Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Czachorowskys | From Prussia to Chicago: Leo F Czachorowsky

The Czachorowskys are a conundrum. They seem to simply 'appear' in Chicago around 1868. Claiming to be from Prussia I have yet to determine their actual origins. Or their point of entry into the United States. Or why they chose Chicago. As I set out to research one family I discovered others. Curiosity getting the best of me, this turned into the study of five Czachorowsky families living in Chicago c. 1870.  It is my hope with this series to make some discoveries to either link these families together, or prove they are not related. This is a real-time research project, I have not worked on this cluster before. I plan to share my discoveries and my frustrations in hopes that more eyes on the evidence will result in some sound conclusions. Join me as I explore these families, maybe we'll make some discoveries together!

his life and times

We've learned much about Leo through the chronicling of these families. His life is interwoven with the other Czachorowskys in our study. He was the catalyst for the whole investigation which has taken us on an interesting journey some 120 years after he walked the streets of Chicago. Still, we know so little and all we have to tell his tale are the written records left behind. The telling of Leo's life story must be told parallel to his wife. For unlike so many women of the day, Mary was a constant in the surviving records; we actually learn more about Leo by looking into Mary!

Leo first appeared in Chicago in 1868, residing on S. Jefferson St. He is a boarder with his employer, Adolph Huebner, grocer. His age is estimated to be 24 years old. Had he recently arrived or was this just the first we see of him? Like the rest of the Czachorowskys in this study, Leo proves somewhat elusive in the records. He has not been found in any immigration records to date. He managed to evade the 1870 census taker but is found in the Chicago City Directories regularly.

14 Jan 1869 Marriage Entry
Leo married Maria (Mary) Yung on January 14, 1869 at St Francis of Assisi Parish on Roosevelt Rd in Chicago. Those unindexed Chicago Catholic Church records really came through! Leo did not, as family lore reported, marry in West Prussia. Their first child, daughter Maria Anna (Anna), was born on June 24th of the same year. (Thank you Catholic Church records!)

The next time we see Leo is in early 1871, he is residing at 425 S Canal St, a two story frame house, with his wife. City directories list him as a clerk and his wife, Mary, as a dressmaker and milliner. A quick check of earlier editions of the directory prove that this was Mary's home before she married Leo, having resided at the address as early as 1864. Mary had immigrated from Germany in 1861 with her widowed mother, three sisters and a brother. By this time Leo was father to two small children; a son, Francis (Frank), had been born to them in January of that year.
the Czachorowsky home
and the path of the fire

October 1871. An unseasonably warm, dry fall had created the ideal conditions for the tragedy. Everyone knows the story. A simple Google search will get you hours of fascinating reading. Leo and Mary LIVED it. The Great Chicago Fire. With two small children and a business on the edge of the inferno. The wind blew towards their home, bringing smoke, dust and ash; I can only imagine the terror. Looking at the maps of the burned area, it appears as though the fire might have literally gone around their home, sparing them; miraculously.
Leo appeared to wear many hats in his working life. Was he restless? Struggling to support his family? He was sometimes a grocer, sometimes a clerk and sometimes a milliner. Some years there was no profession listed for Leo, but Mary continued to be the steady breadwinner; running her seamstress and dressmaker business even while raising a family.

 Life in the nineteenth century was hard in more ways than one. Epidemics and disease plagued the lives of the citizens. Cholera, diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever and small pox all took their toll on families in the last half of the century. For immigrants discovering their way in a new homeland it may have been doubly difficult.  As Leo and Mary rebuilt their life following the Great Fire, their household might have been visited by one or more of these childhood killers. 

In May of 1873 the family welcomed baby Julia to the family, but in August of 1874 sadly, they buried her at St Boniface cemetery.

Baby Helena came along in January of 1875, joining brother Frank and sister Anna. Leo was working as a grocer, the family still resided at the Canal St address.

Another daughter, Maria Scholastica (Marie), was born into the family in January of 1877. Leo was working as a conductor that year. He now had four babies and a wife to support. Sadly, tragedy struck once again and the family buried little Helena in March alongside her sister at St Boniface cemetery. In April Leo ran for constable of the 12th ward on the democratic ticket, but I do not think he won. 

The diseases that plagued Chicago in the late 1870s and early 1880s were ever-present and I would imagine took their toll on the daily lives and mental health of the citizenry. You can get a feel for their day-to-day lives here

Leo appears to have steady work as a grocer between 1878 and 1882. He may have run the grocery out of the Canal St address. Perhaps he found his niche. Two more children were born into the family between 1879 and 1881 bringing the number of children to five.

In 1883 Leo was sued by Steele, Wedeles & Co (wholesale grocers) for $1,500. (approx. $41,406.00 in today's money) Maybe the grocery business didn't work out as he had hoped. The family moved to S. Halstead St. and Leo was now working as an insurance agent. Mary continued her millinery business and had written her will, giving the house and property on Canal street to her five children, excluding Leo.

Leo was working as a driver in 1884, I'm unclear as to exactly what this might have been. He may have been a livery driver, a coachman or similar, perhaps even a cattle driver at the stockyards.

Between the years of 1885 and 1887 Leo had no listed occupation, Mary continued to steadily work as a milliner and seamstress. Did Leo struggle? It was a blessing the family had Mary and her skilled sewing to help through the lean times.

Chicago continued to grow and a new type of building, the skyscraper, was built. It was the world's first! The Home Insurance Building took two years to construct and was ten stories tall. I imagine it was quite the topic of conversation around town. And quite a lot of change in a short period of time. In 1860 the population of Chicago was 100,000, in 1870 it had grown to 300,000 and by 1880 more than 500,000 people called the city home. 

1886 brought a time of unrest within the labor force. The Haymarket Riot and it's aftermath shone a distrustful eye on all of German heritage. Times might have been especially difficult for the Czachorowskys at this period, and could explain, partly, why Leo may have been having trouble finding steady work.

 Leo faces more difficulty in the form of another lawsuit in March of 1888. He is again sued by Steele, Wedeles & Co (wholesale grocers). This time for $1,130.51. (about $33,165.50 in today's money) Was this a balance owed from the previous lawsuit? Or a new lawsuit? At any rate the family returns to Canal St and Leo returns to work as an Insurance Agent.

1890 finds Leo employed by the City as a inspector for the Water Department.

1891 and Leo is back at the insurance game.

The family moves again in 1892. A fine brick home on Hermitage Av. Leo continues to sell insurance. (Maybe this one will stick ...) Mary appears to have retired.

 The World's Columbian Exposition opened in the spring of 1893 and hosted more than 27 million visitors before it was abruptly ended after the assassination of the Mayor of Chicago two days before closing ceremonies. I would hope that Leo and his family spent a day or two immersed in what was becoming known as American Exceptionalism, however 1893 also brought the beginning of several years of deep economic depression. Chicago might not have felt the effects at first, with the Exposition bringing money and work to the city, but the years that followed certainly had their share of struggle and hardship for all Americans. 

1896 appeared full of promise for the Czachorowskys. At least on the surface. Not one, but two marriage celebrations were underway in the family. First, son Frank married Bertha Mueller at Holy Trinity Parish on Wolcott Av on January 29. Then, daughter Anna married Frank Weyl on April 21, also at Holy Trinity Parish on Wolcott Av (Maybe. The marriage license was issued and the names entered into the church log, but the record was never filled in by the priest. Were they married at City Hall instead?)


Incidentally, 1896 is also the last year that Leo is found in the City directories. And more globally, people were still feeling the effects of a continued economic depression that had started as early as 1873. Another struggle for Leo? Or had the insurance business actually been profitable, finally? They remained residing in the house on Hermitage Av.

Anna and husband Frank give Leo and Mary their first grandchild, a girl named Celestine, in April of 1897. Brother Frank and his wife Bertha weren't far behind, they presented the first grandson, a boy named Roy Leo, born in January of 1898. By all appearances life is good. The children are growing with families of their own. Becoming adults, with hopes and plans for their futures. Life goes on.....

.....Monday evening, March 28, 1898. One shot fired. "The said Leo F Czachorowsky now lying dead at 488 S Hermitage Av in said City of Chicago, County of Cook, State of Illinois, came to his death on the 28th day of March AD 1898 from shooting himself in the right temple with a revolver with suicidal intentions while temporarily insane at 488 S Hermitage Av on March 28th AD 1898"

There was a coroner's inquest on the 29th. Mary was the witness. Following the conclusion of the inquest the property found at the scene: 1 Revolver, 4 cartridges, 1 shell, were returned to son Frank.

It appears there was no funeral. And no explanation as to why Leo left this life so abruptly. A burial permit was issued and Leo Czachorowsky was laid to rest in St Boniface Cemetery with his infant daughters.

Mary moved to Myrtle St with her three teenaged children soon after the incident. She remained there until her death in 1901.


Leo F Czachorowsky b. 14 Nov 1843 Prussia
                                  d. 28 Mar 1898 Chicago
                                  m. 14 Jan 1869 Maria Yung Chicago

children include:

  • Maria Anna "Anna" b. 24 Jun 1869 Chicago d. 19 Jun 1952 Washington DC                                                                                 m. 21 Apr 1890 to Frank Weyl
  • Francis Leo "Frank" b. 29 Jan 1871 Chicago d. 9 Jan 1911 Chicago                                                                                m. 29 Jan 1896 to Bertha Odile Mueller
  • Julia Emilia b. 29 May 1873 Chicago d. 10 Aug 1874 Chicago
  • Helena b. 16 Jan 1875 Chicago d. 17 Mar 1877 Chicago
  • Maria Scholastica "Marie" b. 12 Jan 1877 Chicago d. 30 Jan 1955 Chicago                                                                       m. 26 Nov 1901 to George A Boerste
  • Leo Bernhard "Leo" b. 11 Nov 1879 Chicago d. 4 Sep 1955 Oak Park IL                                                                                   m. 12 Feb 1905 to Adele Konz
  • Eva Clara "Clara" b. 9 Nov 1881 Chicago d. 17 Feb 1971 Los Angeles CA                                                                             m. 10 Jun 1916 Clyde B Longsworth

**Note on the children's names. The hand drawn family tree and the transcript of Mary's will that I was able to find do not match entirely with the original baptismal records. I have chosen to present the baptismal given names in this document as they are taken from an original. Too many unknowns remain unanswered with the will transcript. Could Mary write? If not, who wrote out the will? Did she speak with a heavy accent? Could she speak English, or did she vacillate between German and English? Names sound different spoken in different languages.** 

Oh, for a time machine ......

until next time .............

catch up with all the posts here: 

*images courtesy of University of Chicago Library's Map Collection, Encyclopedia of Chicago, FamilySearch,

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