Chapter Four, Part Three: The Genealogy & History of the Original Bohemians (Czechs) in Cleveland, Ohio, USA: The Novák/Nowak Family Continued.
Here’s where we are now:
When we concluded Chapter Four, Part Two we had followed eldest daughter, Anna Nowak Zika and were waiting to see if we would hear from the living descendant we had located. So, for now we move on!
Introducing Barbara Nowak
As we await word from our Anna Nowak descendant, let us introduce you to Barbara Nowak. Our first clue to Barbara is found, once again, in the Joseph and Marie Nowak’s ‘A Golden Anniversary’ article where the only mention of Barbara is Barbara Dyzner (Dýzner) and a grandchild Celia Dyzner. It wasn’t long and we had uncovered a listing through FamilySearch.org for a marriage license application for Barbara Nowak and Anton Dýzner, which took place on December 28, 1866.
As we began our investigation into Anton and Barbara, we were once again confronted with a huge variety of spellings for this Bohemian surname. From Dýzner, we found Dysner, Deisner, Diesner, Disner, Dizner, Dusner, and Dzner. As you can imagine, this caused a great deal of misdirection and a few challenges all of their own and to let you in on a little secret, it won’t be the only time we are confronted with this issue with the Dýzner family.
Locating a probate/estate file for Barbara Nowak Dýzner from 1907 and filed in CuyahogaCounty was a significant find for our efforts for Barbara. Perhaps the most significant item we discovered was that all of her children chose to change the spelling of their surname from Dýzner to Deisner, but Barbara and her husband, Anton, retained the Dýzner spelling. Without this document, we might never have been able to know of this change, nor connected the surname of Dyzner directly with Deisner. Plus we see that Barbara’s heirs-at-law are listed as her husband, Anton, and her children T. S., Otto J., and Cecilia.
Using this probate date we were also able to make an inquiry of Riverside Cemetery and we were not to be disappointed. The staff was able to confirm the burials of eight members of the Dýzner/Deisner family, which included Barbara, plus Anton, Anthony S., Cecelia, Frank, Sadie, Elizabeth, and Oldrich all in the same Nowak family location of Section 6, Lot 25 of the cemetery. It was interesting to note when we discovered the obituary for Barbara (listed under Deisner even though she never changed the spelling of her surname) that it included ‘funeral car’. When searching for this phrase we found a photograph and description in the “The Cleveland Memory Project” of ClevelandStateUniversity and located in their Special Collections. They state the following with the photo:
“Funeral Car streetcar. This is a photo of the funeral car used to access Lake View Cemetery and Mayfield Cemetery….car ran from late 1800s until 1924.”
The website for Riverside Cemetery further explains:
“Funerals usually had many persons in attendance. The funeral visitations were held in the home. Then the pallbearers carried the casket to the nearest streetcar stop. Next the pallbearers, casket and mourners boarded the funeral car and rode to the cemetery. Some walked to the cemetery, some came on horseback, some in carriages and some rode on a special funeral car. The city transit system had two funeral cars that could be hired for $10-$15 to deliver a bodied casket and mourners to the gates of the cemetery. These special funeral streetcars were used until 1915.
In those days, before the arrival of the motor car until after World War I, the cemetery had its own team of horses and a carriage which were used to move the body from the streetcar into the cemetery. Riverside Cemetery usually used a black carriage and a white horse. The trolley conductor would give three blasts of the whistle when he got within a certain distance of the cemetery to allow enough time for a cemetery person to get the horse and carriage to the front gate to meet the funeral car. This car stopped at the front cemetery gate where the mourners exited the car. The casket was removed from the funeral car and placed on the cemetery’s horse drawn carriage. This carriage then led the procession of the mourners to the gravesite. Musicians played Brass horns from the outside of the office building tower from the time the family arrived until they left the cemetery.”
As a personal aside, I must add that while I am not old enough to recall funeral cars on the streetcar line, I certainly remember having funeral visitations always being held in the home. From my early years I have a multitude of memoires of being in the homes of aunts and uncles for funeral visitations. It was the norm back then and while I also recall it being a mostly somber time, I also remember that if you snuck into the kitchen or close to it you could usually hear stories and hearty laughter that signaled, at least to a kid, that the deceased was well loved.
Tracing Barbara Nowak Dýzner and Her Descendants
As we began our work tracing Barbara Nowak Dýzner we decided to start with researching her husband, Anton. Immediately we encountered some challenges. First, when searching on Anton Dýzner we were able to find many listings in the Cleveland City Directories listing Anton as a sashmaker or carpenter throughout the late 1800s and into the 1900s. However, not a single listing for any U.S. Census records, no matter how many variations we attempted, so even though we could see Anton in the City Directories and find records of him in birth records, marriages, deaths, naturalizations, and others, we were not able to find the family in the Census records.
In reviewing the Cleveland Necrology File from the Cuyahoga County Public Library, we did find an obituary listing for Barbara Deisner dated November 20, 1907 (original source unknown) and none for Anton. We did however discover two entries for Anthony Deisner, one dated May 6, 1919 and one dated February 23, 1928. This was highly confusing since not only had we never come across a second ‘Anthony’ before in our research, but the entry for the 1919 Anthony started “father of Anthony S. and Otto J.” Back to the information we received from RiversideCemetery and while there was only one Anthony in the family plot, which matched the 1928 date, the 1919 Anthony dates matched those for the interment of Anton. Once again we were confronted with the confounding name alteration for one of our Bohemians, although this time it was with both his given name as well as his surname. As we continued to work on the varieties of the Dýzner surname and discovered that the family plot at Riverside holds not only several of the Nowak family members but also the parents of Anton, Frank (listed as Deisner) and Elizabeth (listed as Dýzner). It was gratifying to also find a listing in The Cleveland City Directory for the year ending June, 1880 that listed Anton Dyzner as a scroll sawyer and Frank Dyzner, a carpenter, both listed as having the identical residence of “Columbus, nr. Meyer av.” Plus, evidently for good measure, we found, in the same volume, a listing for Frank with his surname spelled Diesner, but at the same address and as a woodworker. This further helped us since the obituary for Elizabeth in the Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on May 7, 1895 states that her funeral took place at the home of her son on Meyer avenue. Additional clues followed from the cemetery records, such as the burial of Oldrich, the young son, of Barbara and Anton who unfortunately died from pericarditis at the tender age of only 12.
We also discovered an index listing the naturalization record for Anton Dyzner so that has been ordered up since we thought it would be interesting to see when Anton and his parents arrived on the Cleveland scene, but while we await that information, we went on to expanding our work to Barbara and Anton’s children.
First up: T. S. Deisner
Oh my! If the surname issues weren’t enough of a challenge with the Dýzner family, our first child to trace, simply because he was listed at the top of the list in the probate file, made that spelling issue seem almost irrelevant. While we were lucky to have Barbara’s probate file to provide us with a lead, the listing for “T. S.” does allow room for interpretation!
Everyone in the office began to feel like we were a ping pong ball as we began to investigate our T. S. Deisner. We encountered T., T.S., Tony, Toney, Tony S., Toney S., Anthony, and Anthony S. Deisner. We began to believe that, as so often occurs in genealogy that, even though the surname is quite rare, there might well be two individuals in the city at the same time with almost identical names.
At this point, we began to combine all of our findings on our office whiteboard so we could try and make some sense of all the data and do it in a more visible form. One of the first mentions that we had on our board was from a newspaper article we found courtesy of GenealogyBank.com in the Cleveland Leader (Cleveland, Ohio) dated May 14, 1877 headlined “Retaliation” it reads as follows:
“Miss Annie Dean, who teaches in the Walton Avenue school, was brought before Justice Weed Saturday morning on the charge of assaulting Anthony Dyzner, a little boy nine years old, a pupil in said school. She plead guilty to the charge and was fined $5 and costs.”
One excellent clue we find in this article, aside from the fact that we learn that perhaps Anthony Dyzner was a bit of a handful as a student, is that this Anthony Dyzner was reported to have been born about 1868, given the age of 9.
It was then that one of our staff added several interesting finds. The first discovery being an article in the Plain Dealer dated January 26, 1897 headlined simply “Mrs. Deisner”. This article not only explains that Mrs. Deisner was being committed to the insane asylum, but that her husband, Tony S. Deisner, held the position of police clerk. It also states that Mrs. Deisner was 24 years old and her maiden name was Wuertz. Surprisingly it also says that at the time of the marriage Tony had a thirteen year old daughter with the given name of Myrtle. We then began researching Tony Deisner’s marriage and quite quickly found more than one. We initially found what we think is a first marriage to Sadie A. Smith in Alpena, Michigan in 1887, a subsequent marriage to Mamie E. Wuertz in Cleveland in 1892, a marriage to Catharine L. (nee Gregory) Clauss in 1901 in Cleveland, then a 1902 marriage to Edith E. Martin in Buffalo, New York, and finally a marriage to Libbie E. Vasak in 1908. Indeed, we uncovered five marriages for varieties of T. S. Deisner. Confused? So were we, so we began charting the marriages while also beginning to track any offspring, such as Myrtle, who was mentioned in the “Mrs. Deisner” article referenced above. Throughout our marriage work and the subsequent research for children, we continually found references to the fact that both Tony S. and Anthony S. Deisner actually were not two people, but were the same person, since we saw multiple documents that listed the parents of both as Anton Deisner and Barbara Novak (Nowak).
Then we got a bit sidetracked from the marriages as we discovered another series of newspaper reports on the trial of one Tony S. Deisner for attempted murder. The first story we discovered was in the Cleveland Leader dated February 27, 1902 and headlined “Saloonkeeper Jacobs Tells Story of Katz’s Murder. Testifies that Deisner handed to Dalton the Revolver”. It seems that Tony, listed as ‘Deputy Police Clerk’, along with his friend, Charles Dalton, reported to be manager of the Metropolitan Guarantee Co. and that both were living at 244 Erie Street. Add to this the fact that they were also reported to have been involved in the shooting death of Morris Katz. It seems Katz was the bartender at The White Front, a saloon and restaurant, located at 65 Ontario Street and owned by Charles Jacobs, known as the ‘King of Chinatown’ and was also wounded in the affray.
The next article that captured our interest was published just a few days later on March 6, 1902 was headlined “Climax of a Real Romance. Tony S. Deisner, Under Charge of Murder, Takes a Wife”, which highlighted the marriage of Tony to his second wife, Ms. Wuertz. Soon after we found ourselves switching crimes when we came across an article from April 10, 1902 headlined “Total Stealings Amount to $7,687. All Raised Police Court Vouchers Bear Signature of Tony Deisner”. It seems that Tony Deisner was guilty of writing false witness vouchers and collecting the fees. In short order it seems that Tony was found guilty, sentenced to four years, sent to the Ohio Penitentiary, divorced by his then wife while incarcerated, the discovery that the ‘go-between’ in Tony’s caper was one George Fox who mysteriously died, the fact that rather than hard labor, Tony was assigned to be the ‘private clerk’ to the prison warden, and then in a highly peculiar move, with only two of his four year sentence served and while he still would not have been eligible for good behavior release, Tony was paroled without any effort on behalf of Prosecutor Keeler to block his early release, the news article stating instead “Will Keep Hands Off.”
While giving us a great story to follow and some wonderful insight into Cleveland in the last 1890s and early 1900s, these articles also nicely fit smack dab in the middle of the time void we had all observed on our whiteboard.
Now it may seem to you that this fellow was the epitome of a ne’er-do-well, but once Tony did get his parole (as expected in the newspapers) and while we find his wife and daughter, Myrtle, living separately after Myrtle married, we also find that Tony is using only Anthony as his given name, in the 1920 U. S. Census Tony married for the fifth time, and proceeded to have a family. In this Census we find Anthony with this wife, Libbie and children Zora, Norvill, and Virgil. Also after some time working at a Candy Company, he settled down to running the B. & K. Garage located at 4309 Henritze Avenue. Unfortunately, on February 22, 1928, at 10:30 am, we read the following:
“Was found dead in garage at 4309 Henritz & sitting back of wheel Mon Oxide gas Poisoning.”
While we will never know if his death, at age 60 was an accident or suicide, in a final strange twist, Tony S. Deisner was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery in the family plot with only his first wife, Sadie, and not with the three, possibly four, younger children (not those listed in the 1920 Census) who are all buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.
Coming next: We go in pursuit of the descendants of T. S. Deisner!
In the interim, all of us here at Onward To Our Past® wish you a very Merry Christmas!