Friday, May 29, 2015

Ozerna/Jezeirna: Ancestral Home of the Koshuba Family

Ozerna is located 13 miles west of Ternopil" and 9 miles west of Zbirov
Ternopil' in relation to Ukraine and surrounding countries

The Kociuba family emigrated from the town of Ozerna, Ukraine, to the United States in the beginning of the 20th century.  They Americanized their surname, Kociuba to Koshuba when they settled in the United States. When they lived in Ozerna, it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and was known as Jezierna.
Ozerna is on the Vysuska River and Lake Vysuska.  The Vysuska is a tributary of the Strypa River, which flows into the Dniester, and eventually into the Black Sea. The population is about 3,000 today, but when the Koshubas lived there, around 1900 it was almost 5,000 people. Although I know quite a bit about the Koshuba family in Minnesota, I know very little about their life in Europe.  Feodor and Maria Koshuba had five children, three boys and two girls. Of the boys, the oldest was Joseph, born in 1885, John, born in 1891 and Stephen, born in 1899.  The girls included Tecla, the oldest child, born in 1883 and Anna, born in 1897.  Tecla married Peter Wons in 1903 in Ozerna. My grandmother told me that that there was another son, Michaylo, but I have found no information about him.
The Koshuba Family. Tecla, Maria, Anna, Joseph, Feodor, and John. This was probably taken around 1898, since Stephen, born in 1899 is not in the picture. Photo: collection of Ed Wons.

The town's strategic location, on a river and surrounded by mountains made it an attractive place for Polish lords to settle.  In 1545, Jan Tarnowski,  founder of Ternopil' took over the village located where Ozerna is today.  In 1615, it was purchased by Yakob Sobieski, father  of the future king of Poland, Jan Sobieski.  He built a castle on a mountain overlooking the town and in 1636, built a Roman Catholic Church.  In 1667, the Tartars destroyed the town, but it was rebuilt and thrived. Many members of the Sobieski family continued to lived there.

 I n 1772, Ozerna became part of the Austrian Empire in the first partition of Poland. It remained part of the Empire until 1918, when the Austrian Empire collapsed in 1919 after World War One.  The Western Ukrainian Republic ruled for a short time, and Ozerna became part of the new Republic of Poland in 1920, after the Polish-Ukrainian War, and the Polish-Soviet War.

During the 19th century, Ozerna was a transfer point.  Not only was it located on a river, it also was on the Ternopil'-Lviv railroad line and the Ternopil'-Lviv highway, near the intersection of the Kaiser-Strasse, a main highway.  There was a toll-gate at the entrance of the town, on the Ternopil (east) side of the  Vysuska River bridge, and all who crossed had to pay a toll before entering town.  This practice ended when World War One began.

The people living outside the town were farmers, growing grain potatoes, beets, flax, honey;  raising chickens and eggs, cattle, horses and pigs.  There were several grain mills and oil presses in town.  Most of the businesses in the town including the mills, were owned by Jews. The mills were located on tributaries of the River Vysuska.  In earlier times, the mills used a system called "own strength." The farmers brought in their grain, ground it themselves, and paid the miller for the use of his equipment. Later, hand work was replaced by machinery.  The oil presses extracted oil from hemp and flax seeds, both grown by local farmers.
Business men in town bought farm products from the peasants, resold them to major dealers, who consolidated the products and shipped them by train to the grain exchange in Lviv.  The streets around the train station were lined with warehouses. Ozerna had several markets; a general market, as well as horse, cattle and pig markets.

The town square was lined with retail businesses, small shops that sold everything, and larger ones that specialized in clothing, hats or shoes, dry and household goods. There were two bakeries with modern equipment to provide bread and baked goods to the population.  There was a Roman Catholic Church, a Greek(Ukrainian) Catholic Church and a synagogue. Since the Austrian government encouraged education,  there were two public elementary schools; one for the Jewish children, the Baron Hirsch School, and the other for the rest of the children in the community.  If students wanted to continue their education and attend high school, they traveled to Ternopil' by train, stayed there for the week and returned for the weekend.   In addition to public schools there were private and religious schools.  Four inns  provided food, drink and a place to stay the night.   The Brandy Inn was the place for the wealthy to meet.

According to my mother, the Koshuba family lived in the town, not outside on a farm. I do not know how the Koshuba family made their living in Ozerna.   They were comfortable enough to be able to afford family photographs.  Of all my Ukrainian ancestors, only the Koshubas could afford to have family portraits made in Europe. They also could afford to have their children attend school.  All the Koshuba children attended the public school, and were able to read and write when they came to the United States, according to immigration and census records. Tecla, Joseph and John completed the eighth grade of elementary school, Anna and Stephen completed 6th grade.

The Koshuba family, probably in 1903.  Standing from left: John, Anna, Joseph, Tecla, Stephen.  Seated from left: Maria, unknown girl, Feodor, Peter Wons.  Photo: collection of Ed. Wons. The boys are wearing embroidered Ukrainian shirts.
During the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th, the population of Ozerna began to decline.  This was because many of the residents were immigrating to the United States or Canada.  The Koshuba  family was one of the families that decided to send their children to the United States.  Joseph left in 1904 at the age of 19. Tecla and Peter Wons left in 1906 with their two sons and settled in Massachussets. In 1908, John, 17,  joined them  in Massachusetts.   Anna and Stephen came together in 1914 and joined the family, now living in St Paul, Minnesota.  Moving to the United States worked out well for the Koshuba family.  The sons started their own businesses, their children were educated and several graduated university and became professionals. The daughters were successful, both married and their children were educated and successful as well.

A note on my sources:  I had a difficult time finding information about Ozerna.  Finally, on Jewish-Gen, a genealogy website, I found a Yizkor book from Ozerna,  This book was a compilation of memoirs from the Jewish people who lived in Ozerna who survived the Holocaust.  The book is called The Memorial Book of Jezierna, published in 1971. I found detailed descriptions of the town,  and how the people lived.

Friday, May 15, 2015

World War One on Chicago's North Shore: The Evanston Community Kitchen

 Evanston Community Kitchen on 1519 Chicago Ave. It moved to 600 Davis Street in 1925, where it remained until 1951.

One of the of the more unusual results of World War One in Evanston, Illinois, was the Evanston Community Kitchen.  It began on a small scale, in the summer of 1918 at The Woman's Club of Evanston.  There were food shortages due to World War  One, so the Club's kitchen committee, made up of Mrs James Odell, Mrs Rufus Dawes and Mrs Homer Kingsley,  decided to can and preserve 7000 jars of fruits and vegetables.   Some of the food was given to various local charities and the rest was sold for a profit to benefit the Club.
Laying the cornerstone of the Clubhouse in 1899.

The Evanston Woman's Club was founded in 1890 by a group of women led by Elizabeth Boynton Harbert in for the following purpose: To secure better homes. better motherhood, better laws, truer citizenship and a nobler woman by promoting the physical, social, mental, moral and spiritual development of members.  The Club raised funds to establish Evanston Hospital, helped organize the Visiting Nurse Association of Evanston and was instrumental in starting the first Mothers' Club, the forerunner of the  PTA.  They raised the money to build the Clubhouse, which was started in 1899.    Where they saw a need in the Evanston community, the Club found a way to fulfill it. My mother was a dedicated long time member.
The Woman's Club of Evanston.  The  first Evanston Community Kitchen was located in the basement.
 When the Influenza Pandemic reached Evanston in October 1918, the Woman's Club kitchen was turned into an "emergency kitchen."  200 meals per day were prepared during the height of the pandemic for families who had a member with the sick with of recovering from the flu. People infected with the flu were put under quarantine, and were often too sick to do anything,  so the meals took care of a community need. Since these two operations were so successful, that the ladies of the Kitchen Committee decided to pursue the idea of community kitchen.  Read More about the influenza pandemic of 1918

The founders of the Community Kitchen, Mrs  James Odell, Mrs Rufus Dawes and Mrs Homer Kingsley

Starting a community kitchen was not an idea original to Evanston,  since they existed on the East Coast of the United States and in Europe.  The members of the Club invited Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a well known lecturer on women's issues, to speak to the Club on the topic of "The Waste of Women's Labor." The ladies of the Kitchen Committee traveled to the East Coast  to observe community kitchens.  They liked what they saw and encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Club members, the committee decided to start the Evanston Community Kitchen.  It is interesting to note that the kitchen was not intended to be a charitable organization, providing meals for the poor, sick or shut-ins. These ladies wanted to make a profit to help fund the Club projects.

The group it was intending to serve were the people who were well off, not wealthy enough to have a staff of servants, but could afford to pay for meals brought to their home.  It sounded like an idea  that would be successful today, when many people buy prepared  foods, or order carry-outs from restaurants.  Mrs Odell  spoke to groups about  the benefits of community kitchens.  She stated that the "servant Problem" was one reason that community kitchens were needed.   Many household servants found  better paying jobs after World War One, and the scarcity of help changed the middle class home. The housewife couldn't count on help for child care, cleaning or cooking.  Having servants in those days was not just for the wealthy, many middle class people in Evanston in the early years of the 20th century hired live-in servants.  My first house in Evanston,  for example, built in 1904, had a maid's room and bathroom in the basement, and a bell in the floor of the dining room for calling the maid.  A maid was registered to the address in the Evanston directories in the teens and twenties.  The house wasn't a mansion, it was a  six room, three bedroom house.

A second reason for the kitchen was to "solidify the bonds of family life."  and lighten the burden of housekeeping and child raising for the housewife.  Women who ordered food from the Community Kitchen had one less thing to do, and could  be assured of a healthy balanced meal at a good price delivered to their door every evening.  The Kitchen  employed eight cooks and sold about 600 meals every week.  A typical evening meal consisted of four dishes and included dessert.  The cost was 85 cents for weekday meals, including delivery, the Sunday meal was one dollar.  The menu was changed daily, but  since it was a set menu, the family had to take what was prepared that day. Families could also pick up their meals from the shop. 

Preparing the meals for delivery. The containers on the table are being filled with hot food.

Another interesting outcome of the kitchen was the development of containers that could keep foods hot.  The Chicago Tribune published an article about the kitchen and mentioned the need for heat-retaining containers.  The Aladdin Company of Chicago stepped up and developed a product that was efficient and good looking.  It consisted of four metal dishes which were stackable and nice enough to be used at the dining table.  A glass lined metal insulated vacuum dish, similar to an old fashioned thermos bottle was eventually used.  The ladies in the picture above are holding the containers. The Aladdin company originally made oil lamps, and started to make thermal containers in 1917. The company was acquired by Pacific Market International in 2002, moved the Seattle and production moved to China.

"Let Bridget Leave" by Robert H. Moutlon, The Independent, May 1, 1920.
"The Evanston Community Kitchen, " Evanston Women's History Database, Evanston Public Library.

Friday, May 8, 2015

World War One on Chicago's North Shore: An Evanston Illinois Hero, Charles Gates Dawes

When I was growing up in Evanston Illinois, there was a big mansion down by Lake Michigan known as the Dawes House.  There was an elementary school in town named after him as well.  I knew that Dawes was vice president of the US and had something to do with World War One.  To many of us, he was a just a person who once lived in Evanston. When I started to research this post, I really had no idea how accomplished a person he was.

Co-Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 1925
Brigadier General: World War One
Vice-President of the United States 1924-1929
Not only was he the 30th Vice-President of the United States, a co-winner of the Noble Peace Prize, a Brigadier General in the Army;  he was also an author, financier, diplomat, banker, musician and composer.  Quite impressive for a man from Marietta Ohio!

Dawes was born on August 27, 1865 in Marietta Ohio, son of a Civil War Brigadier General and a descendant of William Dawes, a patriot who rode with Paul Revere on April 8, 1775, warning the people of Lexington and Concord that the British were coming. He was educated at Marietta College and studied law in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Although he was a lawyer, he did not make his living practicing law.  As young man, he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887 to get in on a booming economy. He became friendly with General  George Pershing in Nebraska, and they remained life-long friends.

He left Nebraska and relocated to Chicago, Illinois.  In 1902, he founded the Central Trust Company of Illinois, which was known as the Dawes Bank. He realized that there was a future in utilities and eventually controlled 28 gas and electric companies. He continued to work in banking and finance until the United States got involved in World War One in 1917.

Service in World War One 

At the age of 52, he signed up for the army and was sent overseas with the American Expeditionary Forces. He worked for his old friend from Nebraska, General Pershing and was quickly promoted to the rank of brigadier general, working to procure supplies for the American Forces and eventually for all the allies. After the War, he supported the Treaty of Versailles, though most Republican were against it.
The Treaty of Versailles made the defeated Germans responsible for paying all the war damage in France.

The Dawes Plan and The Nobel Prize

Dawes was involved in Republican Party politics and when he returned form Europe, he was appointed Director of the Budget by President Warren J. Harding.  The League of Nations invited Dawes to be chair of a committee that was studying the problem of German Reparation payments.

The German economy was in ruins after the war,  suffering terrible inflation, which wiped out the savings of many German people.   The peace treaty forced Germany to take all the blame for causing the war, and all the responsibility to pay for the damages. Since the Germans defaulted on several payments, something had to be done.  In the Dawes Report 1924, Dawes recommended a plan to stabilize the German currency, balance Germany's budget, and reorganize the Reichsbank (the German national bank). The plan also ended Allied occupation of the Ruhr Valley, Germany's industrial area and  proposed a graduated plan for making reparations payments.   Banks in the United States would loan money to the German government.    In 1925, Dawes shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the plan to restore and stabilize the German economy.  The plan, however was not received well in the United States and was became unworkable, because the reparations were harder and harder to pay when the world economy began to fail in the late 1920's. It was replaced by the Young Plan in 1929.  Neither of these plans had any chance of fixing the German economy.  The reparations debt was so high, that if reparations payments had not been discontinued by Hitler, the German government might  still be paying them today . Read more about the German economy and reparations payments.
How Dawes and Young Plan to stabilize the German economy worked.

Vice President of the United States

President Calvin Coolidge and Vice President Dawes
President Coolidge chose Dawes to be his running mate in 1924.  The pair easily won the election, but Dawes was not a cooperative vice president.  President Coolidge, known as "Silent Cal," was the opposite of Dawes.  Dawes was a problem solver, Coolidge, a problem avoider. Dawes had a quick temper and often clashed with his boss. The four years in Washington DC were tumultuous for Dawes.
However, his public service was not over.

Ambassador to Great Britain

Herbert Hoover, elected in 1928, asked Dawes to serve as Ambassador to Great Britain, which he did from 1929-1932.  He was an effective ambassador and recounted his time in Great Britain  in a book, Journal As Ambassador to Great Britain, one of the nine book he wrote.

Composer and Musician

Charles Dawes was an amateur musician and  a talented composer.  He played the flute and piano and enjoyed entertaining guests in his home with musical performances.  He helped establish grand opera in Chicago, and was vice president of the Chicago Civic Opera. He wrote "Melody in A Major" for piano in 1912.  It was published in sheet music and recorded.  It quickly became very popular. The great violinist, Fritz Kreisler recorded it  often played it as an encore piece. It was arranged for many instruments including trumpet, piano, organ, and violin.  Dawes was uncomfortable with his fame as the composer of a popular tune. At first he was surprised to see the sheet music displayed in shop windows, but later he was annoyed with what seemed to be every band playing a version of his melody.

Recording of Melody in A Major by Fritz Kreisler
Sheet Music for Melody in A Major

In 1951, Carl Sigman wrote lyrics to Dawes' "Melody in A Major" and called the song "It's All in the Game." It was a hit and eventually a  popular classic.
It has been performed and recorded by Dinah Shore, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, Nat King Cole, The Four Tops, Van Morrison, Louis Armstrong, Merle Haggard, Andy Williams, Barry Manilow, Tommy Edwards, Cliff Robertson, Englebert Humperdink, Tyrone Davis, Robert Goulet, Bobby Vinton and Bobby Vee and many others.

Life as a private person

Dawes retired from public life after his service as Ambassador to Great Britain.  He lived in Evanston, and continued to work in banking and finance, and served on the boards of civic organizations and charities.  He died in Evanston in 1951. 
The Dawes home is now a landmark.  Dawes donated it to Northwestern University, today it houses the Evanston History Center.