The son of German immigrants, Spathelf grew up in the house, living there with his parents from 1869 to 1890. McCauley posted a query on a genealogy website, seeking in-formation about the family. Last year, he got a reply from Alabama. It turned out that Spathelf, a German American owner of a meat market on Broadway, was the great-grandfather of an African American, Richard Curtis.
Exchanging e-mails, McCauley and Curtis pieced together the history. Curtis said it was “a family story” that a white man was his great-grandfather—someone named Spathelf. McCauley shared his extensive Spathelf research and the Curtis family began researching Washtenaw County records. They discovered that Mary Sims Curtis, the daughter of an ex-slave, lived during the 1890s at a couple different addresses on Broadway—buildings owned by Spathelf.
George Spathelf and Mary Curtis were both married—not to each other—and had children with their spouses. Yet a niece of Richard Curtis discovered Washtenaw County mar-riage records showing Mary Curtis’s daughter, Lillian, listing George Spathelf as her father.