Pocket watch

In Attire
Front of pocket watch
Front of pocket watch

In the early 1900’s my great-grandfather, William Rinehart Gerth, made the trip from Germany to Chicago. He took a job as a cable car driver and met his soon-to-be wife, Eltha. While living in Illinois, William purchased a pocket watch with his initials W.R.G engraved on the back. It became one of his most cherished possessions. As Chicago started shutting down its cable cars, William took this pocket watch with him when he was forced to move further west to San Diego with his family. The promise of better jobs was not fulfilled, however, and William spent the rest of his working days as a school custodian. 

Despite times of struggle, William worked hard to support his family of seven. That said, he rarely shared details of his past during this time. There became even less communication after his third stroke left him with a non fluent form of aphasia, leaving my grandpa to care for him along with his own wife and children. My grandpa told very few stories as well and since he and everyone else in his family has passed, this pocket watch is the only physical reminder we have of my great-grandfather. The fact that William’s pocket watch, and the history behind it, has been retained throughout these past generations is something I’m very grateful for. It introduced me to a part of my family history that I had never before questioned.

Place(s): Chicago, San Diego

– Madalyn Stewart

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more