Eva Abrahams (1879-1931)

My great-grand Aunt Eva was the fifth child of Morris ABRAHAMS and Sarah JACOBY ABRAHAMS, born in New York, and about as middle of a child as you could get. The second daughter, after her eldest sibling, Dena, yet the first female of what would be five of the last six children. I suspect she may have gotten less attention than she wanted.

At the time I began my genealogical research in earnest, Eva had been lost to the family for marrying outside the faith. The family story, as related by a granddaughter of Eva’s youngest sister, was as follows:

At the turn of the century, Eva Abrams ran off to marry an “Italian” guy. When she did, her father, Morris, was so upset that he sat shiva for her. Her sisters, Daisy and Annie, tried to stay in touch with her for awhile. Finally, Morris seemed to come around and agreed to go visit his daughter. However, he was told that he had to enter Eva’s house through the back door, not the front door. Naturally offended, he refused to enter the house through the back door. From that day, he had nothing further to do with her, and Daisy and Annie lost touch with her as well.

Someone in the family had already determined that the man she ran off with was named GRAEBER, but when I traced that family through, I found living descendants who were able to show that Eva GRAEBER was a different woman.

Hoping for a bit of luck, and given the time frame of the scandal, I decided to look at the 1900 US Census for a woman named Eva of the right age, figuring she might not have moved too far from the family home in Baltimore. I quickly found an Eva and Louis RIEBEL about two miles away. The name seemed awfully familiar… and I looked again at the 1900 Census for Eva’s parents and siblings:


… and there’s the family of Louis RIEBEL, Sr. Yes, Eva had literally married the boy next door. I was even able to find the marriage certificate from Washington, D.C., on 23 December 1899.

Yet, the story of their running off together and abandoning her family may not be completely true. A story in the Baltimore Sun (14 August 1900) says that there had been opposition prior to the union from both sides due to the difference in faith, which “grieved young Mrs. Riebel greatly.” As a result, Louis had renounced Christianity and begun conversion to Judaism. After this, “there was joy in his home and among his wife’s relatives and friends.” This conversion. presumably, did not go quite as planned, as the ABRAHAMS family was eventually estranged.

Things were no better with the RIEBELs. According to one RIEBEL descendant, sister Louisa was really the only contact between “Louie”, as he was known, and the rest of the RIEBELs.

Louie and Eva had two daughters, Pearl (27 Sep 1900), and Eleanor (1903). Some time after 1910, the family started what became a very successful bakery in Baltimore. Apparently, the money to begin this venture came from Eva, leading further doubt regarding how estranged to ABRAHAMS truly were at that time. Eva’s mother, Sarah, had died by this point, and her other siblings were living elsewhere, whereas father Morris was back in Baltimore. Perhaps they had reconciled. One can only hope.

Pearl was a very talented young pianist, considered a prodigy by the RIEBEL family who knew her. Sadly, someone (unnamed) pushed that talent too much, and she had a nervous breakdown around age 21. My RIEBEL contact says she was institutionalized for the rest of her life, although Pearl is listed as living with the family on the 1930 and 1940 US Censuses.

Eva died fairly young, in 1931, of unknown causes. (I have the Maryland death certificate index, so in theory I could find out.) Afterwards, Eleanor effectively ran the bakery with her father. Her Aunt Louisa was a devout Christian Scientist, and under her influence, both daughters converted. This seems to have caused additional conflict with the remaining RIEBELs as a result; as Louie’s family was successful and attended the “rich” C.S. church. Brother George’s family worked in a canning factory, and – the impression at least – was that Louie and his daughters were embarrassed by his less well-to-do siblings. In any case, communication with both sides of the family were essentially non-existent by the late 1940s.

Eleanor never married. She died in 1957, and the bakery closed at that time. Louie lived until 1965, but poor Pearl outlived them all, passing in 1995.


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