I think you will agree with me that there is nothing quite so interesting to the ordinary individual as the story of his ancestors - except, perhaps, the history of his own life. Therefore, one of my main reasons for writing the biography of my grandfather is that I derived quite a bit of pleasure from doing it. Also, I consider it a good plan to have a written account of some of the more important incidents in the lives of your ancestors, the particulars of which might after a time be forgotten. Some of the happenings of which I have written in this book I heard about for the first time when I was collecting material.
However, will this history be as entertaining to you, who have never even heard of Mr. Woese, as it is to me? That is a question about which there is some doubt in my mind. I consider Mr. Woese's life very interesting, but, since I am his granddaughter, I suppose my opinion has little value. I shall leave it to you to decide whether or not you agree with me.
DEDICATED TO MY DEAR MOTHER
WITHOUT WHOSE LOVING
HELP THIS BOOK
A HASTY DEPARTURE
If you had walked down a certain street in the residential section of Berlin, Germany, between 1842 and 1848, you might have noticed a certain spacious and attractive home. It was in this house that my grandfather, Julius Woese, lived for the first six years of his life.
Julius Louis Woese was born in Berlin in 1842 and was the first of the twelve children of Herr Henry Woese and his wife, Caroline. Herr Woese, quite a prominent man in the city at that time, was a prosperous oil merchant, supplying the lamps of the theaters of Berlin with oil. In their home the Woeses employed several servants. Being a good scholar and a great reader, Henry Woese had a library of over a thousand volumes. In these pleasant surroundings the first six years of Julius's life passed smoothly and happily enough. During this time two brothers and a sister were born.
Then came the event which was to affect the boy's entire future. One day my great grandfather was sitting with some gentlemen at his club. The discussion turned to the revolution which was at that time shaking Europe. Herr Woese spoke rather hotly at the delay of the king of Prussia in granting the constitution he had promised his subjects. When he had finished speaking, he felt a touch upon his shoulder. Turning, he perceived behind him a man, who had probably been listening to the conversation.
"Herr Woese," said the gentleman, "I wish to speak with you. Follow me, please."
The stranger then led him into an out-of- the-way corner and revealed himself to be a government agent.
"You have been speaking much too freely, Herr Woese," he began, "and tonight you have proven yourself to be a menace to the well being of our government. On this charge I should arrest you at once, much as I want to do so. However, due to your position in the city and the fact that until now you have conducted yourself as a citizen should, I will offer you an alternative. You must either leave the country within forty-eight hours or face trial. What is your decision?"
Herr Woese stared at the man, bewildered at the plight so suddenly thrust upon him. Oh, what had he done? Why had he not kept his feelings to himself? He could not right the wrong now, however, and there was a decision to be made. What would it be? The thought of leaving the Germany he loved pained him deeply, but it was the only way. He could not go to prison, disgrace his dear family, and leave them with no one to support and care for them.
"I shall leave the country," he replied at last.
Now that this was settled there still remained to be decided the question of where the Woeses were to go. Upon investigation Herr Woese discovered that was to be a ship leaving for America the next day. They decided to sail with it. Others had succeeded in that great land across the sea. Perhaps they would be as fortunate. Consequently they gathered together all of their possessions that they could carry and obtained passage. Their home, their furnishings, the library, in short, everything that could not be carried with them had to be left behind to be confiscated by the government. Before sailing Henry Woese withdrew the money which he had in the bank. However, there were many who owed him bills which he had no time to collect.
So it was that the Woese family bid goodbye to their homeland and turned their faces toward America.
The Woeses had decided to settle in Syracuse, New York, since they had a friend from Germany in that city. Therefore it was to Syracuse that they traveled after reaching New York City. Here they rented a small house. Mrs. Woese now had to do her own housework, which she had never been obliged to do in Germany.
As soon as they were settled, Julius's father set out to find work. However, he had the serious handicap of not being able to speak the English language, and consequently no one wanted to hire him. Meanwhile the money which they had been able to bring with them was disappearing rapidly. Sometimes during those first months in the United States the Woeses even had to send little Julius along the railroad tracks to pick up chunks of coal which had fallen from passing trains, so that they might have a little heat. At last Mr. Woese found work on a railroad, where he received a dollar a day. A bit later his friend in the city secured for him a position in a paint and paper shop owned by a man of his nationality.
When Mr. Woese reported for work the first day, his new manager asked him if he could paper a room.
"Oh, yes," he answered confidently, "I can do anything you ask."
His employer then showed him a room and asked him to paper it. Poor Mr. Woese! Never in his life had he papered a room, but so glad had he been to find work and so eager to please the man, that he had said he could. Well, he would at least try. However, Mr. Woese soon found that papering is not as easy as it sounds. The paper would not stick to the wall, and oh, the troubles he had! What a sorry sight that room must have been!
Nevertheless,the discouraged man found that he was working for a kind-hearted person, for in spite of that first blunder his employer undertook to teach him his trade.
Mr. Woese could never be anything but a gentleman. In spite of the fact that he now had to work hard and that family finances were in none too stable a condition, he rode to work in the Prince Albert coat and high silk hat which were in fashion in Germany. He must have made a very strange and comical spectacle, driving an old wagon with dozens of paint cans and other equipment rattling about in the back. The hat offered an irresistable temptation for small boys, and it was often the target for their snowballs.
My great-grandfather finally tired of paint and paper and decided to go into the grocery business. Here a trait of his character proved a disadvantage. He was much too generous and kind-hearted. Whenever he heard of a family that was going without food, he sent them a box of groceries. If those who bought his goods could not pay, he did nothing about it. These people had to have food, did they not, even though they had no money with which to pay for it. Probably many took advantage of his good nature.
Once when his wife asked him for money to buy coal, Mr. Woese answered sheepishly, "I hope you will not be angry with me, dear, but I have no money to give you. You see, a poor old lady came into the store today and told me that she had no fuel to burn. I felt sorry for her. She is not so well able to stand the cold as we, who are younger and in good health; so I spent all the money I had on hand to buy her a ton of coal. I am afraid we shall have to get along without fuel this month."
Finally, as was inevitable with Mr. Woese giving things away to such an extent, the grocery business failed.
Meanwhile, Julius had reached his ninth birthday. In the three years since his arrival in America he had received the only schooling of his life. Now the little boy was forced to stop school and begin work in a cigar factory. There he rolled cigars for about nine years.
During this time Julius by no means ceased to increase the education he had begun before he went to work. Whenever he had an extra penny, he saved it to help buy books for himself. Before long he had several volumes, which he read and studied in every spare minute. Unfortunately, when the library had increased to quite a size, there was a fire, and all the books were destroyed. That must have been a dreadful calamity for my grand father, who had worked so long and hard to purchase them. However, he set to work to rebuild his collection. So it was that Julius educated himself at home to the extent that no one could tell that he had not had all the advantages that high school and even college afford.
When he was about eighteen, my grandfather, wishing to see more of the world, left home to go to Indiana. There he worked in another cigar factory until the beginning of the Civil War a year or so later.
THE CIVIL WAR
When the Civil War was declared, Julius Woese returned to Syracuse, where he enlisted in the Greenway Guards, the first company to be formed in that city.
The Greenway Guards was almost entirely made up of young men, among them quite a few actors, singers, and acrobats. These provided excellent entertainment for the rest of the company. Altogether, they had a very jolly time while in training in New York City.
The company was then sent to join the army encamped before Richmond. There they lay for about a year.
During that time Julius took part in no real battle although once, when he was with a reconnoitering party, he had a rather narrow escape. He and a friend had been creeping forward, dodging behind such trees and rocks as would obscure them from the enemy. Now they paused in back of trees a short distance apart.
Julius then called in a hushed voice to his friend, "I'm going to move on to another spot. This one looks too dangerous to me."
"All right," replied his companion, "but I think you're very foolish. l'd stay there if I were you. In my opinion, that's about the safest place around here."
Nevertheless, Julius stole cautiously away to another tree. When he was gone, the friend slipped into the place he had vacated. Suddenly, just as my grandfather reached safety quite a distance away, an enemy shell dropped by the tree behind which his comrade had stepped, and the man was killed.
This experience upset Julius very much, you may be sure; the more, because he had not yet become accustomed to the horrors and narrow escapes of war.
Then came a day when he and another man were on outpost duty together. They had been patrolling the line for some time, and the job was growing monotonous since no sound had been heard from the enemy, which lay on the farther side of a hill.
"Woese," said my grandfather's companion at last, "I don't think those rebs are on the other side of that hill after all. I'll bet you a dollar that they have slipped away on us."
"Very well, it's a bet," replied Julius, glad of a little excitement. "The enemy had no reason to steal away as you imagine they have done. Let's throw up a coin to see which of us will be the one to investigate."
This was agreed upon, and, when the coin was tossed it fell to Julius's lot to be the investigator. Thereupon, my grandfather, leaving his knapsack behind, made his way cautiously up the slope. Finally he reached the summit and looked down. Not only were the enemy there, but they were charging up the hill toward him and were now but a short distance away. Before Julius had had time to escape, he found himself surrounded by gray uniforms and made a prisoner.
After a few days he was taken to Libby Prison in Richmond, where he was to spend about six months.
Conditions in the prison were unpleasant, to say the least. In the first place the building, which had once been a tobacco storehouse, was damp and dirty, and most of the prisoners became sick before they had been there very long. Each morning a doctor visited the sick and wounded and gave the same kind of pill to each, no matter what his ailment. The prisoners slept on blankets spread out on the bare floor. They finally became so hardened to having men die all about them that as soon as a person was pronounced to be in a serious condition they began to argue as to who was to receive his blanket and other belongings when he was dead. Their one meal a day, although there was a coating of flies on top of their soup or stew and the bread was apt to be sour, was accepted by the captives as gladly as though it had been prepared in the most delicious and appetizing way.
The prisoners were allowed to buy any comforts they could afford from merchants who visited them. However, my grandfather had left all his money behind in his knapsack. He had not been in prison very long before the soles of his shoes became altogether worn through. It was then that a fellow-prisoner named Louis Sickenberger proved himself a friend in need. Since this man had just been paid before his capture and still had money left, he lent Julius fifty dollars with which to buy shoes and other comforts. My grand father was very grateful and, having taken the man's address, promised to repay him as soon as they were both released.
Among those who brought goods to sell to the prisoners was a kind old lady whose visits were anticipated with pleasure by the men. Often when she stopped to sell one of her cookies or fried cakes to a Northern soldier, she would unfold her shawl and reveal the little Union flag which was always pinned to her dress. Then at last the visits ceased, and the little old lady was not seen again. It was later discovered that one of the prisoners had reported her to a Southern officer, hoping in this way to obtain his release. The contempt of my grandfather and most of the captives for this man, whoever he was, knew no bounds.
After six months in Libby Prison Julius Woese fell ill with a bad attack of rheumatism. He became so crippled that he could scarcely rise from his blanket. He was therefore removed to Belle Isle Prison in the James River across from Richmond, where conditions were a bit better. Then one happy day a guard came to Julius and informed him that negotiations were being made by which he was to be exchanged for a Southern prisoner. In a few days my grandfather was allowed to leave the hated prison, from which he traveled to his home in Syracuse to recover from his rheumatism.
When Julius Woese had sufficiently regained his health after his return from the South, he secured a position as traveling salesman in New York State for a cigar company.
It was on one of his business trips that my grandfather met Anna Binder. While he was stopping at a certain store in Utica, his attention was attracted by a beautiful voice coming from the rear of the shop. Being a great lover of music, Mr. Woese asked the storekeeper who the singer might be.
"That is my daughter, Anna Binder," was the proud reply. "Perhaps you would like to meet her."
The young man answered that he would be delighted to see the owner of such a lovely voice. Accordingly, he was conducted to a door at the back of the store which led to the Binders' living quarters. When they entered, he saw a young girl of seventeen or eighteen seated at the piano.
After introductions had been made, Mr. Woese asked, "Miss Binder, will you be so good as to sing for me?"
The young lady hesitated a moment and might have refused if her father had not interrupted with, "Certainly Anna will sing, Mr. Woese."
The young man remained to hear several songs, after which he asked Miss Binder if he might call again.
"You may if you wish," she replied rather coolly.
After that first meeting Julius saw quite a bit of Miss Binder, stopping to see her whenever he passed through Utica. Gradually her indifference wore off and she began to look forward with pleasure to these visits. Finally, when they had known each other for about a year, Mr. Woese asked her to become his wife.
At first Mr. Binder opposed the marriage although he had liked the young man from the beginning. He considered his daughter much too young to be married. However, he finally relented and said that the wedding might be held at the end of a year if they still desired it at that time.
The young couple waited impatiently for the year to pass. At last the time was up,and on the sixteenth of November, 1871, they were married.
Mr. Woese took his bride to Syracuse, where he rented a flat on Catherine Street. Some time before his marriage he had entered into partnership with another man. They were running a restaurant.
After a time a little son was born to the Woeses. They named him Arthur. Unfortunately, the baby's stay in this world was very short, for he died when he was but six months old.
One day Mr. Woese came running into the house and called excitedly to his wife.
"Anna," he cried when Mrs. Woese appeared, "what do you think? I had a chance today to buy the house next door for a bargain, and I took advantage of it. The house is now ours. Put on your coat, and we will go over and inspect it."
The pair hurried next door and entered their newly acquired property. As soon as Mrs. Woese got a glimpse of the interior, her heart sank. Never in her life had she seen so much dirt! It was everywhere. In fact, in such condition was the kitchen that, when the house was being prepared for occupancy, the dirt had to be scraped from the floor with a hoe. All this was most discouraging to Mrs, Woese, who always kept everything about her immaculately clean. However, the house was finally made livable.
It was here that two sons, Francis and Alfred, and,quite a few years later, Bertha, my mother, were born.
Julius's mother and father and two of his sisters lived with them on the second floor of their house for about a year before old Mr. Woese died. The family had never become separated as do some families, and the members enjoyed many good times, such as parties and picnics, together.
Then came an uneventful period in my grandfather's life, a time spent in running his business and bringing up his children. Having made quite a bit of money, Mr. Woese wished to give his children all the advantages in the way of education that he had missed. The second son, Alfred, studied medicine at Harvard University and later for a year at Vienna. His daughter went to Syracuse University. During this time Mr. Woese had built a larger house on McBride Street, where the family now lived.
One day in April, 1902, my grandfather announced that he had made arrangements to start for Europe in two weeks to see his stepsister who lived in Germany and of whom he was very fond although he had not seen her since leaving Germany. He had written to her that he and his wife were coming. This was the first his family had heard of such a plan, but that was not very unusual since he frequently surprised them with arrangements for their pleasure. The whole house bustled with activity for the next two weeks, you may be sure. It was decided that my mother was to go with Mr. and Mrs. Woese.
Then just a few days before the time set for departure, a telegram was received from Germany saying that the stepsister had just died. She had been delighted at the prospect of their visit and had been making preparations for their arrival when she had suddenly passed away in her sleep. Of course, this news was a great shock to my grandfather, but he decided to go to Europe anyway since all preparations had been made. Therefore, they departed for New York as they had planned and set sail on the twenty-eighth of April.
Mr. Woese was anxious to see his old homeland, so they landed first in Germany.
When they stopped in Berlin, Mr. Woese set out to find his old home. After a good deal of investigation he found the street upon which the house had stood. However, there was not a single landmark left that he might have recognized. All the houses in that section had been torn down so that business establishments might be erected. Mr. Woese finally found the site where his home had stood but which was now occupied by a store. He was very much disappointed, but it was what must be expected in a large city after so many years.
Before my grandfather had left for Europe, his brother-in-law had asked him to visit his family, who lived in the little town of Guntersblume, Germany. Therefore, after they had spent some time in Berlin, they departed for that town. What they found there was different from anything they had expected, for Guntersblume is but a small village, which has existed for about a thousand years, and it has changed very little in that time. All baked goods were mixed at home but carried to the village oven to be baked. There was an evil smelling ditch along the side of each cobble-stone street where all the sewage ran. The rear part of practically every house was occupied by the family's horses and cows. Their chickens and ducks were allowed to run loose in the streets.
Nevertheless, now that they were there, the Woese determined to carry out the man's request and look for his people. They found them living in a house no different from the rest although they were the most prominent family in the village. It had no front door; one had to enter the dwelling from the rear. However, these people received the Woeses hospitably. One of the items that was served for supper was a loaf of bread about three feet in length. Tucking this under his arm, the master of the house sawed off generous slices, which he passed to the family on the end of the knife. The most valuable article in the house was an organ, but this was useless since it had been locked and the key lost.
The Woeses did not look forward to spending the night here, but it was too late to go elsewhere. My mother was give a room on the first floor whereas her parents were taken upstairs, and she was rather frightened at being alone in this strange place. Her nervousness increased when the wife came into the room, closed the window, and barred the heavy iron shutters.
"Now you will be perfectly safe, my dear," she said and departed.
When my mother arose the next morning, she discovered that she had been locked in to further insure her safety. Although it was done for her good, supposedly, the Woeses did not care for the idea.
One interesting experience the VVoeses had in Germany was meeting the Kaiser. They had come to Potsdam to visit the church where the Kaiser often went, in the hope that they might see him. However, they were disappointed, because he did not come that morning. Then they went to see the palace of Frederick the Great. As they were going down a path in the palace garden they suddenly saw the Kaiser approaching, accompanied by his wife, daughter and the crown prince. Some German friends who were with the Woeses bowed very deeply when the ruler passed, but my grandfather, now a real American, remained erect. How different would have been his attitude if he had spent his life in Germany.
After leaving Germany the Woeses visited England, France, and Switzerland, where they saw the usual sights.
After the European trip Mr. Woese's life settled back into quiet and unbroken routine. One of his chief interests in his later life was the raising of roses. He had a garden of quite choice and beautiful plants, which he cared for lovingly. Every week he would either go trout fishing or take a long walk in the country; sometimes he would hike for ten miles. He was also a great lover of the theatre and never missed a good production that came to Syracuse.
Ever since his return from the Civil War, my grandfather had searched for Louis Sickenberger, the man who had lent him money while in prison. Unfortunately he had lost the paper upon which was written the man's address, and, therefore, he did not know where to locate him since he could not recall the state and district from which Mr. Sickenberger had come. Nevertheless Mr. Woese could not rest while he owed a debt, and he appealed to the War Department at Washington to help him find the man. However, for some reason no record of him could be found. The years went by, but my grandfather never forgot the debt.
Then one day, in 1901, he learned that a friend of his was going to Washington. Having determined to make a last attempt at locating Mr. Sickenberger, he requested the man to investigate the matter once again. This time success crowned his efforts. In some way the friend discovered that Mr. Woese's Libby Prison comrade was now the postmaster of Nashville, Tennessee. It gave my grandfather great joy to send Mr. Sickenberger a check for the fifty dollars with compound interest for forty years. This amounted to quite a sum.
When he received this unexpected check, Mr. Sickenberger was so overcome that he had to leave his office and go home for the day. He needed the money quite badly at that time, and this was like a gift from heaven. After that, although they never met, the two men corresponded until Mr. Woese's death, and each year my grandfather sent this friend a Christmas box.
In 1910, and for eight years following, Mr. and Mrs. Woese spent their winters in Florida. They enjoyed it there very much.
One day, in 1917, while they were in the South, they had had a particularly enjoyable time. It was my grandmother's birthday and they had gone for a long ride in the country. My grandfather had been in a gay mood and to all appearances felt in the best of health. However, when he awoke the next morning it was discovered that he had jaundice. When called to see Mr. Woese a doctor informed him that he ought to be taken north at once. Nevertheless, thinking nothing serious was the matter with him, my grandfather determined to remain South till the end of the winter.
This was the beginning of the sickness from which he never quite recovered. On the way home to Syracuse the Woeses stopped in New York City to see a specialist. He told them that Mr. Woese needed an operation, but that that was not possible while he was so jaundiced. Then my grandmother took him home to Syracuse. At times, after that, he was able to be up and around and to go to business, but he was always obliged to return to his bed very soon.
Gradually Mr. Woese became worse and finally, on March 15, 1919, passed away in the Memorial Hospital, at the advanced age of seventy-seven.