Tragedy in Durant, Oklahoma (manuscript)

Celia and Pauline Amsel

Celia and Pauline Amsel

A   Jewish   wine peddler passing through northeastern Austro-Hungary in the   eighteen-nineties 1  might have found  haven and camaraderie at Moshe Ber Amsel’s   tavern.  If so, Amsel and his wife Blema, one of a handful of Jews settled in tiny Bela,   undoubtedly plied him, over sips of plum brandy,  with questions about the places he had been and the things he had seen.  Their   children would have drawn near, soaking up tales of Jewish life in Brody, of anti-Semitism  in  Pressburg, and of grinding poverty inGalicia.    They would have learned not only   of  Jews  straying from the paths of righteousness, but also  of  those who    chopped off their fingers, Heaven forfend,  to   avoid  the draft. They would have also heard  of Jews leaving Austro-Hungary for  a better life in  Golden America.

Israel(Isser) Amsel, Moshe Ber’s youngest son, packed up a single suitcase and left Bela for America on the  S.S. Obdam   in 1894, at age 25.       Unlike his Biblical namesake Jacob who, dreaming of a ladder that reached heaven, adopted the name Israel, Amsel reversed it. On the ship manifest, Israel now calls himself  Jacob. 2

Most Jewish immigrants settled in large cities , among  Old Worldrelatives, friends, and neighbors who had proceeded them. Established Jewish communities offered, along with a  traditional way of life,  Jewish social societies, Yiddish newspapers, and  other  cultural activities.

 Jake, however,  may not have stayed at his destination,New York Citylong. After all, he was a country boy, accustomed to village life and natural beauty.  Owning a business, a Jewish immigrant’s dream come true, was many a greenhorn’s ticket  to the future. Many    mustered up what capital they could, shouldered knapsacks bursting with rags or ribbons, and set off down the road to seek their fortunes.  “Isaacs or Cohen, Ikey, Jake, or Abie….His garments were either old and shiny with an inevitable black derby hat, or else they were ludicrously new and flashy.”3 Jewish peddlers were so common, in fact, that they were even stereotyped in popular comic magazines.  In the  heady days when   the railroads   first crisscrossedAmerica, a man could go far.   Jacob, evidently, followed the rails southward, possibly drumming goods inHarrisburg, inCincinnati, inSt. Louis, and farther still.

At any rate,  Jacob, now Americanized further to Jake,  next surfaces in Corsicana, Texas, when, in 1899,   he marries Celia Levy.4 Records show that Celia was a saleslady at  Bauman’s Wholesale and Retail Millinery Store, in Dallas, Texas.  Was Jake  searching for a wide-brimmed hat or a natty pair of shoes5   when  Celia  caught  his eye? 6   Perhaps    there among  the belts and boots,  the  pair  discovered   a common tongue–  he  flirting in   Yiddish laced with schoolboy German  and she    in  her parent’s  Alsatian  German dialect.     Gutsy,   handsome, and ambitious, Jake was definitely a catch.    Celia, though many  years older,7  had a good head for business and hands-on experience in dry goods.

Louisiana-born  Celia also boasted  qualities that greenhorn Jake  lacked,  an innate knowledge of local mores, and  literacy  in English.  And of course, both  Celia and Jake were Jewish.

After their marriage,   Jake and Celia left for DurantTown, the   capital of Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory,8 located just north of theTexas border.   The Durants, for whom the town was named, were scions of a French-Canadian who had married into the Choctaws of Mississippi.  In the 1830’s, they were removed from their homelands and forced to ply a “Trail of Tears” westward.  On their arrival to the Choctaw Nation, they claimed property in and around present-day Durant.

Durant Town was originally founded as Durant Station in 1872, when an old boxcar was placed along the tracks of the   Missouri,Kansas, and Texas branch (dubbed the Katy), of the Union Pacific Railway.     By the time the   Amsels arrived, Durant was home to nearly three thousand people. Though small, the  town  boasted  a Main Street stretching nearly three electrically-lit blocks, several  hotels, a bank,  a cotton gin, a flour mill,  a post office, an  ice plant, and a doctor who, conveniently,

doubled as a veterinarian. 9      Despite their  proximity to the Katy, locals  still preferred the traditional was of getting around, the horse and mule.    Hitching posts were scattered all over town, but anyone  using  these facilities   risked having their transport spirited away, saddle and all.     It was safer by far, whether simply running errands or traveling onward by rail, to board horses in the livery stable just off Main Street. The animals’ pungent odors permeated the town.10

Settling in, Amsels rented a storefront on First and Main Street, not far from the Katy, where they opened a dry goods store, Jake Amsel OUTFITTER From Head to Foot.11     In Durant, as in so many small towns scattered throughout America,  “retail trade offered ready made opportunities at a low buy-in cost….$500 put a guy in the business … with a stock of ‘workingman’s clothing, and a cigar box cash register.’ ” 12  Though the 1900 Federal Census states that the Amsels also rented a house, its address is not noted. 13

Celia may have initially stocked the store with a selection of knickerbockers, nightshirts, and union suits, but by then heavy with child, she probably left the day-to-day business to her husband. Their daughter Pauline was born in August 1900.14

Business boomed.  Jake’s knack for languages, a willingness to work hard, and an Old Worldreligious15  education which fostered quick thinking and wit, likelystood him well behind the counter.  He seems to have been well-liked.  Along with his high-pitched voice and habit of twirling his watch chain on his right finger, he is remembered for his ready smile. 16

On the heels of the Dawes Commission   which persuaded the Choctaws to relinquish tribal allegiance in anticipation of statehood, the town was flooded with enterprising white settlers, all of whom, naturally, needed clothing.  The Choctaws, too, though   mainly farmers, preferred white frontier “civilized” fashion to native clothes.  Their wives, in fact, favored rich silk,   shawls, [and] even parasols.”17   Jake was happy to oblige.

When the Arkansasand Choctaw Railway bisected the Katy in 1902, attracting not only settlers, but also transients and drummers, Durant blossomed into a major economic hub. Business was so good, in fact, that by 1903, Jake and Celia bought      a house of their own, on SecondStreet and Elm.18  From this point on, they also began   buying up in real estate.

With financial success, Jake was able to support his elderly parents, Moshe Ber and Blema Amsel,   who had recently left Bela, Slovakia  for Ottoman Jerusalem.   The Hungarian enclave where they settled, though picturesque with its triangular courtyard, was overcrowded with scholars like themselves, most of who survived on alms gathered in their   home  shtetls.    Indeed,   donating a heller here or a krone there for   brothers in Holy Jerusalem was, for Jews across the Austro-Hungarian Empire, nearly as sacrosanct as prayer itself.     It is safe to say that the Amsels were the only ones receiving funds fromO klahoma.   Although Jake must have gladdened his parents’  hearts with descriptions and photographs of little Pauline, they never met their granddaughter.   At least, when his parents died, 19   Jake must have had great satisfaction in knowing that they had achieved   the dream of every pious Jew. They were buried side by side on Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives, where, legend has it, they will be among the first to arise upon the Coming of the Messiah.

Within three years of opening his business, Jake was invited   to join   the Durant Freemason Lodge as an apprentice and  quickly progressed to the highest rank, 20   32nd Degree Mason and Shriner.21  The Masons, a fraternal order   dedicated to strengthening character and moral values by encouraging philanthropy and community service, courted civic leaders across America.   Freemasonry   especially appealed   to   immigrant Jews   who had been part of vibrant religious communities in Europe.22    The Masons’  use of   symbols, rites and ceremonies, their belief in God and the immortality of the soul,  their value system, and their sense  of fraternal  elitism   all echoed familiar orthodox  Jewish experience.  Furthermore, for Jews living among Christians, Masonry   fostered social acceptance, which formed a basis for both business and personal success.  It also   accelerated the process of   acculturation in a decidedly emancipated, Americanfashion.  Jacob Amsel, Jew, had now become Jake Amsel, Jewish Mason.

In 1903, the year the Wright brothers flew a heavier-than-air plane at Kitty Hawk,     the   east-west Arkansasand Choctaw Railway cut through  Durant, bisecting the north-south Katy line.     It attracted  commerce from all directions, offering “all the trappings of a good-sized town.” 23  Seven more dry goods and sixteen new groceries sprang up, as well a number of hardware, harness, furniture, and millinery stores.  A Duranter could now choose from among three livery stables, four barber shops, five hotels, six restaurants, fifteen lawyers, and sixteen doctors.  Now he could read a newspaper, purchase jewelry for the missus, arrange insurance, consult an architect, and visit a dentist— and all locally. 24

Durant, overwhelmingly Christian Protestant, also offered   eight churches of varied denominations. 25  Celia, raised in Roman Catholic Louisiana and  Jake, raised in   Greek Orthodox Bela, were both  probably comfortable among  Christians.

But  living among Indians was  another story.   At first glance, the Choctaws   may have reminded Jake of his family’s customers back in Bela,   simple villagers who ran small farms and raised livestock.     As he became familiar with their traditions, however, which included    devotion to community ball games and   fondness for foods like possum, raven, and poke salad greens,  26   the Choctaws must have seemed very exotic indeed.   It is likely,  however, that Jake   came to respect the Choctaws’ masterful farming skills,   their   regard for children and   education, and their striking sense of civil responsibility.      He may have even felt a certain affinity with them.   The Choctaws, like the Jews, were driven from their ancestral homeland, after all,  and  like the Jews, strove to uphold their traditions in a growing sea of White Protestants.  27

According to old timers,  there was just a handful    Jewish families scattered in the Durant area.     As Jews will, they probably sought each other out, for both companionship and  prayer.    Because the nearest synagogue, Congregation Emeth, 28 lay   several hours away inArdmore, the families  likely met in private houses for communal services.     But when it came to business, Jake, for all his pious upbringing , probably kept OUTFITTER open on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath.    Saturdays, when   farmers hauled wagonloads of produce to the local Farmers Market, were Durant’s busiest days of the week.

The Amsels must have  frequently    taken the train  south toCorsicana,Texas, where  Celia’s  family lived.   Although Corsicana boasted a  newly built   reform synagogue,   featuring  a   minimal use of Hebrew and mixed seating,     Jake, considering his pious background,    probably   preferred attending Orthodox services.  These were held in rented halls like the American Legion Hall and the Independent Order of Odd Fellow’s Lodge. 29

Celia must have cherished time spent with her older sister, Flora Levy Goldman.   Little Pauline must have enjoyed playing with her cousins, one minute cozying up to the pot-bellied stove  that warmed  the living room, and the next, frolicking out in  the backyard among the chickens.29

When Pauline was five years old, she probably saw history in the making.  Teddy Roosevelt, appointed to the Presidency on the assassination of   McKinley in 1901, caused a sensation when, in a publicity ploy for the Katy railroad, he steamed southward, pausing in Durant to speak from the rear platform of his Presidential railroad car.    Pauline, along with a bevy of other little girls, probably toted along   their spanking new Teddy bears, named for the illustrious speaker.

That same year, Celia Amsel purchased their store outright, paying $2000 down, followed by three payments of  $1333.33, a sure sign   that both the Amsels and Durant were   fairing well.30   Business, evidently,  was   so good that Jake sometimes     extended credit, Slovak fashion, to his customers.  But Bryan County Court Records show that in Durant as in Bela, Slovakia people did not always pay up.    When Jake turned to litigation, suing J.B. Clark for $14.23, for example, it took four months before he collected in full. 31  When he sued D.P. Aderholk   for $48, the case dragged on for nearly a year before he finally received compensation.32  At a time when a nickel bought a ticket to a picture show at the Orpheum Theater, when 75 cents bought a man’s fancy front muslin nightshirt, and when $2.80 bought a “mouse colored” corduroy hunting coat, “a dandy for the money,” an outstanding debt of $48 was a small fortune.

As statehood neared, a locally-printed brochure extolled Durant as “a hustling city of 7500 people and a splendid Farming, Fruit, and Truck33 growing country…with citizens moral, intelligent, and law-abiding.”34  On November 16, 1907, President Roosevelt proclaimed Oklahoma, which combined Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory as one, the 46th State of the Union.  In doing so, he effectively marked the   demise of the independent Choctaw Nation.    Excepting areas reserved for public use,   tribal lands had already been divided and distributed among its members.   The Choctaw Nation’s highly developed legal system had been abolished, and   their prized   educational system had been transferred to the jurisdiction of the US Department of the Interior.    Now too, like other towns scattered throughout the State of Oklahoma, Durant initiated taxation and assumed responsibility for   public utilities and schools.  At this time, the town was also proclaimed the Bryan County Seat, in honor of William Jennings Bryan, thrice nominated for President of the United States.

Durant, by 1909 one of the largest towns in southeast Oklahoma, now offered a growing variety of entertainment and   services.    Townsfolk could take in a vaudeville show, dine out, linger at a soda fountain, play billiards, or attend performances at the Durant Opera House.  They could conveniently repair their shoes, shoe their horses, photograph their children, steam their laundry,   and purchase furniture—or even a coffin. But now pedestrians   had to keep a sharp eye not only for horses and mule passing by, but also for the sixteen motorcars that roamed the town at will. 35

Durant swelled yet more when a third rail line, the Missouri, Oklahomaand Gulf, reached town in 1910, bisecting the Arkansas and Choctaw.   Now that the rails stretched in all four directions, Durant attracted not only drummers and travelers, but also hobos   seeking   temporary jobs in exchange for a cup of coffee and tramps with no qualms about panhandling.   Tramps, especially,  floated in and out of town like spirits, “One day … in a barn, the next in a haystack, and the next Heaven only knows where he is, for he has probably got on to the railroad, and there you might as well look for a lost pin.36

By 1910, the Amsels had once again relocated to a better neighborhood, purchasing a house free and clear on Seventh Avenue near Mississippi Street. 37   They now lived within walking distance of both their store and the South Ward Elementary School, which Pauline probably attended. 38  Though nothing is known of Pauline’s primary school years,39   if,   along with reading, writing, and ciphering, she also   studied geography, she must have felt very worldly indeed.  She had family scattered across the globe, in orsicana,New York City,Chicago, Bela, andJerusalem.

Sometime between 1910 and 191440, the Amsels moved again, this time from Mississippi Streetto the newer, more affluent North Ward.   Their new home, built in the fashionable Queen Anne Revival style boasted no less than seventeen rooms.  The living room, kitchen, bath,   parlor,   office, and music room were all on the first floor.   The bedrooms, accessed   by a staircase housed in a cylindrical tower, possibly the only one in Durant, were on the second floor.  Servants’ quarters were on the third floor.  The house lay just three blocks from the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, which was established  in 1894   to educate Indian youth.   By the time Pauline enrolled there, Presbyterian, newly renovated and expanded, had become an exclusive private junior and senior boarding high school.

 The 1913-1914 Presbyterian   catalog extols   the school’s   thirty acre campus as the “the prettiest [site] in Durant,”   then goes on to describe its modern   facilities: entirely steam- heated, with access to water “abundant, palatable, and pure,” and “electrically lighted throughout.”  Presbyterian, naturally, offered courses suitable  for young ladies, including Latin, French, economics, moral philosophy, botany, vocal expression, and house decoration.     Along with academic studies, the school also emphasized personal deportment and morals, expecting students   to receive visitors in the public parlor, dress appropriately, and are “prompt and cheerful in their obedience.”   In addition, Presbyterian also offered a variety of extracurricular activities like supervised excursions, picnics, musical and theatrical events, and    seasonal parties.41

The girls who boarded in, many of whom were Choctaw and  most, if not all, Christian,  were not only required to attend Sunday school and religious services, but       also  encouraged to organize   prayer sessions among themselves, “held for a few minutes before retiring.” 42  These requirements were probably waived for Pauline, because she lived at home. er parents, H Besides, her parents, as townsfolk recall, cleaved strongly to their own traditions and expected her to do the same.

During her first year at Presbyterian, Pauline studied orthography (spelling), geography, grammar, physiology, reading, arithmetic, and drawing, along with her major, piano. 43  Piano studies    in tiny Durant may not sound very promising, but   the College offered “advantages not surpassed by but few institutions in the whole country.”44

In truth, PresbyterianCollegedid attract a number of highly educated music teachers,    not only graduates of nearby Kid-Key Conservatory 45  but also several graduates of   musical institutions in Leipzig, Germany.   Each arrival of the Visiting Director of Piano and Teacher of Interpretation surely sent shivers of fear and excitement buzzing through the ranks of the seventy young protégés in his care.  He was a student of the great Franz Liszt himself.46

Freshman year, Pauline received 81 in piano, but the next, her grade fell considerably.  Clearly, finding a practice piano would not have been a problem.  Instead of vying with other piano majors for the use of one of Presbyterian’s thirteen pianos, she probably   practiced at home in her own   music room.  Pauline’s second year at Presbyterian was simply far more demanding than her first. Besides studying  Bible and United States History, Pauline also added a second major, Domestic Science. 47   She was member of  the Phi Delta Sigma Society, as well,    whereby addressing that forum, according to the school brochure, its members acquire   replaced  “painful timidity and humiliating hesitancy of speech.” with “ease and polish of manner.”  48    In an era when educated young ladies were expected to   cook, sew, play the piano, and speak eloquently, Pauline’s future looked bright indeed.

In the early morning hours of November 11, 1914, Jake and Celia awoke to   loud screams coming from the porch, where Pauline slept that night.   According to the local newspaper, The Durant Weekly News,   Jake, who rushed to his daughter’s aid, found himself grappling with an intruder.   As this was occurring, Pauline   approached her mother, moaning that she felt ill.   Celia, who was frantically dialing the telephone operator for help, sent her daughter    to wait in her own bedroom.   In the meantime, the   intruder knifed Jake, overpowering him, then bounded downstairs, and sprinted out the back alleyway.      Tom Bates, the Amsel’s neighbor, rushing toward the screams that split the night, caught sight of   the intruder fleeing.    Fred Pendleton, too, it was reported, nearly smashed   into him, yet failed to head the murderer   off. 49

Then Jake and Celia turned to Pauline.  She was lying on her bedroom floor, gasping for breath, “in a great pool of blood.”  Dr. R.E. Sawyer, a medical doctor who was among those first at the scene, confirmed that Pauline’s wound “extended from the throat in front to the back of the neck, and severed all the arteries, muscles, and veins in the neck to the bone.”  50  Her head was nearly severed from her body.

Jake purchased Pauline’s casket 51  the   next morning, since Jewish tradition requires burial as soon as possible after  death.     Her funeral procession, “the longest ever seen in Durant,” wound through the town that very afternoon.      The entire student body and faculty of the Presbyterian College for Girls    brought up the rear. 52     As a further mark of respect to Jake, all local businesses closed for an hour.

The next day, the Amsels accompanied Pauline’s body by train south to Corsicana, Texas, where she was buried in the HebrewCemetery.     After the   weeklong Jewish mourning period, Celia and Jake returned to Durant, and immediately boarded up their house, as it would remain for years to come.53   For the meantime, they resettled in another, nearby.

Durant was   in an uproar.  The Caddo Herald grieved,  “Miss Pauline was [the Amsel’s] only daughter, just blooming into lovely womanhood, a pleasant and charming young woman who was loved by all who knew her,” and went on to warn,  “ It would be short work that would be made of the murderer if he should be taken  while the excitement is so high.”54   Frightened citizens took the law into their own hands, forming a search posse, and borrowing bloodhounds from the nearby penitentiary. Detectives and county officials scoured the countryside, first arresting a number of suspicious people, then releasing them.  The murderer was still at large. Townsfolk all across eastern Oklahoma, 55nervously eyeing one another, secured their homes and cleaned their revolvers.

Naturally, people tried to make some sense of the tragedy, the mystery.     Burglary, clearly, had not been   a motive since the intruder   “could have gotten all he wanted on the lower floor and never gone upstairs, for all the silverware and valuables were downstairs.”56    Some thought that “the fiend went there with the express purpose of murdering the young girl.” 57   Others, given the ferocious nature of the crime, believed that the murderer had either held some   horrific grudge or was an out-and-out maniac.    Jake, the only one to have seen the murderer face to face, guessed that he  was a tramp.   In addition to  the murder weapon, a  straight-blade razor   grisly  with blood and hair,  a   ragged hat with a cheap stick pin had been left at the scene of the crime—and, suspiciously, it had been  purchased in Chicago.  58

Two weeks after the tragedy,   the Durant Weekly News announced:

JAKE AMSEL, OUTFITTER From Head to Toe

Owing to the Circumstances I have decided to

retire from business and will offer my entire stock AT COST

To prove that he was really selling at cost, Jake also included   his cost mark, God Be With US (emanuel, God-is-with-us, in Hebrew) in the announcement:

GOD  BE  WITH   US

 1 2 3   4 5  6 7 8 9   0 59

  Though barely literate in English, Jake knew his Hebrew cold, so was probably he who had chosen this prayer for Divine Assistance as his mantra.  But Celia must have   translated it into English, adapting it for commercial use. This    merging of Celia ands Jake’s minds and souls   offers a touching glimpse into the couple’s hopes and dreams.

By mid-December, the Amsels had rented out their business to the Berlowitz brothers of nearby McAlester, and offered a substantial $1000 for any information leading to the killer.  When no response was forthcoming,   Jake petitioned   the Honorable Robert L. Williams, newly elected as governor of Oklahoma, to increase the   private reward money with state funds. Williams, one of Durant’s own60, obliged, adding another $200 toward “the arrest and conviction of the person guilty of the murder of Pauline Amsel.” 61

Their store rented, its stock sold, the Amsels, understandably unable to bear living in the community that had bereft them, then left Durant.    After spending some years in San Antonio, Texas, they resettled in Colorado Springs City, Colorado.  for   San Antonio, TX, and later,    Colorado SpringsCity, CO. 62  Yet they found no peace.  Jake, recalls a close family member,63  employed   the W. J. Burns Detective Agency, 64        for years on end, instructing them to   “watch the train stations for whatever reason—but to no avail.”   Some forty years after the tragedy, Jake and Celia Amsel finally returned to    Corsicana, TX, where they spent their final days.   Jake, Celia, and Pauline are buried side-by-side  in Corsicana’s HebrewCemetery– together, forever.

Though few people now remember the Amsels by name, their   tragedy has   haunted generations of     Duranters.  Old timers recall, as children,   not only overhearing snatches of hushed conversations about Pauline, but also themselves giving wide berth to the “haunted” house.   Rumors, fueled by nearly a century of suspicion and speculation, continue to rage, ranging    from   a crime of passion to suicide to tales of a forbidden liaison with a Gentile.  Pauline’s murderer has never been found.

Epilogue:

The     Choctaw Indians   believe that man has an inner spirit   and an outer spirit.   When a  Choctaw dies, his  inner spirit  immediately travels  toward   the “Happy Land,”  but his outer spirit  remains  nearby  until  after the funeral.   Only when assured that all is well with his family does his outer spirit slowly fade away?

But if a Choctaw dies in unnatural circumstances and finds no peace,   his outer spirit does not leave, but hovers nearby.   How do you know if a spirit is still nearby?  It   calls like an owl.   When a real owl calls, its mate trills in response.   But when an outer spirit cries, no living being answers.  There are many owls in Durant.  They are well-loved.

© Melody Amsel-Arieli. All Rights Reserved. 2007.


1 Today, Zbudska Bela,SlovakRepublic.

2 “Obdam: ship manifest, 17 September 1894, line 83,” Ellis Island Foundation, “The American Family Immigration History Center’s Ellis Island Archive,” Ellis Island (Online:  The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., 2005), , examined for reference to first name Jacob and last name Amsel (9 November 2005).

3 Oscar Handlin, Adventure in Freedom: Three Hundred Years of Jewish life in America,New York: 1954, p. 179.

4 Marriage certificate,  4 February 1899, Corsicana, TX, Mr. J. Amsel and Miss Celia Levy,   Corsicana, Navarro County, The State of Texas, Navarro County Microfilm Reel #1034862, Marriage Record Vol. 11 1898-1899, p. 238.   TheUniversity ofTexas atArlington Libraries, Special Collections.

5 <www.ancestry.com>, Dallas, Texas Directory, 1889-94 [database online].  Provo, UT: Myfamily.com, Inc., 2000. Original data: Dallas City Directory, 1889-1890.Dallas,TX:  Morrison and Fourmy, 1890 (4 October 2004).

6 <www.ancestry.com>, Dallas, Texas Directory, 1889-94 [database online].  Provo, UT: Myfamily.com, Inc., 2000. Original data: Dallas City Directory, 1891-1892.Dallas,TX:  Morrison and Fourmy, 1892 (4 October 2004).

7  According to the 1869 Hungarian Census, Bela, Latter Day Saints  Library   Reel #722.711, p. 112, line 7, Jake was born in 1869. According to her   tombstone in   Beth- El Hebrew Cemetery, Corsicana, TX, Celia, born in 1860, was a decade older.   The 1900 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Durant Town,  Township 6, S,R,9,   Choctaw Nation,  Indian Territory,  Supervisor’s District 73, Enumeration District 184; Sheet 10; lines 37-38,  Dwelling 206, Family 213, Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com > (3 October 2005), reverses the couple’s original  birthdates,  making  Jake a decade older than Celia.   
The 1910 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Durant City, Bryan County, Oklahoma, Supervisor’s District 4, Enumeration District 15, Ward 3, Sheet 17A, lines 11-12, Dwelling 328, Family 341, Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com> (4 October 2005), states that both were born in 1860.   Evidently, Celia was always uncomfortable with their age difference; when Jake died, Celia chose to record no birth date on his tombstone.  
8The 1900 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Durant Town,  Township 6, S,R,9,  Choctaw Nation,  Indian Territory, Supervisor’s District 73, Enumeration District 184; Sheet 10; lines 37-38,  Dwelling 206, Family 213, Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com > ( 3 October 2005).

9 James C. Milligan, L. David Norris, Ann Vanmeter, Durant 1872-1990,Durant,OK. 1990, p. 14-15.

10 “Dobbs v. City of Durant,” The Oklahoma State Courts Network Search, < http://www.oscn.net>, examined for reference to Durant, OK (9 November 2005).   

11 Durant Weekly News, 27 November 1914, p.1.

12 Robert P. Davis, Architect, “Beth El, Corsicana, TX,” Virtual Restoration of Small-Town Synagogues in Texas, revised Sept 26, 1996, <www.geocities.com/txsynvr/> (11 November 2005).

13 1900 U.S. Federal Census,  Durant Town,  Township 6, S,R,9, Choctaw Nation,  Indian Territory, Supervisor’s District 73, Enumeration District 184; Sheet 10; lines 37-38,  Dwelling 206, Family 213, Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com> (was available  Oct. 3, 2005). This census does not note addresses. 

14 The JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR) Search, <http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Cemetery/>, examined for reference to first name Pauline and last name Amsel (9 November 2005).

15 Traditionally, Jewish holy texts are studied   by partners who search for answers and insights by batting ideas back and forth.

16 McDaniel, Marvin, “Durant’s Unsolved Murder,” c2000. Among the personal papers of McDaniel’s widow,Durant,OK.

17 Benson, A.M., Life Among the Indians and Sketches of the South-West,Cincinnati:  1860, p.55.

18 Miscellaneous Record, Vol. 1, Durant, Bryan County, Oklahoma, Latter Day Saints Library Reel  #24339202,  p. 89-91.  They put down $1500 cash on the purchase.

19 Death records, Ashkenazim and Prussim Burial Society, Pines Street 11,Jerusalem,Israel. Blema Uram Amsel died in 1905, Moshe Ber Amsel in 1907.

20 The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State ofOklahoma,102 South Broad Street,Guthrie,OK, letter to author, 8 December 2003.

21 Babbette  Samuels, secretary-treasurer of the  Corsicana Hebrew Cemetery Association, Congregation Beth-El, Corsicana, TX, quoting Jake Amsel’s death records, “FOUND,” email to author,  9 March 1998.

22 Including the author’s grandfather, who immigrated fromStropkov,Slovakia toHonesdale,Pennsylvania.

23 Polk’s Indian Territory Gazetteer and Business Directory,Topeka,Kansas: 1903, p. 503.

24 James C. Milligan, L. David Norris, Ann Vanmeter, Durant 1872-1990, Durant, OK.:  1990, p.15.

25 Ibid.

26 Kelly Murdock-Billy, “Choctaw Recipes,” email to author, 8 June 2004.  Ms. Murdock-Billy, raised inArkansas, notes that poke salad greens were a “VERY common dish in the early 1900’s rural south [but cautioned]   Watch for snakes when you go picking.”

 27 According to Thomas Jefferson, “INDIANS, Traditions,” entry 3941, The Jefferson Cyclopedia, TITLE: To John Adams, EDITION: Ford ed., ix, 355. PLACE: Monticello [Virginia] DATE: 1812, <http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccerfoley?id=JefCycl.xml&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/jefferson/foley&tag=public&part=9&division=div1>  (5 November 2005),  James Adair,  a trader and author who lived among Native American  tribes from 1735-1775,    was “  a self-taught Hebraist, a strong religionist, and of as sound a mind as Don Quixote ….[he] believed all the Indians of America to be descended from the Jews; the same laws, usages, rites and ceremonies, the same sacrifices, priests, prophets, fasts and festivals, almost the same religion, and that they all spoke Hebrew.” See also Adair, James,  The History of the American Indians, Particularly Those Nations Adjoining to the Mississippi East and West Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, and Virginia (London: Printed for E. and C. Dilly, 1775),   <http://memory.loc.gov/cgibin/query/r?ammem/faw:@field(DOCID+@lit(icufawcbc0005div8))> (5 November 2005).

28 Henry J. Tobias, The Jews in Oklahoma,Norman, OK.: 1980, 33.

 29 Caroline Garber, grand daughter of Flora Goldman, “Re: Yours of November 18, 2005,” c1930 reminiscences, email to author, 20 November 2005.

30 Rebecca Collins, present owner of “Rebecca’s Garden and Gifts” store at137 W. Main St.Durant,OK, paraphrasing the legal abstract to that store, “Durant Questions,” email to author, 9 September 2005.

31 Civil Docket, C.H. Elting, Durant I.T. Vol 2, Central District,Indian Territory,

Sept 1906-Jan 1908, No.1702, page not noted, 24 June 1907. Submitted   by Marion Traer Downs, volunteer, Bryan County Heritage Association Library,P.O. Box153, Calera, Bryan County, OK.

32 Civil Docket, C.H. Elting, Durant I.T. Vol 2, Central District,Indian Territory,

Sept 1906-Jan 1908, No.1487, p. 179, 5 Dec.1906. Submitted   by Marion Traer Downs, volunteer, Bryan County Heritage Association Library,P.O. Box153, Calera, Bryan County, OK.

33 Truck farming is the practice of growing crops on a large scale for shipment to distant markets, where their cultivation is limited by climate.    With the   expansion of the railroads, truck farming spread to the South.  

34 Advertising Ephemera Collection – Database #A0579, Durant, Indian Territory and Bryan County, 1906, Citizen Loans and Realty Co.,  Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920, an online  project of the Digital Scriptorium  and the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History, Duke University  Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library,
< http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/dynaweb/eaa > (11 November 2005).

35 James C. Milligan, L. David Norris, Ann Vanmeter, Durant 1872-1990, Durant, OK.: 1990, p.32-35.

36  Josiah Flynt, The Tramp and the Railroad, <http://www.catskillarchive.com/rrextra/tramps.Html> (11 November 2005).

37 1910 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Durant City, Bryan County, Oklahoma, Supervisor’s District 4, Enumeration District 15, Ward 3, Sheet 17A, lines 11-12,  Dwelling 328, Family 341,  Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com> (4 October 2005).

38 Marion Traer Downs, volunteer, Bryan County Heritage Association, “Census Address,” email to author, 30 August 2005. Marion’s mother, who was born in 1897 and lived one block over from the Amsels, attendedSouthWardSchool, nowRobertE.LeeElementary School. Perhaps she and Pauline were friends.

39 The Bryan County Heritage Assn   holds Durant school records only from 1918 onward.

40 The 1910 U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), Durant City, Bryan County, Oklahoma, Supervisor’s District 4, Enumeration District 15, Ward 3, Sheet 17A, lines 11-12, Dwelling 328, Family 341,  Amsel household, jpeg image, (Online:  MyFamily.com, Inc., 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.ancestry.com> (4 October 2005),  places the Amsels  on 7th Ave, near Mississippi St.  So they moved to their new house sometime between May 14, 1910 and November 1914.

41 “COLLEGE EVENTS—SEASON  1912-1913,” Fourth Annual Catalogue of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, Durant, Oklahoma, 1913-1914,  pages unnumbered,   Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat OfficeP.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC.    OklahomaPresbyterianCollege materials are stored in 15 unindexed cubic foot boxes,   according to researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson.

42 “Mirian Band and Prayer Circle,” Fourth Annual Catalogue of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, Durant, Oklahoma, 1913-1914, pages unnumbered.   Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC.    OklahomaPresbyterianCollege materials are stored in 15 unindexed cubic foot boxes, according to researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson.

43 “Presbyterian College Record of Grades for Year Ending 1913,” p. 12, entry 2, discovered in “a large ledger on the shelf behind the 15 cubic-foot ‘box run’”, according to researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson, Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office P.O. Box 849,Montreat,NC.

44 “V1. DEPARTMENT OF MUSIC,” Fourth Annual Catalogue of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, Durant, Oklahoma, 1913-1914, pages unnumbered.   Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC.   The material fromOklahomaPresbyterianCollege consists of 15 unindexed cubic foot boxes, according to   researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson.

45 Kid-Key Conservatory, a branch ofKid-KeyCollege founded by the North Texas Methodist Conference, located inSherman,Texas, employed prominent European teachers.

46 “OFFICERS AND FACULTY,” Fourth Annual Catalogue of the Oklahoma Presbyterian College for Girls, Durant, Oklahoma, 1913-1914, pages unnumbered.   Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC.   The material fromOklahomaPresbyterianCollege consists of 15 unindexed cubic foot boxes, according to researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson.

47 “Presbyterian College Record of Grades for Year Ending 1914,” p. 22, entry 2, discovered in “a large ledger on the shelf behind the 15 cubic-foot ‘box run’” according to researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson, Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC.         

48 Ithanna, Volume One, 1914, Durant, OK: The Senior Class, Oklahoma Presbyterian College, p. 60, Presbyterian Historical Society, Montreat Office, P.O. Box 849, Montreat, NC, submitted by researcher Diana Ruby Sanderson.

49 Pauline Amsel Victim of Unknown Assassin,” The Durant Weekly News, 13 November 1914, p.1, col.1-2.

50 ibid. This article gives the only surviving description of Pauline’s murderNeither police, coroner, nor medical records were found.

51 “Jake Amsel-casket + etc   [$]175  12 Nov 1914,”  handwritten list of casket sales, #320-356,  Holmes Furniture Store, Durant, OK.  All other caskets cost from $20-85.  Submitted by Babbette Samuels, secretary-treasurer ofTempleBeth-ElHebrewCemetery,Corsicana,TX.

52 Pauline Amsel Victim of Unknown Assassin,” The Durant Weekly News, 13 November 1914, p.8, col.1.

53  The house was inhabited again from 1920 through the late 1950’s, when it was finally razed.  Until then, according to someone who requests anonymity, there remained a large, indelible stain on one of the bedroom floors.

54 “Pauline Amsel is Foully [sic] Murdered,” The Caddo Herald, 13 November 1914, p1, col.1-2. In 1911, Duranters had summarily lynched a Negro suspected of murdering a white woman.

55  Pauline’s murder was also reported in The Bokchito News, Durant Saturday Morning Advertiser, Bartlesville Daily Enterprise, Bartlesville Morning Examiner, and The Bennington Tribune.

56 Miss Amsel Murdered By An Unknown Man,” The Bokchito News, 12 November, 1914, p.1, col.1.

57 Pauline Amsel Victim of Unknown Assassin,” The Durant Weekly News, 13 November 1914, p.1, col.1.

58 Miss Amsel Murdered By An Unknown Man,” The Bokshito News, 12 November  1914, p.1, col.1.

59 “No Arrest in Amsel Case,” Durant Weekly News, 27 November 1914, p.1, col. 2-5.

60 Before attaining governorship, Williams practiced law in Durant and served as Durant City Attorney, so   Jake   may have known him personally.

61 Governor’s Office Records, 8-C-1-1-, General Correspondence of Governor Robert Williams, Box 9, Folder 7, “T” April-May 1915. Oklahoma State Archives, “Papers of the Governors of Oklahoma,” 3rd Floor, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Allen Wright Memorial Building, 200 NE 18th St., Oklahoma City, OK.

62 1920  U.S. Federal Census (Population Schedule), San Antonio City, Ward 5, El Paso County, Texas, Supervisor’s District 14, Enumeration District 66,  Sheet sup-27A, 3401-8698,

House # 112, Fourth St., Lines 25-26, Amsel  household, jpeg image, (Online:  ProQuest Company, 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], <http://www.heritagequestonline.com>  (4 October 2005).

1930 Federal Census (Population Schedule), Colorado Springs City, Precinct 17, El Paso County, Texas, Supervisor’s District 7, Enumeration District 21-17,  Sheet 2A,-131, p.8748, Lines 46-47,

Dwelling [unintelligible], 23, Family 34, Amsel Household, jpeg image, (Online:  ProQuest Company, 2005), subscription database, [Digital scan of original records in the National Archives, Washington, DC], (4 October 2005).

63 Irwin Herz, grand-nephew of Celia,   also notes that    Jake later “thought it might be a former employee but they never found out,” “Tante and Jake Amsel,” email to author, 29 July 2004.

64 Letter from Turnbull, County Attorney’s Office, Bryan County, Oklahoma, to Hon. R. L. Williams, 7 May 1915, states that the W. J. Burns Detective Agency investigated the case. Governor’s Office Records, 8-C-1-1-, General Correspondence of Governor Robert Williams, Box 9, Folder 7, “T” April-May 1915. Oklahoma State Archives, “Papers of the Governors of Oklahoma,” 3rd Floor, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Allen Wright Memorial Building, 200 NE 18th St., Oklahoma City, OK,  the W.J. Burns Detective Agency investigated the case.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers