When I saw the prompt this week, I immediately thought of my mom’s highschool friend, Eleanor Wold. She became a professional opera singer in New York, and undoubtedly had solos in her career.
But Mike says she isn’t family, so doesn’t count. Maybe some other prompt.
So I switched gears and zeroed in on Sylvester Hartmann. I introduced him I Conflict. He emigrated by himself in 1895. Being a priest kept him solo (no wife or kids) in life. Still, he deserves to be remembered.
I first knew of him as a cousin of the Schweigers, who provided us with the family tree going back to the early 1600s. His exact relationship was (and still is) a mystery. My 2nd great grandmother was Marianne Hartmann, born in 1823. Sylvester Hartmann’s birth in 1877 eliminated him being Marianne’s younger brother, though nephew might be possible. That would make him a 1st cousin, 3 times removed to me (only twice removed to my dad, or once removed to my granduncle, Sylvester Schweiger, with whom Fr. Hartmann visited & corresponded).
If he descended from an older brother of Marianne, then there’s probably another generation in between, making him a second cousin, twice removed to me, once removed to my dad, and a full second cousin to Uncle Syl. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any documentation for Sylvester listing his parents’ names, and I have no siblings for Marianne. Family Search has microfilmed the church records from his birth town (Altdorf, in Bavaria), but haven’t digitized the records for 1877. For now, I’m stymied.
Shortly before I started college, I realized Fr. Hartmann had taught at the college I was about to enter. When I arrived on campus, I asked each of the priests I met (who were all old enough to have had Fr. Hartmann for class) what, if anything, they remembered. Every one of them remembered him, having had him for Logic, Greek, or Latin.
I had the good fortune to have Fr. Dominic Gerlach teach my German I class. As the college historian, he had access to all sorts of school records. He typed up a page and a half of notes from school information, and photocopied two more pages, plus Fr. Hartmann’s obituary from the religious order’s monthly publication.
I learned Fr. Hartmann was born 31 December 1877 in Altdorf, Bavaria. He entered the Missionaries of the Precious Blood on 12 November 1895, in Burkettsville, Ohio. He may have spent some time at the Society’s motherhouse (yes, even though it’s priests and brothers, it’s a “motherhouse”!)—maybe to learn English? From 1896-1902, he attended classes at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Indiana. According to Fr. Gerlach, Sylvester:
- sang 2nd bass in the college choir.
- played alto in band.
- performed in several productions from the Columbian Literary Society (CLS), including Dorner, a knight, in “William Tell”.
- worked as librarian in the CLS. With no central library, CLS membership provided the only access to the school’s main collection of books.
Sylvester received a BA degree at the end of the 1902 school year. Fr. Gerlach commented that it was only the equivalent of Junior College (2 years), but that the curriculum was more rigorous than the then-current (1970s) course of study. Sylvester professed (intent to join the priesthood) 5 June 1903, and was ordained 4 years later, 11 June 1907.
He spent the remainder of that year in three different parishes in Ohio and Illinois, returning to Saint Joe in January 1908. He taught there through the summer of 1916. He spent the next year at Catholic University, in Washington, DC, pursuing a Master’s Degree. The Catholic University Bulletin² confirmed the completion of his degree (with its dissertation title!). He spent the summer in a parish in New York before returning to campus.
With the exception of a medical leave from December 1923 to July 1924 (reason unknown), and another summer in a parish, Sylvester returned to Saint Joe, mostly for good. Part of that time he served as vice president to the college. In 1935 he became Spiritual Director for the students. He also wrote two textbooks on Logic:
- A Textbook of Logic: A Normative Analysis of Thought. New York; American Book Co., 1936.
- Fundamentals of Logic. St. Louis, MO; B. Herder Book Co., 1949.
I’ve acquired the first book (A Textbook of Logic). Now I just need to find time to read it! And look for the other one.
His life was not all work; he visited his Schweiger cousins in the Chicago area. He traveled a bit (more about that, later). When the 1949 school started, he retired to being a Professor Emeritus, relocating to Brunnerdale Seminary (Canton, Ohio) in January 1950. He moved to the motherhouse in Carthagena, Ohio, February 1953, and died 23 July. He was buried four days later, presumably in St. Charles Cemetery, though he has no Find A Grave photos or memorial.
The information I received from Fr. Gerlach listed a nephew, brother, and sister, all living in Bavaria. A Joseph M. Hartmann had an address in Chicago, and Sylvester’s obituary mentioned him having another brother and sister in Germany, and a niece in Washington, DC. Of course, addresses over 60 years old aren’t likely to be too helpful . . .
Fr. Gerlach had actually given me quite a bit of information! It included details I probably wouldn’t have had access to, but it was all secondary evidence. Could I find anything to document the dates, places, and activities?
I found Fr. Hartmann in Indiana during each census, 1900-1930. He seemed to be missing from 1940, but there was a Sylvester “Eastman” born in Germany, right age, who seemed possible. I didn’t recall seeing an Eastman on campus in any previous census. Or maybe Sylvester Eastman was someone different, and they simply missed Fr. Hartmann? The 1930 census did confirm the vice president story.
His 31 December 1877 birthdate was well-documented by his:
- Passport Application (1922)
- census records (1900 with month and year)
- WWII draft registration (1942)
His Passport Application provided the date, ship, and departure port for his original trip to the USA: 7 November 1895, on the SS Kensington, from Antwerp, Belgium. It was a great help in finding the right ship. It had him traveling to Carthagena, Ohio, so I’m confident it’s him.
The Passport Application claimed he was going to England and France to study and travel, then to Germany to visit relatives, with more travel in Holland, Switzerland, and Belgium. He had a busy summer planned!
An incoming UK ships’ list showed him getting off the SS Celtic 11 June 1922 in Queenstown, Ireland (planning to stay in Dublin). On 29 August 1922 he boarded the SS Nieuw Amsterdam, returning from Rotterdam to New York.
He sailed back to the USA again, 1 September 1932 (with a different passport number, since it needed renewing) from Bremen, Germany. Presumably he visited relatives that time, too. Fr. Gerlach’s notes said Sylvester was abroad again during the summer of 1949 (just as he was retiring), but I haven’t found that ship’s list, yet.
The death date is corroborated by the obituaries I’ve located, but I’ve still found nothing telling me his parents’ names. Ancestry didn’t have his death certificate, although Family Search did. Unfortunately, both parents had the same names—unknown! Since their names didn’t show up on the school’s records, I didn’t figure I’d luck out on the death certificate.
But really, he was a 17 ½ year old, coming to a foreign country by himself in 1895. They didn’t get parents’ names? What if he’d gotten sick and died? Surely they would have notified them? Or maybe they had the names at one time, but they died in the meantime, being replaced with the siblings’ names? I don’t know. It’s frustrating.
In April, 1999, I emailed the motherhouse at Carthagena, inquiring about any personal effects from Sylvester Hartman. I was hoping perhaps his genealogy papers might have been kept. Presumably he had more information on the Hartmann family that he hadn’t passed along to the Schweigers. It was a Hail Mary pass.
My email was forwarded to Fr. Ballor, archivist at the time. He was a student in 1953, and remembered Fr. Hartman, but relayed the sad news that any personal effects were disposed of after his death. That was the policy at the time—one he changed upon becoming archivist. He tries to retain items that provide insight about the individual, but he had nothing more for me than the information Fr. Gerlach had already provided.
At this point, I can try to track down some of the relatives (more likely, their descendants!) listed in the school records. Maybe I’ll get lucky? I can also pray the Altdorf records get digitized quickly, to try and find his birth record (and maybe parents’ names?). Or I get to plan a road trip to Salt Lake City, where I can crank through the microfilm reels, looking for that record. That might be a better plan, because who knows when the records I need will be digitized.
In his 40+ years of teaching, he influenced a lot of young men. I’m glad I was able to track down a little more about Fr. Hartman’s life.
¹Dominic B. Gerlach, Centennial Celebration Committee, Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Indiana: A Centennial Pictorial History From Its Beginnings to 1990 (Rensselaer, Indiana: The College, 1990), p. 47, 56.
²Catholic University of America, “Commenceent Exercises: School of Letters”. The Catholic University Bulletin. vol. 23, no, 6 (June 1917); online archives, Google Books (books.google.com), p. 87; Master of Arts; Rev. Sylvester Joseph Hartman, C.PP.S., Collegeville, Ind. Dissertation: “Greek Types of Character in Plautus”.