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Full text of "The settlement of the Jews in Georgia. By Chas. C. Jones, jr"

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Class i^^q^ 
Book ^ ^ J 7 



THE SETTLEMENT 



JEWS IN GEORGIA. 



BY 

CHAS. C.^ JONES, Jr., LL.T)., 

AuQutia^ Georgia. 



From the Publications of the American Jewish Historical 
Society, No. 1, 1893. 



* 






1 



'Of 



THE SETTLEMENT OF THE JEWS IN GEORGIA. 

By Chas. C. Jones, Jn., LL. D., Augusta, Georgia. 

In and by the charter granted by George II to the Trus- 
tees for establishing the colony of Georgia in America, liberty 
of conscience in the worship of Almighty God was fully 
guaranteed. To all sects, save Papists, was accorded a free 
exercise of religion, provided its ministrations and enjoyment 
were peaceable and caused no offense or scandal to the gov- 
ernment, which, as we well know, favored the Established 
Church of England. Acting in this spirit of toleration, Mr. 
Oglethorpe, in the language of Francis Moore,* '" shew'd no 
Discountenance to any for being of diiferent Persuasions in 
Religion." 

It has been idly charged that in the beginning, Georgia 
colonists were impecunious, depraved, lawless, and aban- 
doned, that the settlement at Savannah was a sort of Botany 
Bay, and that Yamacraw Bluff was peopled by runagates 
from justice. The suggestion is utterly without foundation. 
The truth is, no applicant was admitted to the privilege of 
enrolment as an emigrant until he had been subjected to a 
preliminary examination, and had furnished satisfactory testi- 
mony that he was fairly entitled to the benefits of the charity. 
Other American colonies were founded and augmented by 
individuals coming at will, without question, for personal 
gain, and bringing no certificate of present or past good con- 
duct. Georgia, on the contrary, exhibits the spectacle, at 
once unique and admirable, of permitting no one to enter her 
borders who was not by competent authority adjudged 
worthy the rights of citizenship. 

*A Voyage to Georgia, etc., p. 15. London, 1744. 



6 Amei'ican Jewish Historical Society. 

The primal introduction of Jews into the colony of 
Georgia was irregular, and contravened the instructions of 
the Trustees. It came about in this wise. Oglethorpe had 
scarcely concluded his labors in laying out the town of 
Savannah and designating its streets, squares, and wards, 
when a vessel arrived from England having on board forty 
Hebrew colonists. They came to Savannah without the 
sanction of the Trustees, although the exj)enses incident to 
their transportation had been defrayed with moneys collected 
under commissions granted by the Common Council. It 
appears from the journal of the Trustees that among the 
commissions empowering the holders to solicit and receipt 
for contributions in aid of the colonization were three in 
favor of Alvaro Lopez Suasso, Francis Salvador, Jr., and 
Anthony Da Costa. 

It was understood that all moneys which they might collect 
were to be transmitted to the Trustees, to be by them applied 
in furtherance of the objects specified in the charter. Acting 
under their commissions, ]Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, and Da 
Costa did secure benefactions to a considerable amount. 
Instead, however, of paying these funds over to the Trustees, 
or lodging them in the Bank of England to the credit of tiie 
Trust, as they should have done, they busied themselves with 
collecting Hebrew colonists to the number of forty, and, 
without the permission of the Common Council, appropriated 
the moneys which they had collected to chartering a vessel 
and defraying the expenses requisite for the conveyance of 
these Israelites to Savannah. 

Receiving an intimation that Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, 
and Da Costa were exceeding their authority and violating 
the instructions which accompanied the delivery of the com- 
missions, and apprehending that the purposes of these indi- 
viduals, if consummated, would prove prejudicial to and 
subversive of the good order and best interests both of the 
Trust and the Colony, the Trustees as early as the 31st of 
January, 1733, instructed their secretary, Mr. Martyn, to wait 



.« ••* ■•< • 



Jeios of Georgia — Jones. 7 

upon them and demand a surrender of the commissions which 
they held. With this demand Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, and 
Da Costa refused prompt comj)liance, and persisted in appro- 
priating the funds they had collected in the manner 
indicated. 

Mr. Oglethorpe had not been advised of the coming of 
these colonists, and was somewhat at a loss to determine 
what disposition should be made of them. As the charter 
guaranteed freedom of religious opinion and observance to 
all, save Papists, he wisely concluded to receive them, and in 
due course notified the Trustees of their arrival and of his 
action in the premises. Those gentlemen did not hesitate to 
avow their disapproval of the whole affair. They declared 
that such irregular and unauthorized conduct on the part of 
Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, and Da Costa was prejudicial to 
the good order and scheme of the colonization, and that the 
sending over of these people had turned aside many intended 
benefactions. A committee was appointed to prepare for pub- 
lication a statement of the matter, and to assure the public 
that the Trustees did not propose "to make a Jew's colony 
of Georgia." To Mr. Oglethorpe they wrote that they had 
heard with grave apprehension of the arrival of these Israel- 
ites in Georgia, and that they hoi)ed " they would meet with 
no sort of encouragement." They counseled him to "use 
his best endeavors that they be allowed no kind of settlement 
with any of the grantees," and expressed the fear that their 
presence in Savannah would prove injurious to the trade and 
welfare of the colony. 

Ignoring the narrow-minded and illiberal suggestions of 
the Trustees, Mr. Oglethorpe furnished ample accommoda- 
tion and encouragement for these Hebrew colonists, who by 
tJH'ir peaceable behavior, orderly conduct, and industry com- 
mended themselves to his favorable consideration. In com- 
municating with the Trustees he took occasion to express 
the opinion that this accession had not proved a detriment to 
the colony. He specially invites the attention of his asso- 



8 American Jewish Hktoricul Society. 

ciates to the good offices of Dr. Nunis. In acknowledging 
the latter's kindness, the Trustees request Mr. Oglethorpe to 
oiFer him a gratuity for his medical serv^ices, but insist that 
all grants of land within the confines of the province should 
be withheld from these Israelites. With these instructions, 
however, the founder of the colony of Georgia did not com- 
ply. In the general conveyance of town lots, gardens, and 
farms, executed on the 21st of December, 1733, several of 
these Hebrew's are mentioned as grantees. Among them 
appear Abraham Minis, Isaac Nunez Henriquez, Moses le 
Desma, Samuel Nunez Ribiero, Benjamin Sheftall, and 
Abraham Nunez Monte Sano. 

That the Trustees were justified in condemning and 
rebuking the irregularity, disobedience, and contumacy of 
Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, and Da Costa, cannot be ques- 
tioned. That it was entirely prudent and proper in them to 
claim and exercise the right of selecting colonists for the 
plantation, is equally certain. That they alone possessed the 
power of determining who should seek homes in Georgia, and 
of binding applicants in advance to a due observance of pre- 
scribed rules, was a privilege conferred by the terms of the 
charter. That they were justified in recalling the commis- 
sions sealed in favor of Messrs. Suasso, Salvador, and Da 
Costa, all will admit. And yet Mr. Oglethorpe was right in 
disregarding the illiberal instructions of the Trustees, and 
in receiving these people and according them homes in 
Savannah. Some of them removed to South Carolina, but 
others remained in Savannah, and their descendants may this 
day be found in that city occupying positions of trust, 
respectability, and influence. 

Upon the arrival in Savannah of the Salzburgers* under 

*The Salzburgers, to whom reference is here made, numbering in 
all seventy-eight souls and coming from the town of Berchtols- 
gaden, had been transported free of charge to Dover, England ; 
whence, on the 28th of December, 1733, they sailed in the ship 
Purisburg for Savannah. To them a settlement was accorded by 
Mr. Oglethorpe, at a locality about four miles below the present 



Jeios of Georgia — Jones. 9 

the conduct of the Baron Von Reck and the Rev. Mr. Bol- 
zius, a Jew invited the weary voyagers to a breakfast of rice 
soup, and showed them many kindnesses. In this little 
commercial metropolis of the colony there were then twelve 
resident Hebrew families. 

Of a Jew and his wife that clergyman records this anecdote 
in his diary : " They are so very willing to serve us and the 
Salzbi'vgers that it surprises us; and are so honest and 
faithful that the like is hardly to be found, as appears by the 
following example. The Jew's wife had, by mistake and in 
the dark, taken of a Salzburger's wife a crown piece for a 
half-crown piece, because the Salzburger's wife had given 
her it for no more. When, the next day, the Jew saw the 
money and his wife told him she had taken it for half the 
value, he went to the Salzburger's tent and asked for the 
woman and paid her the other half-crown with these words: 
* God forbid I should have any goods in my house that are 
not my own, for it will have no blessing.'" "This," adds 



town of Springfield, in Effingham County, Georgia. Depending 
upon the charity of the Trustees for establishing the Colony of 
Georgia in America for supplies of all sorts, patient of toil, observant 
of the rules of honesty, sobriety, and morality for which their sect 
had been long distinguished, and rejoicing in their freedom, these 
industrious and frugal immigrants labored earnestly in building a 
village in the depths of a sterile and monotonous pine forest. 

Early in 1735 this settlement was materially strengthened and 
encouraged by the arrival of iifty-seven new-comers, of like lineage 
and persuasion, under the conduct of Mr. Vatt ; and, about a year 
afterwards, the population was further increased by the arrival of 
some eighty Germans from the city of Ratisbon, under the guidance 
of Baron Von Reck and Captain Hermsdorf, and twenty-seven 
Moravians, under the care of the Rev. David Nitschman. 

In 1736 these Salzburgers abandoned their homes, and, with Mr. 
Oglethorpe's consent, located themselves on a high ridge near the 
Savannah river, to which they gave the name of New Ebenezer. 
Here they multiplied and prospered. In silk culture they excelled. 
To the present day their descendants maybe found in this vicinity, 
and the large brick house of worship, known as Jerusalem Church, 
still attests the industry and the religious zeal of these peoples. 



10 American Jewish Historical Society. 

Mr. Bolzius, " made a great impression on the Salz- 
burgers."* 

Relierring in another place to the generous treatment 
experienced by the Salzburgers, Mr. Bolzius states : " These 
Jews shew a great love for us, and have promised to see us 
at our settlement." 

Surely, 

" In Faith and Hope the world will disagree, 
But all mankind's concern is Charity." 

Be it remembered in praise of these Hebrew colonists that 
they were never numbered among the malcontents, many of 
whom gave Mr. Oglethorpe no little trouble and annoyance. 
They seem to have pursued quiet, industrious lives, and to 
have been observant not only of prescribed regulations, but 
also of the rights of their neighbors, refraining as far as 
possible from being a continuing charge upon the Trust. 

Mindful of their religion, at an early day they opened a 
small synagogue in Savannah which they named ^likva 
Israel. Unable to employ a minister, services were gratui- 
tously conducted in turn by members of the congregation. 

Among the early and successful merchants of Savannah, 
Abraham Minis will not be forgotten. 

It will be remembered that the Trustees entertained great 
expectations of profit not only from silk-culture but also from 
the fruit of the vine. Among the Hebrew colonists was Abra- 
ham de Lyon. He had been for years i)rior to his removal to 
Georgia a vineron in Portugal. In his garden he cultivated 
several kinds of grapes. Among them, the Porto and jNIalaga 
" grew in great perfection." He proposed to the Trustees 
that if they would lend him, upon such security as he oifered, 
<£200 sterling for three years without interest, he would 
" employ this sum with a further stock of his own in sending 
to Portugal and bringing over vines and vinerons." He also 

* Extract of the Journals of Mr. Commissary Von Reck, etc., pp. 
46, 47. London, 17.34. 



Jews of Georgia — Jones. 11 

obligated himself to repay the loan at the specified time, and 
to have growing within the province forty thousand vines, 
with which he would su])pl}' the freeholders at moderate 
rates.* The scarcity of money, however, and other pressing 
demands upon the ])nrse of the Trust prevented the acce})t- 
ance of the ])ro|)osition. 

To Colonel William Stephens, the venerable and faithful 
agent of the Trustees, we are indebted for the following 
glimpse of the first vineyard })lanted within the limits of 
Georgia : 

" 1737, December 6. After dinner, walked out to see what 
Improvements of Vines were made by one Mr. Lyon, a 
Portugese Jew, which I had heard some Talk of; and indeed 
nothing had given me so much Pleasure since my Arrival as 
what I found here ; though it was yet (if I may say it 
properly) only in Miniature, for he had cultivated only for 
two or three Years past about half a Score of them which he 
received from Portugal for an Experiment; and by his Skill 
and Management in pruning, &c., they all bore this year very 
plentifully a most beautiful, large Grape, as big as a Man's 
Thumb, almost pellucid, and Bunches exceeding big ; all 
which was attested by Persons of unquestionable Credit, 
(whom I had it from), but the Season now would allow me 
only to see the Vines they were gathered from, which were 
so flourishing and strong that I saw one Shoot of this last 
Year only, which he allowed to grow from the Root of a bear- 
ing Vine, as big as ray Walking-Cane, and run over a few 
Poles laid to receive it at least twelve or fourteen Foot as 
near as I could judge. From these he has raised more than 
a Hundred which he has ])lanted all in his little Garden 
behind his House at about four Foot Distance, each in the 
Manner and Form of a Vineyard : They have taken Root 
and are about one Foot and a Half high ; the next Year he 

*A true and liistorical narrative of the Colony of Georgia in Amer- 
ica, etc., by Tailfer, Anderson, and Douglas, p. 37. Cbarlestown, 
South Carolina, MDCCXLI. 



12 American Jeioish Historical Society. 

says he does not doubt raising a Thousand more, and the 
Year following at least five Thousand. I could not believe 
(considering the high situation of the Town upon a Pine- 
Barren, and the little Appearance of such Productions in 
these little Spots of Ground, annexed to the House), that he 
had found some proper Manure wherewith to improve the 
sandy Soil ; but he assured me it was nothing but the natural 
Soil, without any other Art than his Planting and Pruning, 
which he seemed to set some Value on from his Experience 
in being bred among the Vineyards in Portugal ; and to 
convince the World that he intends to pursue it from the 
Encouragement of the Soil proving so proper for it he has at 
this time hired four Men to clear and prepare as much Land 
as they possibly can upon his forty five Acre Lot, intending 
to convert every Foot of the whole that is fit for it into a 
Vineyard ; though he complains of his present Inability to be 
at such an Expence as to employ Servants for Hire."* 

The manufacture of silk and the cultivation of the vine 
did not engage, except to a limited degree, the attention of 
the colonists. They found other products such as indigo, 
rice, and corn more profitable. At a later period tobacco and 
cotton engrossed the labors of the planters. 

While these memoranda touching the connection of the 
Jews with the early settlement of Georgia are not as full as 
we could desire, they nevertheless afford some insight into 
the temper and the conduct of the Hebrew colonists. As a 
general rule they preferred commerce to agriculture, — town 
to country. In the record there are no stains. To the 
present day the Jews of Georgia have been industrious, 
thrifty, law-abiding, and substantial citizens. While chiefly 
busied with trade, among them will be found not a few who 
acted well their parts in law, in medicine, and in positions 
of trust, honor, and emolument. 

*A Journal of the Proceedings in Georgia, etc., pp. 48-50, Vol. I. 
London, MDCCXLII. See also An Impartial Enquiry into the 
State and Utility of the Province of Georgia, pp. 21, 22. London, 
MDCCXLI. 



PRESS OF 

THE FRIEDENWALD COMPANY, 

BALTIMORE.