Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sidonie Dittmarsch and family

A distant relative of mine who's collaborated with me in sorting out some difficult genealogical questions recently came up with a nice find. My small stash of old family letters includes a condolence from a grandmother, four generations back, to a woman named Sidonie.[1] The distant relative, Alexandra Shand, discovered that the recipient of the condolence was Sidonie Dittmarsch, mother-in-law of my great-uncle, Adolph Windmuller.

Adolph's wife was, in Alexandra's words, "the fascinating Caroline (Lilly) Thurn Hague Windmuller." Caroline had a sister, Clara, and a brother, Theodore. Her parents were Sidonie Dittmarsch Thurn and Leopold Thurn.

New York's newspapers of the second half of the 19th century show a "Prof. Leopold Thurn" as teacher of drawing and painting on one occasion and of German on quite a few others.[2] They also show a Leopold Thurn making trans-Atlantic voyages, but whether this Leopold was Caroline's father I cannot say. The 1880 Census gives more satisfying information. It records Leopold Thurn as head of a household containing "Lidonis" his wife, his three children, and a servant. The occupation of both husband and wife is given as "Childrens Furnishing Goods."[3] By 1901 Leopold may have died, for in that year Sidonie is recorded as hosting the reception for Caroline's wedding to my great-uncle at her (Sidonie's) townhouse at 30 W. 36th St.[4] A year later Sidonie is recorded as leasing her townhouse to a tenant — none other than the famous Finley Peter Dunne.[5]

{New York Times, November 27, 1902}

I know nothing about Leopold Thurn's origins. Sidonie's father, Albert Ludwig Dittmarsch, was a merchant in Dresden, Germany. Her mother, Emilie Karoline Ranft, was the daughter of a Protestant pastor. Her brother, Emil Dittmarsch, was a the Philadelphia manager of a Milwaukee malt company.

Sidonie was 23 years old when she applied for permission to leave Dresden for the U.S. A quarter of a century later her name appears in diary of the piano manufacturer, William Steinway. He says he's had a New Year's call from her husband whom he refers to as "Mr. Thurn, husband of Sidonie Dittmarsch."[6] This phrasing suggests what I've suspected: that Sidonie had a somewhat larger impact on those around her than did Leopold.

By the time of Sidonie's death, in 1919, Caroline had become a successful and respected designer, maker, and seller of wedding gowns and other expensive women's clothing. The death notice says Sidonie was at a summer resort on the northern shore of the Long Island when her life came to an end.

{New York Herald, July 11, 1919}

In 1915 the Times had reported that Caroline had rented a summer place in the same location. There's no certainty that Caroline was in the same summer rental four years later, but it's entirely possible.
She rented this mansion or, possibly, another building on the estate.[7]

{Caption: Firwood, a Darien waterfront estate has 325 feet on L.I. Sound, a swimming pool, gardens and 4.84 acres in a one-acre zone. The estate remained in one family for 129 years. Inside Firwood, first built in 1860, and rebuilt and expanded 30 years later, are 14 bedrooms, nine baths and 13 elaborate antique fireplaces. Three living levels, with both walk-up attic and basement, the house features turrets, multiple chimneys and spectacular views. Source: Stamford Advocate, copied under fair use provisions of copyright law.}

Sidonie may or may not have put her husband in the shade; Caroline definitely put Adolph there. She had great talent, business acumen, and entrepreneurial ability while he was content to dally in finance and to drive about in her yellow Rolls Royce and other chauffeured vehicles.

After their marriage, he moved in with her (rather than their seeking a new home together or her moving into his place). A newspaper account some years after the wedding shows him to be living in 52 East 66th Street, a town house that her mother owned.[8] Here, via Google Street View, is what the building looks like today. Note that the lower part of No. 52 is obscured by a tree. (There's a view of the entryway here.)

View Larger Map
Caroline's sister, Clara, was married twice, first to a man named Patterson, then to George Anson Wilson.[9] Caroline likewise first married Ernest Hague, with whom she had two sons, and then married my great-uncle. I don't know whether, on re-marrying, either or both were widows or divorcées.

It's an oddity that men whose middle or last name is "de forest" recur in records and news accounts connected with Sidonie, Caroline, and the Windmullers. The 1880 Census records that Dewin Deforest, a 47-year-old salesman of dry goods, lived in the same building as the Thurns.[10] When Caroline and Adolph married in 1901, his best man was William De Forest Bostwick.[11] In 1903 the townhouse where Sidonie lived, 30 W. 36th Street, was leased first to Mrs. Nathaniel De Forest and then to Othniel De Forest.[12] Robert W. De Forest served with Louis Windmuller on civic committees and both were trustees of the Title Guarantee and Trust Co. (which Louis had helped to found).[13] Henry de Forest Baldwin served with Louis Windmuller as an officer of the Reform Club and he was one of the speakers at a ceremonial tribute to Windmuller given in the last year of his life.[14]

Finally, I should note that I have written before about my fascinating great-aunt:

Some sources:

I am indebted to communications from two descendants of my great-aunt Caroline as well as from Alexandra Shand for information contained in this blog post. See the sections on the Thurn-Dittmarsch family in my Windmuller genealogy for more on this subject.

Family Tree of Alexander R. Grässer and Birgit C. Karg for the Dittmarsch genealogy

Frauenwiki Dresden for Sidonie's travel to the U.S.

The William Steinway Diary, American History Museum, Smithsonian Institution

The Wine and spirit bulletin 1903, for Emil Dittmarsch

Long Neck Point, by Maggie Gordon for the Darien News, Feb. 1, 2010; about Collender's Point; points out that Andrew Carnegie spent summer vacations at the Brick House at roughly the same time Carolyn Hague was there.

John Alexander Joyce "John Alexander Joyce (1842-1915) Kentucky, Washington D.C., Missouri, Joyce, John Alexander, soldier, lawyer, poet, and biographer, b. Ireland, 1842; d. Washington, D.C. Jan. 1915."

Crimmins estate boasts vast waterfront

Firwood on the Sound Historical house on the market for $16.75 million on the Crimmins estate

Room for a Baker’s Dozen on the Crimmins estate

52 East 66th Street · Upper Eastside, NYC

Weddings of a Day, Dunne-Abbott, New York Times, December 10, 1902


[1] Here's the text of the condolence.
New York, January 16, 1865

My Sidonie

Please receive this my first letter to you and I intend to continue my correspondence from time to time if you are pleased to answer my letters. If I did not write to you I have only my excuse to offer except a hesitation to be the first to communicate.

Your last letter caused us sorrow for the death of your good Father when I looked at his picture so fine looking and healthy -- I thought he might live many years. your loss is great and only you as a loving daughter can know this and never let me tell you will you find his place filled. I know all this I have like yourself neither father nor mother and speaking for self concerning words from our parents to us when present ... will come to us when our loved ones are gone: you must try and sustain yourself for your family and I know you have a kind and loving husband, children Brother and Sister [to] take care of your health. I will expect a letter from you in due time My love joined with my daughters Joan and Hannah to your husband, yourself and children and all your family. I am with love and wishing all happiness, your

- Abby Lennington
[2] On "Prof. Leopold Thurn" see for example a display ad for the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle of September 20, 1865.

[3] "Furnishing goods" included shirts, socks, underwear, belts, scarfs, collars, and the like. One ad listed: "Boys' and Children's Furnishing Goods: Shirts, Waists, Blouses, Underwaists, Hose Supporters, Neckwear, Collars; all carefully selected and a profusion of styles and qualities that will make easy choosing." -- Muncie Morning News, April 14, 1900.

Here are the census records for Leopold and Sidonie:
Leopold THURN on
Census Place New York, New York (Manhattan), New York City-Greater, New York
Birth Year <1822>
Age 58
Occupation Childrens Furnishing Goods
Marital Status M
Race W
Head of Household Leopold THURN
Relation Self
Father's Birthplace GER BRAN.
Mother's Birthplace GER. BRAN.

Lidonis THURN
Census Place New York, New York (Manhattan), New York City-Greater, New York
Birth Year <1833>
Birthplace SAXONY
Age 47
Occupation Children Furnishing Goods
Marital Status M
Race W
Head of Household Leopold THURN
Relation Wife
Father's Birthplace SAXONY
Mother's Birthplace SAXONY
[4] Here is what a New York Times reporter had to say about the Windmuller-Hague wedding.

{New York Times, June 6, 1901}

[5] Finley Peter Dunne was famous for his character Mr. Dooley. Dunne's work is funny and quotable: "A fanatic is a man that does what he thinks the Lord would do if He knew the facts of the case." He was a Chicagoan but in 1890 he "moved to New York City, where he married Mary Abbott's daughter Margaret Abbott, had four children and continued to write books and articles. He died in 1936 in New York at age 68 of cancer." -- Finley Peter Dunne

[6] The entry reads: "New York, Jan'y 1st 1881. Saturday. Remain home all day, have quite a number of New Year Cards, and also calls among them Mr. Thurn, husband of Sidonie Dittmarsch of Dresden. Fred Steins and Carl Prox of Brooklyn take supper with us Measure children, Georges height 5 feet 6 inches his weight 127#. Paulas height 5 feet 4¼ inches her weight 110#. I weigh #191, and wife 160#."

[7] The place was on Collender's Point, in Noroton, Darien, Connecticut. It's possible that Caroline leased a smaller house on the property of the estate, but the report in the Times does not make that seem to be so: "Fish & Marvin have leased furnished for the Summer the Colonial House and three acres owned by John D. Crimins at Collender's Point, Noroton, to Mrs. A.C. Windmuller of this city." -- New York Times, March 18, 1915. For more information on the Crimmins place, see Excerpts from John D. Crimmins' Diary.
I like this view of the sound from the side porch.

{Source: Stamford Advocate, reproduced under fair use provisions of copyright}

[8] When Caroline was married to Afred Hague she had also lived in her mother's Upper East Side townhouse. See note 4 for mention of Sidonie's home at 52 E. 66th. Some details about the property are given in a NYT real estate offering: 52 EAST 66TH STREET. Here's the relevant part of a report on the mental condition of Adolph's father, my great-grandfather, Louis Windmuller.

{New York Times, September 24, 1913}

[9] Caroline's sister marries for second time
NYT 20 Oct 1909

[10] Here's the record:
Name: Derwin Deforest
Home in 1880: New York City, New York, New York
Age: 35
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1845
Birthplace: Vermont
Father's birthplace: Vermont
Mother's birthplace: Vermont
Neighbors: View others on page
Occupation: Salesman Dry Goods
Marital Status: Single
Race: White
Gender: Male
It's surely irrelevant, but a popular poet of the time, Col. John A. Joyce, dedicated a poem to Derwin Deforest:
Jewels of memory. By Col. John A. Joyce (Washington, D.C., Gibson brothers, 1895) "The Voice of the Clock (Dedicated to Derwin De Forest, of New York.)
TICK, tick, the moments fly,
Tick, tick, we live and die.
Tick, tick, goes the hour,
Tick, tick, fades the flower.

Tick, tick, heart beats go,
Tick, tick, weal or woe.
Tick, tick, soon are fled,
Tick, tick, lost and dead.

Tick, tick, days and years,
Tick, tick, smiles and tears.
Tick, tick, wind and wave,
Tick, tick, grief, the grave.
[11] See note 4, above.

[12] Mrs. De Forest leases 30 W. 36th Street:

{New York Times, October 29, 1903}

[13] TITLE GUARANTEE AND TRUST CO., 176 Broadway, New York. Trustees: John Jacob Astor, Frank Bailey, E. T. Bedford, Charles S. Brown, Julien T. Davies. Robert W. de Forest, Robert Godot, Martin Joost, A. D. Jullliard, Clarence H. Kelsey, Woodbury Langdon, James D. Lynch. It. II. Macdouald, James H. Manning, Edgar L. Marston. William J. Matheson, Charles Matlack, William A. Nash, William H. Nichols, Robert Olyphant, Charles A. Peabody, William H. Porter, Frederick Potter, Charles Richardson, Henry Itoth. James Speyer, Sauford H. Steele, Paul M. Warburg, Ellis D. Williams, Louis Windmuller. -- Directory of directors in the city of New York (Audit Co., 1911)

[14] HONOR LOUIS WINDMULLER; Members of the Reform Club Praise His Long Services.

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