Flora Langerman Spiegelberg
"I was born in 1857 on Twelfth Street, right here in New York City. After my father's death in 1869, my mother made her home in Nuremberg in order to give us a good education." At seventeen, while still in Germany Flora met Willi Spiegelberg who at that time was home from America visiting his parents.
At the time of their introduction, Willi was 30 years old and already a very successful businessman in New Mexico. He was the youngest of six Spiegelberg brothers. In Flora's own words "I was young, and he was handsome, and I soon became Mrs. Willi Spiegelberg." The couple was married on November 11 at the new Reform Temple in Nuremberg in 1874. The Wedding was followed by a yearlong honeymoon through the European cities of Vienna, Munich, Paris and London. In 1875, they returned to America in order for Willi to attend to his business interests in Santa Fe.
"Crossing the ocean was an experience in itself in those days, but it was nothing in comparison to the cross-country journey we had to take. After our honeymoon in Europe, we started out for Santa Fe in 1875. We traveled, via St. Louis, in very primitive steam cars to West Los Animas, Colorado, then the terminus of the railroad.
The train arrived at sunset and I was fearfully tired for there were no Pullmans or any riding comforts in those days. Then we continued our journey to Santa Fe for six days and six nights in a stagecoach, often drawn by four horses. The Stagecoach stopped at the log house coach stations three times daily; and hour to change horses and provide a most primitive meal.
Usually we had dried buffalo chips, with beans, red or green peppers, coffee and tea without milk or sugar, and occasional delicacies such as bear and buffalo tongues, bear and buffalo steaks. I did not relish this food, but my hardened pioneer husband never complained. Many of the stationmasters were old friends of my husband. When they assisted me out of the coach, they raised their big sombreros with a hearty greeting, "Welcome Don Julian El Bonito" meaning William, the Handsome, and your pretty "Tenderfoot Bride, of the Santa Fe Trail."
The next day near Dry Cimarron station, our coach was stopped to let Colonel Price, a friend of my husband, pass with a band of roving Indians he had captured. I was terribly frightened, for they were the first live Indians I had ever seen. At the next station, Las Vegas, which was then the second largest town in New Mexico and had a population of nearly one thousand, among them some twenty American men, four Jews, and three American women.
It was a perilous and a thrilling ride all the way through, but after five days and nights, we finally arrived. We arrived in Santa Fe in a bright moonlight night. To our great surprise, my husband's brother Lehman joined by friends in buggies or horseback and even on burros, had come to welcome come us with a band of Mexican musicians. As the coach drove up the main street accompanied by these friends we were cheered until we reached the home of my husband's brother. There General Devens, Commander of the Territory waited to welcome us with his military band playing 'Lohengrin's Wedding March.'
At that time I was the eighth woman in Santa Fe. There were about fifty American men, officials and merchants, and a Mexican population of two thousand. Amid clean and happy surroundings, I soon forgot all the privations I had endured and I became a satisfied member of the community.
Rev. Dr. Jones pastor of the Presbyterian Church engaged a competent teacher from the Presbyterian Mission Society. But at my urgent request before Miss Carpenter accepted the position I made it obligatory that her pupils be taught to recite the Ten Commandments, and at the same time explain to them that the Ten Commandments are not a religious, but and ethical and moral code upon which the civilization rest today. She fully agreed with my earnest request, and all the parents approved it also.
I also organized the first Children's Gardens; I taught them how cultivate flowers and vegetables. I also gave the children nature study lessons, aided by a magnifying glass. I showed a large collection of all kinds of insects and how the golden, yellow pollen carried on the tiny hairs of their wings while flitting from flower to flower dropped on the pistils of the various flowers changed their color."
Flora Langerman Spiegelberg was born on September 10, 1857, on Twelfth Street in New York City. After the death of her father in 1869, her mother took her young daughter to Europe where she was educated and formulated a deep appreciation for fine art and High German culture. While in Germany, Flora met and married Willi Spiegelberg who at that time was home from America visiting his parents.
Willi along with his five other brothers had already established a thriving mercantile business in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Spiegelbergs were so financially successful that their wives and children were able to live luxuriously. For instance, by 1880, Willi and Flora, had the first house in Santa Fe with running water and gas appliances.
In 1879 Flora helped to establish the first non-sectarian school in Santa Fe and the following year raised $1,000 from the Santa Fe business community to purchase an acre of land for a new three-room schoolhouse. Of this school building she writes, "It was very primitive had a mud floor and to keep it sanitary for the twelve pupils I disinfected it personally three times weekly."
Elsewhere on the web
- "Flora Spiegelberg: Grand Lady of the Southwest Frontier" at the Bloom Southwest Jewish Archives
- Images of Pioneer Jewish Families at the Ira M. Beck Memorial Archives at the University of Denver Penrose Library
- Andrea Kalinowki's Stories Untold
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Flora Langerman Spiegelberg." (Viewed on July 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/westernpioneers/spiegelberg-flora-langerman>.