In 1900, Syrian immigrant Sadie Hider, the daughter of Elias and Janicy Freije, was listed in the U.S. census as the head of her household, responsible for taking care of her three kids. She was married to John (or Hanna) Hider, but it’s not clear where her husband was at the time. Maybe he returned to Ottoman Syria for a while. Maybe he was just gone the day that the census was taken. Sadie could not speak, read, or write English, so it is possible that there was a miscommunication.
Mrs. Hider lived at 528 Willard, on the south end of the street near a large factory and Pogue’s Run creek. She inhabited one half of a wood-framed duplex, which was one and a half stories high. It was a “shotgun house,” only fifteen feet or so wide. The roof was made of wood shingles.
Her life on Willard Street must not have been easy. Just a few years after the 1900 census, Sadie’s son, Tom, died, and was buried in Holy Cross and St. Joseph Cemetery south of town.
It was fortunate that Sadie Hider had friends and relatives who lived, like she did, in the heart of Arabic-speaking Indianapolis. There were at least two other woman-led Syrian households there, and dozens of other female Arabic speakers in the immediate vicinity. The women of Willard Street were a hearty bunch who carried their own firewood and took care of one another. One of them was her sister, Mrs. Mary Freije Kafoure.
By 1910, Saidie Hider had moved a few blocks away to 401 West Norwood Street, located just southwest of today’s Lucas Oil Stadium. When the census was taken that year, 42-year-old John Hider, her husband, was listed as head of household.
He may not have been the easiest man to live with. On July 2, 1911, he was arrested for assault against a man named Obla Black. According to the Indianapolis Star, Hider confronted the man, who was African American, and “commanded him to dance, pointing a revolver at the colored man’s feet.” Mr. Black “struck his hand against the revolver and was injured.”
A few years later, John Hider died. But working with her two boys, the family supported itself by operating a corner grocery store located on the 500 block of Blake Street. She also saw both of her boys get married. Her son John wed Selma Freije, another resident of Willard Street. The connections among the Freije, Hider, and Kafoure families fueled the growth of Syrian charitable, social, and religious associations in Indianapolis, including St. George Syrian Orthodox Church, where she was a member.
Sadie Freije Hider may not have started out with much, but she lived long enough to see her children succeed in business and her grandchildren excel in Indianapolis’ public schools. Granddaughter Evelyn was an honor roll student at Washington High, where she also served as stage manager for one of the junior vaudevilles. Grandson Robert appeared in an ethnic Christmas program at the Children’s Museum, representing Syrian Americans, and he went on to play football and become an school ambassador at Washington High.
When Sadie Hider died in 1940, she was mourned not only by her immediate family members such sister Mary Kafoure and brothers Frank and Fred Freije but also by the whole Syrian community. Her funeral took place at St. George.
Three years later, her sons, John and Lewis, still missed her. They published a poem in the Indianapolis Star in her memory: “Oft we think of you, dear mother, / And our hearts are sad with pain; / Oh, this world would be heaven / Could we hear your voice again. / You wore a crown of patience / As you struggled on and one, / A faithful one, so kind and true. / Dear mother, how we long for you.” It was a fitting tribute to one of the mothers of Arab Indianapolis, a woman whose perseverance had created the possibility of a thriving community.
This post was researched by IUPUI student Jay Brodzeller.