Ida and Julius Block

Ida Meinhoff (or Mezlof) Block
23 December 1855 – 6 June 1922

Carl Julius Block*
19 September 1850 – 29 November 1930

Ida and Julius met and married (1875) in their native Germany and had several children before immigrating to the US in 1884.

Julius arrived early in 1884, on February 19th on the Helvetia, his profession listed as miner. Ida and their five children arrived six months later on the Australia on September 1st. Their Germany-born children were Herman, Gustav, Emilie, Wilhelm, and the youngest, six-month-old Anna.

We have no insight into the oldest children’s early lives in the country because we do not meet up with the family via a census until 1900 and by that time, all of the above-listed children are no longer living with their parents and only Ida and Julius’s American-born children are at home.

In 1900, those children are Julius Jr. who is eleven years old, Frank, Amy, Albert, and four-year-old Henry. Home in 1900 is a farm just outside of Cedar Springs, Michigan. All but the youngest of their census-counted children are listed as having been born in Illinois, including 5-year-old Albert. However, Henry was born in Michigan, so we know they moved to the farm in or around 1895.

At this point, Julius is nearly fifty and they are not yet done having babes-in-arms. Farming apparently fails to work out for them, as 1910 finds them back in Chicago where sixty-year old Julius (passing for 57) is working as a railroad gateman and he, Ida, and the five still-at-home children (now including their youngest Hattie but no longer including Amy; Frank seems to be going by Emil) are living in a rented flat right by what is currently a Metra rail yard and was likely some version of that a hundred years ago as well (that is, I suspect it was a flat — the jerk census taker didn’t list building numbers).

That must’ve been such a drastic change from country living and one wonders what led to the move. The most likely explanation is, of course, a failure at farming. Especially likely considering where they have landed.

I think that the wide open spaces of Michigan must’ve been their dream or perhaps it was a family dream, because in 1920, Ida and Julius along with a grandson (though I’m not sure who the grandson’s father is; he is a Block so it is one of the sons) are living in that state once more, living (still as renters) a few miles north of their old farm in Pierson. However, this time, their next-door neighbors are second-oldest son Gustav and his wife Emilie and their children. I couldn’t find Gustav in 1900 to know if this farming plan was perhaps one shared by father and son, tried and failed together (as Gustav is also in Chicago in 1910), or if Gustav took up his father’s dream and moved his family, complete with aged parents and nephew, back to the beautiful countryside where Ida and Julius tried to make their home twenty years earlier.

Ida died while in Chicago on June 6, 1922. She may have been visiting her children who lived there as the residence on her death record is still listed as Michigan (though another few miles up the road from where the 1920 census placed them). It may be the decision was to bury her there near her Chicago family and the plot was purchased for both she and Julius at that time. It is entirely possible this was a financial decision or it could have been that more of the family were nearby than out in the countryside of Michigan.

Also, though the records are not clear enough for me to be certain, it appears as if Ida and Julius’s fourth-oldest son Wilhelm died in childhood and is buried at Concordia so if this is the case, maybe they wanted to remain close to him in death.

Julius has returned again to Chicago in 1930. Gustav is still farming but now his wife’s widowed mother is living with them and perhaps taking in his own widowed father as well was too much. Instead, Julius is living with his widowed daughter Anna (the youngest of his Germany-born children) and her son. Anna runs a boarding house on Warren Avenue which was apparently smack in the middle of where I-90 is now (or at least whatever version of Warren Avenue they lived on is no longer in existence thanks again to I-90).

Late in that same year, Julius passed away shortly after turning 80, a great old age especially for the time. Julius’s obituary lists eight children and one of them isn’t Gustav (though that is his name on the census and all public records). Instead, I believe he is identified as August and my guess on that would be that Gustav adopted the far less specifically German name of August at some point (and there is a very likely 1900 census record for a single man of the correct age named August Block working as a painter and living as a boarder in Chicago). It could also have been a mistake on the newspaper’s part, but I’m certain August is our Gustav.

What’s interesting here are the children we don’t find and those include German-born Emilie and Wilhelm and American-born Amy and Albert. Wilhelm we are fairly certain passed away as a child, but it is unclear what happened to the rest. I’ve done some digging and turned up nothing conclusive. Amy vanishes from the Census between 1900 and 1910 which I supposed meant she’d married young but could also mean she passed away in that period. Albert is of the right age to have died in WWI and of course the possibility of family losses in the Great Influenza pandemic cannot be dismissed.

We don’t know why Julius’s death date was never inscribed on his headstone, leaving Ida to appear to have married an immortal, but my best guess would be hardship. First of all, we are right in the midst of the terrible early days of the Great Depression. Gustav is still farming but we can’t know if he has any money to spare. Anna is running a boarding house, but she herself is listed as renting. Julius and Ida scraped and managed and uprooted themselves repeatedly throughout their lifetimes and only ever briefly owned a mortgaged farm we must believe based on the evidence was a failure for them. Beginning with their emigration from Germany, they never stopped moving, even in their old age, and I cannot imagine there was a great deal of money available to do anything. If Ida’s death had led them to reserve a space for Julius in advance, that must’ve been a blessing to not have to worry about when he later passed.

RIP Ida and your Immortal Beloved Julius and family

*The full name and exact date of birth are from a Prussian baptism record that matches best with our Julius’s information. It may not be fully accurate, but we do know from later information that he was born in September, and this is the only baptism record for September 1850 in the correct area that I found.

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