©2009-2016 Becky Higgins

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

On To Chicago

Just thought I'd share my take on Charles and Salome's move to Chicago.

While Salomé adjusted to the new arrivals, Charles continued his work at the tannery, learning his trade. As was common at the time, he probably worked long hours for the most minimum pay. Perhaps the Zuschauer began reporting about opportunities in Chicago, Illinois or perhaps word of mouth spread among the workers regarding job openings at the many tanneries in that city. However he heard about the possibilities he must have foreseen better times in Chicago.
One day he must have said something like, “Salomé, I hear there are better wages for tanners in Chicago. What do you think of moving there?”
“Move? Now? How can we do that? We have four babies to think of. I am just beginning to feel strong again; thinking about getting out and letting the children play with friends. This is our home.” Salomé countered.
“I know, but in Chicago you’ll make new friends and so will they. With a better job, we’ll be able to get a bigger place and provide more for the babies. Just think about it.”
“And what of Fred?” she replied. “Am I to leave my brother here while we traipse off to unknown places?”
“Oh, no, we won’t be leaving Fred. He is going ahead of us. In fact, he’s packing up now! Just like before, he’ll get things ready for us.”
Salome sighed, “Well, I guess there’s little choice then, is there? We’re headed for Chicago.”...


1876 saw the establishment of the Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Chicago Cubs) in the new National League Ball Club; that, however, was not what drew the Ruch family to the city. What drew them were the many tanneries found along the Chicago River. These tanneries were supplied with an abundance of hides from the ever growing meat-packing industry and stockyards. Chicago, with its rivers, railroads and Lake Michigan recovered quickly from the great fire of 1871 rapidly becoming the flower (if not sweet smelling) of the West. The city posed great opportunities of employment for young men with experience at tanning hides and leather production.
The 1876 Chicago city directory lists 22 Tanners, 12 of which very near the lodgings of Fred Siegler and Charles Ruch. Fred in listed at 88 W. Division and Charles at 84 W. Division. At that time these addresses are just west of the North Branch of the Chicago River and close to Elston Avenue. By 1888, the list of Tanners is down to four but three of them are on Elston Avenue and are among those listed in 1876. Based on that information, Fred and Charles probably worked for one of these three tanneries: C. Lambeau’s Sons, Loescher Bros., or Paul Populorum.
By 1878, Charles and Salomé are living at 46 W. Division where they remained until 1888. Fred, by now married, moved from place to place until settling at 56 Rees for about six years. However, he didn’t stray far from the Ruch family.

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