The Spiegel Family

It was only a couple of years ago that I first learned of my gg-grandfather, George C. Spiegel. From my early childhood I knew about his daughter (my great-grandmother), Helen Spiegel. My mother kept a portrait of her grandmother on her bedroom dresser. Even my mother knew very little of her grandmother’s family and had thought that Helen Spiegel had been born in Berlin, Germany. I am not sure where that idea came from, but many years later, I learned that Helen Spiegel was born in Texas in 1872. This was a start, but very quickly, I felt like I had hit a brick wall that was not going to be easy to break through.

Helen’s son (Jimmy Dobbs) was born in Dallas, Texas in 1902. Therefore, when I learned from the 1920 US census of Atlanta, Georgia that Helen had been born in Texas I figured that I should concentrate my efforts on looking for her family in the city of Dallas.

At first, I was puzzled as to why I was having so much trouble finding the Spiegel family in the census records for 1880 and 1900, but a break-through came when I searched the Dallas City Directories on and found a number of Spiegel’s living in Dallas on San Jacinto Street. The senior family member was a cigar maker by the name of George C. Spiegel. At the same address was a Nellie Spiegel whose occupation was listed as sales lady. At first, I was not sure that I had found the family until I realized that Nellie is a nickname for Helen. It was then that the pieces started falling into place.

I recall that I had some difficulty finding the family in the 1880 census, but eventually I did find them and pieces did fit. The census record in Dallas showed a cigar maker named George C. Spiegel with a wife named Sophie and five children ages from 11 years to one. The record showed that the two older children had been born in Georgia. It gave George’s birthplace as Saxony (Sachsen)(Germany) and Sophie’s birthplace as New York with her parents having been born in Bavaria.

With the eleven year old son being born in Georgia, I knew that my next step would be to look for the family in 1870 US census of the state of Georgia. Sure enough, I found the family of George and Sophie along with one-year-old George, Jr. in Savannah, Georgia. George, Sr’s occupation is listed as Cigar Manufacturer and his birthplace is shown as Saxony. I then looked for but was not able to find George Spiegel in the 1860 census in Georgia. In fact, I found no Spiegel’s in 1860 Georgia. George, Sr. would have been about 21 years old in 1860 and at this point, I did not know when he emigrated from Germany.

With the pieces that I did have at hand, I could imagine what the other pieces might look like. With Sophie’s birthplace listed as New York in both the 1870 and 1880 census, I had the idea that is where both George and Sophie might be found in 1860. Sophie would have been around 14 years old in 1860 therefore I did not count on finding the two together in New York at that time. Given George’s age, I imagined that he would have served in the military during the Civil War. One theory that I worked from had George coming over from Germany with his family sometime in the 1840s, growing up in New York, joining the army during the Civil War, witnessing the potential of the south during the war, marrying Sophie after the war, and finally settling in the south during the reconstruction to take advantage of the economic boom that was occurring in places like Savannah and Dallas. This of course was pure speculation, but certainly helpful in determining where I went to next.

A search of the 1860 census did not find a George Spiegel (or with any variation on Spiegel such as Spiggle or Speegle), but I did find a 40 year old cigar maker by the name of Bernard Spiegel living in New York City in 1860 and 1870. A look at the New York City Directory for 1869 shows a number of Spiegel’s including two who deal in “segars”:

  • Spiegel Bernhard, segars, 106 Delancey
  • Spiegel Charles, mouldings, 35 Bowery. h 155 Wyckoff, B’klyn
  • Spiegel Charles, segars, 315 Ninth av.
  • Spiegel George, brewer, h 243 E. 46th
  • Spiegel Herman, shirtmkr. h 297 Eighth
  • Spiegel Jacob, grocer, 15 Norfolk
  • Spiegel John, laborer, h r 238 W. 32d
  • Spiegel Louis, milk, 63 Lewis
  • Spiegel Maurice. h 405 W. 19th

A search of Civil War military records came up with five George Spiegel’s:

  • George Spiegel, E Co., 45th New York Infantry, Private
  • George Spiegel, E Co., 58th New York Infantry. Private
  • George Spiegel, 65th Veteran Res. Corps, 2nd Btn. Private
  • George W. Spiegel, 141st Veteran Res. Corps, 2nd Btn, Private

One thing is certain, that is based on the birth dates, and birthplaces of his children that the family migrated from Savannah, Georgia to Dallas, Texas around 1870-71. In the early 1870s, Dallas was a major boomtown. On July 16, 1872, the first passenger train, the Houston and Texas Central, arrived in Dallas. In 1873, the Texas and Pacific came. With the arrival of the trains, the population soared, from 3,000 in early 1872 to more than 7,000 in September of the same year. New businesses and buildings appeared daily.

Based on information found in a 19th century tour guide written by Edward King, originally serialized in the magazine Scribner’s Monthly in 1871 and then published as a book in 1875, it safe to assume that the family was able to make part of their journey by rail from Savannah to at least as far as Mobile, Alabama or New Orleans, Louisiana. From south Louisiana they would then had to have taken a steamer to Galveston and from there make the rest of the journey by rail up to Dallas by way of Houston, Hempstead, and Waco. The first leg of their journey would have been by rail from Savannah to Columbus, GA to Montgomery, AL then down to Mobile, AL by rail. This is described by King on pgs 364-365:

Savannah’s progress since the war has not been less remarkable than that of the whole State. The recuperation of its railroad system has been astonishing. Sherman’s army, in its march to the sea, destroyed one hundred and ten miles of the Georgia Central railroad track between Savannah and Macon, and thirty-nine miles between Savannah and Augusta. The military authorities returned the road to the control of its directors, June 22, 1865, and early in 1866 it was reconstructed so as to answer the public demand. This immense corporation at present operates in its interest, with its tributaries, 1,545 miles of railway. It extends from Savannah to Macon, thence by the South-western and Muscogee road to the thriving cotton-spinning town of Columbus, thence by the Columbus and Opelika route to Opelika, a brisk manufacturing town in Alabama, thence to Montgomery, and through Selma gets an unbroken rail communication with the Mississippi river at Vicksburg. This, it is expected, will be the connecting point of the Southern Pacific route with the roads leading to the Atlantic coast. The Central’s connections also give Savannah direct communication with New York and Memphis via the Atlanta and Chattanooga route, and connection at Augusta with the South Carolina road. From Macon it sends out another arm to grasp Atlanta,-the Macon and Western road,-and there, also, connects with the Georgia railroad to Eufaula, Alabama, whence, by steamers on the Chattahoochee river, it secures an outlet to the Gulf of Mexico.

It is not clear that there was in 1872 a railroad yet connecting Mobile and New Orleans, from New Orleans they would have to have gone by boat from to Galveston, Texas as there was at that time a gap of several miles in the railway between Monroe and Shreveport separated by swamps. This next leg of the journey is described by King (pg 99 et seq.):

One of the saddest sights in New Orleans or Galveston is the daily arrival of hundreds of refugees from the older Southern States, seeking homes on the Texan prairies. The flood of emigration from South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia is formidable, and turned the tide of politics in Texas, in a single year, from Republican flood to Democratic ebb. Old men and little children, youths and maidens, clad in homespun, crowd the railway cars, looking forward eagerly to the land of promise. The ignorance of these poor people with regard to the geography of the country in general, is dense. “I never traveled so much befo’,” is a common phrase; “is Texas a mighty long ways off yet?” The old men, if one enters into conversation with them, will regale him with accounts of life in their homes “befo’ the surrender.” With them, everything dates from the war, leaving the past irrevocably behind its yawning gulf, while in front there is only poverty-or flight.

The route from New Orleans to Brashear City [now called Morgan City] is, in the delightful months of April and May, one of the most beautiful in the South. The railroad which connects at Brashear City with the Morgan steamers sailing to Galveston, and along which the tide of emigration constantly flows, traverses weird forests and lofty cane-brakes, and passes over bayous, swamps, and long stretches of sugar plantations.

Crossing the Mississippi by the great railroad ferry to Algiers, the traveler soon leaves behind the low, green banks, studded with neat, white houses embowered in a profusion of orange groves; and is borne out of sight of the black lines of smoke left upon the cloudless sky by the funnels of the river steamers. He passes Bayou des Allemands, and a low country filled with deep, black pools; hurries across the reedy and saturated expanse of Trembling Prairie, dotted with fine oaks; rattles by Raceland, and its moist, black fields, to La Fourche Bayou, on which lies the pretty, cultivated town of Thibodeaux.

He next passes Chacahoula swamp, a wilderness of shriveled cypresses and stagnant water; Tigerville, with its Indian mounds; the rich Bæuf country, along the banks of whose lovely bayou lie wonderful sugar lands, once crowded with prosperous planters, but now showing many an idle plantation. He passes immense groves, from the boughs of whose trees thousands of Spanish moss beards are pendent; and through which long and sombre aisles, like those of a cathedral, open to right and left. He wonders at the presence of the bearded moss on all the trees, and his commercial eye perhaps suggests that it be made available in upholstery; but he is told that the quaint parasite already does good service as the scavenger of the air.

At Brashear City he finds a steamer for Texas at the fine docks built by the enterprising proprietor of the “Morgan line,” and notes, as he passes out to the blue waters of the Gulf, the richness of the vegetation along the shores of the inlet. An afternoon and a night-and he is in Galveston.

The coast line of Texas, bordering upon the Gulf of Mexico from Sabine Pass to the Rio Grande,-from the Louisiana boundary to the hybrid, picturesque territory where the American and Mexican civilizations meet and conflict, is richly indented and studded with charming bays. Trinity, Galveston, West, Matagorda, Espiritu Santu, Aransas, and Corpus Christi harbors, each and all offer varied possibilities for future commerce. The whole coast, extending several hundred miles, is also bordered by a series of islands and peninsulas, long and narrow in form, which protect the inner low-lying banks from the high seas…

…The great sea highway to which I have previously alluded, from Brashear City, on Berwick’s Bay, on the Louisiana coast, to Galveston, is well known and fascinating to the modern traveler. The enterprise and liberal expenditure of a citizen of New York, Mr. Charles Morgan, has covered the waves of this route with steamships, which, until recently, furnished the only means of communication between Texas and the rest of the United States. The Morgan Line was not merely the outgrowth of an earnest demand; it was the work of an adventurous pioneer; and although its importance, in view of the grand railroad development of Northern Texas, can henceforth be but secondary, its founder will always be remembered for his foresight and daring. The improvements in the channels from Berwick’s Bay outward are also the work of the owner of this line. They comprehend the dredging of a great bar which once obstructed the short passage to the Gulf, and when completed will be of infinite importance to the commerce of the whole south-west. Thousands of tons of shells have been dragged out of the dark-blue water to make room for the prows of the Morgan fleet, pointed toward Galveston and Indianola.

And what is Galveston? A thriving city set down upon a brave little island which has fought its way out of the depths of the Gulf, and given to the United States her noblest beach, and to Texas an excellent harbor.

The final leg of their journey would have been by rail from Galveston to Dallas via Houston.

It was a year or so after first finding the Spiegel’s that it suddenly occurred to me that I had not recorded any information regarding the George Spiegel family from any of the available census records for the 1900′s. I knew that I was certainly missing something because some of the censuses for the 20th century list the year of immigration and naturalization (1900, 1910, and 1920). So not remembering if I had searched the 20th century censuses I searched 1900 through 1930 and sure enough there was quite a bit of new information to be discovered. From the 1900 US census for Dallas, Texas, I learned that George C. Spiegel was born October 1839, that he emigrated from Germany in 1850, and that he became a US citizen ten years later in 1860. The 1900 census record showed Nellie Spiegel (sales woman) living with her father, George, but this record also contained three other names not previously known before. The record showed that George’s spouse in 1900 was named Kate (not Sophie) and that they had been married for 13 years. There were also two young boys now listed with the family, Eddie, age 12, and Hans, age 10. What this told me was that Sophie must have died sometime in the 1880′s and that around 1887 George re-married.

I could not find George, Sr. in the 1910 census. By then Helen was married and had been previously found in the household of James M. Dobbs, Sr. along with their child James M. Dobbs, Jr. living in Atlanta, Georgia in both 1910 and 1920. I did find Helen’s brother, Charles J. Spiegel in 1910 Dallas (occupation saloonkeeper). In addition, I found a Kate Spiegel, age 50, at the residence of a country club in Dallas; her occupation listed as housekeeper. Apparently, George, Sr. was still alive because, I was able to find George and Kate Spiegel in the 1920 Dallas census. It showed an 86-year-old George Spiegel living with Kate and their son Hans whose occupation was listed as mechanic. It gave an immigration year of 1851 for George and showed that he had become a US citizen in 1860. For Kate it showed her year of emigration from Germany as 1876 and listed the year of her naturalization as 1882. George, Sr. must have died before 1930 and the only Spiegel family member that I have found in that year’s census is Hans Spiegel working a as salesman for Radio Corp. and living in Dallas.

George Spiegel was born in 1869 in Georgia. He appeared on the census of 1870 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Sophie Spiegel in Savannah, Chatham, Georgia. He appeared on the census of 1880 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Sophie Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas. He married Katie Grenback on January 4, 1888.

Catherine E. Spiegel was also known as Cassia Spiegel. She was born in 1871 in Georgia. She appeared on the census of 1880 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Sophie Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas.

Charles Spiegel was born in 1877 in Texas. He appeared on the census of 1880 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Sophie Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas. He married Selena ___ circa 1894. He and Selena Spiegel appeared on the census of 1910 in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas where he is listed as a saloonkeeper.

Charles and Selena had three children: Wesley (b. a 1897), Pearl (b. a 1899) and Mabel (b. a 1902)

August Spiegel was born in 1879 in Texas. He appeared on the census of 1880 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Sophie Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas.

Eddie R. Spiegel was born in October 1888 in Texas. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Kate Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas.

Hans P Spiegel was born in June 1890 in Texas. He appeared on the census of 1900 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Kate Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas. He registered for the military draft in 1917 in New York City, New York. He appeared on the census of 1920 in the household of George C. Spiegel and Kate Spiegel in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas. He married Ella ___ circa 1927. He was a salesman for Radio Corp in 1930 in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas. He and Ella Spiegel appeared on the census of 1930 in Dallas, Dallas Co., Texas.