Family Names: Rosenblath

My Mother-In-Law was born with the name Barbara Eugenie LaPorte. We affectionately call her MaMere, because of her French heritage. With names like LaPorte, Bagli and Ipsaro in her life, which are from families all over Western Europe, the least recalled name in her lineage may be Rosenblatt, which was changed by family members a few generations ago to the softer-on-the-ear Rosenblath. The Rosenblatt clan grew up in Prussia. Their migration to the US started with the arrival of Heinrich Rosenblatt to New York City in 1864.

The Rosenblath family members later spent their formative years in Shreveport, Louisiana.

As with many families, the Rosenblath gatherings are occasions for storytelling. With her penchant for family research, Barbara has a treasure trove of tales about her wild uncles. Barbara often said that her mother, Mary Rosenblath LaPorte, could not wait to move to Baltimore to get her husband, Milton LaPorte away from her heavy drinking, constant hunting uncles. Some of the best renditions in the retelling of family lore come from Cousin Dennis Strayhan. His stories of several family members are hilarious, for the most part. Some, however, have less to do with the life of the relatives than with the circumstances of their deaths.

This post is from family stories (Dennis) and research (Barbara) follows three family members: Henry (Heinrich) Rosenblath, Carl A. Rosenblath, and H. Coty Rosenblath.

Henry Rosenblath

Born on January 5, 1834, in Felsberg, Hessen-Nassau, Prussia, public records establish that Heinrich Rosenblatt emigrated to the US circa 1864, when he was in his 30’s. His port of entry was New York City where he rented an apartment between Canal and Hester Streets on 102 Mott Street in Lower Manhattan. Little is known about his life or work in New York, although records show that he married Gertrude Elisa Bauer on March 12, 1865 and rented a different apartment at 167 Mott Street, a few doors down. The family oral history is that Heinrich was engaged to Gertrude when he left Prussia, but decided to move to the States first, gain employment and then to send for his fiancee.

Three years later, swearing off his loyalty and allegiance to the King of Prussia, Rosenblatt became a naturalized US citizen in 1868. He gave “his mark” to the census takers this time as living at 126 Staunton Street in New York City. As the story goes, Heinrich wanted to “be more American and less Prussian.” He changed his first name to Henry and his last to Rosenblath. Although several other aliases were on his records: Henry Rosenblatt and Heinrich Rosenblood, the young immigrant adopted the new names for life. The irony of the reference to Rosenblood is not lost on family members. The Prussian name Rosen is just as it sounds and means ROSES. And the color of blood is obviously RED. The way that Henry chose to end his life is the rest of the story.

The next time that the name Rosenblath appears in the public records is when he and Gertrude moved to Shreveport, Louisiana. To this day the family does not know what took the couple from New York to Louisiana, but lots of rumors float about: escape, employment, adventure … No one knows for sure. The couple had four children and appeared in the US census on June 4, 1870, as residing in Caddo Parish, Louisiana.

According to public records, Henry died by suicide, cutting his own throat on June 19, 1876 at the age of 42. Red blood indeed, and by his own hand. Henry Rosenblath died six months after his wife, Gertrude, died. She was 40 years old and died of unknown causes in 1875. Perhaps Henry lost his will to live after the death of his wife, but that may be mere romantic speculation.

The children for the most part stayed in Shreveport for the next few generations.

Carl Aloysius Rosenblath

Carl A. Rosenblath

The stories of Uncle Carl also fall into that category of posthumous retelling of his demise, rather than extolling his life. Carl Aloysius Rosenblath was born on September 6, 1904, in Shreveport (Caddo Parish) Louisiana. He attended St. John’s High School and graduated from Shreveport High School, remaining a life-long member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. He grew up in a large Catholic family and made his way after school through several jobs and career shifts before settling into real estate. His first real job was serving as the manager of an oil warehouse in Big Rock (Pulaski), Arkansas.

According to the Shreveport Times newspaper, the circumstances of his death were very public. The date was April 26, 1960. Picturing the scene in one’s mind, Carl Rosenblath was asked by Caddo Parish to serve as an expert witness in a real estate pricing dispute. The court action was taken by the local parish municipality when five men: Ben Levy, Jr., and four other men sued the parish. The defendants claimed that they had been cheated of their rightful value for land taken from their estates by force of eminent domain. Ben Levy, et al, accused the parish of undervaluing the five parcels of land they owned, virtually stealing the land from the families earlier in the year. The land was taken by the parish to build the Shreveport – Bossier Freeway, which the parish authorities believed would improve automobile and freight traffic in the region. Carl Rosenblath was considered as a credible witness for the prosecution,probably because of his family’s size (his parents, three brothers and four sisters grew up in Shreveport). He also had a longstanding real estate brokering career in the parish.

We will never know the true value that Uncle Carl felt the parish should pay for the five parcels in question. While he was testifying in the courtroom of Judge Robert J. O’Neal, Rosenblath appeared to be stooping down on the witness stand, reaching to pick up a pencil he seemed to have dropped. Others on the scene reported that Rosenblath coughed momentarily and then suddenly slumped in the witness chair. The Judge quickly summoned Dr. Stuart DeLee, deputy Caddo Parish coroner, who pronounced Mr. Rosenblath dead at 2:10 p.m.

What a way to go!

Rosenblaths: back – Coty, Quinlan, Carl & Philip; front – Mary, Kathline, Elsie Mae, Estelle & Martha

Henry Coty Rosenblath

The third interesting family death happened to another uncle of Barbara’s and Dennis’s, Uncle Coty.

“Heart Attack Fatal” read the headline of the Shreveport Times obituary for H. Coty Rosenblath, a prominent electrical contractor. The article went on to say that witnesses spotted Rosenblath’s car traveling west on Texas Street with the driver barely visible in the front seat. The car passed through a four way intersection and kept going without stopping. The car crashed on the front steps of the First Methodist Church at Texas and Common Streets.

A black man, Boss Harris, was sitting on the church steps around 1:50 pm. Mr. Harris, 83 years old, was hit by the errant car and had lacerations and bruises on his leg from the accident. He was later released from Confederate Memorial Hospital without serious injury.

Mr. Rosenblath was rushed to Doctors’ Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival. The witnesses confirmed that the driver of the car appeared to have slumped over with a heart attack before the car crashed into the Church steps, heading directly at Mr. Harris.

Born in Shreveport on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14), 1900, Coty Rosenblath attended St. John’s High School and St. Stanislaus Prep School in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. He later attended Loyola and Centenary Colleges, where he was well known for his football prowess from 1918 to 1922. After college he spent a few years in the insurance industry before he founded an electric company on Texas Street in town. Settling down in Shreveport he was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the Elks Club, the Optimist Club, the Knights of Columbus, and the American Legion 40 & 8.

In Coty’s obituary in the Shreveport Times, the papers reported again that his brother, Carl, had died in April while testifying in a civil case in Caddo Parish District Court (tough legacy to uphold). When you pass to the next life with an unusual demise, it is hard to shake the stories, especially when your brother gets mention for his death twice, in his own obituary and yours. Seems like a long line of strange demises in the Rosenblath line.