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Bartholomew Raiza

Teresa Reid

Other than being a German family, little in the way of hard data is known about Bartholomew and Teresa. There were three children, all born in Prussia: Mary and her two older brothers, William Raiza and Mikel Raiza. William was born about 1840. He also came to America, and died in 1918 in Granbury, Hood County TX. He had four children, John, Harry, Teressa and Lou Mira.

Mary Raiza was born 25 December 1846 and came to America with her parents in 1852. They settled in Pennsylvania in a completely German community. Until she was a married woman with children, she had no need to learn English.

Great, great granddaughter, Elizabeth Wooster Singer recalls this bit of family history about Bartholomew Raiza which Mary Raiza told the family and which was later passed on to Elizabeth as a young woman:

One day, my mother said to me, "I hate for you to know this, but since it's true I think you should."

Mary 's father, Bartholomew Raiza, was an officer in the German or Prussian army. We don't know his rank, but he must have been an important officer. Sometime around 1850 there was a call-up of troops for some unknown alert. We don't know what the engagement was, but action was imminent and a troop of his soldiers were on the way with orders calling him to active duty. Upon hearing the news, he "pounded himself in the stomach and made himself sick," so when they came they could see he was vomiting and couldn't go with them. But he knew they would be back; the only alternative was to get away.

This is the explanation of why the family left Germany so hurriedly. Notwithstanding their apparent wealth they were able to take with them only what they could carry.

I have never found them on a passenger list. They do not appear in the New Buffalo, Michigan census records for 1860 or 1870, and the German-specialist genealogist at the LDS Genealogical Library in Salt Lake City was unable to find a trace of them, except for the birth record of Mary Raiza in Potorborn, Germany which listed Barthplomew as her father and Teresa Reid as her mother. They surely wanted to bury their past!

It is as if he was ahead of his time. Many people now do not believe in war as a way to settle anything, but the tragedy for him was becoming an army officer before reaching that decision. The conflict and moral dilema he faced must have haunted him all his life.


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Mary Raiza (1846-1930)

John Henry Phillips (1841-1919)

Recollections and anecdotes are recalled here by their great granddaughter, Elizabeth Wooster Singer.

Mary often told her children the details she remembered from the life in Germany before she left at five years of age. She said she knew they lived in a castle because she remembered her nurse bringing her down into the great dining hall when she was ready for bed at night. Her father would be entertaining his officers there. They would all make a big fuss over her, passing her from one pair of arms to the next and singing songs for her.

Her early childhood was a comfortable life. People came to measure her feet to make her shoes, and she was measured for dresses and liked to look at all the materials.

When the family left for America all she was allowed to take with her was her big doll, almost as big as she was. She hardly let go of it on the voyage. But getting off the ship, her mother made her give the doll to a woman who had "helped them on the voyage". No further explanation was ever given to her; she surmised that her mother had needed help and was too proud to accept this woman's assistance without paying for it in some way.

And it's interesting that no German recipes have come down through the family. That suggests maybe they had been wealthy, and her mother had never had to cook for the family. She never said much about her early life, such as how old she was when her parents died, or if they were alive when she married her Civil War soldier. She never said what they thought about it. However, she did live with them for awhile since he went off to war immediately after their wedding.

My only memory of my great-grandmother was of her staying overnight with my grandma at our house in Dowagiac, Michigan once. She was 75 when I was born, so she was about 80 at the time. I came downstairs on that freezing morning to dress standing on the hot air register in the living room, the winter custom for my brother and me, and there she stood! My grandmother followed me in from the kitchen and explained, as you would to a 5 year old, that this was my great-grandma and I could stand there beside her and dress.

Shyly I put my clothes on. How fast it went with someone watching me. Then she told me to get my bank and she'd give me some pennies. She asked me to count as they went in, and I did. Next she tried to teach me to count 1-2-3 in German, but I just couldn't manage those strange words and couldn't get past "drei." She gave me the pennies anyway.

The following year--when I was six and in first grade--I came home from school one day to an empty house. And our house was so big you really could feel it when there was no one there. Then my father came and took me on his knee and told me my great-grandma in Pokagon was dead.

I can remember a lot about the funeral. When we went to her house in Pokagon all the flower beds had been neatly weeded and the grass just cut. I sat on the front porch and a girl from Aunt Nina's school appeared with a paper doll book and scissors for us to cut out. When it was time to go I learned that the ladies from the Catholic Church in Dowagiac had been there saying the Rosary for Great-grandma and that was why we had come.

They had a formal Catholic funeral mass for her with burial at Riverside Cemetery. She was placed in the massive Phillips tomb in Riverside Cemetery in Dowagiac in which her husband John Henry Phillips had been interred in 1919.

You may know that in the early years in Pokagon she was angry and hurt because the priest wouldn't drive out from Dowagiac to baptize her babies. So she started sending them to the local Protestant church. But she did keep her own faith. Actually, her oldest child, my grandmother Elizabeth was the only one to be confirmed in the church.

To all her 13 children, Mary Raiza's past was mysterious. Her parents brought her from Germany when she was five, in 1852. But why is there no trace of them in Germany? There is no record of Bartholomew Raiza and Teresa Reid; no mention on any passenger lists, though we know the year they sailed, and no names on Immigration cards at Ellis Island. We'll probably never know.

This remarkable woman had 13 children. Every one of them lived to grow up and to be successful and valuable members of their community. She once said to my mother, "I have a heart for every one of my children and for every one of my grandchildren."

She also said, "Every baby brings its love with it."

For further information on this family, see the PHILLIPS page of this history.





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Updated 4-26-03