date.

What if the story was rewritten for this timeline?  Jacob was sent to America as a scout about 1880.  Nettie, then 15, was working for her father, yet in love with Jacob, her cousin.  She left her parents and came to this country with her Uncle, Isaac Shames, in July, 1882.  Her younger brother, also named Jacob, came with her as did many other relatives.  Nettie's parents, Saul and Mira Milstein and the rest of her sibling arrived in December 1884, after the colonists had left Cotopaxi, and more than 2 years after Nettie and her brother Jacob, had arrived.

Then we have the story that Saul Milstein had been sending Jacob a stipend and that stopped when the elder Milstein realized that his nephew wasn't going to stop pursuing his daughter.  Jacob went to work in a factory and lost the sight of his eye in a boiler accident.  Again, I cannot find any newspaper reference to this accident, although there were many such accidents in New York City at that time.

It is interesting that Jacob still pursued working with his Uncle to find a place for his family to farm....even after his stipend was cut off.  Was this due to his great love for Nettie?  It's the only logical explanation.

Jacob came to Colorado in 1881 looking for Julius Schwartz.  When he did not find him, he took work in Central City.  Nettie joined him there, probably in July, 1882.  And while I can find no documentation that they were married there....maybe they were.  At any rate, we next find them in Cotopaxi in August and they were married in September, 1882.

Changes the date somewhat, but the story remains intact.  And their love must have been great because it survived her father, it survived both of them immigrating to America 2 or more years apart, it survived Cotopaxi, and it went on.  They farmed north of Denver.  They had TEN children.  Jacob lived until 1924 and Nettie lived until 1933.  A great romance....even with a few problems!

 c2016.  All content is copyright protected and may not be copied, reproduced, reused or reposted in any manner without permission.

No comments:

Post a Comment