Title: Centenarian, secretary
Birthdate:  March 17, 1876
Death Date: April 15, 1976
Plot Location: Section 43, Lot 88, northwest corner

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Europe was well represented in this family’s lineage. Katharine’s father’s parents were German and Swiss who settled in Pottsville, Pennsylvania while her mother’s parents arrived in Philadelphia  from Scotland and Ireland.

Four children were born to William and Kate but one didn’t survive infancy. “Katy” was the oldest, followed by Elizabeth (“Bessie”) in 1878 and John Henry (“Harry”) in 1885. Katy was buried with her parents in the Circle of St. John, and her father’s story is worth describing before finishing Katy’s tale. 

Most of William’s siblings left their father’s grocery business in Pottsville for distant places, and Philly was where William met Kate MacDonald. He started married life in 1875 as a clerk but soon became a produce broker with his brother, Frank for a few years. He then ran the business himself in the 1880s but also became fascinated by electricity.

William had what his obituary said was an extensive electrical business. He was said to have invented, perfected, and owned the first electric street railway system in the city, which was later purchased by the Philadelphia Traction Company. The last of the horse-drawn trolleys were replaced with electrified cars in 1897.

With the profits from the sale, he invested in mines, and went to inspect one of them in Boulder, Colorado in 1906. His wife received a letter from him that August full of excitement about his business and that he would be home within a week’s time. Just a few hours after opening the mail, a telegram arrived to announce that he died while standing by the shaft of his mine during an electrical storm. He fell just as a flash of lightning lit up the sky, followed by the crash of thunder. 

At the time, Kate’s three children were working adults, single, and living at home near 49th and Market St. After William’s death they moved to 5025 Chestnut Street where the girls remained together for the next 50 years or more.

Katy was a secretary at a public school, Bessie was a public school teacher, and they kept those roles until retirement.  Harry was more transient. In the 1910 census he was listed as a civil engineer. His World War I draft card said he was a lathe operator in Ohio, but by the late 1920s he returned to Philly to be a coal salesman.

Bessie must have taught for many years without having college credentials. She remedied that situation when she completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania in 1920. While Harry was in Ohio the girls cared for their mother in her last years. She died in 1927. 

In the midst of the Depression, Harry moved again when he married Olive Shaw and bought a farm in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania, 50 miles west of Wilkes Barre. It was the second least-populated county in the state but he later ran a “tourist court” or motel on the only federal  highway there. His obituary in 1952 said they had two children and a second home in Florida.

There was no census information found for the Rosengarten women after 1930. Bessie’s obituary said she retired from teaching in 1945 after five years at the new John Bartram High School in southwest Philly. Katy signed her death certificate in 1956. The path she took for the rest of her life isn’t documented. When she sold her Chestnut Street home is unknown, as is her cause of death 20 years later. 

Social Security records indicate she died in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, about 60 miles northwest of Harrisburg. She  had just celebrated her 100th birthday less than a month earlier, but who celebrated with her? The only plausible explanation is she may have been living with Harry’s wife or children. Olive died a year after Katy but she was living in York at the time.

Katy’s gravestone is beside her parents and her mother’s parents. It includes Bessie’s name because, although her death certificate says she was cremated and buried at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, there’s no evidence that actually happened.

Japanese maple tree in front of a monument at Mount Moriah Cemetery

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