Zordell - Mysteries and Trajedies

Albert Zordell Hidden Money

The Hearld Press had a front page article on 10 Dec 1924 which reads: “Relatives Find $15,000 Hidden In Zordel Shop Eccentric Cobbler’s Store Rummaged In Hope Of New Discoveries $200,000 Estate Seen Cash, Bonds, Houses, Lots And Notes Inventoried By Administrator Rummaging in dusty shoe boxes, the innumerable relatives of Albert Zordell, the eccentric cobbler who died here recently, were today busily hunting his hidden wealth, said to be at least $100,000 and possibly $200.000. They were spurred on by the discovery yesterday of $15,275, concealed in thread boxes, cached beneath a counter in the shop at 607 Ship street, where for nearly half a century Zordell toiled long hours and saved every penny. They had high hopes of finding greater wealth before completion of the inventory, unprecedented here. Findings So Far H.W. Banks, assistant cashier of the Commercial National bank and administrator of the Zordel estate, today made public the cobbler’s holdings as disclosed thus far.

The list follows: 1. $20,700 in cash in the Commercial National bank. 2. $3,000 in cash in the Union Banking company. 3. $15,275 in cash hidden in Zordel’s shop. 4. $1,750 in liberty bonds in the Commercial bank. 5. The two story building at 607 ship street. 6. The house and lot at 1709 South State street. 7. Two houses and lots on Pearl street. 8. Mortgages and notes not yet valued. Zordell died on November 28 four days after his seven-fourth birthday. Born in Germany, he had come to St. Joseph 53 years before.

For 49 years he has operated the shoe and harness shop on Ship street. He had obtained a reputation for sagacity in business and for saving his earnings. People said his estate would be worth at least $100,000. Relatives Aid Hunt Relatives, therefore, were surprised, when the preliminary examination of his holdings failed to disclose such a sum. The petition for appointment of an administrator of the estate, filed in Probate Judge Frank L. Hammond’s court, showed personal property of by $13,000 and realty of $20,000. So Mr. Banks was appointed a special administrator and given authority to make an inventory. The hunt through the shoe boxes in the dingy shop then was begun. A dozen relatives aided the administrator in the task, which promised to be a tedious one. Yesterday the first discovery was made. In the 12 thread boxes were found wads of bills, carefully hidden, which, when counted, totaled over $15,000. Mr. Banks said today he could not tell exactly how long the inventory would take. ‘We’ve just begun.” He said, ‘and I really don’t know.’ Hearing On Dec. 29 The searchers have plenty of time, however, as the hearing in Judge Hammons court doesn’t come up until December 29. Zordell, it appears, left no will. At least the search thus far has failed to disclose one. So all his relatives and the list is a long one, including residents of several Berrien communities and of Germany may participate in the final division of wealth. The discovery of large sums in the banks surprised some of those acquainted with Zordel.

For years he distrusted banks, and wouldn’t put money in them, friends said. Four years ago, however on September 1, 1920 robbers invaded the room upstairs above the shop, where the shoe man slept. They rapped him over the head with a blunt instrument, took a pair of shoes apiece and a watch, and then, scared by Zordel;s cries for help, fled. After that experience Zprdel’s opinion of banks changed; but evidently the shift was not strong enough to induce him to put all his money in them. Lived Alone In Shop Zordell, who was unmarried, lived alone in the room above his shop. Many remarkable stories of Zordel’s wealth were told here, and some of them were amply substantiated. On one occasion a man bought a pair of shoes from Zordel, When the buyer reached home, he found a $50 bill in the box. On another, fire threatened the little shop that to Zordel was not only business but home. Fireman found $800 in the chimney, Zordel packing quickly at the rows of boxes, pulled out certain ones that to bystanders seemed no different from the others. He gave them to a friend and told him to keep them for a while.

They were said to contain much of his wealth. The list of relatives is a long one. He had three brothers and two sisters, one of the brothers and one sister being now dead. The Relatives The living brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews are: The children of William Zordell, who is dead, are Emil Zordel, of Baroda; Mrs. Lizzie Villwock, of Millburk; Mrs. Bertha Arent, of Millburg; and Mrs. Anna Arent, of Coloma. William’s widow resides with the Coloma daughter. The children of Mrs. Hilda Westpfahl, a sister who is dead, are Mrs. Clara Lange, of Sodus, and Mrs. Andy Marshall, of St. Joseph. The children of Mrs. Alvina Dombrowski of St. Joseph, a sister, are Mrs. Clara Ruggles, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Laura Wessendorf, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Mary Weik, of St. Joseph; Miss Anna Dombrowski, of Benton Harbor, and by a previous marriage, Charles Henspeter, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Alvina Carpenter, of Galien; Fred Henspeter, of Galien, and William Henspeter, whose address is unknown to relatives here. The children of another brother, Carl Zordel, who lives in Germany, are Mrs. Bertha Marutz, of St. Joseph; Mrs. Eda Kitzrow, of St. Joseph, and Paul, Max, August and Mary Zordel, who resides in Germany. Another brothers, August Zordel, who resides in Ransome, Kans., has several children, but relatives here don’t know their names.” A family story is that Albert Zordell intentionally put money into customer’s shoe boxes to insure repeat business? They also tell that Albert died from being shot in the robbery of his store? His death record indicates he died from “Lobar Pneumonia”.

The Hearld Press ran another article about Albert Zordel on 11 Dec 1924. The article reads: “The Show Box Treasure Trove Testament Of Zordell Still Gone Failing to find more money in the little shop at 607 State street, owned by Albert Zordell, the eccentric and wealthy cobbler who died on November 28, relatives today concentrate their attention on search for a will. Zordell was declared to have said two days before he died that he had a will. The remark was reported to have been made to a friend, to whom Zordell confided his belief that he was in his last illness. No Will Found H.W. Banks, special administrator of the estate, announced today completion of the search of dusty shoe boxes in Zordel’s shop, where $15,275, hidden beneath a counter was discovered on Tuesday. The search a comprehensive one failed to disclose more money in the ‘shoe box treasure trove,’ nor was any will found, either in the shop or in Zordel’s room above. At the probate court today it was declared that in such cases as the Zordel estate the holdings were divided among living brothers and sisters and children of dead brothers and sisters. This means that six nieces and nephews of the wealthy cobbler will not directly participate in the estate, which it is estimated, will run above $100,000. To Valuate Assets The administrator today had not completed his valuation of the Zordel holdings, which at present include $38,975 cash, $1,750 in bonds, three houses and three lots, the building on Ship street, and several Mortgages and notes. This must be done by December 24, when the inventory is to be laid before Probate Judge Frank L. Hammond. Five days later the judge will hold a hearing on the appointment of a general administrator.”

The Hearld Press had another article in the 24 Dec 1924 issue, which reads: “Zordell Estate Valued At $82,339 In Court The estate of Albert Zordell, eccentric cobbler, who died in November, was valued at $82,339.81 in an inventory filed in probate court today by H.W. Banks, special administrator. Many had expected that the estate would be much higher, Mr. Banks announced, however, that after the discovery of $15,275 hidden in dusty thread boxes in Zordell’s shop at 607 Ship street, nothing further was found. The cobbler, who never married but left a number of brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews to share his property, owned realty worth $12,500. His cash holdings were shown in the inventory to be the same as previously published in the Hearld Press. In addition there were several mortgages, land contracts and the stock in the shoe store. A hearing will be held before Judge Frank L. Hammond on December 29 to settle appointment of a permanent administrator of the estate. The law provides, since no will was found, that the estate be divided among living brothers and sisters and children of dead brothers and sisters. Discovery of the hidden money in Zordell’s shop was a sensation here of a few weeks ago, relatives spending several days in a vain hunt for more money.”

Zordel, William Tragedy-

   News articles in the News Palladium on Tuesday 30 Aug 1910 reveals how William Zordell died.
These articles read, “Engine Hits Rig Farmer Is Killed. Big Four Passenger Train Strikes Henry Zordell At Noon Today. Accident At Crossing. Henry Zordell meets death, and team of horses meets like fate, when victim is caught on tracks in attempt to cross railroad. Henry Zordell, a prominent Benton township farmer, was killed at noon today when his rig was hit by a special Big Four excursion train at Dukescherer’s crossing on Napier Avenue. The rig in which Zordell was riding was knocked to bits and the horses instantly killed. The big locomotive caught the outfit squarely on the tracks. Man and horses were tossed in the air. Crossing An Open One. The crossing is said to be an open one and is not regarded as specially dangerous. The train was due in Benton Harbor at 12:05 and was approaching the city about on time.
     According to the engineer and firemen the whistle was blown for the crossing as the train approached and to the observers in the cab right of way was clear. Suddenly Zordell and his team appeared in the roadway. It is the claim of the trainmen that he whipped up his horses, believing he had plenty of time to make the crossing. The horses had just stepped on the tracks when the engine hit the rig. The train was stopped and Zordell’s body found lying in front of the engine. The victim was badly cut and many bones were broken. Death had been practically instantaneous. Coroner to hold inquest. The remains were placed in the baggage car and the train continued on its way.
    Coroner Hackley was notified and he and Sheriff Johnson impaneled a coroner’s jury. The remains were viewed by the jury and then removed to Rowe’s undertaking rooms. The jury is composed of Charles Christ, Edward Pullen, S.R. Banyon, will Hubbell, I.S. Heinlen and Joseph Jones. The inquest will be held at 3 o’clock Thursday afternoon. Coroner Hackley subpoenaed members of the train crew to appear before the inquest. The train was in charge of Conductor A. McCoy, Engineer P.E. Carmondy and Fireman A.W. Fletcher. Relatives In St. Joseph. Zordell has relatives in St. Joseph, Albert Zordell, a brother, is engaged in the harness and shoe business on Ship street and a son Emil, is a saloonkeeper in St. Joseph. The victim of the accident was about 57 years of age and had resided in this vicinity for some 25 years.” The Coroner’s jury’s finding were in the paper a few days later.
    “Jury Finds A Conflict In Accident Story. Witnesses At Yesterday’s Inquest Do Not Agree on Death of Wm. Zordell. Train Crew Was Young. Witness Who Saw Farmer Killed South Of City Says Passenger Never Whistled Until Engine Was Upon Luckless Victim. The jury’s verdict. ‘We, the jury, find that William Zordell came to his death by being struck by a special Big Four excursion train about noon on the 30th of August, 1910; we further find that from the evidence submitted to us that there is a conflict in the testimony concerning the proper sounding of signals at the Napier avenue crossing, on which the accident occurred.’ This was the verdict, which the coroner’s jury in the case of William Zordell, killed Tuesday noon on Napier avenue by a Big Four excursion train returned after listening to a dozen witnesses who had more or less to do with the accident. The jury was out only a few minutes. The verdict was based on the testimony given by the several witnesses; parts of this evidence were directly at variance. The witnesses disagree on one important point, and that was the sounding of the crossing whistles. Summed up, this difference was as follows: One witness emphatically testified that the train gave no notice of an approach until it was on the crossing. The train crew was unanimous that the proper signals were sounded. No warning sounded. According to E.E. Wright, a farmer who saw the accident, no warning was given by the train. Wright had crossed the tracks ahead of Zordell, whom he noticed on the road. The witness said he drove up the hill which leads from the tracks when he heard the train approaching. He looked back and saw Zordell coming on his horses jogging along. ‘I could hear the rumble of the train and wondered why the whistle was not sounded. I saw Zordell approaching, unmindful of the oncoming train, and I listened for the whistle but none came. Then as the engine got on the crossing there was two sharp blasts and I saw the horses go up in the air.’ “Could you have heard the whistle’, was asked of Wright. ‘I certainly could, for I was listening for it’, he said. Didn’t hear warning. Henry Plum, another farmer who lives near the scene of the accident, said he didn’t hear any warning whistle. Plum, from where he stood, could just see the tops of the cars as they went by the crossing. Like Wright he heard two sharp blasts, but no warning signal. E.G. Stacey, working on the Rackliffe farm, testified that about a week ago he came near being caught by a freight train on the same crossing. He said it was impossible for the warning to have been sounded without him hearing it. Train Crew Agree Members of the train crew, however, agreed that the proper whistles were sounded. Conductor McCoy declared the engineer whistled on two separate occasions once when approaching the casions once when approaching the crossing and again when the engine was nearly on the crossing. Engineer Carmondy told of giving the proper signals as the train neared the crossing. ‘I had given two long and two short whistles’, said the engineer, ‘when the fireman said whistle again there’s a fellow that I don’t believe will stop. I whistled again but it was too late. We had hit him.’ Fireman Pletcher testified to the same identical thing. He said he saw Zordell coming toward the train after the first whistle had blown and then told the engineer to whistle again. Brakemen Brock and Miller also heard the whistles, they said. A young train crew.
    The members of the train crew looked unusually young on the witness stand. Not a one was a veteran in the service, and the majority had only been working for the Big Four for a short time. Witnesses were examined who were in the vicinity and who reside in the neighborhood of the crossing. The general trend of this testimony was that passenger trains usually whistle for the crossing but that sometimes the freight trains go by without giving the proper warning. The other witnesses were E.S. Noe, John Butzbach and Peter Dukescherer. Attorney Gore attended the inquest in behalf of the Big Four.” It is unclear as to why William Zordel is identified as Henry in the original article.
- Contributed by: William Brackett at brackettwilliam@yahoo.com

Mrs. Huldah (Zordell) Westphal

An article in the Hearld Press on 10 Feb 1922 describes her fate: “Aged Woman Is Struck By Car Doctors Refuse To Predict On Mrs. Westphal’s Chance Of Recovery While attempting to cross State street at the intersection State and Market about 5:30 yesterday afternoon, Mrs. Huldah Westphal, 70, was seriously injured when John Walsh, a trusty at the county jail, ran her down in a Ford sedan and dragged her for a short distance, breaking three ribs. Westphal was also injured internally and this combined with the shock, naturally sustained by a woman of her years, makes doctors unwilling to state positively today whether or not she will recover. She is in an unconscious condition this afternoon. Mrs. Westphal was in company with her daughter, Mrs. A.G. Marshall. The later was uninjured. Eye witnesses of the occurrence say that Walsh was driving slowly and refuse to fix the blame on any of the participants in the accident. The injured woman was removed to the John Roberts home on State street where Dr. F. M. Gowdy administered first aid. She was then removed to the A.G. Marsahll residence at 609 Wayne street in Dean’s ambulance. Walsh had been sent down town from the jail to have the tires of the Ford car inflated, It is said that he was looking for a garage and realized that he was getting out in the residence district of the city, made a complete turn at State street at the scene of the accident. The accident occurred jus as he was completing his turn, it is reported.”

The Hearld Press carried another article concerning this incident on 17 Feb 1922: “Mrs. Westphal, 72, Struck By Auto, Is Dead Aged Woman Spent Almost Entire Life in St. Joseph Seriously injured a week ago when she was struck by a Ford automobile at the corner of State and Market streets, Mrs. Hulda Westphal passed away this morning at 10 o’clock at the home of her son-in-law, A.G. Marshall, 609 Wayne street. Mrs. Wesphal was born in Germany on April 26, 1849 and came to this country when she was 19 years of age. She has remained in St. Joseph continuously since that time. Her Husband passed away many years ago. She is survived by two daughters, Mrs. John Lange, Sodus and Mrs. A.G. Marshall, St. Joseph; three grandchildren, Helen Marchall, St. Joseph, and Herbert Lange of this city and Arthur Lange, Sodus; one sister, Mrs. Elvina Dombrowsky, Harrison avenue, St. Joseph, and three brothers, Albert Zordel, St. Joseph, August Zordel, Ransom, Kansas, and Carl Zordel, Germany. Funeral services will be held Sunday afternoon at 1:45 at the Marshall residence and at 2 o’clock at the Trinity Lutheran church. Rev. Louis Nuechterlein officiating. Interment will be made in the City cemetery. The Ladies Aid society of the church will attend in a body. Mrs. Westphal met with the accident that contributed to her death while attempting to cross State street late last Friday afternoon. John Walsh, a trusty at the county jail, who has been sent down town with a Ford sedan to procure gasoline, was executing a complete turn on State street and was driving slowly when he struck the aged woman. Eye witnesses of the affair are unwilling to fix the blame.” A family story is that her long skirt got caught in the spokes of the wheels of the vehicle and she was dragged to her death?
- Contributed by: William Brackett at brackettwilliam@yahoo.com

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