Bobruisk Ancestors

The Willers

by Jeffrey Hart

Bobruysk, c. 1910

The Willers came from Bobruisk. At the time Bobruysk was part of Russia; now it is in Belarus. Bobruysk was a large town with a major military fort. Many of the Jews in Bobruysk were shopkeepers whose clientele included both Jews and gentiles, including the military personnel stationed at the fort. Bobruisk had good schools and many amenities not available in other Jewish towns.

Harris Willer’s Hebrew name was Yehoshua Hershel. His father’s Hebrew name was Gershon Hakohen. His Russian name would have been Herschel Wilcher. He had at least two brothers. One of them immigrated to Vienna. The descendants of that brother moved to Israel. Albert Roth traced them in the 1940s but then lost touch later on. A second brother lived in Worcester, Massachusetts. There are supposed to be Wilcher descendents in New England.

Harris Willer

Mary Willer and Daughters, c. 1914

Harris married Mary Margolin in Bobruysk in 1893. Her Hebrew name was Miriam. She was the daughter of Mordecai Halevi. Mary had two brothers: Benjamin and Bernard. Benjamin died as a combatant in World War I.

Harris and Mary had five daughters: Rose Rebecca (1894), Bella (1898), Sonia (1905), Elizabeth “Libby” (1909), and Elsie (1916). All of the daughters except Elsie were born in Bobruysk. Elsie was born in Portland. Harris left Mary and her daughters in Russia around 1900 to come to the United States. He worked for a while on the construction of the transcontinental railroad. There were difficulties in arranging for Mary to come to the United States. Apparently she had no birth certificate because her father neglected to get one because of an illness she contracted at birth. After 1914, when Mary and her daughters were able to join Harris in the United States, they settled in Portland where Harris had a plumbing supply business.

Rose Willer, c. 1920

Rose Willer graduated from the Bobruysk Gymnasium (1913) and then attended Reed College for a few years beginning in 1919. She received her BA degree from the University of Oregon. Rose died tragically in 1924 after being hit by a taxi in New York City while studying for a degree in social work.

Bella married Albert Roth in Portland in 1919. Albert’s last name originally was Rothkowitz. He was the brother of Mark Rothko, the painter.

Gus Solomon, 1959

Libby Willer married Gus Solomon in 1939.

Gus was a lawyer specializing in representing unions and people whose civil rights had been violated. He had attended Reed College and the University of Chicago. He obtained a law degree from Stanford University. He was one of the founders of the ACLU branch in Oregon in 1935. Harry Truman appointed Gus to be a U.S. District Court Judge in 1949. He had the longest career of any federal judge in Oregon. Gus died in 1987. The Gus J. Solomon U.S. Court House in Portland was named after him in 1989.

Content last updated Friday, May 01, 2015 at 07:19 AM Mountain Daylight Time