Saalman Family Website by todd saalman
1921 Chicago Mail Order Company print ad

1921 Chicago Mail Order Company print ad

The Move to Chicago

Why Joseph Christian Saalman, my father's grandfather, came to leave Branchville and finally reside in the Chicago area is not known to me or my father. Economic reasons seem likely, although Mansfield Frakes said that great-grandfather Saalman "wasn't well-regarded" back home. So could there have been some unhealed rift between Joseph and the rest of the family? From knowing those of my father's and grandfather's generations, this possibility does not at all seem unlikely to me. I have heard that some of them would not speak to others for years over some trivial matter or perceived slight. Regardless, my Grandpa Ben Saalman's generation is gone now, the opportunity to know the how and why of his father's family schism, if there was one, has faded away. Dad now regrets that he never spoke about this with his dad, Benjamin.

What is known, is that Joseph Christian's son Benjamin Franklin Saalman married my grandmother, Rubie Orilla Geeding on December 15, 1912. They first lived in the town where she was born, a town called Fairfield, not 30 miles south of Dad's future home of Flora, and 95 miles due west from his Benjamin's birthplace of Birdseye, Indiana.

Benjamin worked for the Chicago and Eastern Railroad in these years. The train job may then have moved Ben and Rubie from Fairfield to Fithian, 161 miles north and just east of Champaign, where their first son Hollis was born August 21, 1914. It may be that Ben and Rubie moved there because her family moved there or the other way around; in either case, her parents are known to also have lived in Fithian, per the memoir of Rubie's mother, Corinina Knowlton Geeding.

From 1916 to 1921, Ben and Rubie's family lived in Danville, Illinois, a major hub for the C & E Railroad and located just 19 miles east of Fithian. The next three children, Helen, Wilma and my Dad, Howard, were born in Danville. The family's final move was 150 miles north by northeast to Harvey, Illinois, where the last two children, Bernard and Lois, were born, from 1923 - 1925, and the family put down permanent roots.

Dad says they moved to Harvey when he was two months old, making it June, 1921. Did Benjamin's parents follow Benjamin's family there or move with them? When I posed this question to dad, he was seriously doubtful, implying that it would not have been tolerable, in the typically taciturn Saalman way. Dad remembers his maternal grandmother Saalman, Nancy Virginia Pollard Saalman, sitting on the front porch of her house in Harvey smoking a pipe and speaking German. Her husband, his Grandpa Joseph Christian was born in 1860 and died in 1933 at age 73, when dad was 12 years old.

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