Monday, June 27, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County, Part IV: The Edrehi Family [updated]

In the 1870 Jackson County census, we find the first mention of the Edrehi and Brash families. The Edrehi’s had the longest residency in Jackson County of any of the 19th century Jewish families. Some descendants, far removed from their ancestral heritage, and perhaps not aware of their Jewish origins, live in the region today. The Edrehi name is usually comically and almost unrecognizably misspelled in various transcriptions and records. Joseph Edrehi, the patriarch, of the Jackson County Edrehi family, was born in 1826 in Hamburg, Germany. The name “Edrehi,” and Joseph’s mother’s name, “Barzilay,” are traditionally Sephardic names: Joseph’s family was probably part of the Portuguese Jewish community which had migrated to Hamburg starting in the early 1600s (likely via Holland) where it continued to maintain a separate identity from Ashkenazic Jews (there is great Wikipedia article about the nearly 350 year history of Hamburg’s Portuguese Jews: . [Note: Sepharad literally means Spain and Sephardic, in the strict sense of the term, refers to descendants of Jews who lived in the Iberian peninsula prior to the expulsion from Spain in 1492 and Portugal in 1498].

Joseph and his wife, Betty, moved to London where they gave birth to two children: Estelle, born in March 1854 (according to the 1890 census) and David, born in 1857. The next record of the Edrehi family locates them in Marianna in the 1870 census. We have no explanation for their departure from London and choice of Jackson County. C. Davis Turner’s chronicle of Temple Emanu-El claims that the Edrehi’s came from Jacksonville and that Joseph purchased a plantation in Jackson County. In any event, the murder of Samuel Fleishman and the subsequent flight of the Fleishman family in late 1869 did not stymie the Edrehi’s from settling in Jackson County. Joseph is listed in the 1870 census as a merchant and, for some reason, his son David is listed as living separately, but nearby, with Benjamin Brash, a 27 year old Jewish merchant born in Prussia. Both households were neighbors of Benjamin G. Alderman’s family. Joseph also briefly holds the appointment of postmaster at Campbellton in 1871.

In the 1880 census, Joseph is listed as a "retailer/general merchant" living outside of Marianna– perhaps at Campbellton? David is listed as a retail merchant living on his own in Marianna. Estelle resides with her non-Jewish husband, “the boy next door,” Benjamin F. Alderman (the rootsweb census transcription mistakenly calls them “Anderson), the son of prominent Marianna merchant, Benjamin G. Alderman. In the 1880 census, Benjamin F. and Estelle are listed with two children, a girl of 3 Florie or Flora (b. 1877 in the 1890 census) and a baby boy, Frank. Presumably Benjamin and Estelle married about 1876 when she was 22. Benjamin is listed as 9 years older. Betty Edrehi, then in her mid-50s, is listed as living with the young family. By 1885, the Alderman family had grown to include two more young girls: Maggie (b. 1882) and Mable (b. 1884) and a fourth daughter, Lucille was born in 1894. By 1885, Bettie is listed as living once again with her husband Joseph. Strangely, Joseph lists his parents’ birth places in the 1885 census as Spain and Holland. This shows his awareness of his Sephardic heritage but confusion about the dates since the Sephardim left Iberia for Holland around the time of the expulsions, not in the 18th century. Joseph died in Marianna in 1886 at the age of 60 and is buried at Jewish section of the Oak Hill cemetery in Bainbridge, GA cemetery (I haven’t seen any records of any Jewish burials in Marianna).

David Edrehi remained in Marianna and in March 1896, at the age of 39, married 21 year old Ida Levy of Pensacola . The ceremony was conducted by Rabbi Rosenberg at the Pensacola YMCA, being used temporarily by Congregation Beth El after their temple burned down. [American Israelite, March 19, 1896]. Ida Levy Edrehi was apparently very close with her sisters in Pensacola and the American Israelite newspaper records many visits exchanged between sisters Hannah Levy and Mrs. S. Friedman of Pensacola and Mrs. Edrehi of Marianna in the late 1890s. Flora Alderman, who was about the same age as her aunt and her sisters, also shared in some of these visits

Shortly after 1900, perhaps timed with the birth of their son, J. (Joseph after the grandfather?) Montrose, David Edrehi left Marianna after thirty years residence and moved his family to Pensacola. He built a successful insurance firm and is frequently mentioned in the Pensacola newspapers.

Joseph’s widow, Betty (or Bettie) lived until 1903 and is buried in Pensacola’s Temple Beth-El cemetery. She is also listed as dying in Pensacola which suggests that she eventually left Estelle’s home and moved in with her son David’s family. The cemetery website ( ) lists her as 86, but earlier records suggest she couldn’t have been more than 80. She is also listed as born in Bavaria which is strange since other records indicate Hamburg, but may result from the confusion with other Panhandle Jews who were mostly from Bavaria themselves ( did they assume that because she was German-Jewish in origin she was also from Bavaria?).

Estelle Alderman died in 1921 and is buried in Marianna’s St. Luke’s Episcopal cemetery where her inscription reads, interestingly, “in christ I glory.” I did not track down the fate of her five children.

David died in 1930 and Ida died in 1927. They had only one child that I am aware of: J. Montrose Edrehi, born in 1900, a Pensacola attorney who passed away in 1964. David, Ida and J. Montrose are buried with Bettie in the Edrehi plot at Beth El, together with Jeannette Nathan Edrehi, presumably J. Montrose's wife.   Edrehi family Yahrzeits (the Hebrew calendar anniversary of death) are still remembered at Pensacola's Temple Beth El.

Trivia: There is an Edrehi Ave. that intersects with Montrose Dr. in Niceville, FL! [Updated 10/24/13 to correct 1880 census information. Thanks to Linda Epstein for pointing out and solving my errors].

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Hamilton article now available for free viewing and download

The Florida Historical Quarterly is uploading issues for free viewing and download five years after publication. Here's a link to my Spring 2006 article "'More Courage Than Discretion': Charles M. Hamilton in Reconstruction-Era Florida."

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Jews of Jackson County Part III: the War and Reconstruction

The fate of the Jackson and Gadsden County Fleishmans is recounted in detail in my article "Samuel Fleishman: Tragedy in Reconstruction –Era Florida," Southern Jewish History 8 (2005), pp. 32-75. In brief, Samuel Fleishman left Jackson County in the middle of the war after the Confederate army draft was extended to cover men up to the age of 45. He made his way to New York where he worked with his in-laws, the Altmans. Samuel returned to his family after the war and established the Altman Bros. store in Marianna. During the Reconstruction era, Fleishman affiliated with the Republicans and was murdered at the height of Jackson County violence in October 1869. Almost immediately after Samuel’s murder, his widow Sophia and their six children departed for New York City where they were looked after by Sophia’s increasingly successful brother, Benjamin – later famous at department store magnate “B. Altman.” The Marianna store was immediately closed, although Altman continued to maintain some property interests in Jackson County for a couple of decades.

Philip Fleishman, who was regularly moving between Gadsden and Jackson, left Florida for New York City around the same time as Sophia. Ferdinand, who together with Philip had taken over Samuel’s store in Quincy, too met a sad fate. He left Florida during the war, but ended up committing suicide in Cincinnati. His widow, Fannie Davis, married Morris Warendolff, a native of Prussia who also lived in Gadsden County. The couple and their children too left for New York. Both Benjamin and Simon served in the 6 FL Inf. Simon was captured at Missionary Ridge, while Benjamin was wounded and captured at Chickamauga. After the war, Benjamin continued to have business interests in Jackson County but died in the mid-1870s. Simon was the only Fleishman male left in Florida by the late 1870s. He was a well-noted and respected businessman in Quincy, living there into the twentieth century.

The Fleishmans were the only Jewish family to settle in Jackson County from the time of Sophia’s arrival in the mid-1850s until close to their departure in late 1869. In addition to the Fleishman men of Gadsden County, a few other Jews had business interests in Marianna, including “B. Cohn” and “D. Cohn” who appear in the 1867 tax rolls only. In the late 1860s, however, maybe even as late as the eve of census taking in the summer of 1870, the next generation of Jackson County Jews had started to arrive.