John Schiemann was also a founding member from January 1871 until his death in September 1878. He served as secretary from January 1873 to December 1873. Schiemann signs earlier documents with Johann and later uses John.
Charles Wassmuth joined the Association in April 1875 and was a member until his death in 1886. He was secretary from January 1877 to December 1877. He was elected secretary for 1878, but only served in January. He also uses a refined script indicating he possessed a good education.
Charles Brettel joined August 1882 and died April 1913. He was secretary from January 1892 to December 1892.
Oscar E. Teichmann joined the association in December 1889. He was a barber by profession. Teichmann served forty-six years as secretary (January 1893 to January 1939). He was devoted to the association, and his life reflected its growth and decline. Teichmann drafted the minutes of the meetings on tablet paper in pencil then recorded them in ink in the minute books, financial ledgers, and membership registers. He compiled the membership registers and annual and cumulative reports from the minutes.
As early as 1926 the association began to experience difficulties in meeting its financial obligations and considered selling the hall. With the increasing age of the membership and lack of new members, the organization's financial difficulties increased. Teichmann's age and failing health, like most of the members, is reflected in his work. The minutes and other correspondence becomes less meticulous, the entries are shorter and the handwriting less firm. As secretary Teichmann would shoulder the brunt of the appeals for benefits. The associations inability to pay the promised sick benefits to old friends or death benefits to widows, many in dire need, must have been a painful experience for Teichmann. The last evidence of Teichmann is a check stub signed in late January 1939, in box 7. A letter dated April 28, 1939 to Erik P. Overbey indicates Teichmann had died.
Charles G. Bitzer served as secretary from January 1939 to June 1941.
On March 9, 1870, the Mobile Turner Verein founded the Mobile Turner Kranken Unterstützungs Verein (Mobile Gymnastics Medical Aid Society). The members of this organization founded the Deutscher Kranken Unterstüzungs Verein (German Medical Aid Society, known as the German Relief Association) in January 1871. Both groups held meetings in the same building and occasionally held joint meetings to plan co-sponsored social events. Newspaper articles from October 1873 describe a benefit dance for the poor of the city sponsored by both groups. After the dance they donated two hundred dollars to the city. Mobile's mayor, in a November 22, 1873, article, thanked both groups for their gift. During the 1870s the German Relief Association and the Turner Verein merged.
The association's income was derived from dues, bond investments, saving accounts, the rental of the ground floor of their hall to businesses, and the rental of the second floor and its furniture and housewares for social activities. Among the businesses renting the ground floor were Morrison's Cafeteria, Monk's Furniture, and Phillip's Furniture. The original hall was destroyed and a new hall was built around 1891 on the corner of Emmanuel and Conception streets. The German Relief Hall was a Mobile landmark with a unique onion-domed tower which culminated with a spire.
The association evolved over the next ten years changing its constitution several times. The primary purpose of the organization was to provide financial security for its members. During times of sickness the member would receive a weekly stipend. When a member or his spouse died the survivor received a single-payment death benefit. Initially, members were Germans or sons of Germans who spoke German and lived at the time of application in Mobile. In July 1916 this was amended to include non-Germans and non-German speakers. There were exceptions made, such as the association's attending physicians, some of whom were not of German decent.
Members paid monthly dues of fifty cents, which were later raised to one dollar and fifty cents. Members who were one month late paying their dues were suspended; if they owed three dollars they were dropped from the rolls. The minutes show that suspensions and reinstatements were a regular occurrence. The association's attending physician verified the health of the applicant before entry and certified if a member qualified for sick benefits and for how long. A member applying for sick benefits from outside of Mobile was required to have a notarized doctor's statement to qualify. Death benefits were seventy-five dollars for spouses and members with less than fifteen years of membership. Members over fifteen years recieved a benefit of one-hundred and fifty dollars increasing fifty dollars every five years thereafter. The secretary, treasurer, and hall manager were paid positions in the association.
The organization had an active social schedule with picnics, dances, fancy dress balls, dinners, and benefits where the proceeds were donated to charitable causes. The annual Orphan's Excursion sponsored by the L&N Railroad was supported by the association with refreshments, such as five gallons of ice cream in March 1898. The Maifest picnic and fancy dress balls were annual events. Box 11, page 107 has a letter describing a Maifest picnic in Monroe Park held May 5, 1895, where the "...innovation by dispensing with the privilege of selling beer" was a huge success.
Many of the members were prominent in Mobile society. Julius Goldstein was a successful jeweler and diamond merchant. Goldstein's obituary in April 1929 describes him as one of Mobile's leading citizens with numerous civic and social affiliations, including the Masons. Mr. Goldstein was Jewish. Henry Forchheimer was a Yale graduate, successful businessman, and World War I Mobile Food Administrator. A Reverend Father Adam Heibel was a Catholic priest.
Another notable Jewish member and former President of the association was Abraham G. Levy born in Kirchnik, Germany, in 1841, Levy emigrated to Enterprise, Mississippi, as a boy. During the Civil War Levy served in the 14th Mississippi Cavalry and was captured at the battle of Fort Donalson in 1862 and was a prisoner until the end of the war. Moving to Mobile in the 1870s, Levy ran a successful clothing store. Eventually Levy would amass several successful investments and serve as a director for two banks. Mr. Levy was a Mason, Elk, Oddfellow, secretary of the Mobile Council of Masons, and commander of the Raphael Semmes Camp No. 11 U.C.V.
The German Relief Association was unique in many respects. The members represented all walks of life; judges, lawyers, cotton brokers, merchants, barbers, cigar makers, dyers, and skilled laborers, to name a few professions. Members were rich and poor, one a Yale graduate and others barely literate; they were Jewish, Protestant and Catholic. Members addressed each other as brother. Over the years members would move to other states, one returned to Germany, but they kept their affiliation with the association. Sick benefits were paid to members in California, Texas, Arkansas, and Illinois. Members who had left Mobile twenty years or more before their deaths would have their remains returned to Mobile to be interred beside their brothers in plots belonging to the association in Magnolia Cemetery.
A major turning point for the organization, presaging its demise, was the First World War. On April 25, 1918, the association received a letter with an implied threat that read: "there is no such thing as a German-American." Among other threats were cancellation of their insurance policies and mob action to remove the name German from the building. On April 30, 1918, members held a hurried meeting and voted to change the name of the association to the Mobile Relief Association.
During the course of the 1920s and 1930s the association's membership aged. Death and sick benefits to be paid exceeded the income from dues and rentals. Compounding the financial crisis was the increasing maintenance costs of the Relief Hall. Charles G. Bitzer best summarizes the situation on May 22, 1941, in a letter to V.E. Fermier of San Antonio, Texas:
On November 24, 1940, the Hall was sold to Phillips Furniture for the sum of $18,000. The mortgage and death benefits were paid off. Members who had loaned the association money to meet costs were paid back. The remaining members had their memberships calculated to the hour so the funds remaining could be divided according to length of membership. On June 1, 1941, the German Relief Association met for the last time. The two motions on the agenda were as follows:
The membership register in box 22 indicates the association had five hundred and seventy-four members over its life time. A January 7, 1936, article in box 18 states that, "total payments in the 65 years of the association's existence amount to $105,696.93." Total payments at the time of dissolution should have exceeded $125,000. Phillip's Furniture occupied the ground floor of the German Relief Hall until it closed in 1981. The building was destroyed by fire in the 1990s.
Boxes 1-22 contain leather bound books, registers, and ledgers. The binding and spines of these book are generally in poor condition. The paper in these books are of good quality and in fair to good condition. The entries are hand written in ink. Inserted between pages of the minute books are penciled drafts of the various committee and association minutes. Letters from beneficiaries, obituaries and press clippings are also posted on the pages of the minute books. Cumulative reports were compiled and members entry dates researched (to compute the death benefit).
Box 1: English and German. Forms announcing meetings and dues owed.
Box 2: English. Account book 1911. Detailed inventory of Relief Hall furniture, dishes, houseware, and miscellaneous household goods. Record of rental fees for the Hall, furniture, and other assets.
Box 3: English. Teichmann's barbershop customer credit account book 1893-1920.
Box 4: English. Account book, 1933-38.
Box 5: English. Check book, April 3, 1926-October 19, 1931. Check stubs for all bills and sick benefits paid. The title on the book was Warrant Book. A warrant was a authorization to pay sick benefits.
Box 6: English. Check book, October 19, 1931-March 18, 1936.
Box 7: English. Check book, April 9, 1936 - May 29, 1941.
Box 8: German. 1870 constitution and minutes of the Mobile Turner Society March 1870-November 1870. Minutes of the Mobile Turner Society and German Relief Association January 1871-December 1878. Meetings held jointly until mid 1870s when the Turner Society is dropped. Letters of appreciation and obituaries of members are posted.
Box 9: German. Minute book, January 1879-December 1885. Letters and obituaries are posted.
Box 10: German. Minute book, January 1886-December 1891. Letters posted are in English.
Box 11: German. Minute book, January 1892-December 1900. Letters, receipts for death benefits are in English.
Box 12: English. Minute book, March 1923-October 1939. Letters, receipts for death benefits and obituaries are posted.
Box 13: German and English. Minute book, June 1900-March 1924. Letters, receipts for death benefits, and obituaries are posted. On April 30, 1918 the members voted to discontinue the use of German and strike German from the Association's name.
Box 14: English. Account ledger, 1939-1941. Incomplete entries.
Box 15: German and English. Membership record book. Contains membership applications from 1876 to 1922. Applications reveal name, age, occupation and address.
Box 16: English. Odd-sized pages from different account ledgers in 1887 and 1927 maintained by S. J. Brettel, treasurer and hall manager.
Box 17: Membership register 1875-91. Lists name, date of entry and sponsor. Note the use of Ausgestössen in red ink to indicate the member was kicked out with dishonor. The dates under the Ausgeschlössen indicate members who were dropped for non-payment of dues or resigned.
Box 18: Membership dues record book, 1926-40.
Box 19: German. A history of the society, 1870-91, compiled from the minutes and recorded by Charles Brettel.
Box 20: English. Building Certificate Shares, August 1901-April 1919. To pay for building the hall and repairs the association sold shares for ten dollars. When the treasury balance exceeded ten dollars the shares were paid off by lottery.
Box 21: Some German. Membership register, 1870-1915.
Box 22: English. Membership register, 1871-1938. The definitive listing of members entry, resignation or death. Originated in 1904 by O. Teichmann and Fred Graves.
Box 001: English and German.
- Constitution and by-laws with a typed English translation. Later amendments in
These reports detail sick and death
benefits paid, income from the building rental, balls and dues.
Membership lists and correspondence and forms sent dealing with membership and meetings.
Box 004: English.
Correspondence files, 1899-1941. On the back of one letter is a receipt for tomato catsup.
Box 005: English.
Documents related to Teichmann's barber shop and the building of his home.
record of income and expenditures.