Available information does not permit pinpointing the date of the first Jews in Missiissippi. We do know it was around the time of the Civil War. Greenville's part in the war was no means minor. In 1863 the town was occupied by Federal troops, who burned and pillaged crops and supplies. They converted Mrs. Theobold's house into a hospital. In 1864 gunboats shelled the town. All but two houses were burned. These acts were the first of four disasters striking Greenville. With the echoes of the bugle calls of war still sounding in its ears, the village set about its business of becoming the greatest Delta city between Memphis and New Orleans. It could have been only a village, for five years later - 1870 - the census showed a population of 890. the death and destruction of the war just ended and undoubtedly decimated its population to not more than 500.
A few Jewish settlers of previous years, made part of this "saving remnant". The first business establishment of the newly located Greenville was set up by Morris Weiss in 1864 or 1865. He had just arrived from Neustadt, Prussia, via New York City. In the Jewish Orphanage in New Orleans, where his mother was Matron, there was at this time a boy, who already norne responsibliities, whose life line was soon to cross that of Mr. Weiss. They would both play an important part in the growth of the new Greenville. What whim of destiny willed it that a path begun in Germany should cross that of the youngster traveling by river boat from New Orleans?
In 1863, at the age of 13, the boy Nathan Goldstein had to load the coffin containing his father's body on a wagon, drive that wagon from his home in amite County to the railroad station at Osyka, whence he escorted it by rail to the last resting place in New Orleans. While living at the orphanage with his younger sister Sarah, at the ripe age of 14 he set up a business in the French market, being almost the whole support of his family. Four years later, his mother having married a Mr. Woolf, who had children of his own young Nathan, now 18 decided to set out alone for his promised land - Greenville.
Arriving there in 1868, he sought employment in the oldest of three stores, M. Weiss, proprietor. According to one of his grandchildren now herself a grandmother, the new clerk must have had charima galore, for Emeline, one of the boss's daughters, was so smitten at their first meeting, that she ran and hid under the bed, lest her parents see and taught her about her blushes. The ending of the romance was stereotyped, the chronology differed: Nathan became a partner and then married the boss's daughter - in 1876.
In 1870 the legislature approved the incorporation of Greenville, apparently as a levee protection measure, though with a population of 890, it deserved the appellation "town." By 1878 it could ring up a total of 2000. The town soon felt the imprint of the energy, ability and love for their hometown of three members of the Jewish community - Jacob Alexander, Nathan Goldstein, Theodore Pohl. Their activity encompassed all phases of community life - economic, social, political. Alexander served as Mayor in addition to other civic offices; Pohl held practically every city office except Mayor; Goldstein was a member of the City Council and the Board of Supervisors and was once an almost successful candidate for sheriff.
The First Mayor of Greenville, MS in 1875
The four Wilczinski brothers, Joe, Herman, Lep, and Nathan, were also prominent in civic affairs, Lep serving as Mayor. These are the men listed more than others on committees, boards, as well as holding offices.