Bruno Weissbach's Mother's Line
Bruno's mother was Emilia/Amelia Ulrich. She died in Silberberg, Schlesien, between 1893 (when youngest child born) and 1895 (when the family emigrated).
Bruno's father, a Prussian watchmaker,
Herman Weissbach (1846-1929)
From the 1920 US Census, we believe that Herman Weissbach, his wife and his mother and father (Fredrick Weissbach), were all born in Posen. He could have meant either the city of Posen or the Province of Posen, both of which were located in Prussian Germany when he was born on April 27 1846. (Today Posen is in Poland and known as Poznan.)
From ship records, we know the family had left the Posen Province. For some time, they had lived in Silberberg, Schlesien (Silesia in English), Germany, near Breslau. Probably Herman moved to Silesia in the early 1870s when many people were attracted by the Schlesien Province's industrialization. Silberberg and its current Polish name of Srebrna Gora translate to "silver mountain." It lies in the Eulengebirge (Owl mountains) about 40 miles south of Breslau (now known as Wroclaw, Poland). Today the town is best known for its mountain forts, a unique example of Prussian military construction built between 1765 and 1777.
Herman was a watchmaker by trade. Since he lived in Silberberg, we believe he worked for the famous A. Eppner & Co., whose watches are still highly prized.
Coming to America
For reasons unknown, the entire Herman Weissbach family left Silberberg in the late 1800s. First, his three oldest children arrived in the USA in July of 1894:
Clara Weissbach, 22 years old
Ida Weissbach, 20
Pauline Weissbach, 18
From Hamburg to London, Herman and the rest of the Weissbach children sailed on the ship, Astronom, departing Nov 12, 1895. Then they sailed from Southampton, England aboard the City of New York. They arrived at Ellis Island November 30, 1895:
Hermann Weisbach, widower, 49 years old
Anna Weisbach 16
Emil Weisbach 11
Wilhelm Weisbach 9
Bertha Weisbach 7
Bruno Weisbach 5
Karl Weisbach 2 (later called Charlie)
The Weissbachs were our only ancestors with Ellis Island records. The rest came through Canada or New York/Boston before Ellis Island opened in 1892.
First stop: Philadelphia in 1900
By June 4, 1900, when the 1900 Census was taken, the first three arrivals, Clara, Ida and Pauline, were already married. Anna Weissbach isn't listed on the census, so she must have already died. In 1900, Clara named her first daughter after Anna; that was Anna Miller Dorfield.
At their Philadelphia address of 1545 Alder St., father Herman Weissbach worked as a watchmaker. Ida's husband, Hugo Schmitt, was a confectioner. William was learning to be optician. 17-yr-old Emil was working in a candy factory. Bertha, Charles and ten-year-old Bruno were at school. Herman and Hugo Schmitt still had "alien" as their immigration status.
On to Pittsburgh circa 1902
Herman Weissbach declared for US citizenship Feb 7, 1903 in the Western Court of Pennsylvania, indicating that the move to Pittsburgh happened in 1902 or 1903. They probably went to Pittsburgh for better (factory) jobs. The story Dot and Lil would tell was that, when the Weissbachs arrived in the US, they stayed with some relatives in Philadelphia. When they left for Pittsburgh, the relatives wouldn't let them take their mattresses, saying the mattresses should be left behind as payment of room & board. So they would joke that they came to Pittsburgh "without mattresses."
Working in Pittsburgh In 1910 & 1920...
In the 1910 Census, Ida Weissbach Schmitt's house was full at 1438 Grandview Avenue in North Braddock.
All the men worked in a "factory:" Herman Weissbach (60 yrs.) was a packer, Hugo Schmitt was a fitter, William (25 yrs) a machinist, Bruno (20 yrs) an aprentice, and Charles (16 yrs) a laborer.
By the 1920 Census, William, Bruno and Charles have moved into their own households. At Ida's house (1446 Ridge Avenue), Hugo Schmitt and Herman still worked at the "electrical works," which was Westinghouse. At 73, Herman worked as a packer. From Census reports, Herman must have lived in the holdhold of his daughter, Ida Weissbach Schmitt, during all his time in the USA.
Ida's husband, Hugo Schmitt, died in 1924 at age 49. Herman Weissbach died of myocarditis in March, 1929 at age 82. When I asked Dorothy Hay how all these people were related to her, she drew a chart of Herman and his nine children. She said they were close, because they all came from Germany together.
Bruno H Weissbach (1890 - 1933)
Dorothy Weissbach Hay's father, Bruno Weissbach, was only five when he arrived at Ellis Island from Germany, along with his father and five of his siblings. In Philadelphia, then Pittsburgh, he grew up living with his father in the home of his older sister, Ida Weissbach Schmitt. In 1900, Bruno was a ten-year-old student. In 1910, he was a 20-year-old apprentice machinist at the electric company (which we know from his 1917 draft card was the Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Company in East Pittsburgh).
At age 27, his draft card described Bruno with brown hair and brown eyes, weighing 175 pounds at 5'7".
Circa 1912, Bruno married an Irish girl.
Bruno married the 100%-Irish Kate Mimnaugh about 1912. He was 22; she was 26 or 27. Gilbert was born first, around 1914. When Dorothy Weissbach Hay was born in 1918, the family lived at 1442 Beech St., North Braddock, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Her birth certificate says Kate Mimnaugh Weissbach was 30, a housewife born in Pennsylvania. Bruno Weissbach was 28, occupation: machinist.
The 1920 Census was the happy census, with both parents alive and the family of four at the same address where Dorothy was born. Bruno was a machinist at the (Westinghouse) Electrical Works.
The 1930s: hard & deadly times.
Some time in the 1920s, Bruno and Kate moved away from their families to the area of Johnstown, PA. Probably hard times prompted their move.
On April 1, 1930, the US Census was taken. Eight months later Kate Mimnaugh Weissbach died. The Census lists Bruno working there as a restaurant manager, probably a lower wage job than a machinist. He was living all alone and listed as married not widowed. We don't know where Kate, Gilbert or Dorothy were living during the Census.
Kate was older than Bruno and died first. So, in the end, both of Dorothy's parents died at age 43. Bruno died on October 19, 1933 (of an enlarged liver, of 3 years duration) complicated by chronic TB in his lungs.
Wilkinsburg Woodlawn Cemetery
Herman Weissbach and most of his children and grandchildren are laid to rest in one cemetery:
(Wilkinsburg) Woodlawn Cemetery, 1460 Penn Ave.,
Pittsburgh, PA 15221 (To find it online, just google 'Bruno Weissbach grave'.)
WEISSBACH HERMAN 1846 - 1929
MILLER CLARA A. 1872 - 1956
HORNER WILLIAM P. 1908 - 1969
HORNER HELEN E. 1910 - 1995 (nee Miller)
SCHMITT IDA 1874 - 1959 (nee Weissbach)
SCHMITT HUGO 1875 1924
HOLTZER PAULINE 1876 - 1944 (nee Weissbach)
HOLTZER FRANK C. S. 1862 - 1922
WEISSBACH EMIL H. 1883 - 1951
WEISSBACH MARTHA 1886 - 1944 (his wife)
KNAUS BERTHA 1887 - 1966 (nee Weissbach)
KNAUS JOHN 1879 1972
WEISSBACH BRUNO H. 1890 - 1933
WEISSBACH CATHERINE 1887 - 1930 (nee Mimnaugh)
HAY DOROTHY JUNE 1918 - 1980 (nee Weissbach)
WEISSBACH GILBERT 1913 - 1950 (no stone)
WEISSBACH CHARLES 1893 - 1954
Tending to the graves at the Wilkinsbury cemetery was a yearly, pre-Memorial Day ritual. When buying the flower plants (annuals) for the flower beds, extras were purchased for the cemetery. Each of the dozen or so graves received the same treatment. All the grass or weeds were pulled in front of the stone. Three plants (single marigolds the year I helped) were planted, pushed in hard and watered. The tall grass beside and behind the stone was also removed or tidied up. The graves of Dorothy's parents and brother were there. After Dorothy died, others tended the graves, but I think all the tenders are now under ground.
Dorothy June Weissbach Hay (1918 - 1980)
Dorothy June Weissbach Hay was delivered by a physician on August 24, 1918 at her parents' home in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, a borough East of Pittsburgh. Her Irish mother Kate Mimnaugh was 30, and her German-born father, Bruno Weissbach was 28, occupation machinist. In a 1941 notarized document, Dorothy officially corrected her father's place of birth (to Germany) and last name spelling (to Weissbach with a double not a single "s"). (Perhaps she needed papers to get the job in the gas mask factory?)
In the 1920 US Census, she was 1 year and 4 months old, living at 1442 Beech St, North Braddock, PA. with her parents and 6-year-old brother Gilbert. Her father was a machinist at Westinghouse Electrical Works. Other than the charming fact that her father sewed the costumes for her dance recitals, we know little about her young life.
In the census of 1930, the year her mother died, Dorothy's father Bruno was living alone and working as a restaurant manager in Richland Township, which is Johnstown, PA. His mother had told Fred she lived in Johnstown for quite a while, and this census tells us when. (Johnstown is a famous place in American history, since the 2,209 death toll from their Great Flood of 1884 was the worst disaster until 9-11.) Dorothy was only 12 when her mother died on December 8, 1930. Kate had descended into madness or something like that, because she tried to throw her daughter into the furnace. Her cause of death, a cerebral hemorrhage (5 days) along with arteriosclerosis, doesn't really explain the madness.
Dorothy was 15 when her father Bruno died in 1933. Then she lived with her father's sister, Bertha, and Bertha's husband, John Knaus. (I can't find them in the 1930 census.) Bertha and John's daughter, Lillian Knaus Murray, was like Dorothy's sister. Her brother Gil was almost 20, so he was on his own. We don't think Dorothy had much contact with the Mimnaughs, her mother's family. Dorothy was raised Methodist. We've now learned that Dorothy's mother, Kate, was a Catholic, yet when Dorothy herself married a Catholic, she never converted. She faithfully kept her promise to raise her four children as good Catholics.
During WWII, she was working for Mine Safety Appliances putting the rubber seal around the eyepieces of gas masks. F, D & D can remember having googly-eye gas masks around to play with. She and her future husband met when Dot and Lil (or maybe a co-worker from the gas mask factory) were having lunch at the lunch counter where David was a manager of the W T Grant store in Wilkinsburg, PA. He enlisted in the Army May 8, 1942. A Justice of the Peace married them on March 11, 1943 in Lexington, Kentucky where David was stationed.
One of the worst experiences of Dorothy's life happened when her 36 year old brother Gil died of diphtheria in January of 1950. The Hay family was then living in the projects at 2 Burn St, Tonawanda. Bad enough to lose the only family she had left, but then Jean, Gil's estranged wife, wouldn't claim the body. Dorothy had to take the train to Chicago by herself. When she got there, the body was wrapped in newspapers. Because of contagion, they wouldn't let her take Gil's body back to Pittsburgh unless it was cremated, and she didn't have enough money.
We know Gil, his wife Jean Treble, son Little Gil, and daughter Donna had been living at the same Chicago address for at least five years from their entry in the 1940 census. He worked as an operator at a wholesale grocery company. Later, Gil's widow and kids moved back where she grew up, Oxbow, Saskatchewan. Dot wanted nothing to do with the late Gil's family, presumably because of the circumstances surrounding his death.
If I had to pick three words to describe her, I would say "funny, strong and stoic," but that's just my (Kathleen's) impression. She laughed very quickly and heartily at everything people said, so she made people feel they were funny. The kids' friends all really enjoyed her and would hang around the house. Dorothy was short (5'1") with medium brown hair, green hazel eyes and quite small feet. She loved the singer Tony Martin and later Don Ho's "Tiny Bubbles."
She was a huge baseball fan and loved the Pittsburgh Pirates. As soon as Fred was old enough, she signed him up for Little League; he had no choice whatsoever. In high school, Fred ran track one year, and his mother was angry about it. During Fred's elementary and middle school years, Dave and Donna competed in Junior Olympic swimming. Dave was a diver, and I think Donna swum breaststroke. Fred was the only one who was not a swimmer. During Fred's high school, Dorothy hung around with the other sports moms, attending most athletic contests. Fred always tells the story of her hitting him with the broom while chasing the boys around the dining room table. She was trying to get the boys to stop fist-fighting. Fred's point was not that she was tough but that he and Dave were bad: "Her boys were out of control, and she did what she could to fix that."
Dorothy was always early, never ever late. It was a moral imperative; you were in big trouble if you weren't prompt. She also hated "people airing their dirty laundry," and like the rest of the Hays quickly and completely "forgot" bad stuff. An exception was Fred's behavior during high school and college. She loved recounting the horrible things he had done, and everyone would just shriek and add to her stories. In 1966, she famously agreed to chaperone Sigma Chi's Winter Weekend, after which the fraternity was put on social probation.
Dorothy did not want to learn to drive a car until around the time they moved to Pittburgh. From their house (431 Adam Street, Tonawanda, NY), she would take taxis to the grocery store, etc. Both the grade school and high school were within easy walking distance of the house. David bought her a brand new blue Nash Rambler. After the Rambler was totaled by Dave or Fred, she drove a new white Mustang fastback. Fred borrowed it to drive me to the Brown 1965 Christmas party in Buffalo. He parked on our street (North Avenue) across the street from our driveway. Someone backed into the car; I think it was my grandfather.
The Hays' address in Penn Hills, PA was 315 Lime Oak Drive. Of course their mother followed Donna's basketball team and Don's physical fitness competitions. After Donna and Don had graduated Penn Hills HS, Dot was in a bowling league and made various craft projects. I remember ceramics, felt Christmas ornaments, beading, antiquing furniture and a few others. She totally kept up with the neighbors' stories on Lime Oak Drive. She drank highballs (Seagrams with ginger ale). She would always have a drink when people were drinking, but she never drank very much. On TV, she would have game shows on all day, and she knew all the answers. She would have Heidi come stay for a week or two in the summers. They were great pals; one summer, they had their ears pierced together. When Don was in college, she often drove to Philadelphia to see him and Donna who was then working there. She loved to travel and visited Machu Picchu with Donna, Puerto Rico with Mike and lived for six weeks in Spain with Don.
Our (Fred's) family usually went to her house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, especially after Grandpa Hay died. For the Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys, she would make celery stuffing for the family and oyster stuffing for David Sr. No one really talked about her being a great cook, but clearly she was; she just didn't make a big deal about it. At every meal time, there were huge quantities of delicious food, usually a roast, always a vegetable and a dessert. She made it seem easy and never missed a beat in the discussions. People would clean up, but she did all the cooking. I really loved her cream spinach with hard boiled eggs in it. Fred loved her schnitzel and anything with sauerkraut. She was very careful with money, but went all out for Christmas. She would buy Christmas presents throughout the year, often on sale or on trips. For each person, she had a pile of wrapped presents at least a foot high; then she would buy more to make the piles even. In flat rectangular tupperwares, there were many dozen sugar cookies, cut into Christmas shapes and decorated with pastel icing. We never ran out.
After Jordan's & Kevin's births in 1976, we discovered her greatest talent. She was a baby whisperer, quite simply better with tiny children than anyone I had ever seen. Even when we had four tiny children at her house, she would play with the kids, keep up with the banter and still seemingly-effortlessly produce huge quantities of food. She stayed with Jordan when Owen was born and came immediately to help out when Jordan was hospitalized. She taught Owen to walk. I know she similarly helped Donna, although I can't remember any details.
Her whole life, she smoked regular Pall Malls with no filters and drank coffee all day long. It also seemed like she rarely slept. While sleeping, she usually had talk radio playing. In the summer of 1977, she suffered a heart attack in Steamboat Springs, blamed at least partially on the altitude. She was helicoptered to a Denver hospital where she really really hated being confined and fussed over. Back in Pittsburgh, she told us she was getting good cardiology test results. On May 22, 1980, while on a Vegas trip with Don and Debbie, she had the fatal heart attack. Right after we learned of her death, we received a postcard from her: "Having a great time. Saw Diana Ross last night. Love, Mom." I always associate her death with the eruption of the Mount St. Helens volcano which happened the same week.
Back when David Senior died April 28, 1974, Dorothy had purchased two plots in the cemetery in Swampscott, MA. Naturally when she died, we expected to bury her there. But shocker: Donna was absolutely positive that she did not want to be buried with the Hays in Massachusetts, but wanted to lie with her family and her brother in Wilkinsburg, Woodlawn Cemetery, section 2.
On our June, 2010 Prague trip, we went to Srebrna Gora, Poland (formerly the the Weissbach's village of Silberberg, Schlesien, Germany). The Protestant church in this photo had been turned into an art/cultural center.
Our search for Bruno's mother's grave proved futile. After
the ethnic cleansing following WWI, the Polish Catholic
town folk quite understandably did not maintain the
German cemetery. Headstones are all knocked over and hidden by
Hermann Weißbach in 1919.
Above is the German spelling of Weissbach --
(with an Eszett instead of double ss).
Interestingly, the Eszett, ß, is a lower case letter only.
Ellis Island records wrongly spelled Weisbach with just one 's.'
Herman Weissbach was a watchmaker in Silberberg, Schlesien, Germany (Now Srebrna Gora, Poland). Almost certainly, he worked at this Eppner Watch factory.
This 1900 photo of Silberberg shows the Eppner factory up on the hill. It was torn down many years ago. The famous forts are at the very top of this hill.
Made by the A. Eppner company
this watch was recently
sold by Christie's for $36,000.
The Weissbachs came to American
on the ship, The City of New York, arriving
at Ellis Island on November 30, 1895.
Bruno Weissbach and Kate Mimnaugh, taken around 1912, probably their wedding photo. This was the only photo Dorothy Weissbach Hay had ever seen of her mother who died when Dorothy was just 12.
Taken circa 1919, the back row is Bruno, one of his sisters (Bertha/Clara), and Dot's grandfather Herman Weissbach.
The three girls are Lil, Dot and Helen Miller Horner.
The Weissbachs were very keen on dancing. Relatives
today still run a dance studio in Pittburgh. Her father sewed some/all of Dorothy's dance costumes.
Dot, Gil and Lil in the early 1930s.
Dot's high school graduation, about 1937,
from Wilkinsburg High School.
Taken at a W T Grants Christmas party early in their marriage.
Visiting Dave in Ft. Lee, Virginia, during the Viet Nam era.
Christmas 1974.Nobody remembers details of the hats.
In 1978, with Jordan and Baby Owen.