Friday, May 27, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County, Part II: the 1850s

During the 1850s, five, single, young adult men with the last name of Fleishman, all with the occupation of merchant or peddler, settled in Jackson County. Samuel, Philip, Benjamin, Ferdinand and Simon, all immigrants from Bavaria, were presumably brothers and cousins. Samuel, the eldest of this group, recognized opportunity across the river and purchased property in Jackson County by 1853. Small town merchants made frequent trips back and forth to New York to resupply their stock and Samuel returned from one of these excursions with a bride. Just as Samuel Fleishman is the first known Jew to take up residence in Jackson County, Sophia Altman was certainly the first Jewish woman to live there. Sophia was about ten years younger than Samuel and born in the United States, but her background was similar as she was the daughter of German-Jewish immigrants who operated a dry goods store in New York City with her two brothers, Benjamin and Morris. Benjamin Altman would later play an important role in the lives of the Fleishman family as well as in American merchandizing history.

In the years before the war, the Fleishmans were busy. In addition to the Marianna property, Samuel purchased two acres to set up a store in Campbellton. He also operated a seasonal tavern in St. Andrews. The couple enjoyed the birth of three sons, William in 1857, Benjamin in 1859 and Albert in 1861. Brother Philip seems to have had an active presence in their lives and Benjamin Fleishman from Quincy developed some business interests in Jackson County. By 1860, in addition to the Fleishmans, or perhaps because of their presence and the booming economy, several young Jewish men moved into Jackson County. The census lists Samuel Hofheimer, a 25 years old salesman from Bavaria, and Edward Oppenheimer, 23 years old from Hesse, as living together. Another two young men, A. Barnett, a 27 year old merchant, and Aaron Davis, 18, both Prussians, may also have been Jews. Finally there was Simon Straus, a 23 year old watchmaker from Germany (Simon lived with an older man, Moses Morce, a 44 year old tanner born in France). Unlike the Fleishmans, however, none of these other men established a lasting presence in Jackson County.

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