American Generation 6
Edgar Franklin Kessler, Sr. (1897 – 1966)
Edgar Franklin Kessler, Sr. was born at the end of the 19th Century but spent most of his childhood and adulthood in the 20th Century. Ed, Sr. was the grandfather of the author, who has vivid and clear memories of him.
RECOVERING FROM FAMILY SCANDAL (mid-1890s to mid-1900s)
Ed grew up in the Frederick, Maryland area. His life was directly impacted by the family scandal that embroiled his grandfather, Andrew Jr., his father William and his uncles. As recounted in earlier chapters, Andrew Jr. was a man of both substantial financial means and social and political influence, serving in the Maryland State Legislature before and during the Civil War and being arrested when Abraham Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus rights in Maryland in order to prevent Maryland from succeeding from the Union and cutting off Washington, D.C. from the north. A significant amount of Andrew Jr.’s fortune derived from farming and the use of slave labor and he ardently sought to defend that institution and to protect state’s rights.
During the late 1880s and early 1890s as he aged, Andrew’s sons controlled his assets and, without his knowledge, spent his wealth, leaving both he and his family, which had been dependent on the family wealth, destitute. It was always rumored in the family when I was growing up and later confirmed by a newspaper report that when Andrew visited the bank in Frederick and learned the truth he suffered a fatal heart attack and died on a downtown Frederick sidewalk on Saturday, November 7, 1896.
The impact of the collapse of the family fortune was immediate and devastating. For Edgar’s father, William, it necessitated moving from the family farms located in Jefferson and living with his sister, Isabella and her husband, William Figgins on their farm in Buckeystown, Maryland. According to the 1900 U.S. Census 41 year old William’s occupation was listed as farmer suggesting that he was earning his family’s “keep” by substantially contributing to the farm’s operation on behalf of his 65 year old brother-in-law, William Figgins. This was his way of repaying Isabella and William’s generosity for taking in his family after the collapse of family finances a few years earlier.
EARLY YEARS (birth to World War I)
At the turn of the century moral values were still very much “old world;” marriage was for life and divorce rarely occurred; the male worked and the female bore and raised children and carried out domestic responsibilities. In order to travel families either walked, rode a horse-pulled buggy or wagon, or used public transportation, if available.
There were few conveniences such as those we are accustomed to today: no telephones, radios, televisions, air conditioners, refrigerators, clothes washers or dryers, or dish washers. Shopping was done almost daily since there was no refrigeration unless the family could afford to purchase ice for their “ice box.” Clothes were washed by hand and hung outside or in the kitchen or basement on clothes lines in the winter. Water was heated on a stove which was likely powered by natural gas, wood or coal.
For those who lived on farms, crops were harvested and some quantities were canned for later use. Protein from animals such as pigs and chicken were obtained by slaughtering them. For larger animals some portions were cured and smoked to preserve them for later consumption.
Sometime between 1900 and 1910 William Kessler decided to leave the Figgins farm and move his family into a rented home. According to the 1910 U.S. Census William was doing odd jobs as a laborer. The family still lived in Buckeystown, which is about six miles from the former family home in Jefferson and about six miles from Frederick Town.
By 1910 Edgar’s oldest sister Blanche was 17 years old, Ed was 13, Nellie (Hillie) was 16 years old, Clara was 15 years old and Charles was 14 years old. In 1910 younger siblings Mabel was 7 years old, Annie was 6, and Paul was an infant of one. The youngest sibling, William would not be born until 1914. Like many children of that era, Edgar ended his education at the 8th grade, deciding not to continue on to high school.
The family still maintained connections to Jefferson. Young Edgar and his family were members of the M.E. Church of Doubs, which is located in Jefferson. There are newspaper records from a 1910 edition of the Frederick Times describing Christmas performances in which he and his sisters Clara, Nellie and Mabel and his brother Charlie played roles in “Santa’s Little Boy” at the church.
World War I
World War I started in 1914 with the assassination of Francis Ferdinand on June 28th. The war raged in Europe through the rest of 1914 and all of 1915 and 1916. Finally, the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917.
Ed, Sr. enlisted in the Maryland National Guard on July 30, 1917 and was assigned as a private in the 29th Division, 115th Infantry Division. He likely fought in the Third Battle of Aisne, which was fought from May 27 to June 6, 1918. Allied troops were defending the Chemin des Dames Ridge when German General Erich von Ludendorff opened a 4,000 gun preliminary bombardment starting on May 27th, 1918. The initial bombardment caused heavy casualties on Allied front-line trenches. A gas attack was followed by an infantry advance and the Germans rapidly advanced to the River Vesle. The offensive continued and by May 30th the Germans had captured 50,000 soldiers and 800 guns and were only 10 miles from Paris. Allied counter-attacks halted the advance by June 6th.
The family story was that Ed, Sr. experienced a mustard gas attack and suffered from side effects for many years, and facts seem to support this assertion. Mustard Gas (Yperite) was first used by the German Army in September 1917. The most lethal of all the poisonous chemicals used during the war, it was almost odorless and took twelve hours to take effect. Yperite was so powerful that only small amounts had to be added to high explosive shells to be effective. Once in the soil, mustard gas remained active for several weeks. Between 1914 and 1918, the U.S. suffered 71,345 non-fatal mustard gas injuries and 1,462 deaths.
After being wounded in France, Ed, Sr. left for the U.S. so that his injuries could be treated. On June 14, 1918 Ed, Sr. arrived at Camp McClelland, Alabama. He was assigned to Development Battalions (unable to physically perform duty) until he was honorably discharged on Dec. 4, 1918. NOTE: A newspaper item from the January 20, 1920 edition of the Frederick Times notes that Sergeant Edgar Kessler of Doubs returned from France, which creates a bit of a mystery relative to the prior notations. The item has been saved on disk for reference by anyone who has time to explore the mystery.
THE 1920s – FROM FREDERICK TO BALTIMORE
According to the 1920 U.S. Census taken in early March 1920, Edgar was living at home in Buckeystown with his father and mother and those siblings who were still at home. Blanche, Nellie and Clara were married by this time, but Charlie, Mabel, Annie, Paul and William were still living at home. Both William who was 60 years old and Edgar at age 23 are listed as house painters.
In 1920 a number of relatives lived very close. While William’s family lived at 215 Buckeystown Pike, Edgar’s Uncle C.F.W. Walter, 69, and Aunt Eugenia, 68, along with Great-Aunt Isabella Figgins, 81, lived next door at 216 Buckeystown Pike. Edgar’s brother-in-law Wesley Schaeffer, 26, and his sister Blanche, 26, along with their two young children Mary and Howard lived at 219 Buckeystown Pike.
The “Roaring 20s” was a boom time in America. People had no problem finding a job and for younger people education often ended early as a result. The decade began with passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 giving women the right to vote. A generational gap began to form between the “new” women of the 1920s and the previous generation. Since women had filled many traditionally male occupations during the War many believed that they were capable of having both a career and a family.
Young women’s perspectives regarding work, relationships, marriage, and child rearing were undergoing slow but steady change as they began to perceive a new sense of personal freedom and liberation. This shift was evident in music, dance and fashion as young people were drawn to jazz music, danced the Charleston, and adopted “flapper” fashions.
Prohibition also played a significant role in the 1920s. It made illegal the manufacture, import and sale of beer, wine and hard liquor. This movement gave rise to illegal alcohol establishments known as “Speakeasies,” and led to the rise of alcohol smuggling and organized crime.
Certainly the many cultural and social changes influenced those who grew up during the early decades of the 20th Century. Even though there was no form of mass media other than newspapers and magazines, contemporary events were likely discussed at school, at home, and among close family members. Since Edgar was approaching his mid-20s and had served in the European theater during World War I he certainly was old enough to be influenced by the changing times.
It is not clear exactly why Edgar decided to move from Frederick to Baltimore. He was the first in our direct line to locate from Frederick to Baltimore, but he did so in the early 1920s. Records indicate that Edgar F. Kessler, age 32 married Daisy E. Romoser, age 38 on Nov. 21, 1921. This is a bit strange as Edgar was actually only 24 years old at the time, but it is difficult to believe that there would be another Edgar F. Kessler living in Baltimore. A possible explanation is that he exaggerated his age in order to reduce the age difference between Daisy and he. According to the 1910 US Census Daisy Romoser, age 26, was married to Alexander Romoser and they had a one year old son named George H Romoser.
According to the 1920 US Census Daisy was living with her 63-year-old parents, William and Sarah Rigby on West Franklin Street in Baltimore with two twins, Helen and Alexander Romoser aged 4 years old. Her husband, Alexander was living with his 72 year old mother on Homewood Avenue and had custody of their 11 year old son, George. In the 1930 US Census Alexander was still living on Homewood Avenue and his marital status was divorced. A City Directory published in 1921 listed Daisy as living on Stricker Street.
Although it is certain Edgar married Daisy in 1921, no additional records have been found documenting Edgar’s divorce from Daisy or his marriage to Elizabeth. It is possible that both events occurred but it is also possible that he never divorced Daisy and that although Elizabeth took the Kessler name they were never legally married.
Elizabeth Wesley Moore was born on Jan 19, 1906. Her father was George Moore, Jr. and her mother was Mary L. Stewart Moore. According to the 1910 U.S. Census the family lived at 43 N. Regester Avenue in in East Baltimore, not far from Patterson Park. At the time of the 1910 Census, Elizabeth, age 4, was living with her father, George Moore Jr., her mother, Mary L. Stewart Moore, age 26, her grandmother, Annie Stewart, age 52, her sister Helen M., age 6, and her little brother George L. Moore, age 2.
Elizabeth’s whereabouts in 1920 cannot be determined. She was almost 15 years old at the time of the U.S. Census taken in 1920. Apparently by this time her father and mother had separated. Her father was living at 208 Washington Street with his mother, Margaret Moore, age 66 and Elizabeth’s sister Helen and brother, George. She is not listed as living with her father. Her mother is listed in the 1920 Census as May Stewart, age 35, living at 75 E. Barre Street which is in the Inner Harbor area just off of Light Street. Her mother, Annie Steward, age 63 is living with her as well at three younger children: Ella Stewart, age 5; Aurelia Steward, age 3; and Alma Stewart, age 1. Again, Elizabeth is not listed as living with her mother in January 1920. It is not possible to know where she was living. Perhaps she was living with an aunt or uncle or perhaps at a very young age she decided to leave home and was staying with someone else.
It is also not known how Edgar and Elizabeth met, if they married, or when they started living together as a family. I often wish that we had asked more questions when they were alive, but we were young children and doing so did not occur to us at that age. It would have been nice to capture their memories and recollections, which have now been lost to time.
What we know is that Edgar ended his relationship with Daisy Romoser sometime after November 21, 1921 when they were married and began his relationship with Elizabeth (Liz) sometime before December 1922, since their first daughter, Clara was born on August 7, 1923. We do not know if there was a cause and effect factor between Edgar ending his relationship with Daisy and starting a relationship with Liz. From this point forward, Ed and Liz maintained a relationship in which they parented the following children:
- Clara, born on August 7, 1923
- Edgar, Jr. born on December 3, 1924
- Margaret, born on June 3, 1927
- Helen, born on July 5, 1929
- Dorothy, born on March 7, 1931
- George (Bud), born on August 13, 1935
- Charles, born on December 21, 1937
Based on Baltimore City Directory listings, it is clear that the family moved frequently. In 1924 they lived at 7 N. Bond Street; in 1926 they lived at 307 E. Lanvale Street; in 1927 they lived at 503 Brice Street; in 1930 they lived at 829 W. Lanvale Street and in 1940 the family lived at 829 W. Cross Street. Ed worked as a house painter and it is likely that work was erratic and family finances were a primary reason for the frequent moves. There was another factor as well.
According to my father and recollections from cousins, Ed, Sr. periodically disappeared from the home for long periods – as long as six months at a time. Cousin Patricia (Patty) Seelhorst Ball recalls that he may have spent time in or near Charlottesville, Virginia during these trips. Family members suggested that his wandering nature was possibly the result of suffering from the mustard gas effects that lingered from his World War I service.
Edgar’s World War II draft registration card, completed on April 25, 1942, listed his address as 1205 N. Washington Street, Baltimore, Maryland (note: there is a line-out through this address and another address is typed in: 1837 W. Franklin Street, which is apparently the address of his sister, Anna Florey). His height is stated as 6 feet 1 inch (I honestly do not remember that he was that tall). His occupation is stated as Jobber: painting, papering, etc.
THE GREAT DEPRESSION YEARS (1930s)
Four of the Kessler’s seven children were born in the 1920s. By the end of this “roaring” decade, however, the U.S. economy came to a crashing halt. The 1930’s were ushered in with a “bang” – the U.S. Stock Market Crash of 1929 which threw the nation into a decade long “Great Depression.” For many families, jobs were simply non-existent and they faced prolonged deprivation and poverty. Some survived by begging and others were forced to move in with relatives or take in boarders to make ends meet.
Many who lived through this time period were psychologically scarred for the remainder of their lives. They were obsessed with hard work, earning as much as possible, saving, frugality, and never wasting anything. As they became parents they instilled these values in their children.
According to the 1930 U.S. Census conducted on April 8, 1930, Ed and Liz lived at 1824 West Rayner Avenue with their children: Clara, 7; Edgar Jr. 5; Margaret, 3; and Helen, 8 months old. Annie E. Stewart, age 72 also lived with the family. Ed is listed as a painter/contractor.
There are no living family members who can recount the impact of the Great Depression on the Kessler family. It could be that during this time Ed’s rumored disappearances began occurring. Certainly the Depression hit the Kessler’s hard, like most other working class families.
Personal tragedy also occurred when, at the age of approximately eight years old while in the third grade Edgar Jr. was struck by a truck and hospitalized. His skull was damaged on the upper left side of his face and doctors operated and repaired the damaged bone tissue by inserting a metallic plate. Over time this and his other injuries healed, but the family never required or forced him to return to school so his formal education ended with the third grade.
My father often recounted that when he was young he worked at the Patterson Park Bowling Lanes as a pin setter (bowling pins used to be reset by people behind the black curtains at the end of bowling lanes before pin-reset technology was adopted). He recounted that he gave the money to his mother to help with family expenses.
As the older Kessler children reached school age and started school in the 1930s, the younger ones, Dorothy, George and Charles were born. Certainly the family was poor during this decade. By the second half of the decade the older children, Clara, Ed Jr. and Margaret all reached their teens and likely were anxious to find jobs and embrace the maturity that came with being a teenager in the 1930s.
WORLD WAR II (1940s)
The 1940 U.S. Census provides another family mystery because Edgar F. Kessler is listed in two different entries and at two different addresses. In one entry dated April 12, 1940 his age is recorded as 43 and he is listed as a “boarder” living with a family headed by Emma Settles, age 35, living at 712 Appleton Street. The family included two daughters and two sons, ranging in age from 2 to 13 and another boarder named Luther Hurley, age 55. Perhaps there were indeed two different Edgar F. Kessler people living in Baltimore, which would explain the marriage to Daisy Rosemer, discussed earlier. However, both people in this census are listed as having occupations of “painter” which seems strange.
In a second entry dated April 22, 1940, he is listed as living with Elizabeth and the children at 829 W. Cross Street. The names are Edgar F. Kessler, 40; Elizabeth Kessler, 32; Clara, 17; Edgar Jr., 16; Margaret, 13; Helen, 10; Dorothy, 9; George, 4; Charles, 2; and a boarder named Joseph Farrell, age 29. Perhaps at the time Ed and Liz were separated and the boarder, who was only 3 years young than Liz is actually serving as Liz’s companion. Alternatively, Liz could have been paying the rent by renting a room to the boarder. In both entries Edgar is listed as a painter and paperhanger, which increases the likelihood that this is our grandfather and reinforces the stories that Ed would disappear, sometimes for six months at a time.
As the Kessler family entered the 1940s and the Country began to recover from the ravages of the Great Depression, the children started to come of age, poised to move into or out of their teenage years. All would be impacted in some way by World War II, either directly or indirectly. The family lived through and experienced the news stories as Europe became engulfed in the Nazi aggression, as the United States was attacked by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and how the U.S. was inexorably drawn into the War.
World War II propelled the country out of the Great Depression, creating an industrial and logistics and transportation revolution that would change the world forever. Baltimore was the home to Bethlehem Steel, shipyards, and Martin-Marietta which produced fighter aircraft during the War. Steel, ships, aircraft, munitions, food and many other supplies had to be moved from the U.S. to the battlefronts in Europe and Asia.
Even one-generation removed, family members can easily recall events surrounding WW II. More than a decade after the war ended, elementary school children were required to participate in air raid drills by moving into hallways when an air-raid siren sounded, sitting on the floor and covering their necks with their hands in order to avoid injury from breaking glass. The local metal scrap yard in Baltimore was littered with World War II military vehicles including trucks, tanks and other types.
When the current generation visits Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, which was attacked on December 7, 1941, they do so with great respect and reverence, remembering the extraordinary loss of life and the damage inflicted on the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet. They recall with horror the depictions of the German concentration camps, the Nazi efforts to exterminate the entire Jewish population, the unimaginable loss of life as U.S. forces attempted to displace Japanese soldiers from well-defended Pacific islands, and the necessity to drop atomic bombs on two Japanese cities with a threat to drop a third on Tokyo in order to convince the Japanese government to capitulate and end the war.
During the 1940s a number of things occurred that changed the course of most of the Kessler family lives:
- Edgar, Jr. joined the Army, but only served about one year. His discharge was likely related to his epilepsy condition;
- Clara married Joseph J. DeWitt and left home
- Edgar obtained employment at Glenn L. Martin in Essex, met Sue Kate Fairchild, who also worked there, and they were married and started a family
- Margaret married Ellsworth Tracey, Jr. and left home
- Helen met Herman Seelhorst in the late 1940s and was married
- Dorothy, George (Bud) and Charles were likely still living at home by the end of the 1940s.
POST-WORLD WAR II (1950s-1960s)
By the 1950s the Kessler family had matured. Homes now had indoor plumbing and electricity. In the 1940s families listened to radio broadcast accounts of WW II, but by the early 1950s the first televisions were being sold and networks started to broadcast the early black and white shows. Families were starting to acquire telephones. During this decade the remaining children married and left home.
During the early 1960s Ed and Liz finally separated for good. Liz moved into a home in Cedar Beach, Middle River, Maryland with someone I only remember as “Old Man” Alte. The house was located at the corner of Silver Lane and River Road in Cedar Beach, was one story, and had a front room that served as a local store named “Alte’s.” It was located directly on the Middle River. When we would visit we were able to swim in river during the summers. There was a floating platform that we would swim to that served as a diving platform. I recall that some seasons the water would be full of seaweed and swimming was not as much fun.
As you entered Alte’s store, a bell would ring and the owner would come out and wait on the customers. The inventories were not large, but it was a great place in the summer time to get an ice-cold soda and bag of chips to snack on. Alte’s survived until the late 1960’s. It was the place where the neighborhood kids hung out all the time. A huge tree stood on the side of the building where the kids would all carve their initials. Soft drinks were stored in an old time freezer that had to be filled on a regular basis by ice trucks that would deliver blocks of ice and chop the blocks into smaller pieces and put them into the ice box. I remember the sodas being “iced cold” which made them somehow taste better than sodas that we might buy today. I have a photograph of my grandmother standing beside the ice box.
I know that Edgar, Sr. has a serious problem with alcoholism. I don’t know when the problem started, but I know it lasted into the late 1950s and to his death in 1966. I recall assisting my father on more than one occasion in taking my grandfather to institutions that admitted alcoholics and attempted to treat their disorder, such as Spring Grove Mental Health Center in Catonsville, Maryland.
I recall visiting Ed, Sr.’s sister, Nellie, who lived in Frederick, Maryland, probably in the early 1960s. I cannot recall too many details, but I can still visualize what Nellie looked like and the general look of her home. Cousin Patty Ball also recalls visiting Frederick, Maryland. Her recollections are as follows:
I remember him talking to me at times. He was a bit of a drinker so it was hard to understand him all the time. He did show me different coins that he had gotten from different countries and some confederate money as well. I also remember when I was about 5 or 6, maybe even younger we went to Frederick to visit some older family members. It was out in the country side and they had an outhouse, no indoor bathroom. I remember that it was a big old white house with a big white fence around it. I also remember that old lady smell. Also I remember there were several dolls on a big bed that had a beautiful handmade quilt on it. I think they were my mom’s aunts.
My personal memories of Ed, Sr. include a number of things. He was a painter and my Dad would help him with certain jobs and he would take me with him. Ed, Sr. suffered from alcoholism throughout much of his life. I would go with my Dad when he would take Ed, Sr. to Spring Grove Mental Hospital and admit him for treatment. This happened on more than one occasion.
Ed, Sr. lived in an apartment in the 300 block of Smallwood Street in Southwest Baltimore, near where my family lived (more about that later). I recall going with my father to the apartment and my grandfather being very drunk – to inebriated to walk. Those were occasions when we would pack a suitcase and take him to detoxification. Cousin Marie Seelhorst recalls that Ed, Sr. lived with the Seelhorst family on Newkirk Street in East Baltimore.
I remember that after he was released from Spring Grove Rehabilitation Center he lived with the Seelhorsts for a period of time, but I also recall helping my Dad clear out his apartment on Smallwood Street after he died (I was 12 years old at the time). He had a yellow canary named Pete. We took Pete to live with us and later, after Pete laid a “dry egg” we laughing learned that Pete was a female canary. Ed, Sr.’s funeral was held in downtown Baltimore at the William Cook-Brooks Funeral Home on North Charles Street, near Pennsylvania Station (no longer in business). He is buried in the veteran’s section of Baltimore National Cemetery on Frederick Road. I recall that his grave is near the back right corner of the cemetery, within sight of the exterior fence.
Ed, Sr.’s funeral was held in downtown Baltimore at the William Cook-Brooks Funeral Home located at Charles and Preston Streets. The funeral home was a very imposing mansion. While the building is still there it is no longer a funeral home. He was buried at Baltimore National Cemetery located on Frederick Road in Baltimore County, Maryland. I later attended Rock Glen Junior High School and every day I arrived at a bus stop right next to the Cemetery, so I remember it well. He is buried in the Veteran’s section of the Cemetery.
My grandmother died on my birthday in 1962 when I turned 9 years old. I have very little memory of that event, her funeral or anything associated with it.
American Generation #6
Edgar Franklin Kessler, Sr., Elizabeth Moore and Children
|Edgar Franklin Kessler, Sr.||b: Feb 5, 1897, Frederick, Maryland
d: Oct. 29, 1966, Baltimore, Maryland
|Elizabeth Wesley Moore
|b: Jan. 19, 1906, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Dec. 5, 1962, Baltimore, Maryland
|Clara Elizabeth Kessler Dewitt
(Married Joseph J. Dewitt)
|b: Aug. 7, 1923, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Nov. 9, 1978, Baltimore, Maryland
|Edgar Franklin Kessler, Jr.
(Married Sue Kate Fairchild)
|b: Dec. 3, 1924, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Apr. 14, 1978, Baltimore, Maryland
|Margaret G. Kessler Tracey
(Married Ellsworth Tracey, Jr.)
|b: Jun. 3, 1927, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Oct. 1, 2005, Baltimore, Maryland
|Helen May Kessler Seelhorst
(Married Herman Marina Seelhorst)
|b: Jul 5, 1929, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Jun 22, 1979, Baltimore, Maryland
|Dorothy Marie Kessler Huth Whetzel
(Married Charles John Huth)
(Later married ? Whetzel)
|b: Mar 7, 1931, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Apr 4, 2009, Ocala, Florida
|George “Bud” Leroy Kessler||b: Aug 13, 1935, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Jul 17, 1993, Baltimore, Maryland
|Charles Lee Kessler
(Married Elaine ?)
|b: Dec. 21, 1937, Baltimore, Maryland
d: Aug. 15, 1984, Pasco, Tampa, Florida
EDGAR AND ELIZABETH’S CHILDREN
The purpose of this section is to provide a brief narrative, based primarily on the author’s memories of each of Edgar and Elizabeth’s children. Although the author is in contact with some cousins (children of the following) he has not been able to elicit memories or information about the family members. Included below is a photo from Charles and Elaine Lankford Kessler’s wedding. Although not certain, I believe that we have Margaret, Ed Jr., Elizabeth, Elaine, Clara, Charles and Dorothy (or Elaine’s mother) depicted in this photograph.
Clara Elizabeth Kessler Dewitt (Aug 7, 1923 – Nov 9, 1978)
I did not know Aunt Clara. She was my father’s older sister, but I cannot recall occasions, except for Edgar Sr.’s funeral where we met. In the 1930 U.S. Census she was living with her father, mother, brother Edgar, sister Margaret and grandmother Annie Mae Stewart at 1824 West Rayner Avenue in Baltimore. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, at age 17, she had left school but was still living with the family at 829 W. Cross Street. She married John Joseph Dewitt, who grew up in the Rosedale area of Baltimore, likely in the 1940s after World War II, since he served in the military. I cannot determine if they had children. Clara died at age 55 in 1978.
Edgar Franklin Kessler, Jr. (Dec 3, 1924 – Apr 14, 1978)
Edgar was my father. The next chapter details his life. He was born in Baltimore on Dec 3, 1924. In the 1930 U.S. Census he was living with his father, mother, sisters Clara and Margaret and grandmother Annie Mae Stewart at 1824 West Rayner Avenue in Baltimore. During the 1930s Ed was hit by a truck and was seriously injured. He had a metal plate inserted into the front left part of his skull and suffered from epilepsy for the remainder of his life. During the Depression of the 1930s he worked at a bowling alley in East Baltimore, setting pins. He gave the money he earned to Elizabeth to support the family during his father’s long absences. Ed married Sue Kate Kessler, fathered four children, and spent the rest of his life working to support his family. Edgar died at age 53 in 1978.
Margaret G. Kessler Tracey (Jun 3, 1927 – October 1, 2005)
Like Aunt Clara, I also did not know Aunt Margaret. She was my father’s next younger sister, but I cannot recall occasions, except for Edgar Sr.’s funeral where we met. I doing research I believe that I correctly located information about Aunt Margaret – I distinctly remember that her married name was Tracey. But I am not 100% certain.
In the 1930 U.S. Census she was an infant living with her father, mother, brother Edgar, sister Clara and grandmother Annie Mae Stewart at 1824 West Rayner Avenue in Baltimore. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, at age 13, she was still living with the family at 829 W. Cross Street. She married Ellsworth Tracey, Jr. and lived in the Glen Burnie area of Anne Arundel County for her adult lift. I cannot determine if Margaret and Ellsworth had children. Margaret died at age 78 in 2005.
Helen May Kessler Seelhorst (Jul 5, 1929 – Jun 22, 1979)
I have many fond memories of Aunt Helen, her husband Herman Seelhorst and their children, Butch (Herman Jr.), Michael, Patty and Marie. We often would visit each other’s homes (the Seelhorst family lived in Highlandtown and we lived at Furrow Street in Southwest Baltimore) on holidays and the visits would last all day and well into the evening, with the children playing together and the adults sitting in the kitchen and living room and talking. My memories were that Butch was very shy and would often stay in his room or sit by himself (or just stay home), Michael was very friendly and outgoing and I spent the most time with him. Patty was fun too and I enjoyed spending time with her. Marie was also great, but she was young during the greatest period of our visits and interactions. Uncle Herman was great – a warm, kind soul who had a great laugh and was good at telling stories about his work and other situations. Aunt Helen too was warm and fun. With great sadness, I remember when Aunt Helen was diagnosed with lung cancer (caused by smoking which most of this generation did) and passed at the too-young age of 49 years old. Of all the Kessler relatives, this family is most vivid in my memory and was the closest I had, on the Kessler side, to a tightly-knit family.
Dorothy Marie Kessler Huth Whetzel (Mar 7, 1931 – Apr 4, 2009)
I really knew very little about Aunt Dorothy until later in life when she “reappeared” in our lives. At that time in the 1990s, she was living in a row house facing Patterson Park and would visit with my mother before she passed. According to subsequent interactions with Aunt Dorothy’s daughter, Karen S. Huth Davis …..
George ‘Bud’ Leroy Kessler (Aug 13, 1935 – Jul 17, 1993)
My memories of Uncle Bud are those of growing up around a pretty fun but fairly irresponsible Uncle. I remember him wearing a black leather jacket and visiting our family often. He called my mother “Suzie Q.” and was very playful with my brother Ed and I and Terry and Bonnie. He always seemed youthful to me. I recall that he worked in various jobs including as a night watchman. I recall that Dad got Bud a job at the Lord Baltimore hotel working in the room service area. Sometimes Mom and Dad would let Bud live with us when he was down on his luck. After joining the Navy and leaving home I did not reconnect with Uncle Bud again. During the 1970s, when I was working at the Baltimore City Courthouse I flipped through the inmate list from the Baltimore City Jail and sure enough, there was “George Kessler” incarcerated for vagrancy. I thought that was not surprising but a little sad. In 1993 I used the Internet to search for him and found that he was a patient at a nursing home in Brooklyn Park. I suggested to my brother that we go visit, but Ed was concerned that Bud might have accumulated debts and the nursing home might pursue collect from us since we were relatives. I often regret that we did not go visit Bud before he passed.
Charles Lee Kessler (Dec 21, 1937 – Aug 15, 1984)
Although we did not visit with Uncle Charles, Aunt Elaine and Mary Beth often, I have fond memories of the times that we did get together. Charles was handsome and Elaine was beautiful and they seemed like a super couple. Mary Beth was cute too, and a bit shy when we visited. Charles was an accountant and the family lived in the Essex area of Baltimore. I recall learning that Charles had become a square dance caller as a hobby and remember seeing he and Elaine dressed in their caller/square dancing clothes on at least one occasion. It was always fun to interact with their family. At some point Charles gave up his accounting work and became a full-time square dance caller, eventually moving to Florida, near Tampa. Sadly, Charles suffered from Leukemia (not 100% sure but I think this is right) and after moving to near Tampa Florida he passed in 1984 at the too young age of 46 years old. I have recently been in touch with his daughter, Mary Beth Kessler Reed, who lives in Essex, Baltimore, Maryland, sharing photos and information about the family history.
MATERNAL ANCESTRY: ELIZABETH WESLEY MOORE
As we get closer to our own generation, we have the ability to capture memory-information based on what we observed, over-heard, and were told by our parents, grandparents and other family members. Elizabeth Wesley Moore (Liz) was my grandmother and I have clear memories of her time with us.
Liz was born on January 19, 1906 in Baltimore, Maryland and died on December 5, 1962. No official record of marriage to Ed, Sr. can be located so it is reasonably safe to assume that she was never legally a Kessler. However, she mothered seven children with Ed, Sr.
Liz’s father was George Moore, Jr. (1878-1952) and her mother was Mary L. “May” Stewart Moore (1884-1933). She was second oldest of six children. Her older sister was Helen M. (1904) and her younger siblings were George Moore (1908), Ella Stewart (1915), Aurelia Stewart (1917) and Alma Stewart (1919). Sometime between 1908 and 1915 Liz’s mother and father divorced, hence the reason that the three later children’s last name was Stewart instead of Moore.
My Aunt, Dorothy Kessler Huth told my brother and me that May Stewart’s ancestors were related to the Singer Sewing Machine family. She said that May Stewart’s mother was Annie Mae Wells Stewart and Annie’s father was Samuel Wells. Aunt Dorothy said one of the relatives along this family tree branch was Jacob Singer and that Jacob did something to be disinherited from the Singer family fortune. I have worked to determine if there is any truth to this family rumor (experience has shown that there is usually some truth to such rumors).
There are some relevant facts that suggest the rumor might be true, even though I cannot directly link our descendants by name/dates. Isaac Merritt Singer was born in Pittstown, New York, on October 27, 1811. Isaac’s father was a German immigrant. When Isaac was 10 years old, his parents divorced. When he was 12, he ran away, and went to work in his elder brother’s machine shop where he learned the machinist trade.
Isaac married Catharine Maria Haley in 1830 and they had two children: William (1834) and Lillian (1837). In 1835 he, Catharine and William moved to New York City to work in a press shop. In 1836, he left NY as an agent for a company of players, touring through Baltimore, where he met Mary Ann Sponsler, to whom he proposed marriage (though he did not actually go through with it). He returned with Mary Ann to New York in 1837. That year Isaac fathered two children by two different women: Catharine gave birth to Lillian and Mary Ann gave birth to Isaac Augustus. His marriage to Catharine fell apart but they did not divorce until 1860.
Financial success gave Singer the ability to buy a mansion on Fifth Avenue, into which he moved his second family. In 1860, he divorced Catherine. He continued to live with Mary Ann, until she spotted him driving down Fifth Avenue seated beside Mary McGonigal, an employee, about whom Mary Ann had well-founded suspicions, for by this time Mary McGonigal had borne Isaac Singer five children. The surname Matthews was used for this family. Mary Ann had her husband arrested for bigamy. Singer was let out on bond and, disgraced, fled to London in 1862, taking Mary McGonigal with him. In the aftermath, another of Isaac’s families was discovered: he had a “wife” Mary Eastwood Walters and daughter Alice Eastwood in Lower Manhattan, who both adopted the surname “Merritt”. By 1860, Isaac had fathered and recognized eighteen children (sixteen of them remaining alive), by four women.
I know this was a fairly long biography about Isaac Singer, but given the rumor that we are related I decided to investigate. I could find no evidence that the rumor, that we are related to a disinherited Jacob Singer, is true. However, given Isaac’s propensity to womanize and the notes above that he disinherited some descendants, the rumor could in fact be true.