|EMILIE CRAMER||Born: 1847-01-31||Died: 1926-11-17|
|Father: Unspecified||Mother: Unspecified|
|Children: VALENTINA LIGDA, MARY LIGDA, ELIZABETH LIGDA, SIMEON LIGDA, ALEXANDER LIGDA, PIERRE LIGDA , PAUL VICTOROVITCH LIGDA, OLGA VICTOROVNA LIGDA, VLADIMIR LIGDA|
Emilie was one of five children born to Gottlieb and Elizabet Cramer. She had two brothers: Karl and Julius; and two sisters: Wilhelmina and Henrietta. There is no record or account of her childhood. Her son, Alec, says she married Victor when she was 15 (1862?), but the 1900 census lists the marriage as one of 33 years which would put it in 1867 – the same year as the birth and death of her first child, Elizabeth. Her daughter, Val, says her parents had two ceremonies, one in Germany, 1 where they met, and a second in Russia where they made their first home. Alec recalls that his mother’s family considered Victor a tyrant because he forbade Emilie from seeing her family after the marriage and move to Russia.
Val says the family was well off. They had servants, a home in Moscow, and a summer home in Niskhi Novgorod. Victor & Emilie had nine children, the first of which, Elizabeth, died in infancy in 1867. The first child to survive infancy was Simeon, born in 1867. A second daughter, Mary, also died in infancy in 1869. The second child to survive infancy was Olga, born November 14, 1870 and their second son, Paul, was born on September 1, 1872. Alec and Val both say Simeon was sickly and that the family wanted to move to a milder climate for the benefit of his health. Surely, after the death of two children, Simeon’s health was a serious consideration. The family did leave Russia for Italy on August 26, 1874. Emilie was then 27. She had three children: 7, 3, and 2 and was pregnant with Alec, who would be born in Italy on February 21, 1875.
Val says the family moved to a villa near Naples where her father had some unofficial diplomatic status. Alec says his father refused to toast the Czar at a diplomatic gathering and was ordered to return to Russia. Instead, the family moved to Paris, probably in early 1879. Their last three children: Pierre, Vladimir, and Valentina, were born in Paris.
By all accounts, the family prospered in Paris, but Alec says French law imposed very heavy taxes on aliens. By becoming French citizens, the family would have avoided the greater taxes, but the boys would have been subject to military service during a period of unrest between France and Germany. Emilie, who was from Germany and had family there, would hardly have wanted her sons in the French Military. The family considered another move.
In 1887, when he was 20, Simeon was sent to the Western Hemisphere to see if it would be a good place to live. His reports were unimpressive. The Family was considering moving to Greece when word arrived that Simeon, while in California, had became ill and died. Emilie took her son’s death very hard. According to Val, she insisted the family go to California to see where Simeon was buried. Those wishes were what motivated the family to immigrate to the United States. They arrived in New York, as visitors, on June 17, 1889 with California as their listed destination. Because the entire family came, it is likely they intended the more to be permanent.
Val says Simeon’s grave was in San Francisco at a Russian Cemetery on Geary Street and that Emilie and Olga visited the site frequently until, while they were away, Val accidentally set a fire to their home. Thereafter, Emilie stayed at home. Other family accounts are that the grave could never be located because Church officials misplaced the burial records.
According to Edith, her daughter in law, Emilie never spoke English well. She was more comfortable with German, Russian, French, and Italian in all of which she was fluent. Sometimes she used words from several languages expressing a single thought. Ted, her grandson, claims Emilie spoke English well.
In the years the family lived in San Francisco, Olga, their eldest daughter, married Ephrim Alexin, a Greek Orthodox Priest. Emilie’s first grandchild, Olga, was born on February 14, 1892. Paul had his 20th birthday, while Alec and Pierre were in their late teens and Vladimir and Val would become school age.
In 1895, Victor and Emilie moved their family to Oakland. Their first home was at 229 Harlan Street where they were living at the time of the 1900 census. Victor died in 1902 when Emilie was 55 and was still raising one minor child, Val, then 16. Her husband’s will provided her with a sixth of his estate and an income of $100/month until Val became 21. Val recalls that her mother bought two houses in the Watts Tract of Oakland: 673 & 675 33rd Street. Emilie moved to 675 33rd St. where she is shown as living in the 1905 thru 1911 Oakland directories.
During most of the early years after Victor’s death, one or more of Emilie’s children lived with her. 2 In 1906, Victor moved to Arizona and Paul, who was in Nevada, married. As the wedding was in Las Vegas, Emilie was not present to see the first marriage of one of her sons.
In 1907, when Val became 21, Victor’s estate was distributed. Olga, then living in Alaska, came to California to receive her share. Emilie had not seen her oldest daughter in over 10 years. Although her husband’s will provided that Emilie and each of the children were to receive equal shares, there was a dispute over the distribution which remained unresolved when Olga returned to Paris in November. Emilie would never see Olga again. The dispute marred Victor’s generosity in giving his share to his mother.
Emilie’s second grandchild, Victor, was born September 17, 1907. Her third grandchild, Barbara, was born August 12, 1909. In 1910, Pete (who was then 32) married. On December 11, 1911, her fourth grandchild, Agnes, was born; and on January 18, 1912, her fifth grandchild, Ted, was born.
In 1912, when Emilie was 65, Val, who had been courted by two suitors, married Phil Heuer, a young insurance salesman, and rejected Dr. Hillegass, who was the principal financial backer of the family business in which her sons were engaged. After her marriage, Dr. Hillegass withdrew his financial support and the brothers’ business collapsed. In an attempt to help her sons keep the business afloat, Emilie may have sold her house. She moved to 691 33rd Street, Oakland where she is listed in the 1913 & 1916 directories with Alec (then 39) and Victor (then 36), both single. 1912 was also the year Pete left his wife and daughter, moved from the Bay Area to Southern California where, after a few months, he disappeared and was not heard from again. These setbacks were followed, in 1913, with the death of Olga, who she had not seen in six years; and in 1914 with the death of her first great-grandchild, Vladimir. That same year, Victor left the Bay Area to take a job in Los Angeles. Except for Alec, who continued to live at her home, Emilie was alone. She felt increasingly lonely. On March 22, 1915, her granddaughter, Ollie Donsky, had a daughter, Olga, Emilie’s second great-grandchild. Both Mother and Daughter were unable to leave Russia and presumably died during the Revolution. The anguish of unsuccessful family efforts to save them added to Emilie’s unhappiness.
On January 13, 1920, Emilie’s last grandchild, Herb, was born. Later directories show her address as 693 33rd Street, but this was probably a change of number on the same house. In her later years, after a stroke, she suffered from loss of use of parts of her body and needed nursing care. In a letter of March 13, 1921, Edith wrote that Emilie was: “getting along pretty well,” and had: “almost entirely recovered use of her right arm and leg.” But she continued to need nursing help and was bedridden on July 16, 1922 when Alec married Fannie Cohen, Emilie’s nurse. Some of the family felt Alec married to insure his mother would have a nurse. The marriage lasted less than a year.
In 1922, Edith was less charitable in an observation that Emilie: “sits around and mopes and studies grievances, mostly imaginary.” On November 17, 1926, at age 79, Emilie died intestate of chronic endocorditis. Like her husband, she was cremated. Her remains are at the Oakland Crematorium.
Emilie’s house on 33rd Street was her only asset. On 11/2/28, Edith observed:
“The family is having a great deal of trouble over Grandma Ligda’s estate (the house on 33rd). She made a will and also a deed of trust at different times leaving it to Vic & Alec. It is worth about $4,500 and has been sold recently. The money is in Paul’s hands as executor and administrator appointed by the Court, but neither will nor deed is valid, and now the heirs cannot agree on the division, so it will have to go to Court, and, of course nobody at all will get enough to do any good.”
Emilie survived her husband by 24 years. She lived to know of the birth of all her grandchildren and two great grandchildren, yet her life was marred by the deaths and other tragedies of so many of those near her. One of her sons, three of her daughters, two of her grandchildren, and both of her great grandchildren, neither of whom she ever saw, died during her lifetime. None of the family which returned to Russia survived her. Her son, Alec, suffered permanent brain damage from a beating and required care all of his life. Her son, Pete, disappeared. She did not see Victor after he moved to Hawaii in 1921. Two other children, Paul and Val, were on opposite sides of the family rift resulting from the failure of the family business. Emilie had to be very strong to endure all the emotional upheaval these events left in their wake.
- I attempted to find the record of the marriage in Germany, but was advised that a search of the church records was not successful. ↩
- In 1905, Paul, Pete, Victor, and Val are listed as living with her. In 1906, Alec was also listed. In 1908 and 1910, Pete, Alec, and Val were with her. In 1911, Alec, Val, and Victor were with her. In 1913 and 1916, Alec and Victor are listed as living with her. The 1920 census listed Alec as living with her. ↩