This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt from Amy Johnson Crow is Stormy Weather. And oh boy what a winter we have had! I live in the Northeast, the Boston area specifically, and it has been quite a tough one for the past couple of months. Winter seemed to start slow, but really took off from late January and Mother Nature has been more than making up for lost time. At times the city services have been brought to a standstill. The mass transit system has been disrupted to the extent that it isn’t expected to be “normal” until April. During one of the blizzards, the Governor had declared a no-travel ban, essentially shutting down all businesses and compelling everyone to stay home by not allowing any travel on any roads for non-emergency workers. As I write this, we have received over 100 inches of snow and are on track for this becoming Boston’s snowiest winter since 1891. The record currently stands at 107.6 inches, set in 1995. With more snow having occurred overnight last night, bringing us to 105.7 inches, and yet another snowfall expected tomorrow, I would not be surprised if that record is broken by the time I’ve finished and uploaded this blog post!In the winter of 1888, New York City experienced a huge blizzard that brought the city to its knees. Sunday, March 11, 1888 started with milder temperatures and a heavy rain and wind storm. Around midnight, the rain turned to sleet and the assault truly began. The driving winds turned the sleet-slick sidewalks to hardened ice. The snow then came, obscuring all visibility as the wind whipped it into great gusts and piles. Monday morning, the city was at a crawl. Most businesses were closed, shopkeepers could not keep the snow from their sidewalks. Milk, butcher and provision wagons were unable to make their deliveries. The storm raged on all day Monday and into Tuesday. The city was paralyzed.
My Great-grandfather William Merkel came to America less than a decade before this historic storm hit New York City. According to census records, it appears he came to America about 1882. His name, William (Wilhelm) Merkel was quite common and there are multiple possibilities in the the years 1881-1883 that could be him in passenger lists to New York.
Wilhelm Merkel was born 24 May 1857 and was baptized at the church at Forbach, Baden, Germany. Wilhelm’s parents were Egidius Merkel and Maria Anna Goetz. When he was about 25 years old, Wilhelm made the decision to immigrate to America. It does not appear that his immediate family came with him, records show two sisters were married in Germany, and one brother died there. I wonder what he thought of both the German winters he had left behind and the storm he faced in New York in 1888!
Wilhelm became known as William here in America. It was under the name William Merkel that he married Magdelena Maier in 1885. His signature, however, read Wilhelm Merkel.
William became a naturalized citizen before 1900.
I have found an 1892 naturalization petition for a William Merkel, possibly this is for my Great-grandfather. The information on the petition is scant, the date of arrival, birth date, occupation, are all not provided. The witness to the naturalization was Julius Eisinger. In 1891, city directories show a Julius Eisinger lived about 2 blocks from my gr-grandfather. While this is hardly conclusive, it does lend support that this may be the correct William Merkel’s naturalization. Further research is needed.
William worked as a carpenter and house framer. He and Magdelena raised a family in New York City (see blog post 6) and moved east on Long Island to Franklin Square. William outlived his wife, and died of heart conditions and a stroke on 13 August 1944 at the age of 87. He is buried at Lutheran Cemetery in Queens, New York. Presently he lies under a blanket of snow.