This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Fendig family (the antepenultimate post of a series)

The name Fendig is well known in Rensselaer even though it is a remarkably rare name. If you search Findagrave.com for the last name Fendig, you will find only 43 results and 16 of those are in Weston Cemetery. The name was probably changed when the various Fendigs migrated from Germany. In Germany the name may have been Vendig. In German the letter V is pronounced as we pronounce the letter F, so a change in spelling would have kept the pronunciation the same.

The last of the Rensselaer Fendigs was Ralph Watson Fendig (1908-1997). He ran the Fendig Drug Store, which had been founded by his father, Benjamin F Fendig (1868-1934). Ralph married late in life and had no children. He left substantial funds to two Rensselaer groups that carry the Fendig name, the Fendig Childrens Theater and the Lillian Fendig Gallery at the Carnegie Center.

The Fendigs were Jewish as were several other merchant families that were important in the development of Rensselaer. Further, Ralph's grandfather, another Ralph (1836-1907), was not the first Fendig to settle in Rensselaer. The first was Samuel Fendig, who I suspect was Ralph W Fendig's great uncle. He was born somewhere between 1830 and 1835 and died in 1888. He was the only Fendig living in Rensselaer in the 1870 census, where his last name was spelled Findag. In that Census his occupation was listed as "peddler". In the 1880 census, where his last name was spelled Feudig, he was dealer in hides. He died in 1888 and is one of three Fendigs buried in Jewish Cemetery of Greater Lafayette.

I could not find an obituary for Samuel Fendig, but there is one for his wife, Mary Leopold (1827-1914) and her maiden name explains how Fendigs came to be in Rensselaer. Mary was the sister of Abraham Leopold, a prosperous early Rensselaer merchant. He gave Leopold Street its name when he platted  the Leopold Addition, and also named Emily and Milton Streets after family members. Mary's obituary said that the family came to Rensselaer in the early 1860s. Mary also had a sister buried in Weston, Helena Leopold Tuteur (1829-1902).

Samuel and Mary had three children, Benjamin Samuel (1865-1935), Rebecca (1867-1919), and Simon (1872-?). Benjamin was still in Rensselaer in 1900 and 1910 with the occupation of poultry dealer. The item below appeared in a trade publication in 1912. (It is amazing what has been digitized and put on the Internet.)
His address is listed as Chicago in his mother's obituary in 1914 but something disrupted his Chicago plans because his sister's obituary in 1919 placed him in New Orleans. In 1920 census he was in New Orleans working as a commercial salesman for an electric company. He had one daughter and both he and his wife are buried in the Hebrew Rest Cemetery #2 in New Orleans.

Rebecca never married and appears to never have had a job. Newspaper reports of her death say that after her mother's death, she had health problems and developed dementia, which led to her being confined to the Longcliff mental hospital in Cass County, where she died. She and her mother are the only members of the Samuel Fendig family buried in Weston Cemetery.

The younger son, Simon, was a druggist in Wheatfield from 1900 to 1940 according to Census reports. He married and had a son Simon Allen (1897-1949) who served in WWI. He was wounded in a battle and years later had the bullet removed, as the article below reports.

I have not found the death date for Simon the father but I suspect he is buried in the Wheatfield Cemetery. Young Simon married but his wife died in 1928. He married again in 1934 but in the 1940 census he was divorced and living back with his parents. His death record listed a third wife. In the 1930 census he was listed as a fireman on a steam locomotive but had no job listed in the 1940 census. He is buried in the Wheatfield Cemetery.

The Samuel Fendig family is the least interesting and had the smallest impact on Rensselaer of the three Fendig families that settled here. As far as I can tell, there are no living descendants from this family. Future posts will look at the two other Fendig families that settled in Rensselaer.

PS: Yes, antepenultimate is a real word.

1 comment:

Picasa said...

My Husband Richard Abrams is the Son of Sadie Pauline Leopold, daughter of Bernhardt Leopold who was the Grandson of Abraham Leopold, Thus related to Fendig There are other members living today from this family.