The Uberstines of Ohio
Harris Uberstine and
Etta Meltzer


Early snapshot with sons-in-law:

White-bearded Harris Uberstine stands at far right.  Philip Sless, who was  married to his third oldest daughter, Dorothy Uberstine, stands between Harris and his mother-in-law, Etta Meltzer Uberstine, with his arms around them both.  At far left is Louis Henkin, the son-in-law married to Minnie, their oldest daughter. 

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Harris Uberstine's mother-in-law



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Trina Rogovin Meltzer

Charcoal portrait of mother-in-law of Harris Uberstine, the mother of his wife, Etta, and the grandmother of their 12 children.

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A lady of means

Harris Uberstine's mother-in-law was well-to-do in Russia, "a lady of means,"  said Trina Herman, who is Harris' first grand-  daughter.   She is also the oldest daughter of Minnie, who is Harris' oldest daughter. (Trina Herman was born in Canton, Ohio, before Harris Uberstine moved his family to Cleveland.)    

Her own horse-drawn sleigh

Trina Herman, who was named for her great grandmother, said that Trina Meltzer "had her own horse and carriage -- and in the winter, she had a sleigh." She wouldn't have driven them herself, so she would have had a driver in her employ.  "She employed two drivers," Trina Herman insisted.


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One matchmaker and two stories

It happened that Trina Meltzer's son,  Abraham Meltzer, left Russia for America before he had married.  There are two versions of the story about how he got together with Tillie.

Hannah's story, which I heard first, is that his mother picked out a girl whom she thought would be suitable, and she paid for her  passage to America.   When Abraham met her, he was disappointed to discover that she was very short.   But they lived happily ever after anyway. 

Trina's story is that Abraham had learned from a matchmaker here about a suitable girl back home.  He wrote to his mother to ask if she would check her out.  His mother went to visit the girl, determined that she was suitable, and paid for her passage to America. 

Thus, either way, Tillie arrived to marry Abraham.    Trina's story is not that the girl was short, but rather that her passage had been so rough that she looked a wreck when she stepped off the boat. 

Seasick the whole way

"She had been seasick throughout the voyage," said Trina, who had the impression the ship that brought her had sails "as well as some kind of motor."  When Uncle Meltzer saw Tillie, "he got right back into his horse and buggy," Trina said.  After a few moments, the story goes, he collected himself, then collected the girl, and decided to make the best of it.  The couple married, had many sons, and their union was a happy one. 

Goat's milk -- "aarghh"

"Uncle Meltzer was a cattle dealer, who lived on a farm in Akron, and I remember going to the country from Cleveland to visit them when I was maybe 8 or 10 years old," said Trina, who was born in May of 1917. "The first thing they did when we got there was to go get some goat's milk for us.  They thought nothing was healthier, but we thought it was awful."

Country living 

Trina's younger sister, Hannah, remembers being about four years old when the family would visit Uncle Meltzer on his farm.  "The problem with the goat's milk," said Hannah, who was born in January of 1924, "is that the milk had just come from the goat, and so it was still warm, and that's what made it taste so yucky to us."  As if that weren't enough, the water from the well was not inviting either.  "It tasted like iron." Hannah said.   

Cuckoo clock 

A pleasanter memory is of the ornate Black Forest cuckoo clock Tillie had brought from Europe. "It was dark wood, and it had weights hung from big chains," said Hannah.  "A little door would open on the hour when the cuckoo would come out and chirp."

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A picnic around 1945

Grandpa Harris sits between his two oldest daughters, Emma (left) and Minnie.

Standing behind them, from left to right, are Florence, Mary, Goldie, Libby, Alice, and Rose. Missing is Dorothy.

Hannah, who provided this photograph, called it a "casually dressed picnic picture with all the daughters but Dorothy" (whose absence is a mystery).            


Minnie married first

Minnie Uberstine Henkin, seated to the right of Harris in the photo above, was the first to marry.  On December 15, 1915, she married Louis Henkin in Canton, Ohio, several years before her parents sold their barrel business and retired to Cleveland. 

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[According to Trina, her grandparents' business, a cooperage -- which is what making barrels is called -- was sold to distant relatives, and they phased out of making barrels and into the manufacture of metal drums.

Another family member in the barrel business was Harris' youngest brother in America, Isar (for Israel), who had settled in Trenton, NJ, and had changed his name to Rubenstein.   He died in 1941 -- just four years before the picnic photograph above was taken.   As of 1999, only one member of his family was still alive, his daughter, Minnie, who was born in 1911. 

Minnie of Trenton was four years old at the time of the marriage of Harris' daughter, Minnie, to Louis Henkin.  That's where the rest of the story begins.] 

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