return to Home page Aaron Joseph Marx  
Civil War veteran and Cleveland's first Jewish policeman

by Linda Silverman Shefler
A Memorial Day 2019 post on the Facebook group Jewish History Hub showed a story from the Jewish Independent of May 28, 1909 "Jewish Civil War Veteran’s Graves". The first name was my great great grandfather A. J. Marx (misspelled Marks), full name Aaron Joseph Marx.

I grew up fascinated by Aaron. I knew what he looked like because my grandmother had his picture from the Civil War. A copy of this picture hangs in the Maltz Museum. Aaron started me on what has been a lifelong passion of researching my family.

When asked to share the story of Aaron’s life on a Cleveland Jewish History web page, I couldn’t think of any better way to honor him for starting me on this amazing journey. It is an honor to my first immigrant ancestor who served his new country, not just as a soldier but as a policeman too.

Linda Silverman Shefler 
Livermore California

The Early Years —
Sterbfritz, Hesse to Cincinnati, Ohio

Aaron Joseph Marx was born in Sterbfritz in the (German) state of Hesse on January 11, 1834. He was the oldest of the five children of Joseph Meier Marx and Hannche nee Diefenbach. As the oldest son of Joseph, Aaron legally would have been the one to inherit the family house, business and property if there was any, but instead he set off for America on December 7, 1853.

He sailed from Bremen to New York with the family of Abraham Rosenbaum from Schluchtern and two teenage girls who were also from Sterbfritz. The ship manifest indicated that Aaron was 19 years old, born in Sterbfritz, occupation bookbinder and destination Cincinnati, Ohio.

Two and a half years later, on May 6, 1856, at the age of 22, Aaron married Bertha Lamm of Ober-Gleen, Hesse. They were married in Cincinnati. I mention his age because in Germany, due to the heavy burden of taxes levied on Jews, most men didn’t marry until their late 20s and even early 30s.

Life was busy for Aaron and Bertha at that time. Their first son was born in 1857 in Cincinnati, their second son in 1858. On February 18, 1859 Aaron became a US citizen in Marysville, Ohio.

Painesville Ohio

By the time of the 1860 census (see census form below) he was living in Painesville, Ohio and working as a bookbinder, an occupation he continued to work at until 1866, with an interruption of about 10 months when he volunteered to serve during the Civil War.

Aaron’s sister Schanette/Jeanette/Jenny immigrated around 1855 and was living with Aaron and Bertha in Painesville. She was also a bookbinder and they probably worked together in Aaron’s shop, A J Marx Bookbinder and Manufacturer, which was located at the rear of the telegraph office in Painesville. Schanette was the only sibling of Aaron’s to immigrate.

1860 advertisement for A. J. Marx Book Binder and manufacturer of blank books for banks, insurance companies, etc, in Painesville Ohio.

Erie Pennsylvania and the Civil War

Some time in 1861 the family relocated to Erie, Pennsylvania where three more children were born. Now they had six children: one born in Cincinnati, two in Painesville and three in Erie.

It appears the reason for the move to Erie was so that Aaron could enlist in the volunteer regiment of Co. F 169th Pennsylvania Regiment. He enlisted on October 16, 1862 when the regiment was organized. He was mustered out on July 25, 1863, two days before the rest of the regiment, due to a medical discharge. He entered at the rank of Sergeant. I believe this was due his ability to read and write English, which was not common at that time. He was honorably discharged.

Below: Aaron Joseph Marx in his Army uniform with sergeant stripes. The picture is mounted on a postcard measuring 4.25” x 6.6”.


 Cleveland Ohio   1867 - 1901

After living in Cincinnati, Painesville and Erie, the family made their final move, to Cleveland, sometime around 1867. I suspect they went there to be near Bertha’s family. The family of Bertha’s aunt, with whom she shared a name, Bründel (Bertha), started settling in Cleveland in the 1850s.

They were the (Haas) Hays family and Bertha Marx’s first cousins were Belle Oppenheimer, Rosa Loeb, Fannie Klein, Kaufman Hays, Joseph Hayes and Henrietta Rohrheimer.

In February 1869 their seventh and last was born.

 Cleveland's First Jewish Policeman

Aaron spent a couple of years working as a second hand goods dealer before being sworn in as a patrolman for the 3rd Precinct of the Cleveland Police Department on September 14, 1870. He was 36 years old. He joined a police force of about 80 men. Known as A. J. Marx, he was Cleveland's first Jewish policeman.

It appears that Aaron was a lively character! He was written up in July 1872, being charged with smoking and drinking while on the job. In September 1877 he was charged with unnecessary violence, fined $50 and reprimanded. In 1883 a saloonkeeper on Broadway presented a complaint against Patrolman Marx accusing him of demanding the use of the water trough in the front of his saloon and threatening in a loud and boisterous manner to cut off the water supply if the request was not granted. Interestingly, complaints were published in the newspaper but no official charges were filed.

He served as a policeman for 27 years, retiring in January 1897, eight months before his wife Bertha died suddenly. They had been married 41 years 3 months and 18 days (according to his pension application).

Upon his retirement Aaron received a gold handled cane with the inscription "From members of the Police Force, 6th Precinct to A J Marx upon his retirement from active service Jan 15, 1897".

   Aaron J Marx and fellow police officers 1878

 Death  April 18, 1901


Obituary from the April 26, 1901 Jewish Independent.

Aaron died from diabetes April 18, 1901 at the age of 67. He was at the home of his daughter and son-in-law, Hannah and Simon Thorman, at 162 Beech Street (today East 43rd Street).

His death was reported in both Jewish newspapers: the Jewish Independent and the Jewish Review & Observer.

The long obituary noted his aversion to arresting people if he thought there was a chance to reform them.

He was described as one of the most popular and widely known men on the police pension roll.

Rabbi Moses Gries of The Temple (Tifereth Israel), who had married a daughter of Kaufman Hays, officiated at the services at the home.

The procession from the home to Willson Avenue (now East 55th) and Euclid Avenue included Civil War veterans and a police honor guard.

The mourners and the coffin traveled on the special funeral streetcar that served Lakeside and Mayfield cemeteries. It traveled east on Euclid Avenue, then up Mayfield Road.

There Rabbi Michaelis Machol of the Scovill Avenue Temple (Anshe Chesed) officiated at services at the Mayfield Cemetery Chapel.

Aaron was survived by six sons and a daughter. With the exception of his son Charles (my great grandfather), all of his children remained in Cleveland.


Aaron J. Marx Headstone - Mayfield Cemetery


 About the Author

Linda Silverman, born in Providence, Rhode Island, is married to David Shefler. They live in Livermore California and have a daughter Shaina and a grandson.

Retired after a career in business and interior design, she inherited her grandmother's large collection of family pictures 35 years ago. It included the one (above) of Aaron Joseph Marx. She decided to delve into the family history and bring those pictures to life.

Over the years she has found her great-great grandfather Aaron Marx's great grandparents, Mordechai and Chajle, born around 1700. Today she has documented more than 5,600 of their descendants. Her family tree has more than 28,000 persons.

May 22, 2020

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