How does a store clerk in Nashville meet a girl in Indianapolis?
The store clerk was Abraham Loeb, the son of Emmanuel and Marie Loeb, who had moved away from his family in Louisville, Kentucky to Nashville, Tennessee by 1889.
Abraham’s future bride was Lizzie Fohl. It was an unlikely match, both because of the geographic distance that separated them and because Abraham was Jewish while Lizzie was a Protestant Christian whose grandfather John Fohl was a major figure in the United Brethren Church.
The Fohl family were of German descent. Hans Jorg Voll brought the name to the American colony of Pennsylvania in 1749, arriving in Philadelphia on the ship Speedwell from Rotterdam. The ship captain asserted that his passengers came from “Wirtembergh, Alsace, and Hanau.” For three generations, the Fohl family stayed put in Pennsylvania and married exclusively within the German community. But Hans’ great-grandson John Fohl became a traveling minister who spent some years further west, particularly in Indiana. After some back-and-forth to Pennsylvania, John’s son (Lizzie’s father) John R. Fohl settled in Indiana for good.
So how did Abraham and Lizzie meet? According to Ben Loeb, Jr., the family legend was that the two met at the famous 1893 Chicago World Fair, or World Columbian Exposition. This event ostensibly celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the New World, but more memorably celebrated emerging American exceptionalism and showcased contemporary American design and new technological wonders emerging at the end of the 19th century, like electric-powered lights, moving walkways, household appliances, and the first Ferris wheel.
The encounter at the Fair must have been memorable because Lizzie and Abraham did not marry until seven years later in 1900, apparently keeping in touch from a distance and no doubt overcoming family objections to marrying outside of their religious faiths. Abraham shed his Jewish identity after marriage, and no trace of that part of the family history was handed down in either traditions or artifacts. The couple had two children, Ben Fohl Loeb (later Sr.), and Edna Loeb.