30 May 2010

California: Oldest known Jewish death, 1850

Today is the 160th anniversary of Samuel Harris Goldstein's tragic and untimely death. It is the oldest known Jewish death in California.

From cemetery project coordinator Bob Wascou - of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Sacramento - comes this information surrounding Goldstein's death.

In 1849, merchants Samuel Harris Goldstein and Moses Hyman came to California from New Orleans, Louisina.

Hyman settled in Sacramento, while Goldstein and his son, 14, were in Marysville, some 45 miles north of Sacramento. Goldstein's wife and other children were in New Orleans.

On May 30, 1850, Harris Goldstein, as he was known, took a steamer - the Governor Dana - to Sacramento, accompanied by his son.

Here is the Placer Times newspaper account of his tragic trip, published on Monday, June 1, 1850.

While no documentation exists, according to Wascou, he was likely buried in the old Sacramento City Cemetery by Moses Hyman, who was a religious man. Hyman had his own Torah scroll, conducted the first Sacramento high holiday services in 1849 or 1850, and was also a mohel (ritual circumciser), who traveled all over the Gold Rush territory.

Hyman donated the money he earned as a mohel to purchase the property for the Jewish cemetery in fall 1850.

On April 2, 1851, Hyman married Goldstein's widow, Rosina, and their son Kaufman was the first Jewish boy born in Sacramento in 1851.

Goldstein was re-interned in what is known as the old Jewish cemetery and again re-interned in the present day Jewish cemetery - Home of Peace - when all bodies were moved to the current Jewish cemetery.

[NOTE: The stone's inscription refers to Goldstein as a holy wise man and teacher. His Hebrew name appears to be Shemuel Zvi ben Ari Leib]

While the newspaper account is in a number of microfilms, Bob used the California Digital Newspaper Collection because it was the clearest.

Bob has been researching in the archives of B'nai Israel congregation - the first Sacramento synagogue. Hyman was instrumental in its founding. When founded, the cemetery was owned by the Hebrew Benevolent Society, and later by the congregation. Home of Peace Cemetery is owned today by the B'nai Israel and Mosaic Law congregations.

He has full access to the Home of Peace records, but they aren't complete and the old cemetery records no longer exist. At the time there was no superintendent for the Old City Cemetery, so there is no record of who was interned there.

Goldstein's son, Jacob, was adopted by Hyman and known as Jacob Hyman. According to Bob, he was born in Poland and naturalized on August 1, 1856, but Bob has not yet found the naturalization papers. In the October 14, 1850 census, Bob notes that a Jack Hyman listed with Moses could be Jacob but he's still researching that.

Jack learned watchmaking from Hyman and operated a jewelry store in Sacramento. As far as Bob knows, he did not marry. He died December 21, 1897, and is buried in Home of Peace cemetery. The Sacramento Bee carried his obituary on December 23, but Bob has not yet obtained it.

Thanks, Bob, for sharing such an interesting story with Tracing the Tribe.

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