Posted tagged ‘Marquette County’

Nathan Kaufman and the Breitung Family

September 13, 2012

The following passage is taken from my book My Marquette:

The Breitung home, previously at 334 E. Ridge in Marquette, is no longer standing, but its history provides an interesting look into the lives of its owners. The house was built by Edward Breitung and his wife, Mary. Breitung, the son of a Lutheran minister, was born in 1831 in the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen in Germany. He attended the College of Mining in Meiningen, and then in 1849, immigrated to the United States and settled in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. He moved to Detroit in 1851 and became a clerk in a mercantile house. His mining and mercantile background led him to Marquette and later Negaunee where he continued his mercantile business. By 1864, he completely transitioned into iron mining. He located several profitable mines in Marquette and Menominee Counties, and later became involved with gold and silver mining in Colorado. Breitung Township in Minnesota is named after him for his work in developing its Soudan Mine in the 1880s. Breitung Township in Dickinson County, Michigan is also named for him.

Edward Breitung became involved in politics and was elected to the Michigan State House of Representatives in 1873 and 1874. He served as a Michigan State Senator in 1877 and 1878. He was Negaunee’s mayor in 1879, 1880, and 1882, and from 1883-1885, he was in the United States House of Representatives for Michigan’s 11th congressional district.

Mr. Breitung met his wife, Mary, in a boarding house in Republic, Michigan where he often ate when in town on business and where she worked as a chambermaid. They would have two children, William, who died young, and Edward N. Breitung who was fifteen at the time of his father’s death in 1887. Breitung built this home just before his death.

Six years after Mr. Breitung’s death, Mary Breitung married Nathan Kaufman, whom her husband had relied on to handle many business details for him. The marriage created gossip that Mary and Nathan had been seeing each other before Mr. Breitung’s death, but considering they waited six years to marry, that seems unlikely. The gossip was more due to people disliking Nathan Kaufman and being jealous of how the Kaufman family’s social position rose as a result of this marriage. In the 1890s, Nathan Kaufman would serve as mayor, be responsible for building the city hall, be involved in starting the Marquette Street Railway, and would help to establish and become president of the Savings Bank.

The Breitung Mausoleum, Park Cemetery, Marquette

The Breitung Mausoleum, Park Cemetery, Marquette

Meanwhile, Edward N. Breitung reached adulthood and married his stepfather’s younger sister Charlotte Graveraet Kaufman. Nathan Kaufman would continue to oversee operation of the Breitung money and businesses until his death in 1918.

When Nathan Kaufman died, his will left everything to the Kaufman rather than Breitung side of the family. When his wife, Mary Breitung Kaufman, went to court to break the will it resulted in a trial where so many unsavory details came out about Nathan that Mary decided to divorce him posthumously.

About the same time, Nathan’s younger brother, Louis Kaufman, built the impressive Kaufman Mausoleum in Park Cemetery—a scaled-down replica of the Parthenon in Greece and said to cost about three million dollars. To be buried in the marvelous marble mausoleum was not good enough reason for Mary to stay married to her deceased second husband. Today she is buried in the smaller Breitung mausoleum built of sandstone.

As for Mary’s son Edward Breitung who married Nathan Kaufman’s sister, they had their own fascinating family scandals, which you can read more about in my book My Marquette, available at