a letter written in 1918, tells me where the Hartmann's lived!

A letter received several years ago from Mendam NJ after an inquiry by our sister Barb about our two great aunts on our fathers side. Our grandfather came from a family of 12. Really, 13 but “he” died early in life. Health was a fragile thing in the beginning of the twentieth century. All you really need to do is walk through an old cemetery to see the short life spans and large number of young children.
SO this first large family of Hartmanns in the United States of America lived in Jersey City. When I first saw that address, I knew that one day, I had to go there.

"Rosy" my navigator will guide me with sweet robot voice

SO here we go, over the river and thru the woods. I was pretty excited, almost like I felt as if the entire family of 15 was waiting for my arrival.

In our great aunt Gertrude’s original letter she stated that she was born in NYC on June 6 1888.
Between 1820 and 1880, thousands of German and Irish immigrants arrived in New York City as men, women and children left their homeland to escape civil unrest, persecution and the repeated failure of the potato crop. Initially, many of the Germans settled in what became known as Little Germany, a section of the city east of the Bowery and extending from Houston Street to 12th Street. She also states that her mother’s name was:
Clara M. Flanger and her fathers name was:
Charles R. Hartmann
The first American Hartmann family had FIFTEEN children!! One sister and one brother died early so there were 13. Of these 13 I only know the name three of them. My grandfather George Joseph and his two sisters Gertrude and Frieda who both became nuns and therefore our sister Barb has attained their records by writing a letter to their home sisterhood.
The church mentioned in Gertrud’s letter “Church of St Joseph Yorkville” at 408 East 87th Street still stands. It is there where I am going to attempt to get Baptismal records that may give me the remaining names, birthdates of the NINE girls and FOUR boys. I might also be able to discover exactly when they moved to 15 Cambridge Ave in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Gertrude also mentions that her father Charles was a printer…as am I!
The Journey
I don’t know the name of that bridge but I it got me into Jersey City.

It was a weird day. I felt very alone and tired. Wishing someone was here with me on this journey.
Before the bridge, passing the city of Newark. To me: a very depressing city with an even more depressing name. The only ties our family have there are that my aunt Carol and her husband Fred (Rebel) Dooley met there and married. Strange how a country boy from Alabama ended up as a parking lot attendant. I remember they owned a red VW punch-bug and me and my sister Barb rode in the back with the top down to go to their apartment that was on the top of a very large building there.

The "Red Light" beggar

This was one of the most remembered things of this journey. Waiting at the red light after the bridge…I’m in Jersey City. This beggar walks in between the cars with a paper cup. Looking for money. I gave him a handfull of change from my change jar that I keep in the car. He was very grateful. I watched in the rear view mirror behind me the dressed up fancy smancy couple, shake their heads, roll up their window and then roll their eyes.
Old time Jersey City New Jersey. Turn of the century. No cars. No cell phones. Blue crisp sky day. Buried in time.

“Rosy” my navigator was taking me through the streets of Jersey City 2011, where one hundred years earlier my great grandfather, mother and his kids played, shopped and worked. She took me down the very long main street, full of shops, cars and a melting pot of race, creed and color. Some things never change.
I was almost there now, according to “Rosy” 15 Cambridge. “Make the next left to arrive at destination.”
I’m not quite sure what I was expecting but of corse I wasn’t expecting this.

When I turned the corner onto Emerson Street…I was expecting everything to maybe turn black and white. I was looking for Charles R. Hartmann’s kids to be playing on the street. I was looking for a sepia sky, trolly cars, horse carriages. I was looking for maybe Clara Hartmann to be coming down the steps pregnant.

These were the streets of my heritage. That in this space a family of 15 lived, struggled, had dinner together, celebrated holidays and never once thought that one century later the fathers son of one of their own would come here looking for them.

Of corse I was disappointed. It was obviously not the same house, it was not the same street and certainly wasn’t the same city. Everything had changed. There were no survivors. Nobody remembers “The Hartmann’s” … that big German family with the printer father. Everything was buried deeply in time. And in another hundred years, another hundred families will have been born and raised on these streets. That time and technology are interlocked into a giant machine that consumes the human spirit. All the laughter, tears, hopes and dreams of 15 Cambridge Street are gone. Not too long ago, they were the most important things in the world to the Hartmann’s. I just had to get out of the car and breath the air, walk the street, where once horse carriages trampled by. I looked around… and the wind blew some old newspapers down the street……….

15 Cambridge, Jersey City, New Jersey.