When William Engelberg came to America, he was probably looking for a better life.
Born in Russia in 1872, he immigrated to the United States in the late 1880’s, possibly seeking escape from persecution for his Jewish faith.
He initially landed in New York City, and then made his way to Chicago, Illinois. Eventually, he became a professional painting contractor. In 1912, William married an Austrian woman named Mollie Kraus. They had a daughter, Eunice, and then, on February 16, 1916, another daughter, Florence.
The couple must have been excited. A new baby is always an exciting event. They must have spent months planning and preparing for the new arrival. William might have worked as many extra hours as he could so that they would have some extra money, while Mollie carefully prepared their home for the new arrival.
As excited as they had been, they must have been equally as devastated when little Florence died about a month and a half later. Their hearts broke as they laid their infant daughter to rest, and then tried to move on as best as they could.
But Mollie couldn’t move on. Mollie tried, but she couldn’t cope with the loss. In 1916, there were no hotlines to call for depression, and modern psychology was still very much in its infancy. There was no one to go to, no help to find. William probably wanted to help, but didn’t know how.
Finally, on June 16, 1916, Mollie sat down at home and drank a bottle of poison, ending her own life.
Just a few months after the death of his daughter, William had been struck another blow. He must have seemed lost. Sadly, he buried Mollie, and then tried even harder to move on with his life.
A few years later, William managed to find love again. This time it was a 41-year-old German woman named Sarah Mannheimer. They married, and in 1918, Sarah gave birth to a son, David.
While David was healthy and strong, Sarah’s health was slow to recover, and she seemed depressed. Everyone must have assumed that it was because she was feeling sick and couldn’t look after her son and stepdaughter the way that she wanted to. But it was 1918, and post-partum depression was far from a household name.
For the next three weeks, William worked to provide for the family while Sarah’s sisters, Cora and Bird, who lived with the couple, helped take care of the house and children.
On October 3, 1918, Sarah told Eunice that she was going to take David and have a bath. Eunice, only 3-years-old, probably didn’t think too much about it.
Later that day, Cora and Bird came home and found Eunice by herself. They asked the young girl where her mother was, and she told her aunts that her mom was taking a bath with the baby. The two women went to the bathroom and knocked on the door.
They knocked again, calling their sister’s name. Still no answer.
Worried now, Cora and Bird began to throw themselves against the door. Finally, the door gave, and the women rushed inside.
There, in the bathtub, was Sarah and David. Sarah sat upright, the baby on her lap. Both were dead. The women were horrified. Quickly, they called the police.
Authorities determined that Sarah must have locked herself in the bathroom, then drowned her son. She then committed suicide by drinking a bottle of iodine.
A search of the house revealed that Sarah had left a note. In it, she detailed how she planned to take her own life, and to take David with her so that he wouldn’t have to bear the burden of his mother’s suicide.
William must have been heart-broken. Once again, he had to bury a wife and child.
In what was a relatively common practice for the time, William sent Eunice to live with her uncle’s family, Mollie’s brother. She would grow up, then eventually marry and have a family of her own.
William moved to Texas, where he passed away in 1925.