Saturday, May 1, 2021


I have written previously about people asking "Who was the first person buried in Xxxxx Cemetery?"  I have told the story of the first person buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago:

the first person buried in Acacia Park Cemetery in Chicago:

and the first person buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, Illinois:

Alexander Guneshoff's tombstone even states that he was the first person buried at Memorial Park:

But what about the community mausoleums?  Who were the first people interred there?  I have never encountered a crypt that said "First interment in Xxxxx Mausoleum."  In every case that I have checked, the cemetery could not tell me who the first person was to be interred in their community mausoleum.  The records must exist somewhere but as we have seen in the past, most cemetery owners/employees are not interested in events at their cemetery in the past, they are just interested in selling interment space today.  

So I did a little digging to try to find out who the first person was who was interred in the Rosehill Community Mausoleum.  I decided to look for the first newspaper obituary/death notice that said "Interment in Rosehill Mausoleum."  The first mention I found was for John Lefnestey in the Chicago Tribune of September 18, 1915, but his Death Notice only said "Services at Rosehill Mausoleum" not that he was interred there.

The first interment notification I was able to find was from the Chicago Tribune from October 31, 1915 for Franciska (Frances) Lang:

Surprisingly, the second interment was her husband, Michael George Lang.  This is from the Chicago Tribune from one week later, November 8, 1915:

So, let's see what we can "dig up" about Franciska and Michael George Lang.

Franciska Hoer was born August 24, 1847 in Gutmadingen, Germany to Bartholomeus Hör (1823-1889) and Katharina Bausch (1821-1889).  She was one of six children.  Her siblings were Anna Maria (1846-1846), Susanna (1848-1849), Johannes (1850-1860), Martin (1851-1860), and Joseph (1854-1924).  Bartholomeus Hör was a "Laborer" by trade.  The Hoer family came to the US in 1853 when Franciska was six years old.

Michael George Lang was born December 25, 1846 in New York (although some sources incorrectly say Germany), the son of Mathias Lang (1815-1903) and Margaret Stinach (1813-????).  He was one of five children.  His siblings were  George (1828-????), Catherine (1838-????), Theresa (1839-????) and Rachel (1842-????).  Mathias Lang also listed his occupation as "Laborer."

Michael Lang and Franciska Hoer were married in 1866 in Will County, Illinois.  The 1870 US Census shows the Lang family living in Chicago.  The family consisted of Michael Long (sic), age 25, a "Saddler," born in "Baiern," who was a citizen of the US.  Along with Michael was his wife "Franky" (22), children Ida (3), Edward (7/12) and Michael's mother Margaret Lang (66) also from Baiern.  Please tell me again why we should accept the US Census as source documentation to verify facts...

The 1880 US Census finds that the Lang Family has relocated - to Joliet, Illinois.  Specifically to #56 Benton Street.  A parking lot occupies that space today.  The family consisted of  Michael Lang (36) a "Harness Maker" born in New York, his wife Frances (32), and children Ida (12), Edward (10),  Nellie (6) and Joseph (3). 

The 1890 US Census for this area is, of course, lost, although we know from other sources that the Lang family was still in Joliet in 1890.  Their youngest child, Lorene Edna Lang was born in Joliet on December 11, 1890.  During his time in Joliet, Michael Lang was a Foreman for A. F. Risser & Co.  The business of the firm was that of manufacturers of saddlery, harness, collars, etc., and dealers in saddlery hardware, horse clothing, fly nets, leather and whips, so that they could furnish an entire outfit for a horse - everything except shoes.

By the time of the 1900 US Census, however, the Langs have returned to Chicago.  They were living at 349 N. Hudson Avenue (now 1935 N. Hudson).  Town houses occupy that spot today.  The family consisted of fifty-five year old Michael, a "Supervisor of a Harness Shop," his wife Frances (52), children Ida (32-Dressmaker), Edward (30-Postal Clerk), Nettie (26-Dressmaker), Joseph (23-Restaurant Cashier), Minnie (19-At school), Arthur (15-At school), Florence (13-At school), Lorene (9-No occupation listed), Frances' mother Catherine Hoer (79), and two Boarders: Matthew (18) and Annie Reich (14).  Matthew was an "Apprentice Harness Maker," and Annie was "At school."  Frances Lang said she had given birth to eight children, and that all eight were alive in 1900, but her mother Catherine Hoer said she had given birth to seven children and only two were still alive in 1900.

Now I have a real treat for you.  On September 7, 1906, Michael Lang (known then in the family as "Old Mickel") wrote down his recipe for home-made "Lang Beer."  Beer has always been a staple of the German diet, and many Germans brewed their own beer.  Here is his recipe:

(Brew House)

September 7, 1906


Malt & Grits mashed in ricetank with water at 35°  Steamed up to 56° R.  Stand ½ hour

Steamed to 65° in 1/2 hr (then open)

Cooks 1 hr. + ¼


Ricetank mashed in with malt at 35° R

Steamed up to 56° Re.

Cerealine comes in + then Steam it up to 56° R.

1/2 hour stand, then Steam up to 65° ½ hour then open all Steam till cooks.  Cooks 10 min. or more.


Ricetank mashed in at 89° R (Malt + Starch)

Steamed to 56° R 1/2 hr. Stand. ½ hr. to 65°

Open all Steam till cooks.  Cooks 10 or 15 min.


Malt mashed in at 33° R. Soaks any length of time till ready.  When ready to mash off malt juice pumped in mash tank of ricetank.  When mashed off it will have 51° to 54° R.  then Steam to 59° R., then pump juice in again.  Leave Mash stand still for ½ hour or longer.  Then pump in again till it runs Clear.  When Clear, leave it go in kettle. 

17 lbs. of Grits or more, 32 lbs. of Malt or more, is used to every bbl.  

¾ lbs. Hops to every bbl.

To every 100 lbs. of stuff, one bbl. of water is used.

Lager & Bottle Beers.  

Try it at your own risk. (My note, not his.)

Things have changed quite a bit for the Lang family by the time of the 1910 US Census.  They were still living at 1935 N. Hudson, a house which they owned.  The census taker must have been drunk or whoever answered the census questions had such a thick accent they could not be understood (hard to believe - after all Michael Lang was a native New-Yorker).  The census taker reported that Michael was 43 - he was 64.  Frances was reported as being 43 - she was 63.  The census taker reported that 43 year old Michael and 43 year old Frances has been married for 43 years.  Quite an accomplishment!  The census taker reported that German-born Frances' native language was "English."  Four children were still at home:  Ida (43), Minnie (28), Arthur (25), and Lorene (19).  

Frances Lang died first - on October 29, 1925 at 3:00 in the morning.  The Cause of Death was Acute Cardiac Dilatation and Myocarditis with Chronic Nephritis and Rheumatism as contributing factors.  She was interred in the Rosehill Mausoleum on November 1, 1915.  Here is her Death Certificate:

Michael Lang died next - nine days after Frances - on November 7, 1925 at 5:15 AM.  His Cause of Death was Cirrhosis of the Liver with Cardio-Vascular Sclerosis as the contributing factor.  Michael was interred in the Rosehill Mausoleum on November 9, 1915.  Here is his Death Certificate:

Ground had been broken for the Rosehill mausoleum on April 10, 1913 and the mausoleum officially opened to the public on April 9, 1916 - after Frances and Michael Lang had already been interred there.

The private family room of the Lang Family in in the oldest part of the Rosehill Mausoleum:  Unit A.  It is in the front hall that you enter by coming through the double doors on the East side of the Mausoleum:

It contains five crypts.  Here is the door to their room with the "Lang" name on it:

Here is their stained glass window:

Interred there are:

Now that you feel like you know them, I think you would enjoy seeing photos of Michael and Franciska, so here they are:

Michael George Lang

Franciska Hoer Lang

Just as a side note, their daughter Nettie liked the family room in the mausoleum so much she bought one for herself two doors east of her parents' room and was interred there when she died in 1922:

Her room is labelled "Nettie R. Lang."

So now you know the story of the first two people interred in the magnificent Rosehill Community Mausoleum.

Franciska Hoer Lang and Michael George Lang - may they rest in peace.

Thursday, April 1, 2021


Many big cities have been home to religious cults, and Chicago is no different.  In 1906 an immigrant Italian barber named Giuseppe Abbate claimed that his life changed dramatically one afternoon when he saw Jesus Christ enter his barbershop on Polk Street. Sitting in the barber’s chair, the Saviour asked Abbate if he spoke “Jewish.”  Answering in the negative, Christ used Latin to convey the message that God had chosen the twenty-year-old barber as his Celestial Messenger, ordering him to preach and found a church. To be able to carry out this mission, Christ instantaneously ordained Abbate to the priesthood. In the followings years, Abbate combined his work in the barbershop with evangelization, conveying the story of his mission on earth, not least to recently arrived Italian immigrants. 

Apart from having visions and experiencing miracles while in Chicago, Abbate claimed to have an extra-terrestrial pre-existence. According to Abbate, he lived on Mars before coming to earth, but his Martian existence ended when he was just seven years old, when he was run over by a chariot. The accident took place in one of the planet’s cities as he was out walking together with his parents. Later, Abbate made a detailed drawing of the accident with explanations in both Italian and English. 

To be better able to spread his Celestial Message, Abbate founded Sacred Heart of Jesus Church at 2021 W. DeKalb Street in the old Italian neighborhood of Chicago in 1914:

Abbate's church was just like the Roman Catholic Church except that it was not under the jurisdiction of the Vatican and there was additional theology about Abbate's existence on Mars that was not taught in "real" Catholic churches.  His services were just like the ones at the local Catholic parishes: Mass, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, Confession, May Crownings, etc. in both Latin and Italian.

Abbate appealed to the Italian immigrants that were coming to Chicago by the thousands.  Going down to the docks he greeted ships full of Italian immigrants, many of whom could neither read nor write.  He dressed as a Catholic priest and promised anyone who came with him a free meal, a place to stay, and assistance in finding a job.  Not surprisingly Abbate began to build up quite a following.  You may wonder how the peasants were able to accept the stories of Abbate's Martian adventures.  To an uneducated Italian peasant many of the Catholic Church's teachings were hard to understand:  the Virgin Birth, the bodily Resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Jesus ascending into Heaven, the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary to name a few.  The peasants could not understand these theological happenings, so it was not that hard to understand why they didn't question Abbate's "additional" theological events.      

But this article is not about Giuseppe Abbate - his story has been told in other places.  This is the story of the girl who Abbate told his parishioners was the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Graziana Ippolito (1915-1972).  Before we continue with the story of the strange happenings that were taking place on DeKalb Street, let's see what we can "dig up" about Graziana Ippolito.

Graziana/Grace Ippolito was born November 21, 1915 in Chicago, the daughter of Giuseppe/Joseph Ippolito (1885-1965) and Graziana Farinella (1895-1965).  

Joseph Ippolito had been born in Caterino, Italy on September 8, 1885.  He came to the United States in 1909, arriving in New York on April 8, 1909.  He ultimately moved to Chicago where he found work as a general laborer.  

Graziana Farinella was born August 12, 1895 in Santa Caterina Villarmosa, Caltanissetta, Sicily.  She came to the United States on May 15, 1905.  Ultimately she moved with her family to Chicago where she found work as a seamstress in a tailor shop.

Giuseppe Ippolito and Graziana Farinella were married in Chicago on February 2, 1913.

The Ippolitos had five other children besides Graziana/Grace.  They were:  James (1913-1993), Barbara (1918-1994), Calogero/Charles (1921-2010), Salvatore/Samuel (1923-1981) and Rosina/Rose (1925-1978).   

Graziana Ippolito makes her first "official" appearance in the 1920 US Census.  The Ippolito family was living at 727 W. Forquer Street (now Arthington Street) in Chicago.  The Dan Ryan Expressway occupies that spot today.  "Joe" Ippolito was thirty-four years old.  His wife "Grace" was twenty-four.  Their children were "Jimmy" (6), "Grace" (4 1/12), and Barbara (1 4/12).  Joe was working as a "Foreman in a Foundry."  Joe could read and write but he did not speak English.  His wife and children all spoke English and Grace and Jimmy could both read and write.  The Ippolitos owned their home and it had a mortgage.

As early as 1916, Mrs. Ippolito, Graziana's mother, became a parishioner of the Celestial Messinger Giuseppe Abbate, at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on DeKalb.  At that time few Italian men bothered to attend church, and most of Abbate's followers/parishioners were women.  It was during this period that Abbate proclaimed that Graziana Ippolito was the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - just another way God honored Abbate by revealing this to him.  Here is a photo of Abbate which is supposed to be from 1916 where Abbate wears a helmet, a cape, and a sword carrying the little girl, who according to the text was “the Madonna Child Reincarnated at one year of age” 

Frankly I think she looks a little big for a one-year-old.

In July of 1919 Mary Falzone, a parishioner of Abbate's was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of her two minor brothers by taking them to Abbate's church "too often."  Mary's older brother wanted to take custody of his siblings as he thought they were in dire straits under the influence of their “fanatic” sister.  The case went before Judge Irwin R. Hazen and was reported in the Chicago Tribune from July 25, 1919.

The Tribune noted that in the courtroom while his attorney spoke, Abbate held a child his followers refer to as "The Virgin Mary" in his arms until she went to sleep and was taken from the court.  "Mary" is the four year old daughter of Mrs. Graziima Sarimilla (sic) whose husband works for the Sawyer Biscuit Company.

The mother testified that "Mary" was born of immaculate conception through the "celestial messenger" placing his hands above her as she knelt in prayer.

The little flaxen-haired girl appeared in court dressed “in her robe of worship, covered with tinsel and wearing golden tinted slippers."

Here is her photo from the Chicago Tribune of July 25, 1919:

and the Celestial Messenger himself (from the same article):

Here is another photo of Graziana as a small child:

This whole story was too good to pass up, so the Chicago Tribune sent a reporter to attend one of Abbate's "Masses" held at the church on DeKalb. After attending Mass, the journalist reported that on that occasion at least, Abbate had no active role in the liturgy, but sat on a throne with the little Virgin Mary/Graziana on his lap. It was his closest associate at the time, Bishop Lumeno Monte (1896‒?), who said Mass, assisted by a deacon and a subdeacon, the latter being members of Abbate’s Order of the Celestial Messenger.  Apart from them, there were several altar boys and a group of twelve men, who constituted an honorary guard, all in colorful uniforms and elaborate hats or helmets, featuring copious amounts of medals. Some fifty other adherents sat in the pews; women in front and men at the rear end. 

As the 1920s began, everything stayed quiet with Abbate and his followers until April of  1922, when the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church was severely damaged in an explosion. In fact, the attack against the church was one of four detonations in the neighborhood that happened within half an hour. According to press reports, the chapel’s interior was devastated, as a black powder bomb was placed on the second floor, just outside the chapel doors.

In this context, Abbate testified that he had received threats on several occasions: if he did not pay a fee, the chapel would be destroyed.  In the other places, people were injured, whereas all inhabitants at DeKalb Street escaped the bombing without any physical injuries.

Shortly after the attack, the police arrested a few men related to what was known as Mano Nero (The Black Hand). The Mano Nero was not an organized group, but rather a criminal modus operandi, using extortion letters. The method was used by many individuals and small groups, which threatened, persecuted and murdered many peoples each year in the 1910s and 1920s. Their primary goal was to get money, not, for example, destroy a church which was considered heretic.

As the 1920s progressed, the press devoted numerous articles to the Italian-American Celestial Messenger, Giuseppe Maria Abbate, although no mention was made of the reincarnated Virgin Mary.  Media attention was instead focused on a long series of legal proceedings against him. The first case was in 1922‒1923 when Abbate was accused of enticing a twelve-year-old girl into his residence where he allegedly assaulted her.  This is from the Chicago Tribune of September 8, 1922:

Fannie Lombardi was a chorist (also known as a “cherub”) in his church; member of Le Figlie di Maria, the Daughters of Mary.  At about the same time, other girls, not belonging to the congregation, reported similar experiences of a man in clerical garb, later identified as Abbate, who offered them the sacrament of confirmation if they followed him to the church.  

At the legal hearing, policemen had to protect Abbate “from the vengeance of hundreds of angry former followers, who stormed the courtroom.”  When the proceedings continued after its chaotic start, every spectator was searched for weapons as threats had been received.  Among the spectators were both current and former church members, and the situation was tense. In court, Abbate began telling the story about his mission, explaining that he was the Celestial Messenger, the Reincarnated Christ and the leader of the New Jerusalem Catholic Church.  Still, the judge cut him short, stating that he did not want to listen to his theological meanderings, but only assess the case in question.

In the end, the Celestial Messenger was declared criminally insane (can you believe it took that long???) and confined to Elgin State Hospital, a large mental institution located about 40 miles from Chicago.  One Illinois journal described the hearings and the strong reactions of his adherents to the court’s decision:  Joseph Abbate, the “prophet” who was transported through space from Mars to this earth to preach the doctrine of a new and weird cult is now becoming settled in his new quarters at the Elgin State Hospital. 

The judgment of the court had the effect of a bombshell among the hundreds of followers of the “prophet.”  They stormed the offices of prominent politicians and judges in Chicago in an effort to obtain his release, but without avail. Then came the tribute to the “prophet” at the train station.  As he was placed on a train, accompanied by two guards, he was showered with flowers and was presented with scores of envelopes containing money.  With money which he was given in jail he received more than $1,000 from his followers and went to the Elgin hospital well stocked with funds.  Abbate was finally released from Elgin in 1925.  

Although the New Jerusalem Catholic Church of the Celestial Messenger survived the almost two-year absence of its leader, membership decreased, though the exact numbers are difficult to establish.  When the church was founded and even shortly before his arrest, the news media claimed that it had as many as 500 members or even a thousand.  When he was released, some 200 or 300 remained, though Abbate often claimed that they were at least double that amount. In any case, there seems to have been a rapid turnover of members. Nevertheless, there was a core group, who remained loyal to him, and this group included the Ippolito family.

Between 1925 and 1930, the press reported hardly anything on the Celestial Messenger and his church, but the religious activities at DeKalb Street seem to have continued as before. An exception to the general media silence was a couple of articles that appeared in 1926 when Abbate was accused of financial irregularities.  At this occasion, the tax authorities seized his crown and a golden pectoral cross.  If these objects were re-bought by the congregation or whether the faithful presented their leader with new regalia is not known, but later he wore both a crown, a forty-carat amethyst ring and a large pectoral cross, adorned with the same kind of jewels.

Speaking of jewels and gold, the generosity of the parishioners was not limited to Abbate alone.  On the Feast of the Assumption of the (original)  Blessed Virgin Mary, August 15, 1927, the parish presented Graziana with some pretty elaborate gifts.  The first was a gold scepter with an image of Graziana and Abbate on it made by famed Chicago jeweler C. D. Peacock:

The shaft of the scepter was engraved:

It says: 

Given to the 
B. V. M. R
Graziina Ippolito
Her Faithfuls
Chicago, Ill.
August 15 - 1927 

Isn't it ironic that on the feast day commemorating when the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven, that "Her Faithfuls" decided to give her a present commemorating her being back on Earth?

But that's not all -

There was also a gold belt made by the Naples Jewelry Company in Chicago:

The belt has an elaborate gold clasp:

I do not have any indication what "G I D G V M R" stood for but I'll take a guess:

G raziana
I ppolito
D ei
G ratia

V irgin
M ary
R eincarnated 

"Graziana Ippolito, By the Grace of God, (the) Virgin Mary Reincarnated."

Don't think for a minute that Abbate's parishioners were not generous.  The scepter and the belt are made of real gold.  At today's prices, the gold in the scepter alone is worth an estimated $30,000.00.  The gold value of the belt is estimated at $20,000.00. 

Even with all the tribulation that Abbate and his followers had been through, the Ippolitos remained faithful.  In a 1927 brochure, published by the church, there was a photo that shows Abbate in his office, sitting behind a writing desk.  In the background, we see his secretary.  We can also observe the barber’s chair where Jesus was seated when informing Abbate about his holy mission.  In this photo, the Padre Celeste did not wear one of his bright outfits, but a white cassock and zucchetto, papal-style. In the foreground, there is what first looks like a life-size statue.  But, in fact, it is the girl, Graziana, whom Abbate and his faithful at that time saw as the 12-year old Virgin Mary reincarnated.

The 1930 US Census finds the Ippolito family still living at 727 W. Forquer Street in Chicago.  The family consisted of Joseph (Age 44) Grace (34) and children James (16), Grace (14), Barbara (11), Charles (8) , Sam (7), and Rose (4).  Joseph said he was a "Loader at a Foundry;" everything else remained the same.  Nothing was mentioned to the Census Taker about young Grace's "reincarnated" status. I don't believe the census forms had any options for people who said they were reincarnated. 

In 1931, several newspapers around the United States published an image of a crowned Abbate sitting on a throne under a baldachino.  To his left, on another throne was his queen, the now 15-year old Graziana.  In fact, an essential part of Abbate’s teachings was that he and his followers were incarnations of celestial characters; himself being God/Christ, the girl Our Lady and other adherents different saints.  Faithful to this belief, images of the living saints were featured in the chapel.  Here is that photo:

Here is Graziana Ippolito in her clerical garb at the age of sixteen in 1932, holding the scepter and wearing the belt:

Graziana was certainly a beautiful girl.  We do not know if Abbate ever behaved inappropriately with Graziana.

During the first half of the 1930s, there was, once again, a significant number of articles on Giuseppe Maria Abbate, not only in the Chicago press, but to some extent also in newspapers from other parts of the country.  Almost all were related to a new series of legal processes against him. This time, Abbate was accused of having raped Lucy Vitello, a thirteen-year-old girl in 1929. The articles describe the complicated legal turns, the evidence, and the discussion whether he should be sentenced   to   prison   or   be   confined   to   a   mental institution once more.  The first court hearing took place in 1931 before Judge Harry M. Fisher. The alleged victim, then aged fifteen accused Abbate of having raped her two years earlier. At that time, she lived in the nuns’ convent at DeKalb Street together with her mother.  The two had come to Chicago from New York shortly before  that   time,   leaving   their husband/father behind.

According to Lucy, one day when she was on her way home, Abbate stopped her and forced her into his residence where he locked the door and raped her.  Lucy testified that when this had happened she immediately went to her mother and told her what had taken place, [but] her mother told her it was all right and that the priest was "entitled to the first fruits."  That is that he claimed the right to deflower all teenage girls in the congregation.  In this context, Lucy added that in the community the Padre Celeste “was the ruler and his word was law.” Nobody could criticize him or act against his decisions.  She also asserted that the conditions she had lived under in the convent were prisonlike.  Being questioned   about her  daughter’s testimony, Lucy's mother denied all knowledge of the case until 1931, when they had left Chicago and returned to New York.  There, Lucy told her father, who reported it to the police.  In court, Giuseppe Abbate denied all charges made against him, stating that he was not even in Chicago on the day of the purported crime, but in a summerhouse in Michigan.  Several   witnesses, all church members, corroborated his story, but some were unsure about the exact dates of Abbate’s absence from Chicago.  Eventually, and mainly based on Lucy’s testimony, in October 1931, Abbate was sentenced to life imprisonment for statutory rape.  In his verdict Judge Fisher said: "This man is guilty of a heinous offense. The purpose of punishment is not merely the incarceration of a man. In this particular case my judgment is that he be removed from society so that he cannot again commit such an offense."

In early 1932, Abbate and his legal representative appealed to the Illinois State Supreme Court.  After revising the case, the judge declared that the evidence was too weak and that Abbate had been sentenced on loose grounds, observing that several witnesses had contradicted themselves and that there was no concrete evidence, apart from the girl’s testimony, which he found to be inconsistent.  Referring to legal precedents, he concluded that the evidence presented was “not sufficient to establish the guilt” and granted Abbate a new trial on the local level.

Interestingly enough, in this context, the Illinois State Supreme Court declared that the local judge might have been prejudiced against the defendant because of his unorthodox beliefs or because, as he, too thought: that Abbate was an evident religious hoaxer.  They wrote that the defendant was on trial on a specific charge.  He was not on trial for pretending to be a priest, or for operating a questionable institution under the guise of religion.  They said it was not necessary to consider in detail the merits of these questions.  The Celestial Father thus got a new trial, but once again, he was found guilty of statutory rape.  The judge first stated that Abbate had been sane enough when he committed the crime in 1929 and he was sentenced to ten years in prison.  However, later it was declared that he now was insane and once again brought to Elgin State Hospital, not to prison.  Towards the end of 1933, he was released from the asylum, as a judge declared that “he was but a harmless religious fanatic and had recovered his sanity.”

When he was released, the Celestial Father appeared at DeKalb Street in “a fashion befitting the archangel Michael and announced himself to be that personage.  On succeeding occasions, he appeared as other characters of the Bible.” The same reporter also noted the presence of a bodyguard of followers wearing silk tunics of bright colors, silk stockings wrapped with ribbon, overseas helmets and various medals paraded before him.  Girls  garbed as angels and women as various allegorical figures were part of the procession in the thanksgiving services.

Nevertheless,  Abbate was soon brought back to the mental institution, as medical doctors  found him dangerously insane.  This time, he remained at Elgin State Hospital until May 1935, when a court declared him sane enough to be released.  But just after he was freed, the police arrested him again.  As he was out of Elgin, the state attorney once again wanted to re-open the case, so that Abbate, whom he considered a menace to society, would be sent to prison to serve his sentence.  However, there was no further trial as Lucy Vitello did not want to testify yet another time.  This was the last time Abbate was formally accused of a crime, and it seems that he did not spend any more time incarcerated - either at a mental institution or a prison.

Whether it was because of the way Abbate treated her, or because of the testimony of others, Graziana Ippolito decided that she had had enough of being the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or of even being a follower of Abbate.  It appears that in the mid-1930s, Graziana severed all relations with Abbate and his "church."

Being the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary had been a full time job, so once Graziana gave that up, she had to find more conventional employment.  The 1940 US Census finds the Ippolito family still living at 727 Forquer Street, which was now called "Arthington."  The family consisted of Joseph (age 53), Grace (44), Grace the daughter (24), Barbara (21), Charles (19), Sammy (17) and Rose (14).  Joseph was a "Laborer for the Marvel Iron Company."  Grace (Graziana) was a "Stenographer for a Rubber Company."  She had completed two years of high school.  Quite a comedown from being the BVM to being a stenographer.

But life went on for Graziana as it goes on for us all.  In about 1944, Grace Ippolito married Chester Szczudlo (1918-2007) in Chicago.  The bride was twenty-nine; the groom was twenty-six.  

Chester Stanley Szczudlo was born January 6, 1918 in Cicero, Illinois, the son of Franciszek (Frank) Szczudlo (1886-1950) and Kazimiera Walewski (?-1971).  Chester's father Frank was a Tailor by trade.  Chester was a metal worker by trade.  Like most men of that era, Chester enlisted in the military in 1942 during World War II and served in the United States Army until he was discharged in 1945 for a health-related issue that he apparently had when he enlisted.  Chester Szczudlo died March 27, 2007 in Fremont, California.  He was eighty-nine years old.  

Graziana and Chester had two children:  Joseph Szczudlo (1945-1963) and Susan Szczudlo (????-????).  In 1965 Susan became a novice in the Sisters of St. Joseph, an Order of Catholic nuns.  She must have decided the religious life was not for her, because she ultimately married a man named Douglas Danielson.   

Graziana Ippolito Szczudlo died March 28, 1972.  At the time of her death she was living at 6752 Pershing Road, Berwyn, Illinois.  She was fifty-six years old.  She is buried in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery in Justice, Illinois.  You will note that her tombstone does not mention anything about her prior existence.

When I write the stories for this blog I try very hard to not judge the people I am writing about.  Giuseppe Abbate, the "Celestial Father" was obviously charismatic.  He had a number of followers from the time he opened Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on Dekalb in 1914 until his death in 1963.  I know for a fact that he still has followers today, almost 60 years after his death.  But was it fair of Abbate to bring this child up to think she was the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary?  I don't think so.

We don't know how old Graziana was when she realized that she was not, in fact, the reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  That must have been a crushing blow for her.  She had been able to sit on a throne, wear a crown, and have people give her lavish gifts for all of her young life,  It must have been as devastating for her as it was for most of us when we learned there was no Santa Claus - that the entire story had been made up.  This was compounded by the fact that her mother fully supported the Celestial Father in spinning this fiction.  Luckily for Graziana, there did not seem to be any lasting effects.  She ultimately got a job, married and had children, although she did die at a relatively young age.    

Today as we look back at the story, both the "Celestial Father" and the "Reincarnation of the Blessed Virgin Mary" have died, and they have gone off to their reward or punishment as we all ultimately will.  All we can hope is that God was merciful to them, especially the little girl who was raised to believe that she was His mother. 

Graziana Ippolito Szuzcdlo - may she rest in peace.

Monday, March 1, 2021


My father used to have a saying, "Don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see."  Like most of our parents' sayings, there is some truth to this.  For this month's story we are going to travel all the way to Compton, California, to the Angeles Abbey Mausoleum Park, to hear the story of the murder of Martha Edgington while she was visiting her daughter's crypt. 

Here is the story from the Long Beach (CA) Independent of August 3, 1976:

A horrible story, to be sure.  But even worse are all the factual errors in the newspaper account - even the name of the victim is incorrect.  Unfortunately once incorrect information gets out on the internet it is there forever, and almost impossible to correct.  But I will attempt to correct the errors and tell the story of the murder of Martha Edgington correctly.  

Before we look at the life and death of Martha Edgington, I want to tell you some information about where the murder took place - Angeles Abbey - a collection of free-standing mausoleums in Compton, California.  I have been fascinated by Angeles Abbey ever since I first heard about it, and will ultimately tell its entire story in a future blog post.   

The concept of a park of free-standing mausoleums was originally thought up by noted Long Beach, California ship builder (and my distant cousin) George L. Craig (not George Clegg as is reported all over the internet).  There is a story that Craig sent architects through India and the Middle East to gain inspiration for the design of his mausoleums.  This story is probably apocryphal, but we do know that he hired Long Beach architect Hugh R. Davies who reported that he got his inspiration for buildings of Moorish splendor during a trip to Spain and North Africa.   

The Long Beach (CA) Telegram from July 14, 1923 announced the completion of the first unit in what was named "The Mausoleum Park."  Its corporate entity, Mausoleum Park, Inc. had purchased ten acres at Compton Corner, one block east of Long Beach Boulevard, and had as its motto "For Those Who Care."  

The 1920s were booming all over the United States and Compton California was no exception.  Units in the completed mausoleums were sold almost as quickly as they could be built.  Craig proudly proclaimed that "as far as he knew" his were the only mausoleums in the country not connected to or affiliated with a cemetery.  The original plan was for eighteen mausoleum buildings, but only eight mausoleums would ultimately be built, the most famous being the "Abbey of the Angelus" which Craig had built to house Jean Francis Millet's famous painting of "The Angelus" reproduced in Art Glass.

The Abbey of the Angelus

The Memorial Chapel with pipe organ upstairs

Jean Francis Millet's THE ANGELUS in Art Glass

Now that I've told you a little bit about Angeles Abbey, let's see what we can dig up about the woman who was tragically murdered there.

Martha Ernestena Mittelstedt was born November 15, 1897 in Anaheim, California to Ferdinand Edmond "Fred" Mittelstedt (1866-1951) and his wife Louise Ernestine Hennig (1874-1961).  Fred Mittelstedt had originally been born in Russia/Poland but came to the US in 1890.  On census forms he listed his occupation as "miller," but he was employed as a street sweeper for the City of Long Beach, California.  

Fred and Louise Mittelstedt had six children:  Esther (1894-1932) [Mrs. Albert J. Brant], Martha (1897-1976), Freda (1900-1981) [Mrs. Hjalmer J. Johnson], Arthur John (1903-1999), William Fred (1906-1965) and Helen Louise (1916-2003) [Mrs. Marvin E. Ward].  

It does not appear that the Mittelstedts participated in the 1900 US Census, so Martha Mittelstedt didn't make her appearance until the 1910 US Census.  The Mittelstedt family was living at 429 Lime Street in Long Beach, California.  Modern apartments occupy that spot today.  The family consisted of  Frederick E. Mittelstedt (43 years old), his wife Louise (37), and children:  Esther (15), Martha (12), Frieda (9), Arthur (7), and William (4).  Living with them was Fred's brother John (31) who was working in a lumber yard.

On May 14, 1918 Martha E. Mittelstedt married Timothy Allan Larry (called "Allan") (1898-1987) in Los Angeles, California.  The bride was twenty years old; the groom was nineteen.  Allan was employed as a boiler maker for one of the Long Beach ship builders.  

Martha and Allan welcomed their first child, a daughter on May 8, 1919 in Long Beach.  They named her Barbara Alice Larry (1919-1988).  here is the announcement from the Long Beach (CA) Press of  May 08, 1919:

By the 1920 US Census Martha and Barbara were living with Martha's parents in Long Beach - at 427 Linden.  A parking lot occupies that parcel today.  The family consisted of Fred (54) who reported his occupation as "Teamster for the City."  With his was his wife Louise (48) and children Arthur (16), William (14) and Helen (3).  As mentioned Martha (22) and her daughter Barbara A. Larry were living with Martha's parents.  

History does not record why Allan was not living with his wife and daughter at the time of the 1920 census but any problems must have been resolved because their second daughter Margaret Louise Larry (1925-1962) was born in Alameda on April 8, 1925. 

However, all was not well with the Larry Family.  The 1928 City Directory for the City of Long Beach shows that Martha has started using her maiden name again and has moved back in with her parents. 

The separation must have been temporary however because the 1930 US Census shows Martha back with the Larry family living at 461 1/2 Twenty-seventh in Los Angeles.  Allan Larry was now a Foreman with the Gas Company.  

Martha was working in the home, taking care of their two daughters.

In 1932 the Larry family moved to Alhambra: 206 E. Graves Avenue.  A series of multi-family homes was built on this spot in 1961.

By 1935, Martha and Allan Larry had divorced and Allan had remarried.  The re-constituted Allan Larry Family was living in Eagle Rock, California.  It consisted of  Allan, his new wife May, Larry's daughter Margaret, and May's two children, Nancy and Harry Whitney.

When she registered to vote (Democrat) in 1936 Martha used the name Martha Larry.  She gave her occupation as "Waitress" and her address as 210 E. Graves Avenue in Monterey Park.  A modern apartment building occupies that spot today.   

On September 11, 1938, Martha's daughter Barbara Alice Larry married Ralph Henry Pejsa (1915-1967) in Santa Ana, California.    

By the 1940 US Census the re-constituted Allan Larry family was living in Pasadena.  Martha, now on her own, reverted to using her maiden name, Martha Mittelstedt and did not appear to have participated in the 1940 census.

By 1942 Martha had remarried - to Jesse Leigh Edgington (1875-1955).  He and Martha registered to vote together - she as a Democrat, he as a Republican.  They lived at 2613 Del Mar Avenue, in Rosemead, California.  I'm sure the difference in politics made for some spirited pillow talk.

I was unable to find out how long Martha and Jesse were married, but when he died in 1955 Martha was not still his wife - the wife he had then was named Ruth.

Martha's youngest daughter Margaret Louise died on January 30, 1970 in Los Angeles.  I found records of her having been married at least three times.  One of her husbands had been a man with the last name of  Brown.  Even though the marriage did not last, Margaret liked his last name, so she kept it - going by the name of Margaret Louise Brown.  She was not married when she died, so her parents and sister Barbara made the decision to inter her at Angeles Abbey.  She was interred in the Abbey of the Angelus on the mezzanine level:

                                             Photo courtesy of Find a Grave volunteer mns


Although her crypt plate refers to her as "Beloved Mother," I was not able to find any record of her having had any children.  Perhaps they were step-children.  Strangely it does not refer to her as "Sister."

So that brings us up to 1976 when her Mother was so tragically murdered visiting her crypt.  As I stated at the beginning of this article, much of what was reported in the newspaper was incorrect, so let's take a look at the article and see what mistakes were made:

"The body of a 76-year-old Rosemead woman who had apparently been beaten to death several days earlier was found Monday is a secluded area of a Compton mausoleum."

Just the next day newspapers reported that she had been dead only two hours when found, not "several days." 

"Compton Sgt. Robert Stover said the body of Martha Eddington of 7852 Graves ave. was found..."

Her name was Martha EDGINGTON not "Eddington."

"Philip A. Sonntag, president and owner of Angeles Abbey, said none of the employees saw Mrs. Eddington (sic) enter the stately mausoleum, which houses the crypts of her late husband, daughter and son-in-law."

Martha had two husbands, T. Allan Larry and Jesse Edgington.  Neither is interred at Angeles Abbey.  T. Allan Larry died in 1987 and is buried at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana.  Jesse Edgington died in 1955 and is buried in the San Gabriel Cemetery in San Gabriel.

"He (Sonntag) said Mrs. Eddington's (sic) body had been found in such an area, adjacent to the room holding the crypts of her daughter and son in law.  

I was always confused by the reference to her "daughter and son-in-law."  I knew from other articles that her daughter was "Margaret Brown" and her son-in-law was "Ralph Pejsa."  How could Margaret Brown be Mrs. Ralph Pejsa?  And if she was, why didn't her crypt say "Margaret Pejsa" instead of "Margaret Brown?"  It was not until I started the research for this article that I found that Martha had two daughters: Margaret and Barbara and that it was Barbara who was married to Ralph Pejsa, not Margaret.     

The other Eddington (sic) crypt is in a corridor in the same area, he said.

There is no "other" Eddington (sic) crypt.  He may be referring to the crypt Martha Edgington purchased for herself, because there are no other Edgingtons interred at Angeles Abbey.  There is a Calvin Eddington (1911-1931) who is interred at Angeles Abbey but he is not related.

Lastly, I read in an article that subsequent to the murder, the bodies of Martha Eddington (sic), her daughter and son-in-law were all removed from Angeles Abbey and reinterred elsewhere.  Not surprisingly, this is not entirely correct.  In 1977, Barbara Larry Pejsa purchased three crypts at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills and April 20, 1977 she had her mother's and her husband's bodies removed from Angeles Abbey and re-interred at Forest Lawn.  Her sister Margaret Brown remains at Angeles Abbey to this day.  Barbara joined her late mother and late husband at Forest Lawn when she died in 1988.

                                                 Photos courtesy of Find a Grave volunteer Linda Carole Mustion

On September 05, 1976, jiust one month after Martha Edgington's murder, the Long Beach (CA) Independent Press-Telegram newspaper offered a $2,000.00 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer of Martha Edgington (and they spelled her name correctly):

To the best of my knowledge, the murder of Martha Edgington has never been solved, and her murderer has never been caught.  To this day, all of the mausoleums at Angeles Abbey are locked at all times, and visitors must be let in by a member of the staff. 

Martha Edgington, Margaret Larry Brown, Ralph Pejsa and Barbara Larry Pejsa - may they rest in peace.


As an aside:  For years I have been trying to find a copy of this brochure about Angeles Abbey:

There was a copy on ebay years ago before I knew anything about Angeles Abbey but nothing recently as far as I know.  IF YOU HAVE A COPY you would be willing to part with, I will pay you top dollar.  You can contact me at


Monday, February 1, 2021

WOMAN ENDS LIFE AS SON, 8, SLEEPS - Florence Hill Cuneo Von Puttkamer

This blog has been around since September of 2011.  To date I have published 271 stories about people I considered to be interesting.  One of the first stories I ever wrote for this blog was published September 27, 2011:

It told the story of Florence Hill who committed suicide while her young son slept in the next room.  This is the only story I have published to date that received a negative comment.  In July of 2012 I received the following comment from someone who purported to be a member of the family:

Going through graveyards and finding the tragic stories and pulling the corresponding newspaper articles-I have them all...can hardly describe the story or tragedy of all of this. I am in the process of writing a book about the real story, and one no family would want to have been part of.

It is now almost ten years later, and to the best of my knowledge the book has not been published.  Therefore I have decided to take another look at the story that I titled "Woman Ends Life as Son, 8, Sleeps" 

Florence B. Hill was born in 1886 in Chicago, Illinois - the only child of George Melvin Hill (1862-1917) and Georgiana Beattie Hill (1862-1932).  George M. Hill was president of the Hill Binding Company, and for years prominent in the book business.

Fourteen year old Florence shows up in the 1900 US Census, living with her parents at 107 Florence Avenue in Chicago (now 2738 N. Dayton Street).  Modern townhouses occupy that spot today.  Her parents were thirty-seven year old George, and thirty-five year old Georgie.  They has been married for sixteen years and had one child.  George was a "Book Publisher," no occupation was listed for Georgiana, and Florence was "At School."

You have all heard the old saying that a "lady" only has her name in the newspapers three times in her life:  when she is born, when she marries, and when she passes away.  This could not be said about Florence Hill when her name was splashed all over the newspapers in January of 1905.  What was her "crime?"  She ran away and got married - to Mr. John Cuneo (1884-1977), son of "fruit dealer" Frank Cuneo (1861-1942) and his wife Amelia (1864-1891).

Here's what the Chicago Tribune had to say about it on January 13, 1905:


John F. Cuneo Returns with Bride and Her Father.

 Young Son of Fruit Dealer Comes Back Under Partial Duress and Declares He is 22 Years Old - Couple will Live at Hotel for a Time - Parent of the Runaway Asserts That Youth Must Shift for Himself Hereafter - May Go To See Him.


Elopement-(D. Ontloopen, to run away; to leap); a running away; an escape; private or unlicensed departure from a place or station; specifically applied to the running away of a man or woman. married or unmarried, with a lover, in defiance of duty or social restraints.

"Love and ELOPE, as modern ladies do." - Cawthorn. - Century Dictionary.


"This was not an elopement." declared John F. Cuneo, as he alighted from a train from Pittsburg in the Union depot late yesterday afternoon.  "The newspapers have been exploiting our - our little affair as an elopement, and I tell you it's nothing of the kind.

"We were married Tuesday afternoon by Father O'Meara at the parish residence of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and then we took a train for the east."  Then he added, after a pause: "And now we are back.  It wasn't an elopement."

"But the dictionary-----"

"Hang the dictionary! I tell you we didn't elope."

Bride's Father Is His Escort.

"Just married," the young son of Frank Cuneo, the fruit dealer, came back to Chicago under partial duress, accompanied by his bride, Florence Hill Cuneo, 19 years old, and her father, George M. Hill, president of the Hill Publishing company.  They went at once to the Hill residence, 107 Florence avenue.

After he had disposed of the application of the word "elopement" to his case, young Cuneo went on:

"Then the papers have been making me out to be but 20 years old.  I tell you I'm 22, and old enough to marry if I want to."

The bride had nothing to say, but Mr. Hill interposed:

"No, it wasn't an elopement.  The young people just took it into their heads to get married, so they were married.  That's all.  Mr. Cuneo will not have to worry about his future.  I am in business myself, you know.  They will live at the Auditorium Annex until they begin housekeeping."

Says Son Must "Pay the Piper."

"John is 20 years old." said his father last night.  "If he wasn't, how could I have caused him to be detained by the Pittsburg police?  Detective Bock carried a copy of a birth certificate with him when he went east.

"If they want to live at the annex, they are at liberty to do so, if they can pay the piper.  As far as I am concerned, my son will have to work out his own salvation.  I have been trying to give him a good education at Yale and I had high hopes for him.  Perhaps this will be a good thing for him."

"Now that they are married, I don't like to kick. but I blame Father O'Meara, who married them.  Father O'Meara told me himself this afternoon that my son admitted that I was opposed to the marriage, but he said 'I thought it was a shame to prevent them from marrying; they were such a nice-looking couple.'

Does Not Know Bride.

"I don't know whether I'll see John tonight or not, but if I do we will have a heart to heart talk that perhaps will teach him something.  I have no objection to his wife, because I do not know her."

The couple had not appeared at the Auditorium Annex late last night.

The tale was not over yet.  This is from the Chicago Tribune the next day, January 14, 1905:


Father of Young Groom Threatens to Have Priest Punished for Performing the Marriage Ceremony.

Although he has forgiven his son, Frank Cuneo, the wealthy wholesale fruit dealer is still vexed with the action of the Rev. J. J. O'Meara of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, who last Tuesday married young Cuneo and Miss Florence Hill.  Mr. Cuneo said yesterday he would take the matter before Archbishop Quigley in an effore to have Father O'Meara reprimanded.

"The boy is married and that's all there is to it." said Mr. Cuneo, "but I'm not through with Father O'Meara.  He has virtually abrogated the canons of the church in being a party to the affair and I an going to see that he is disciplined."

Following are the points upon which Mr. Cuneo bases his contention that the priest should not have performed the ceremony:

1.  The bride was a non-Catholic

2.  Young Cuneo admitted to the priest that his family was opposed to the marriage.

3.  Cuneo family is well known in north side Roman Catholic circles, and if the marriage   had been contemplated and sanctioned in the usual way the fact would have been known    to Father O'Meara.

4.  The hasty nature of the marriage, together with various unusual circumstances connected with it, gave it every aspect of an elopement, which is virtually condemned by the church.

"It is most exasperating," declared Mr. Cuneo.  It is a case of sentiment blinding duty, and I propose to make complaint to Archbishop Quigley."

The young bride and groom are planning a three week honeymoon.  After that, young Cuneo will enter the employ of the Hill Publishing Company.

Things seemed to calm down after the initial uproar.   The 1910 US Census finds the couple living with Florence's parents, George and Georgiana Hill at 4124 Sheridan Road.  Apartments occupy that spot today but in 1910 this portion of Sheridan Road was lined with magnificent mansions.  The household consisted of George Hill and his wife Georgiana, John Cuneo and his wife Florence Hill Cuneo and two servants.  George Hill said he was president of a "Binding Company" but John Cuneo was now "President of a Fruit Company."  Looks like his family was willing to forgive him for the manner in which he married.  Remember, Florence's father said John would "enter the employ of the Hill Publishing Company."

Instead, according to his obituary, in 1907 John Cuneo borrowed $10,000 to start Cuneo Press, which went on to become one of the giants in commercial printing. 

1917 was a tragic year for Florence Hill Cuneo.  First was the fact that her father George Hill died on June 27, 1917.  He was fifty-four-years-old.  Here is his obituary from the Chicago Tribune from June 28, 1917:

and his Death Notice from the same day:

I'm sure that George Hill and his wife had seen advertisements for the new community mausoleum at Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery that had opened in September of 1916.  Perhaps they had even attended a funeral there.  At any rate, Georgiana Hill decided that a private family room at the Rosehill Mausoleum would be an appropriate memorial for her husband and the rest of the family.  Georgiana Hill had her husband interred in the room with his name over the door.  

The other tragedy for Florence Hill was that her divorce from John F. Cuneo was finalized in 1917.  Although everyone had said that their marriage wouldn't last, it actually lasted for twelve years.

John F. Cuneo remarried on June 24, 1930 to Julia Josephine Shepherd (1902-1990). In 1965 his personal fortune was estimated at more than $120 million.  He died in 1977 and is entombed in the largest family mausoleum at Calvary Cemetery in Evanston:

The 1920 US Census finds the Hill Family (without John Cuneo) living at 966 Edgecomb Place (now 966 W. Cuyler) in Chicago.   

966 W. Cuyler, Chicago

Even though he had died in 1917, George Hill was listed on the 1920 Census form.  He is listed as "Head" of Household, his age listed as 55 (he would have been 58) and his occupation as "Manager of a Binding Company."  Georgiana and Florence do not list an occupation.  In addition to the three (!) Hills, there was also a live-in Irish maid.

On November 4, 1925, thirty-nine year old Florence Hill Cuneo married thirty-one year old Curt Von Puttkamer, a wealthy insurance broker.  Their son, Curt Hill Von Puttkamer was born June 19, 1926 in Chicago.    

Unfortunately by 1928 the marriage had fallen apart.  On March 27, 1928 the Associated Press reported:


CHICAGO, March 26 - Mrs. Florence Von Puttkamer, estranged wife od Curt Von Puttkamer, wealthy insurance broker, today charged before Superior Judge Sabath that he husband is holding their 18-month-old son for ransom.

She testified she filed suit for divorce a week ago and that March 18 her husband took the child, Curt Hill Von Puttkamer, from a nurse on the street.  Police and private detectives have sought father and child without success.

Richard Von Puttkamer, father of the missing man, was summoned before Judge Sabath today (and) charged with conspiring to keep the child from its mother.  The mother said that in a conference with him, he told her that if she signed a quit-claim deed to property valued at $200,000 she would be able to see the child in a few minutes.


Florence Hill Cuneo and Curt Von Puttkamer were divorced May 21, 1929.  However, they were back in the news on December 31, 1929:


Curt Von Puttkamer, insurance broker, yesterday filed a petition before Superior Judge Sabath to set aside the divorce decree granted to his former wife, Mrs. Florence Hill Cuneo von Puttkamer, 939 Lake Shore Drive.  The petition charges that the divorce, granted by the judge last May 21, was obtained on perjured testimony.

Mrs. von Puttkamer, former wife of John Cuneo, testified that her husband was continually drunk.  This evidence was supported by Mrs. Georgianna Hill, her mother, and a maid, Cornelia Hughes.  She also declared that Puttkamer had demanded $200,000 for the return of their child, Curt Jr., 2 years old, after kidnaping him.

In his petition Puttkamer declares the charges are false.  He insists that he was never served with a summons in the case or a copy of her pleadings.  He in turn charges his former wife was intoxicated at least twice a week.  the petition characterizes her as being of an aggressive nature and avers that she left her child in the care of servants.  The Puttkamers were married Sept. 15, 1927.

Sometime after her divorce from Curt Von Puttkamer was final, Florence, her mother and son moved to New York.  Perhaps she felt that it would be best for all concerned if she put some distance between her family and her ex-husband. 

Florence's mother, Georgiana Beattie Hill died in New York on September 27, 1932.  She was sixty-seven-years-old.  She was interred in the crypt above her husband in the Hill Family Room of the Rosehill Mausoleum:

Sadly, Florence Hill's story came to an end on September 12, 1935:


Mrs. Florence Hill, 50, Leaps From Her 5th Av. Apartment After Leaving Note to Boy.

She Had Large Fortune.

Ill, She Writes of ‘Agony’ in Messages – 

Divorced Husband to Fight for Custody of Lad.

Mrs. Florence B. Hill, 50 years old, reputed possessor of a fortune of $1,000,00 and daughter of the late George M. Hill, Chicago publisher, committed suicide early yesterday, the police said, by leaping from her ninth-floor apartment at 1212 Fifth Avenue, near 102nd Street, into a rear court-yard. 

1212 Fifth Avenue, New York City

Notes addressed to Curtis, her 8-year-old son, and to friends indicated that Mr. Hill had been despondent over illness.  The body was found at 5:30 A.M. by Fred Kearns, the building fireman.  An ambulance physician, summoned immediately said the woman had been dead several hours.

The boy, who was to return soon to his class at the Peekskill Military Academy was asleep in the three-room apartment when detectives of the East 104th Street station arrived.  Bewildered at the intrusion, he protested against being awakened.  He was told that his mother had become ill and had been taken to a hospital.

The police found the following note addressed to the boy:  “Oh, Curtis!  I am in such agony I can’t go on.  Please strive on always to be a fine young man, and the only way is to follow your Bible and seek your God.  I know this may seem strange to you, but mother is unable to write and tell you how much I am suffering.  So love and blessing, Mother.”

Another note was addressed to “Dear Anne Murch,” a friend living on the floor below in the same building.  It said:

“Will you take care of Curtis until my cousin, William Himmel, arrives?  There is a bag of jewelry in the silver pitcher in the dining room which is for my Aunt Nellie.  I am in such mental torture I can’t go on.  Much love to you.  Florence.”

Mr. Himmel, notified of his cousin’s death, arrived by plane from Chicago last night and immediately took charge of the funeral arrangements.  He said that burial would be in Rosehill Cemetery, in Chicago.

In other notes Mrs. Hill asked the police to communicate with Mrs. Harold Conover at the Hotel; Croydon and with Mrs. George H. Payne at 145 West Fifty-fifth Street, both friends.

Mrs. Murch was not reached and Mrs. Conover, who had known Mrs. Hill for twenty years, took the boy to her apartment.  She said her friend had passed August with relatives in Chicago and had returned last week.  A few days ago she visited a physician concerning her illness, from which she had been suffering for several months.  Mrs. Conover said Mrs. Hill might have been alarmed by the physician’s diagnosis of her condition.

The silver and boxes yielded more than 200 pieces of jewelry and twenty shares of stock.  Mrs. Conover said she believed the jewelry was worth about $25,000 and that Mrs. Hill had even more valuable jewelry in a safe deposit box.  The jewelry included watches, brooches, eighteen bracelets, fifty-five pairs of earrings, lockets, fifty-eight strings of beads, thirty-one rings and many other articles.

A legal fight over custody of the boy was indicated last night.  Mrs. Conover said she understood that Mr. Himmel was his guardian, but Chicago dispatched reported that Mrs. Hill’s second husband, Curt von Puttkamer, whom she divorced, intended to start legal proceedings to gain custody.

Asked about the likelihood of a suit for guardianship, Mr. Himmel said he knew nothing of Mr. von Puttkamer’s plans.  He would not comment on what action, if any, he contemplated to carry out the guardianship.

Mrs. Conover said her friend had inherited most of her fortune from her mother, who died about two years ago, when mother and daughter were living in Forest Hills.  Mrs. Hill came to this city five years ago.

Mrs. Hill sued Mr. Puttkamer for separate maintenance in 1928, charging he had abducted their son and had attempted to get $25,000 for his return.  Later Mrs. Hill won a divorce on the ground her husband was habitually drunk and she received custody of the boy.

Mr. Puttkamer announced through his attorney in Chicago yesterday that court action would be begun if Mr. Himmel insisted on keeping the boy.  Benjamin Ehrlich, the attorney, said that in addition to a $750,000 trust fund Mrs. Hill had real estate holdings that brought her fortune up to $1,000,000.

The Hill fortune was built up by George M. Hill, who conducted a publishing and advertising concern.  Mr. Himmel, who is the son of the aunt mentioned in the note to Mrs. Murch, is an officer of the White Book House, a Chicago publishing concern.

Mrs. Hill’s first marriage was with John Cuneo, millionaire head of the Cuneo Press.  When she divorced him in 1926 it was reported she received a substantial settlement, according to Chicago dispatches.

New York Times –Sep. 12, 1935

Florence Hill is interred above her parents in the Hill Family Room in the Rosehill Mausoleum.


Curt Von Puttkamer gave up trying to gain custody of his son in October of 1935.  He died in 1970 and is buried in the Von Puttkamer family plot in Memorial Park Cemetery, Skokie, Illinois:

Curt Hill Von Puttkamer, Florence Hill's son was adopted and his name changed.  He passed away in 1972.

Florence Hill Cuneo Von Puttkamer, a troubled soul.  May she rest in peace.