Ascher Rothschild’s life took some surprising turns following the death of his wife, Sprinza. The first change involved the children, who ranged in age from 15 years old down to just a few days. While Siegmund (16) and possibly Isaac (13) were old enough to help with the family merchant business, the younger children needed looking after. According to the civic records of Vöhl, Ascher turned to his nephew, Ruben Rothschild (1805 – 1895), son of Ascher’s brother, Selig Salomon Rothschild, and appointed him and Ruben’s wife, Helene Sternberg, as guardians. Helene was Sprinza’s sister by birth and niece by marriage, and Ascher and Ruben were involved in numerous business deals together, so this was the perfect solution. Ruben and Helene had married sometime in 1833, so went from newlyweds to instant family in a very short time frame. Ruben and Helene were listed as the guardians of an undisclosed number of Ascher and Sprinza’s children as late as 1841.
In 1835, Heinrich Müller of Vöhl owes Ascher Rothschild a debt of 62 gulden. An auction was held to raise the money owed. Prior to the auction, Mayor Küthe takes as pledge a cow, two oxen, two sheep, and a mother pig. I’m guessing it was common practice to hold items or livestock hostage until after the auction to make sure a debt was paid, one way or the other.
There’s a very interesting notation regarding Ascher for this same year. Dr. Nuss, an inspector of mikvaot in Vöhl (and presumably the surrounding area), inspected the two mikvaot in Ascher’s home. Regarding the one for the men, “… Nuss finds a mikveh which has an elegant appearance and where a device has been installed to direct heated water from the boiler directly into the bath.” As for the women’s mikveh, he deems it not ideal, but recommends that it be used “in the absence of a better one.” I’m not sure which house this refers to. His original home, in which he lived with Sprinza, had burned down, and he was building a new one, which was completed in 1836. Perhaps the new mikvaot had to be inspected as they were being built, to make sure they met the requirements. Regardless, if you had a heated mikveh in 1835, you must have been doing very well financially!
The house. Honestly, I could write an entire blog post just about it! When we arrived in Vöhl in May 2019, Camille and I were thrilled to learn that the current owners were in the process of remodeling it, and had agreed to let us tour it. We spent well over an hour there, and could have spent much longer. They had taken the walls back to the original half-timbered frame filled with mud and straw, much like adobe. They had rebuilt those areas that needed attention. In several places, we were able to see the original hand-stenciled wallpaper. I remember at one point, Camille and I both rested our fingers lightly on some pink flowers, smiled at each other, and commented we could easily see Blümchen putting them there.
In 1836, it was the largest residence in the village. In 2019, it is STILL the largest residence in the village! The ground floor, entered from Arolser Straße, was eventually home to a bakery. While we were there, we found indications of where the the men’s mikveh had been, behind a wall at the far end of the floor from the bakery. Before it was a bakery, the ground floor was home to the Jewish school teacher and his family, and where classes were held. Ironically, it was in the bakery that most of the civic records from the nearby Rathaus met their demise. As WWII was coming to an end, the Nazis realized they had lost. For three days and nights, the ovens went non-stop as the records were carried from the Rathaus to the bakery and burned. My heart weeps thinking how much history for the entire village was lost!
The next floor is best entered from the back side of the house, which was built on a sharp hill. In fact, there’s a narrow lane that separates the house from an erstwhile barn in sad repair. We know that it was built and owned by Ascher Rothschild. The three floors located above the bakery are all identical, and all a rabbit warren of interconnected rooms, all large, all with 10′ ceilings. We kept wandering and wandering and thinking, “Surely we’re done with this floor,” and then we’d find another door! I don’t know how many people Ascher thought would live there, or perhaps he was making sure there was enough space for each of his children to section of a piece for them and their families. Best laid plans…
There is a spacious attic above the three floors of living space, and it has a unique feature: built in hanging racks for drying laundry in inclement weather. How ingenious! In case that’s not enough space for you, there is the attic above the attic! Here we could clearly see the construction methods used. The registration marks fascinated me, because the same marks are clearly visible on the posts and beams of the synagogue. I imagine Ascher hired the same builders for both projects. They do good work.
In case you’re wondering just how big this place is, the combined square footage of the three floors of living space is about 8000 square feet!
Sometime in 1835, Ascher married his second wife, Blümchen Sternberg. As previously mentioned, she was another daughter of Joseph Sternberg and Rechel Löb, and a younger sister of Sprinza. Born in about 1810, she was about 25 when they married, and Ascher would have been 46. She would only have been 12 years older than her oldest step-son/nephew, and the prospect of helping to raise some of the children must have been daunting.
Being a stepmother myself, I am in awe of any woman who willingly steps into that role. It is challenging beyond anything you can imagine. I’ve been blessed with three wonderful, handsome, compassionate stepsons. When I married their dad, they were 14, 12, and 9. Now they’re all adults and I could love them more if I’d given birth to them myself. As I’ve told my husband more than once, I wouldn’t trade being a stepmother for anything in the world. I also wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It’s HARD! You have ideas of how it will be, how you think it should be, but you’re stepping into an existing dynamic and have to figure out how YOU fit into it.
Dearest Blümchen, thank you for helping to raise those children, especially my gg-grandfather Abraham Adolph. I have no doubt you influenced his life in countless unknown ways.
Ascher and Blümchen welcomed their first daughter, Auguste Rothschild, on 3 March of 1837, and her birth was announced to Mayor Küthe. Witnesses to the event were Ruben Rothschild and Selig Schönhof, and the midwife was Katharina Schröder. Their second daughter, Adelheid, was born just one day short of 2 years later on 2 March 1839. They had one more daughter, Mathilde, born sometime in 1841.
Ascher’s brother, Selig Salomo Rothschild, passed away in Vöhl sometime in 1840. They must have been close, and I’m sure this was a trying time for all of them.
According to the “Directory of salt requirement of the mayor of Vöhl – Municipality Vöhl after measure of the number of souls and the livestock of the year 1840”, the following belonged to the household of Ascher Rothschild: 12 persons over 8 years old; 4 persons under 8 years old; 1 horse; 2 oxen, cows, and cattle; 0 sheep, goats and pigs.
From the windows on the back of Ascher’s house one can very clearly see the local Lutheran church, Martinskirche. This picture was taken from outside of town, but it is literally right in the backyard. Seriously, you could throw a rock. Like most small villages, the church is located in the center of the village. Turns out Martinskirche is directly linked to Ascher Rothschild, because in 1841, he extended a loan of 18,000 Gulden to the municipalities of the Parish for it’s construction. The loan agreement between the Parish of Vöhl and Ascher Rothschild was dated 22 March 1841, and was signed by representatives from the municipalities of Vöhl, Basdorf, Marienhagen, and Asel. It states the Grand Duke had indicated the municipalities were responsible to raise the capital for the church, and “In accordance with Appendix II of the Kreisrath” empowered the communities to borrow the capital of 18,000 gulden. The loan agreement goes on to say “Ascher Rothschild commits himself to advance to the parish of Vöhl the capital up to the sum of 18,000 gulden at four percent annual interest.” “Since for now only a part of the amount requested is necessary, for the time being only five thousand gulden will be advanced on the capital and from now on interest will be paid in four weeks. The rest of the capital will be paid out as needed.” Since four different villages were involved, there’s a provision that indicates the agreement is binding for at least 10 years, and that none of the municipalities can back out before then. Also, since the capital is to be paid out gradually, and it would be too cumbersome to get the entire group back together each time more money is needed, Mayor Wilhelm Prinz of Vöhl was given authority to work directly with Ascher and request the money.
In 2018, Martinskirche celebrated its 175th anniversary, and received a light remodel and some needed updates. When Camille and I were there in May 2019, we attended Sunday service. Maybe not the best idea, as neither of us are Lutheran, and we don’t speak enough German to keep up. But I liked being there, liked knowing my family had a hand in its construction. Thank you, Herr Eisenberg, for allowing us to worship with you, to wander the church after the service, and for your participation of the Förderkreis Synagoge in Vöhl.
Ascher was frequently mentioned in the civic records of Vöhl. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. My favorite is from 1844 when a fine was levied against him for contamination of the road. On 15 August, the Grand Ducal Hessian Kreisrath wrote to the Mayor of Vöhl: “Since the indicated evacuation of the chamber pots from the house of Ascher Rothschild, when it is near the road, and the liquid rivulet flows into the gutter of the local road, you must inform Ascher Rothschild that all further downpourings of such disgusting excrement liquid is forbidden by him or his household members under threat of a police charge of 1fg 30kr for any contramotion hereby, and to report the publication of this prohibition within 3 days.”
In 1847, District Chief Koch asks Mayor Wiesemann to report on the reputation of Ascher Rothschild, because he has insulted the field gard Rieglitz from Thalitter. In 1849, there’s more trouble, starting with debts to the Korbach advocate Herr Schumacher in the amount of 12 Reichstalern and some silver groschen, and because of this debt, Ascher Rothschild is seized in February. Ruben Rothschild gives a cow as a pledge, and Ascher is released. Mayor Wilhelm Prinz delayed the required auction and was punished by Judge Koch. There was more trouble in June and July of that year, due to debts of 16 gulden at the trading house Rosenthal in Frankfurt. Legal fees and similar costs of about 46 gulden were added, and Mrs. Rothschild (Blümchen) placed a cow as a pledge, for which Ruben Rothschild vouches. At the same time frame of June and July, Judge Koch learned of an additional debt of 17 Reichstaler 20 Sgr at Mengeringhäuser Stadtcommissär, plus some kreuzer lien fees on garnishment, and instructs the Mayor to hold the pledge auction within 3 weeks. Ascher Rothschild’s wife gives another cow and a horse as pledge. In September, Mayor Prinz is threatened again by Judge Koch for not holding the auction, and threatens him with a fine of 45 Kreuzer if he doesn’t hold it within 3 days. Between then and the spring of 1850, Judge Koch warns Mayor Prinz several times, and fines him at least twice. I have no idea what the relationship was between Ascher and Mayor Prinz, but I can’t help thinking the Mayor must have been well-compensated.
Ascher and Sprinza’s son Selig “Sali” Rothschild became a doctor. In 1855, the civic records of Vöhl indicated Dr. Sali Rothschild reported the death of Mrs. Rothschild. Initially, it was thought this referred to Friedrich Dilsheimer Rothschild, wife of Ascher and Sprinza’s son, Isaac. Further research, however, proves Friedericke lived until 1903. I believe this actually refers to Ascher’s second wife, Blümchen. There is only anecdotal evidence to support this, and it is admittedly slim. Blümchen is never mentioned much, and not at all after 1855. She is not mentioned in Ascher’s death record, so she was deceased before that. Most telling, however, is that upon Ascher’s passing, instead of Blümchen and her daughters continuing to live at the house, the daughters are sent to Mainz where they live with their older half-brother Dr. Selig “Sali” Rothschild.
There are a few other mentions of Ascher in the civic records, day-to-day things like registering a pet dog, being owed money, being asked to provide a loan of 13,000 gulden to the community for an undisclosed reason just a few days before his death. The last information about Ascher is his death record. It lists his age as 79 at the time of his death, putting his birth year at 1780 or 1781. If this is correct, he was 37 when he married Sprinza, and 30 years older than Blümchen. Not completely unheard of, but a bit of a stretch. And as I mentioned in the previous post, I choose to go with his presumed birth year of 1789 as indicated in his marriage record to Sprinza. His death record reads as follows:
According to the allged statement, Ascher Rothschild, and 13 o’clock on January 13, 1859, after a long illness, passed away, and that in the survey and examination of the corpse made today, the following marks of death are recognized and noted to have been: (1) keeping eyeballs from pressure of fingertips; (2) brown, green, and black spots all over the body, especially on the abdomen and genitals; (3) the abdomen swelled. So that he is regarded as dead. Such certifies in Vöhl January 16, 1859, Friedrich Müller, Healing Servant.
Ten years after his passing, “A. Rothschild’s heirs had an estate sale, which was judicially confirmed by the royal district court on 20 July 1869. The payment of the purchase price shall be made to I. Bayerthal’s widow from Oppenheim.” It’s possible this refers to a different “A. Rothschild”, but I tend to believe it is Ascher. Ascher and and Blümchen’s youngest daughter, Mathilde, married Heinrich Bayerthal of Oppenheim. I have sometimes seen the letters “I”, “J”, and “H” mistaken for each other, and it’s possible Heinrich had another name, perhaps Isaac, or Isiah, or Israel. Again, anecdotal evidence at best.
I have learned so much about the type of person he may have been through these records, and through his legacy, which continues to live in his hometown of Vöhl. He built a school to make sure Jewish children were well-educated. He ran a thriving business as a merchant and as a money lender. He was a scoundrel and had at least one politician in his pocket. And he was generous. I’m very proud to be descended from him.
I was planning to next write about Ascher’s oldest son, Siegmund. Instead, I’m going to write about the synagogue. Seems like the right time. Until then, L’Shanah Tovah!