History of Reither's

The New York Branch of The Reither Family

The New York Reither's are from the eastern central part of Germany in a town called Reith. The mountain valley of Reith is important as a route of communication and travel through the mountain barriers, which separate larger areas of population. Towards the northeastern part of Reith there is the Reithersee, a large lake with a small island and castle. Midway through the valley is Reith im winkl (meaning twist in the road), a small village with a picturesque church, and overlooking it all is the Alpine peak Reither spitz.

The forested mountain slopes contributed to the development of a population skilled in woodcraft, wood sculpture, and cabinet making. Reithers possessing these skills migrated westward through the forested slopes north of the Alps. After the Reither family emigrated to America the remaining Reithers in Germany settled in Hesse-Darmstadt.

It was at a time that families and guilds assumed responsibility for regulating the productive activities of towns and cities. Accordingly, after establishing a relationship with a wood crafting master, the Reither family agreed to send their son John George Reither to apprentice the master, after his establishment in America. This was a very common practice during this time.

John George Reither, the founder of the Reither family in America, was born in Westhoffer, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany in 1820. He came to America at 14 years of age and served his apprenticeship with Solomon Fanning, who was a cabinetmaker on Catherine Street, NY (now in the center of Chinatown). Apprenticeship was similar to adoption. The apprentice practically became a member of the family. Throughout John's career he maintained a close contact with his family in Westhoffer. Many of his skilled employees were brought to Brooklyn from Germany.

It is reasonable to assume that when the young master craftsman returned to Westhoffer after completing his apprenticeship he found waiting for him a bride and a dowry, for in this eventful year 1841 he returned to Brooklyn to establish his workshop. In addition to his wife Kathenne (nee Geherer) was accompanied by one or more skilled workman produced by his father. John George never lacked the capital or the supply of German-trained skilled workers that his rapidly expanding business required.

The company was advertised as J. G. Reither and Co., Cabinet Makers, and #14 Fulton Street. In the next few years there were many expanded businessesalong this street holding this name. Soon John George used most of the block as living quarters and to hold his factory.

John George Jr. coming of age in 1862 was very different experience from that of his father. George Jr. chose his own bride. Catherine Devereaux was a Roman Catholic, of Lachine, Canada. John George Reither Jr. and Catherine Devereaux were married on August 13, 1863 in Brooklyn. On June 10, 1864 at 11 AM they had a baby girl who was baptized Josephine Ella. The birth took placed in Eastern N.Y. some miles out on Long Island.

The business continued to flourish. In 1870 the firm of J. G. Reither and Sons moved into its recently completed four-story building on the southeastern junction of Fulton Street and Flatbush Avenue.

Among the varying business places, which lined Navy Street, were tattoo parlors. When some of young Joe Reither's friends displayed tattooed initials his father strictly forbade him to enter a tattoo parlor. Obeying this in its most literal sense, young Jo got a piece of coal and a needle. Sitting on the curb he pricked in his skin with a needle the letter R".

After forty-five years of outstanding success as a manufacturer of furniture Reither retired from business in 1886. The company was apparently closed and it's properties sold. Following the furniture business John Jr. conducted an upholstery business in Fort Green Park. John George Reither Jr.'s obituary of March 24,1897 notes that he had been in poor health for over a year, and adds: "His death was hastened by the shock and exposure occasioned by the discovery of burglars in his residence. This brought on an attack of typhoid pneumonia which was the immediate cause of his death."

Joseph Oswald Reither, stubbornly ignored the existence of his Protestant relatives. But during holiday visits with members of the Catholic family, Josephine Reither, who was a Protestant, appeared at the festivities. Josephine married Jo Delanony and her sister next in line married Jo Croker.

Judging the degree of prosperity that the Reither family continuation enjoy until the crisis of 1908 it would appear that George had received his full share of the Reither inheritance. The family lived side by side on Cumberland Street.

When Joseph Oswald Reither was young he attended Catholic schools, one of which became St. Francis College. During the summers he was sent to Catholic boys camps in the country, and while at home he peddled newspapers. Jo loved baseball and was on all the local teams.

Joseph Oswald Reither had a good bass-baritone voice, which blended with his wife as they sang in church and to their children at night. When one of Joseph Reithers friend left her violin in their living room and did not ret eve it until the following day Joseph Oswald took the violin, tuned it, and some lovely pieces on it much to the surprise of his family. He was a man of considerable dignity whom people liked and trusted, he was modest, and unfortunately, contented and unambitious.

Joseph Reither was born on September 27, 1903 and was followed by his sister Helen, July 5, 1905, and brother Winslow T. Reither on November 10,1906. These were home deliveries and Emma and Joseph Oswald had every reason to be proud.

Helen married Harold Heckendorn and gave birth to one son, Harold Heckendorn Jr. Winslow T. Reither married Edna Gilligan on September 3,1938. They had four children, Winslow E. the eldest followed by Susan, Edward J. and the youngest Bruce P. . My uncle Edward had one son in 1976, Jeremy S., Winslow E. had a daughter Kimberly in 1976. Bruce P. the youngest son has had two children, Katie and Bruce who today live on Long Island.

Today (2008) Win E. lives in Arlington Va., Edward J. lives in San Francisco and Susan lives in Manhattan, New York.

 

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