web analytics
April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



The Early Jewish Settlement Of Texas


Old B'nai Israel Synagogue and Cohen Community House

Old B'nai Israel Synagogue and Cohen Community House
Photo Credit: Nsaum75/wikimedia

Share Button

In 1519 Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, Spanish explorer and cartographer, led an expedition into Texas with the goal of finding a passage between the Gulf of Mexico and Asia. He and his men were probably the first Europeans to see the land that became known as Texas. At various times between 1519 and 1848, all or parts of Texas were claimed by Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas and the United States.

Beginning in 1810 the people of Mexico rebelled against Spanish rule and started what became known as the Mexican War of Independence. This armed conflict ended in 1821 with Spain losing control of its North American territories. The new country of Mexico was formed from much of the land that had comprised New Spain – including Spanish Texas.

In 1821 Stephen F. Austin (1793-1836) established the first legal settlement of 300 North American families (termed the Old 300) in Mexican owned Texas. Among this group was Samuel Isaacs, the first Jew to be recorded as settling in Texas. He was granted land located in Fort Bend County. Nothing more is known about him other than he served in the Texas army from 1836 to 1837.

The founding of Austin’s colony marked the beginning of a wave of immigration from the United States to Texas, which at this time was not a part of the U.S. As many as 30,000 American immigrants had arrived by 1835. More followed throughout the rest of the nineteenth century, a number of them Jews.

The Seeligsons, Dyers and Ostermans

The Seeligsons, Dyers, and Ostermans were meticulously observant in traditional religious practice. They did not consider it a deterrent to their absorption into the civic and political activity of the bustling port city. They formed the religious nucleus which created the first Jewish communal organization in the state [of Texas], the Galveston Jewish cemetery (The Occident, Vol. X, No. 7, October, 1852). Reacting to this event, The Galveston News of August 31, 1852, with an eye to the future, wrote: “But we anticipate the organization of a Jewish congregation and the addition of a synagogue to the number of our places of public worship, at no very distant day.”1

Michael Seeligson

Michael Seeligson was born in Holland in 1797 to Sephardic Jewish parents, whose ancestors had fled to northern Europe from the Spanish Inquisition. He came to Galveston, Texas in 1838. The following year his wife Adelaide and his family joined him. Michael and two of his sons played a critical role in the movement to have the Republic of Texas annexed to the United States. Michael served as alderman of the city of Galveston in 1840 and 1848 and in 1853 he was elected the first Jewish mayor of the city.

Michael was especially noted for his wisdom and kindness. These exceptional attributes must have played no small role in the willingness of the predominantly non-Jewish population of Galveston to elect an observant Jew to such a high office.

Leon and Isidore Dyer

Leon (1807-1883) and Isidore (1813-1888) Dyer were born in Dessau, Germany. Their parents, who moved to Baltimore while they were both relatively young, were instrumental in the founding of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in 1830.

[Leon] Dyer was self-educated. In the early part of his career he worked in his father’s beef-packing establishment (the first in America). As a young man he enjoyed great popularity with the citizens of Baltimore, and filled a number of minor public offices. When the great Baltimore bread riots broke out, he was elected acting mayor, and through his intervention order was soon restored. While Dyer was engaged in business in New Orleans in 1836, Texas called for aid in her struggle for independence. Dyer was at that time quartermaster-general of the state militia of Louisiana. With several hundred citizens of New Orleans he embarked at once on a schooner bound for Galveston, arriving two days after the battle of San Jacinto. He received a commission as major in the Texas forces, signed by the first president, Burnett.The Louisiana contingent was assigned to the force of Gen. Thomas Jefferson Green, and saw active service clearing western Texas of bands of plundering Mexican troops. When Santa Anna was taken from Galveston to Washington, Major Dyer accompanied the guard, and Santa Anna’s autograph letter thanking Dyer for courtesies received on the journey testifies to the general’s gratitude.

In 1848 Colonel Dyer crossed the plains to California, and settled in San Francisco, where he founded a congregation – the first on the Pacific coast.2

Leon’s younger brother Isidore moved to Galveston in 1840 and went into business. He was so successful that he was able to retire in 1861. However, given his business acumen, he was not allowed to enjoy his retirement for long. In 1866 he was elected president of the Galveston Union Marine and Fire Insurance and held this position until 1880.

Share Button

About the Author: Dr. Yitzchok Levine served as a professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey before retiring in 2008. He now teaches as an adjunct at Stevens. Glimpses Into American Jewish History appears the first week of each month. Dr. Levine can be contacted at llevine@stevens.edu.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “The Early Jewish Settlement Of Texas”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
FBI Wanted poster for Osama bin Laden
Pakistan Library Renamed to Honor bin Laden
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Dr. Yitzchok Levine
Levine-Dr-Yitzchok-NEW

“Attuned to the ideal of establishing a new Zion in free America, they named their new colony Palestine.

Last month’s column outlined some efforts during the first half of the nineteenth century to establish Jewish agricultural colonies in America. In only one case was a colony actually established.

There were very few Jewish farmers in Europe during the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, in many parts of Europe Jews were forbidden to own land. Despite this there were some Jews who always felt they should return to the agrarian way of life their forefathers had pursued in ancient times, and that America was an ideal place to establish Jewish agricultural colonies.

The President having signed the Treaty of the Geneva Conference and the Senate having, on the 16th instant, ratified the President’s actions, the American Association of the Red Cross, organized under provisions of said treaty, purposes to send its agents at once among the sufferers by the recent floods, with a view to the ameliorating of their condition so far as can be done by human aid and the means at hand will permit. Contributions are urgently solicited.

Last month’s column sketched the myriad of social programs in which the Orthodox American communal worker and leader Adolphus S. Solomons (1826-1910) was involved. Adolphus married Rachel Seixas Phillips (1828-1881), a descendant of colonial patriot families and together they had eight daughters and a son.

There are many observant Jews who contributed much to secular and Jewish life in America and yet have, unfortunately, been essentially forgotten. One such man is Adolphus Simson Solomons (1826-1910).

Cholera was officially recognized to be of epidemic proportions in New York City on June 26, 1832. The epidemic was at its peak in July and 3,515 out of a population of about 250,000 died. (The equivalent death toll in today’s city of eight million would exceed 100,000.) Sadly, in 1832 there were no effective treatments available for those who contracted this disease.

As this is our third column on the Reverend Dr. Henry Pereira Mendes, we’ll begin with a summary of his life.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/glimpses-ajh/the-early-jewish-settlement-of-texas/2012/02/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: