Robert Sussmann, immigrant from Germany to Detroit About the Sussman and Jones Families


"He was born on January 26, 1848 to master carpenter Franz Sussmann of Reichenbach in Silesia, the land of sour wine."

So begins the 1899 biography of Robert Sussmann from the book "Toledo and its Germans," published by the German American Biographical Co. Robert immigrated to the United States in October of 1874 at the age of 26, after having worked in Germany as a furrier for several years. He lived in Detroit, MI where he opened his first furrier business and, it seems, changed his name from Sussmann to Sussman. It was here that he met Augusta Fecht, a 2nd generation German-American; the two married in June, 1880 in a civil service in the county courthouse. The couple had three children born in Detroit: Elsie (1881), Arthur (1884) and Paul (1884). After Paul was born, the family moved to Toledo, OH (1884) and fourmore children were born: Edith (1885), Irma (1887), Robert (1889) and Edgar (1895). Robert partnered with fellow German immigrant Emil Hoffmann to found their furrier business, “The Alaska Fur House.” A year after Edgar's birth, mother Augusta passed away (1896). Later that same year, the 48 year old Robert married Emma Witte, a 25 year old farm girl from Green Springs, OH. She took care of Robert's eight children until his death in 1911; anxious over his economic losses, Robert took his own life (arsenic poisoning). Emma continued to care for the Sussman children, although most were grown and able to care for themselves. She married William Fridley – who had the mysterious nickname “the Governor” – remaining with him until her death in 1926. Edith Sussman lived with the Fridley’s until her death in 1960, having never married.


Of particular interest is Augusta Fecht’s father, Eugene, an attorney from Stein am Kocher, Baden (b. 1819). As a young man, Eugene was a local leader in the German Revolution of 1848, participating in the first German uprisings against the autocratic German government. The revolutionaries were quelled by government forces, Eugene was arrested and charged with sedition. With the help of friends, Eugene escaped by ship to the United States in 1849, leaving his wife Maria and his young daughters Ida (b. 1845) & Helen (b. 1847) and infant son Julius (b. 1848) behind. Eugene first lived in Detroit, MI, joining an existing community of German immigrants, including many exiled revolutionaries. He quickly learned that his employment opportunities in law were scarce without any English skill. He took a job in the northern Michigan mining industry, settling in the Lake Superior region until returning to Detroit in 1856 to join his family, who had emigrated in 1851. (He called this time his “pioneer life.”) By then he had learned English and opened his law practice in Detroit, eventually becoming a Justice of the Peace. Eugene and Maria had eight children; in addition to the previously mentioned children born in Baden, six more were born in Detroit: Emil (1853), Emma (1856), Albert (1858), Augusta (1860), Eugenia (1862) and Otelia (1867). Of interest is the home Eugene and Maria owned until their deaths in 1904/6 respectively: it was purchsed from abolitionist William Webb and it was there, in 1859, that William and fellow abolitionists Frederick Douglass and John Brown, planned the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Was our revolutionary ancestor a friend of abolitionist Mr. Webb?

Among Eugene & Maria’s children, of note is Julius, the son born in Baden. After coming of age, he moved to Missouri, then to Ottumwa, IA, where he began his career as a cigar maker. He built a large cigar factory in 1884, which quickly attracted other cigar makers, resulting in Ottumwa becoming a “cigar capital” of the U.S. Julius married Flora Drake; the couple had no children. Brother Emil Fecht eventually moved to Ottumwa, becoming a bookkeeper in Julius’ business.

Augusta’s younger sister Eugenia married Fredrick Ballin, an immigrant from Niedersachsen, Germany; the couple moved to Portland, OR. He was a navel architect and founded Supple & Ballin Shipbuilding Co., which built wooden and steel ships, including many World War I Naval ships. By 1930, the family had moved to Los Angeles, CA where the Ballin Family remained.

Eldest child Ida married Frederick Weilenbeck, an immigrant from Hanover, Germany and a Shakespearean actor. The couple travelled throughout Europe, Frederick performing in many theatres, until the travelling life became tedious; they settled down in Philadelphia, PA. Frederick was also an accomplished painter.


Eldest son Arthur became a furrier like his father. Arthur and his wife Elizabeth had one child, son Art jr., an electrical engineer who worked at Toledo Edison (and built and flew his own airplanes as a hobby.) Son Paul founded the Sussmans Asbestos co. after a short stint exploring the furrier trade. The company was very successful and handed down through three generations, albeit its name was changed to the P.R. Sussman company. The success of the business was shared with the University of Toledo in an endowment: The Paul R. and William A. Sussman scholarship for mechanical engineering students.

My own grandfather, Bob Sussman, worked for Toledo Gas co. most of his adult life, sharing a modest home with his wife Bessie. They had two children, Bob jr .and Marge. Bob and his wife Sue moved to the Detroit area in 1956 (returning the family line to its immigrant roots), where he was employed by the Chrysler corp. as a cost estimator. Bob had served in the U.S. Army during WWII, fighting in the Pacific theatre and rising to the enlisted rank of Staff Sargent. Bob’s sister Marge married Jack Whitehouse of East Tawas, MI; they too moved to the Detroit area where Jack owned his own accounting firm. The couple had two children, one of whom, Johnny, moved to Ontario, where he raised his beautiful family.

The youngest of the Sussmans, Edgar, lived through many family changes in his childhood, with both parents passing by the time he was 16 years old and then living with his step-family, Emma and “the Governor.” As an adult, Edgar worked in international trading, travelling frequently between the U.S and Latin America. He married his first wife, Ofelia Gallina of Havana, Cuba, in 1931. Records show a 2nd wife, Mitzi Paulina Noll, with one son. Edgar’s 3rd wife was Catlina Stoduto, born in Asuncion, Paraguay, the daughter of Italian immigrants. Catalina held a Master’s degree in social work; she worked extensively with troubled youth and was responsible for initiating endeavors in Texas that helped many young people improve their lives. The couple lived in Texas; Edgar passed in 1980, Catalina in 2015.


My grandfather Robert Sussman married Bessie Jones in 1916 in Toledo. Bessie was the daughter of John Jones & Anna Hendricks and grew up on the family farm in Anderson Twp, OH (near Cincinnati). John Jones was the son of John Jones, also of Anderson. As you can imagine, it is near impossible to find out much about a line of people named John Jones, among the most common first/last names in America. We assume the Jones go back to Wales, as Jones was an extremely common name in Wales. Bessie’s paternal grandmother was Caroline Kuhn; I cannot find any information on her lineage. Bessie’s maternal grandfather was Sylvester Kendricks, an immigrant from Ireland in 1841 at the age of 14. Her maternal grandmother was Phoebe Pfiefer; census documents say her parents were from New Jersey. That’s all we know on the elusive Jones family. So far.


The Sussman name can only be traced back to the early 1800’s in Reichenbach, Schlesien (Silesia); Schlesien was annexed to Poland in 1945 and our ancestral town is now called Dzieroniów. Robert Sussman’s father was Franz, a carpenter.

On the Fecht side, we’ve traced some lines back to the 1500’s – all ancestors being German. The only personal info was on a Philipp Noltz, of ~1600 Wurttemburg: a rope-maker by occupation (he was an ancestor of Maria Fecht nee Wurth).

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