August 01, 2014   5 Av 5774


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Historical Plaque  
 
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H.W. Solomon  
*The text below are from The Early History of The Hebrew Union Congregation of Greenville, Mississippi by H.W. Solomon.
In the Beginning.......  

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

Leopold Wilczinski


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.

Yellow Fever  

By 1878, Greenville, population now approximately 2000, could be called a city. It had come through its ordeal by the sword undaunted and rebuilt, in scarcely more than a year of peace, the town destroyed by Yankee occupation(1863) and shelling(1864). The same courage enabled its people to survive the ordeal by fire(completely destroyed the town except for 2 buildings in 1874), determined to rebuild their town a second time.

Early in August 1878, a Mr. Mangum took it upon himself to treat a dangerously ill patient at Refuge plantation. He did the best he could, but the best was not good enough and the victim died, as he probably would have even with the best medical attention. The 20th century had begun before Dr. Walter Reed could find the Aedes Eqypti mosquito guilty, as charged of transporting the germs of yellow fever. Carbolic acid was used by the barrel as a disinfectant. A few taxpayers complained because too large a portion of the city budget was being allotted to its purchase. There were many other remedies that were of little value.

As the cases multiplied by geometric progression during August and September, the townspeople could only pray that a frost would come early this year. For some unknown reason the disease could not thrive in cold weather. The first frost came on October 15th and the epedemic was over. The city government limped along with one councilman, Nathan Goldstein, the city clerk, and Theodore Pohl, treasurer. Mr. Goldstein called a meeting to arrange for a special election in early spring to fill the vacancies.

Nathan Goldstein

President Hebrew Union Temple

1887 - 1937

Nathan Goldstein

There were 291 people in Greenville that died that year of yellow fever. Of the total, the Jewish community could count 18.

The First Rabbi  
  The congregation was chartered by the state in 1880 and hired Rabbi Joseph Bogen. 

  Rabbi Joseph Bogen

Rabbi Joseph Bogen

   1880-1901

The First Temple  

    The original Hebrew Union Temple during high water in 1901.  Built originally for religious school, later used as an assembly hall then finally as H.U. C.'s first temple.  Joseph was its first Rabbi.  In 1905, the old building was moved off the lot so new constuction could begin.  The building was relocated to Campbell Street and divided into two residences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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