Biography of Samuel Sondheimer

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Samuel Sondheimer is a well known and prominent figure in mercantile circles of Muskogee as a partner in the firm of Joseph Sondheimer’s sons.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on the 21st of January, 1871, a son of Joseph Sondheimer who passed away July 10, 1913, at the age of seventy-three years, and who was the first merchant of Muskogee. At the time of his demise the Muskogee Times Democrat published the following interesting review of his life. “Joseph Sondheimer, the oldest citizen of Muskogee in point of years of residence and the pioneer merchant of this city, died following an illness of several months. He was one of the best known merchants of the southwest for nearly half a century. It was in 1867 that he located a branch hide, fur and pecan warehouse at the old Indian agency near Agency Hill. There was then no town of Muskogee, and where this city stands now was only a prairie dotted with the grazing herds belonging to the Indians and to the few citizens of the agency post. Fort Gibson was a military post, and outside of the business of the agency, almost all of the mercantile trading was done there. The establishment of Mr. Sondheimer’s warehouse at Old Agency started several other pioneers to building stores, with the result that by the time Muskogee was located on the Missouri, Kansas a, Texas Railroad in 1872, there was a thriving little village at the “agency. Mr. Sondheimer moved his warehouse to Muskogee, locating first on the southwest corner of Main and Broadway, shortly after the completion of the railroad.

Born in Valkerschlier, Bavaria, Germany, September 22, 1840, Mr. Sondheimer came to America at the age of twelve years. He went first to Baltimore, Maryland, where he engaged in business with the Hon. W. S. Rainer, father of Senator Rainer of that state. The elder Rainer had been a protege of Mr. Sondheimer’s father in Bavaria and the son naturally sought his old friend when he arrived in America. He moved from Baltimore to Columbus, Pennsylvania, several years later to take charge of a mercantile establishment at that place. He later moved to St. Louis and when the Civil war broke out he established stores and commissary stations at Memphis, Cairo and other points. He went back to St. Louis after the war and in a year or two realized the possibilities of the limitless southwest, then accessible only by wagon or steamboat. In 1866 he made his first trip on horseback over Indian Territory and as a result of his observations he opened several hide, fur and pecan depots along the old military road, which extended from Fort Scott, Kansas, to Jefferson, Texas. His first warehouse was at Jefferson, but the one at Muskogee was completed soon after and used as a distributing and shipping point.

Countless hides and furs of cattle, buffalo, deer and wild animals, much wool and hundreds of thousands of pounds of pecans were handled in the succeeding years, and the business gradually grew until Joseph Sondheimer was collecting hides and furs as far away as the most inaccessible points in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and neighboring states. The real headquarters of the business until 1872 was in St. Louis, though Mr. Sondheimer spent most of his time here and at the other trading points. In 1872, when the Katy was built through this part of the country, he moved the headquarters of his big business here and opened a new office and warehouse at Main and Broadway, back of the J. S. Atkinson & Company mercantile store. The warehouse was later moved across the street, then in 1882 to Second and Okmulgee, where it remained until 190d, when the present warehouse opposite the city hall was built and occupied. The Sondheimer warehouse escaped both the big fires of 1887 and 1898, and it was in his warehouse, practically the only business building left after the 1887 fire, that the merchants and business men met and discussed plans to rebuild Muskogee.

Mr. Sondheimer was married in 1866 and was the father of five children. Only two of them survive, these being Samuel and Alexander, who are active partners in the Sondheimer business and well known citizens of Muskogee. In the old days when Mr. Sondheimer would ride from point to point soliciting hide and fur business, he and his big white horse were always welcome visitors anywhere in the territory. He carried thousands of dollars in gold in his saddlebags and paid for furs in gold coin.

When he would start for St. Louis, his friends in the Territory would entrust to him thousands of dollars with which to pay their bills in St. Louis. With all the lawlessness of those days, he never was held up and never lost a cent of money in any manner.

While the Katy railroad was building, Mr. Sondheimer was appointed general solicitor for the Katy in Texas. He rode thousands of miles through the Lone Star state, telling the settlers of the coming of the road and lining up shipments in advance. So thoroughly was his work done that by the time the road was ready to handle the freight, there were thousands of tons of it waiting at both ends for transport to and from Texas points. He handled this soliciting business in connection with his trips to purchase furs, hides and pecans.

Mr. Sondheimer was a member of the Jewish Reformed church and was until the last actively interested in charitable organizations. He gave much money to charity, though not even his closest friends have any idea of the extent of his goodwill, so quietly and modestly was all his giving done. He was the first contributor to the building of the Oklahoma & Cherokee Central Railroad, now the Frisco, and his name has been on many subscription papers for the up building of Muskogee.

At the time of his death Mr. Sondheimer had amassed considerable wealth, which is in bank stock and bonds and similar investments. He was a stockholder in the First National Bank of Muskogee and in banks at Stigler and Okmulgee. He was the oldest living member of the local lodge the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks.

His remains were interred in Mount Sinai cemetery in St. Louis. For a long period he had been recognized as one of the biggest jobbers of hides in the country and he was the second largest inland buyer of pecans in the United States.”

Samuel Sondheimer, whose name introduces this review, was a little lad of seven summers when the family home was established in Muskogee in 1878. He obtained his education in the Harrell Institute here and also pursued a course of study in the St. Louis Business College.

After his textbooks were put aside he was assodated In business With his father until the latter’s death in 1913, since which time he has been in partnership with his brother, Alexander, under the style of Joseph Sondheimer’s Sons, hides and furs, thus continuing the enterprise established by the father. He is also the vice president of the Muskogee Wholesale Grocery Company, is a director of the First National Bank and has other banking interests, being now widely recognized as one of the substantial and representative business men of the city.

On the 14th of April, 1915, Mr. Sondheimer was united in marriage to Miss Lillian Friedlander of St. Louis, Missouri, and they have become parents of a son, Joseph, whose birth occurred March 23, 1918.

Fraternally Mr. Sondheimer is identified with the Masons and the Elks. During the period of his residence in Muskogee, now covering forty-three years, he has become widely and favorably known in business and social circles and his career at all times has been in harmony with the highest standards of manhood and citizenship.

Alexander Sondheimer, brother of Samuel Sondheimer and son of Joseph Sondheimer, was born on the 11th of May, 1873, and was educated in St. Louis and in the Harrell Institute of Muskogee.

Like his brother, he was associated in business with the father until the latter’s demise and is now a member of the firm of Joseph Sondheimer’s Sons, conducting an extensive and profitable business in hides and furs, which has continued to expand under their able direction. He is likewise identified with the Muskogee Wholesale Grocery Company, is a director of the First National Bank of Muskogee and also has other financial interests.

On October 1, 1895, Mr. Sondheimer was united in marriage to Miss Eudora Cobb of Muskogee. His fraternal connections are with the Elks and the Knights of Pythias, while his religious faith is that of the Presbyterian Church. Travel affords him needed recreation when leisure permits.

His record reflects credit upon an honored family name and in the city which has been his home from early boyhood he has gained an extensive circle of warm friends.




MLA Source Citation:

Benedict, John Downing. Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma: including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 19 April 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/oklahoma/biography-of-samuel-sondheimer.htm - Last updated on Jan 25th, 2012


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