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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Lemuel Cook: The Man Who Outlived History

By Michael Mauro DeBonis

Rip Van Winkle’s fictional tale pales in comparison to Lemuel Cook’s real-life one. The celebrated American prose stylist (Washington Irving) from New York State’s Hudson Valley was born in New York City on April 3, 1783, to parents of Anglo-Scottish ethnicity (Biography.Com, 1). Irving was a writer of great vision, versatility, and discipline. Yet, with respect to the life of esteemed Revolutionary War veteran and historically concrete Lemuel Cook, Irving’s brilliant literary creation of Van Winkle does not measure up to his actual flesh-and-blood counterpart.

“Mr. Cook was born in Northbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut, on September 10, 1759, the son of Henry Cook (Jr.) and a grandson of the first settler of that town, also named Henry Cook (Sr.)” (Hilliard, 7). Lemuel was born on his father Henry Cook’s farm (Frank Cook, 2), the eighth of nine children (Frank Cook, 2). Henry Cook (Jr.) married Lemuel’s mother, Hannah Benham Cook, on November 27th, 1745, in Northbury, Connecticut (Holly Cook, 25-26). Hannah B. Cook died in Northbury, Connecticut, circa 1795 (Holly Cook, 25-26). The great progenitor of the whole Cook family in New England was another Henry Cook, who was an Anglo-Puritan from Yorkshire, England (Frank W. and Holly Cook, 1 and 17-18), and he was born there about 1615 (Frank W. and Holly Cook, 1 and 17-18). Henry the Puritan is first recorded in public records in 1638, at Salem, Massachusetts (Frank W. and Holly Cook, 1 and 17-18).

According to Frank Cook, Lemuel’s great-grandson, an unknown epidemic swept through Connecticut in 1759, killing four of Lemuel’s siblings (Frank Cook, 2), but five of the Cook children (including Lemuel amongst these) had survived the disease (Frank Cook, 2). Lemuel grew up doing the harsh work required on the family farm. Henry Cook, Lemuel’s father, was born on August 17th, 1723, in Wallingford, Connecticut (Holly Cook, 19). Henry Cook, in the French and Indian War, served as a private “during the campaign of 1762” (Holly Cook, 19). As the American Revolution drew near, Henry Cook died on September 6th, 1771 (Holly Cook, 19), presumably of natural causes. “When Henry [also called Henry the Fourth] died, the family was left in depressed circumstances…” (Frank Cook, 2), “…but through it all, the family remained together” (Frank Cook, 2). “At the outbreak of the Revolution in 1775, Lemuel was the first of the Cook sons to enlist…” (Frank Cook, 2), with several of his brothers (including Selah Cook and Trueworthy Cook), both enlisting in the Continental Army, subsequently, as the War for Independence progressed (Frank Cook, 2). Henry Cook, who had honorably served in the King’s Connecticut colonial militia (Holly Cook, 19) and became a very successful farmer afterward (Holly Cook, 19), instilled in all his children a very strong work ethic (Frank Cook, 2), along with his beloved wife, Hannah Benham Cook (Frank Cook, 2). Both Cook's parents could not have anticipated the long bloody war that lay before their sons and the soon-to-be new nation.

“He [Lemuel Cook] enlisted at Cheshire [Connecticut]…when only sixteen years old. He was mustered in ‘…at Northampton, in the Bay State, 2nd Regiment, [Continental] Light Dragoons…’’’(Hilliard, 7). Private Lemuel Cook’s commanding officers were Colonel Sheldon, Captain Stanton (Hilliard, 7), and Major [and eventual Lt. Colonel] Benjamin Tallmadge (Editors-BRTN, 1). Major Benjamin Tallmadge was the chief agent for General George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring (Editors, BRTN, 1). Lemuel Cook “…served through the war, and [he] was discharged in Danbury [Connecticut], on June 12, 1784” (Hilliard, 7-8). In 1864, two years before Lemuel Cook died, Cook commented to Connecticut historian, the Reverend Elias Hilliard, in a famous face-to-face interview, “When I applied to enlist, Captain Hallibud told me I was so small, he couldn’t take me, unless I would enlist for [the entire] war,” (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook, the young intrepid teenager, proudly accepted his role as a soldier. Lemuel Cook’s mettle, from 1775 onwards, would soon be tested by his redcoat enemies.

Sometime after his military induction, Lemuel Cook saw action at Dobbs Ferry (in modern-day Westchester County, New York State) while he was on patrol (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook’s Continental Army Regiment of the Connecticut Second Light Dragoons was at Dobbs Ferry to perform reconnaissance missions against all possible British military operations in what was then infamously called “the Westchester” (Hilliard, 7-8). What Cook and his brave band found was something much worse. As Cook’s company of bluecoat Continentals approach a countryside barn, several armed men inside of it fired their muskets upon Lemuel and his Yankee unit (Hilliard, 3) and their French allies, too (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook commented on this incident to the Reverend Hilliard nearly ninety years later, “They were Cow Boys”’ (Hilliard, 7-8).

The Westchester in lower upstate New York and Suffolk County on Long Island (specifically during the American Revolutionary War) were the two most lawless regions in the northeast area of operations during that long, bloody conflict (Tallmadge, 32-33, 34-35 and 50-52). The London Trade was carried on by both British Tories and alleged Yankee Whigs (Rose, 204 and 232). The London Trade was an illegal smuggling and stealing operation conducted by numerous criminals and opportunists on both sides of the British vs. American campaign, with many neutral (but nefarious) parties also greedily participating (Rose, 232-235). “The Cow Boys,” mentioned by Lemuel Cook, were brutal and devious highwaymen who freely stalked New York State’s roads in both Westchester and Long Island, looking for an easy and suspected target from which they could find to pilfer property and money, civilian or military (Rose, 204 and 232-235).

The Cow Boys conducted their venomous and savage raids on land, whereas their counterparts on the sea (especially on the Long Island Sound) carried out their thieving expeditions in open water (Rose, 204 and 232-235). Lemuel Cook’s superior officer, Major Benjamin Tallmadge, called these lowly robbers “freebooters” (Tallmadge, 32). As noted above in Tallmadge’s historically well-detailed and factual Memoir, Tallmadge was constantly waging war against Cow Boys and freebooters alike, doing whatever he could to upset and end their activities during the Revolution (Rose, 204 and 232-235 and Tallmadge, 32-33). This involved Tallmadge and Cook both (as Dragoons) carrying on perpetual sting operations against these crooks, on land and on water, seizing illegally “collected” cargo and burning those ships at sea carrying it (Rose, 235 and Tallmadge, 34, 46, and 48-49). If on land, Tallmadge and Cook would confiscate stolen horses and property from The Cow Boys, and (if possible) they would return them both to their rightful owners. If their rightful owners happened to be redcoat soldiers or Tory sympathizers, Tallmadge and Cook would keep the captured booty for themselves, and they would split it up amongst their Continental ranks (Tallmadge, 52). This conduct was legally permissible by the Continental Congress.

The Cow Boys were typical of Tory extraction (Rose, 204), and their criminal counterparts on the Whiggish and patriotic side of the Revolution were robbers called “Skinners” (Rose, 204). Both Cow Boys and Skinners were of lowly and dubious nature. Any sober student of history would be cautioned to align these lawbreakers with any particular side while their convenient loyalties both waxed and waned as the events of the War for Independence took place. Ironically, the Revolutionary War created a very favorable environment for crime and graft to exist on both Loyalist and Whiggish sides of the struggle, but it is a subject for discussion much too broad to be fully discussed here.

It should be noted the London Trade was sharply described by Benjamin Tallmadge, fifty years after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, as “…the illicit trade…”(Tallmadge, 50). Historian Alexander Rose further comments about the London Trade, “Illegal trading understandably alarmed Congress…” (Rose, 73) because it was (during the Revolution) “…draining cash from already cash-strapped strapped states…” (Rose, 73). Rose further says about Tallmadge’s thoughts regarding the Skinners, “Like [Caleb] Brewster, Tallmadge also nursed a particular dislike of these men, who declaimed their Revolutionary principles, while acting like banditti” (Rose, 232). Rose states that Skinners and freebooters alike had a “…terrible effect on [Long Islanders’] morale” (Rose, 232), and Rose proceeds to quote Tallmadge’s wartime thoughts on the Skinners to Washington, “…the marauders from our [American] shore make no distinction between Whig and Tory,’” (Rose, 232). Tallmadge was describing the Skinners’ vulgar and cutthroat behavior on Long Island while carrying on their raiding operations (Rose, 232), and Tallmadge was factually correct that the presence of the Skinners on Paumanok was not only a criminal one for Long Islanders, but it was also a psychologically traumatizing one for Suffolk County residents, too (Rose, 232).

Dealing with brutal and unsavory smugglers, highwaymen, and other criminals was only one of the many military occupations that tasked Yankee cavalrymen Cook and Tallmadge. They also had to fight British enemy redcoats. Yet Lemuel Cook’s well-documented encounter with the Cow Boys was a significant one in his life, and about it, we must more deeply speak.

Lemuel Cook continued relating his wartime tale to Reverend Hilliard, “I felt the wind of the [musket] ball” (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook went on explaining the story to Hilliard, “A [Continental] soldier near me said, ‘Lem, they mean [to shoot] you. Go on the other side of the road.’”(Hilliard, 7-8). Lemuel followed his ally’s advice and did so (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook stated to Hilliard once more, “So I went over…pretty soon another man [Cow Boy] came out of the barn and aimed and fired. He didn’t come near me. Soon another [a third Cow Boy] came out and fired. His [musket] ball lodged in my hat. By this time, the firing had roused the camp, and a company of our troops came on one side [of the road], and a party of the French [also came out] on the other [side of the road]…and they [Continental and French soldiers alike] took the men from the barn prisoners, and [they] brought them in,” (Hilliard, 7-8).

Cook was not done with his Revolutionary War reminiscence as he still related to Hilliard, “When they [the French and Continentals both] brought the men [the Cow Boys] in close, one of them [a Cow Boy] had the impudence to ask, ‘Is the man here we fired at just now?’” (Hilliard, 7-8). “Yes,” said Major Tallmadge, “There he is, that boy” (Hilliard, 7-8). “Then he [the Cow Boy] told how they had each laid out a crown and agreed that the one who brought me down should have the three” (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook continued with his recollection to Hilliard further, “When he [the Cow Boy] got through with his story, I stepped to my holster and [I] took out my pistol and [I] walked up to him and [I] said, ‘If I’ve been a mark to you for money, I’ll take my turn now. So, deliver your money or your life!’ He [the Cow Boy] handed over four crowns, and I got three more from the other two’” (Hilliard, 7-8).

Lemuel Cook (as a Continental teenage soldier) had thus doggedly and shrewdly reversed the Cow Boys’ shakedown against him. Fortunately for Cook, he narrowly lived to tell his tale and was wealthier for it. His story could have very likely ended much differently. Cook had many other Revolutionary adventures that remained ahead of him.

In his final years, Lemuel Cook was also extensively and thoroughly interviewed by his great-grandson, Frank Cook (Frank Cook, 2-4), when both were living in Clarendon, upstate New York (Frank Cook, 2-4). The name of Frank Cook’s historical account of his great grandpa’s personal military experiences and memories from the War for Independence is the terse and penetrating three-page text called Lemuel Remembers Washington (Frank Cook, 2-4). It also contains much of Lemuel’s first-hand testimony concerning his Revolutionary War activities (Frank Cook, 2-4) and is, in as much, as valuable a biographical and historical source of knowledge describing Lemuel Cook’s early life as is Reverend Hilliard’s novel 1864 historical writing The Last Men of the Revolution. Both of the aforementioned sources do not conflict with each other in any way, either factually or chronologically. They do, however, blatantly reinforce the other’s historical veracity.

“As a young lad, I had an opportunity none will have again,” begins Frank Cook’s potent commentary of his great ancestor’s Revolutionary War exploits (Frank Cook, 2-4). Frank Cook continues, “We, the Cook kids, who grew up at Clarendon, were told about the Revolutionary War by its last soldier, our great grandfather Lemuel Cook, who, we more affectionately called, Grandpa Lem” (Frank Cook, 2-4). “He [Lemuel] would take delight telling us about his life, and we were glad to listen” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Frank Cook continued, “We’d watch for Lemuel to come out to sit in his rocker, either on his front porch or under the big old elm tree, in his front yard, as he always did on warm summer afternoons” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Frank Cook goes on to say that Lemuel would flag all his many grandkids over with his cane, and “…[we] would run to see who would get there first for the best seat” (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Frank Cook further comments, “It [Lemuel’s discussion of General George Washington] would usually start with a question. Tell us about George Washington. What did he look like?” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Frank stated about Lemuel Cook still further, “He [Lemuel] would say, ‘Let me think on it…”’ (Frank Cook, 2-4). Frank Cook, moreover, adds about Lemuel, “…a gleam would come to his eye, and he would begin to speak slowly and deliberately” (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Then the wise silver-haired elder statesman of the Cook family began to tell his many progeny his long a-gone tales and memories of General Washington, sixty years after the former American President’s death in 1799. Lemuel began to speak, “I saw General Washington a few times, and I said a few words to him, and he [did] back to me. I’ll not forget. [The] first time I set eyes on him [Washington] was at White Plains or thereabouts. I’d joined up at the first call [with the Continental Army, in 1775], and those first couple of years were hard ones” (Frank Cook, 2-4).

As Lemuel Cook spoke of his distant yesteryear participation in America’s savage and arduous War for Independence, Frank Cook studiously listened to his great grandfather’s words and personal experiences, and Frank Cook carefully jotted down on paper all that Lemuel had uttered aloud…

“Our company was resting near White Plains, after being pushed off the Island [Manhattan] and out of New York City and up [the Harlem] River” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel was referencing the Patriot withdrawal from Manhattan in the autumn of 1776, immediately following the British invasion thereabouts. This was the frenetic aftermath Lemuel was talking about when the Yankee bluecoats were outmanned and outgunned by their British redcoat adversaries (please see Michael M. DeBonis’ 2017 NYHR article on the subject entitled, “Dangerous Interlude”). General Washington’s badly outnumbered and poorly trained Continental Army could not thwart Lord Howe’s brutal and overwhelming assault on Brooklyn and Manhattan Island. General George Washington had scored two brilliant miracles against Lord William Howe’s relentlessly advancing British forces in the wake of their monstrous onslaught (Tallmadge, 12-13). Firstly, Washington and his Continentals conclusively (and unexpectedly) outclassed the British Army at the Battle of Harlem Heights, towards the northern end of Manhattan Island, and he (Washington) subsequently organized and delivered a brilliantly executed and well-ordered withdrawal of his bloodied and battered Continental Army north to Westchester County, by boldly crossing the Harlem River, before his British enemies could fully surround him (Tallmadge, 12-13). This complicated martial maneuver clearly confused the charging General Howe, and General Washington had skillfully managed to keep most of the starving and retreating American Army entirely together under the severest military and logistical odds thrust against them (Tallmadge, 12-13).

Lemuel continued his reminisces of Washington, “My job was with Major [Benjamin] Tallmadge. Being in the Light Dragoons, we had horses to take care of. Mine was a good ole Bay I’d brought from home. I was caring for my horse and a couple of others that needed rubbing down when I heard a commotion a ways down the road. I could see by the [blue] uniforms it was [a group of] officers leading several companies of Foot. One fellow sat above the others in the saddle, head, and shoulders. I knew he must be the General [Washington]. We had heard how large a man he was. As they came closer, all I could do was stand there with my mouth open. An officer in the front gave me a dirty look like to be saying, ‘How come you don’t salute?”’ (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Lemuel Cook continued, “I whipped off a good fancy one. I suppose the officers dismounted, and [they] went to talk with the Major [Tallmadge]. I went back to [working on] my horse. A while later, the General [Washington] came around the headquarters, where I was, to stretch his legs, I suppose, and [he] said, ‘Is that your horse, soldier?’” Lemuel recounted to his great-grandchildren (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel responded to Washington, “Yes sir,’’ as he came to full attention (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel went on to explain, “He [Washington] put me at ease, and [he] asked [me] my name” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Private Lemuel Cook responded to General George Washington, “Lemuel Cook, from Connecticut, sir” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington spoke directly to Lemuel in return, “That’s a right smart mount you have there, Lemuel Cook, from Connecticut” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel replied to Washington, “He’s done right by me, General” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington finished with Lemuel by saying, “Well, you take care of him [Lemuel’s Bay]. You will be glad you did” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel Cook returned, telling Frank Cook and the others, “With that, the General [Washington] went about his business. That’s all there was to it. I’ll never forget, though, with all the things that must have been pressing on him, he [Washington] took the time for a kind word. He [Washington] had the kindest look in his eyes I’ve ever seen. [I] got the chance to see him [Washington] a few times more, being in the quartermasters. They called us artificers in them days. [I] didn’t see him [General Washington] until some two, maybe three years later” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel was not done yet with telling his family about his famous wartime army general.

Lemuel resumed his speech of Washington, “We were going down [south from Connecticut and New York] through Head of Elk [Cecil County, Maryland]. Things were getting better…we had been winning [in the War]. We knew we had a big battle coming up somewhere to the south. Scuttlebutt [the gossip in the Continental Army] was that the General [Washington] had gone ahead and [he] would meet us along the way. We had stopped [along our southward journey], and I was minding my own business, paying no mind to no one, when I heard a rich, full voice say, ‘Lem Cook, is that you?’” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington continued talking to Lemuel Cook, saying, “I thought that might be you, with that Bay” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Cook responded to Washington, “Yes, sir…It’s very good to see you, sir” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington still had more to say to Private Cook, “I admire the lines of your Bay, Lem. I have one like it at Mount Vernon” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel said to General Washington in return, “Yes, sir. He’s a little worse for wear. But I’ve been keeping your advice. My brothers made me promise to bring him back to the farm when our work was done” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington concluded to Cook, “That’s what we’re about, private” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel Cook further added to his progeny, “And with that, the General [Washington] was gone as quickly as he had appeared” (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Great Grandpa Cook related more about Washington to Frank Cook and his other descendants, “I had whirled around with my eyes bugging out and my mouth wide open, again, amazed that he [Washington] had remembered me” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel Cook was directly speaking of his second encounter with General Washington. Washington had left a distinctly positive impression on the young American soldier. Lemuel would continue to describe his second meeting with George Washington to his great-grandson Frank, “I’d grown six inches since last time we met [at White Plains, New York]. He must have recognized the horse before recognizing me. It seems as though he still towered a foot over me. But I was ten feet tall after that. ‘How come the General knows you?’” they [Lemuel’s fellow dragoons] all asked. I didn’t tell them. We saw him again at Yorktown, which turned out to be the big one where we were heading. The last time I spoke to him [Washington] was at Danbury, [Connecticut] when he gave [personally to] me my discharge. I was standing there with my brother. I still have my discharge [papers] here, someplace. But, I will have to tell you [the Cook family] about that another time. The General had a look about him, you don’t forget. There are hardly any words to describe him. Those were hard days for the most part, but there were some good things about them, too” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel met General George Washington four times in total (during the Revolutionary War), and he had conversed with him (Washington) at least twice (Frank Cook, 2-4). Washington did indeed leave an incredibly enduring and noble memory of himself in Lemuel Cook’s mind and soul. As students of American history, we are certainly not at a loss for having Private Cook’s close, firsthand recollections of the great American General interacting with his beloved soldiers.

Reverend Elias Hilliard commented of Lemuel Cook in 1864, “Mr. Cook was at the Battle of Brandywine [Creek], and he was at Cornwallis’ surrender [at the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia]” (Hilliard, 7-8). In regard to the Americans’ attack against the British, at Brandywine Creek, in Pennsylvania, it must be stated that Private Lemuel Cook was not alone. Once again, Cook was in the company of his commanding officer, the recently promoted Major Benjamin Tallmadge (Tallmadge, 20-21). Tallmadge would write of this bitterly contested clash in his highly respected and insightful Memoir sometime before he died at his home in Litchfield, Connecticut, on March 7, 1835 (Tallmadge, 69). Tallmadge says in his very factual account, “On the morning of the 11th of September, 1777, Gen. Howe put his army in order of battle, and [he] moved on towards the Brandywine. The action commenced by 10 o’clock in the morning, and [it] was sustained from right to left [flanks] by turns through the whole line. The action was obstinate on both sides, and [it] lasted through the [whole] day; but the left wing of the British Army, having crossed the [Brandywine] river, some distance above, on the right of our [Continental] army, came down upon our right [flank], while the Hessians [foreign-born German mercenary soldiers in service of the British crown] crossed in front at Chadsford, and the American troops were forced to retire,” (Tallmadge, 21).

Once again, Washington’s troops were badly outgunned and outmanned by their much better-trained and equipped British enemies. The redcoats also outmaneuvered the Patriots, who clearly had superior discipline, battlefield experience, and leadership within their ranks. General (Lord) William Howe may have outflanked General George Washington in his advance on the Continentals, but Washington instantly returned the favor by markedly outflanking the British in his [American] retreat towards Philadelphia, thus evading capture by the hands of the redcoats (Tallmadge, 21).

In the days following the Battle of Brandywine Creek, the British rapidly pursued Washington and his American bluecoats to Philadelphia (Tallmadge, 21 and Rose, 59), the Patriot capital, only to find it abandoned by the Continental Congress and the Continental Army (Rose, 59). The very troublesome American mischief-makers had again skillfully eluded capture by General Howe and his redcoat hordes. The Americans may have given up their capital city, but they retained both their lives and their ability to fight the enemy another day. In this instance, the British Army was shamefully humbled by the bluecoats. Benjamin Tallmadge and Lemuel Cook were both in General George Washington’s personal presence during this very turbulent military campaign. Both Cook and Tallmadge had faithfully and competently served the Continental cause.

Of his individual and direct participation at the Siege of Yorktown, Lemuel Cook does give a succinct account, unlike Tallmadge, who did not participate in the Battle of Yorktown in any capacity (Tallmadge, 45-46). The regiment of Connecticut’s Second Continental Light Dragoons was thus split into two halves, with one half being sent south from the Tristate area to fight General Charles Cornwallis in Virginia (Hilliard, 7-8), while the other half of the Dragoon regiment remained behind in the lower Hudson Valley, near Westchester County, New York, to guard upstate New York and lower New England against any potential British incursions into those regions, that would be possibly launched by British General Henry Clinton, the recoat Commander-in-Chief, based with a formidable army in New York City (Tallmadge, 44-46).

Lemuel Cook commented to Hilliard of the Siege of Yorktown, “It was reported that Washington was going to storm New York [City]. We made a bylaw that every man should stick with his horse in our regiment. If his horse went, he [each Continental cavalryman] should go with him. I was waiter [assistant] for the quartermaster, and so I had a chance to keep my horse in good condition. Baron Steuben was muster master [a senior-level record keeper]. He had called us out to select men and horses fit for service” (Hilliard, 7-8). Cook continued to Hilliard, “The next morning, old Steuben had got my name. There were eighteen out of the regiment [the Second Connecticut Continental Light Dragoons]. ‘Be on the ground tomorrow morning at nine o’clock,”’ (Hilliard, 7-8). Thus, Baron Steuben chose Private Lemuel Cook to go on a mission (Hilliard, 7-8).

Although Washington had publically put out the word to his troops that they would be attacking New York City from southern Connecticut and Westchester County, in lower upstate New York, Washington privately ordered his officer corps to steer their soldiers around Manhattan Island, having the bluecoats march into New Jersey instead (Hilliard, 7-8 and Tallmadge, 44-45). From New Jersey, General George Washington and his Continentals resumed stampeding southward into the State of Maryland (Hilliard, 7-8 and Tallmadge, 44-45), and, from Maryland, the Continentals continued their southward footwork into Virginia (Hilliard, 7-8 and Tallmadge, 44-45).

Of his departure south, Lemuel Cook says, “My colonel [possibly Sheldon, Cook is not specific] didn’t like to have me go” (Hilliard, 7-8). This statement by Lemuel Cook to Reverend Hilliard reinforces the factual reputation that Cook’s record in his own dragoon regiment was stellar and that Cook the soldier was very well respected by his fellow privates and superior officers alike (Hilliard, 7-8).

Cook told Hilliard that the Continentals’ march south to Virginia from Westchester County, New York, and southern Connecticut was arduous (Hilliard, 7-8). Then Cook resumed his speech (to Hilliard) about his firsthand Revolutionary War experiences at the Battle of Yorktown, “Then we were in Virginia. There was not much fighting. [General] Cornwallis tried to force his way north to New York, but he fell into the arms of [General] LaFayette, who drove Cornwallis back [towards Yorktown, Virginia]. Cornwallis was sealed off on land from British General Henry Clinton’s reinforcements in New York City, by LaFayette, and at sea, by French Admiral Count De Grasse (Tallmadge, 45). Fighting conditions quickly deteriorated for the British, who were all garrisoned at ocean-oriented Yorktown in Virginia (Hilliard, 7-8 and Tallmadge 45). British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, in charge of all redcoat military operations in the American southern colonies, tried in vain to fend off the combined infantry and artillery assaults by Washington and LaFayette’s Franco-American force (Tallmadge, 45).

Lemuel Cook continued telling about the Battle of Yorktown to Reverend Hilliard “Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British. And he [Washington] said it was bad enough to surrender without being insulted” (Hilliard, 7-8). Major Benjamin Tallmadge affirmed Cook’s observation, commenting on the British surrendering to Yankee and French troops at Yorktown, “The joy and exultation were proportionally great in the allied army, although not the smallest insult was offered to the prisoners” (Tallmadge, 45). Cornwallis’ redcoat Army was also a starving one, with dirty and tattered clothes (Hilliard, 7-8), and Cook described, “…Some [redcoats] had a pint of lice on them…No boots or shoes [either],” (Hilliard, 7-8). Cornwallis and his Royal British Army had little or no supplies at their disposal; hence the British Army’s chances of escape or victory (in the direct presence of the integrated Franco-American Army) were astronomically slim, to none at all (Hilliard, 7-8 and Tallmadge, 45).

Cornwallis’ surrender to Washington was inevitable (Tallmadge, 45), and the British General to the American Commander-in-Chief made his undisputed capitulation on October 19, 1781 (Tallmadge, 45). In almost one swipe of his sword, General George Washington and his underdog Continental Army had boldly defeated the most powerful military power (Great Britain) on earth. The colossal and bloody struggle America had fought for so long to gain its political and economic independence from the British Crown was, practically speaking, over. Washington and Lemuel Cook were thus personal witnesses to one of history’s most momentous occasions, and the Reverend Elias Brewster Hilliard had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn of it from a direct survivor of that specific plight.

Frank Cook noted of his great Revolutionary ancestor, “Lemuel served for the entire war, and he was wounded several times, but [he was] never seriously [hurt] enough to keep him out of the thick of it for any length of time. Having received his discharge at the close of the War, Lemuel returned to Northbury [Connecticut], where he married Hannah Curtis in 1783” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Hannah C. Cook was a native of Cheshire, Connecticut (Hilliard, 7-8). The Revolution had come to an end, but life for the young, steel-willed Lemuel had barely just begun.

After eight harsh years of war, Lemuel only desired a peaceful life of farming (Frank Cook, 2-4). He would never again, in his many years, return to the life of a soldier (Frank Cook, 2-4 and Hilliard, 7-8). Lemuel and Hannah Cook remained in Connecticut until 1788, when they relocated to a farm in Clinton, Oneida County, in upstate New York (Frank Cook, 2-4). For unknown reasons, Lemuel Cook and his family returned to Plymouth, Connecticut, circa 1795, and he became one of the “incorporators” of that town (Frank Cook, 2-4).

“He [Lemuel Cook] remained in Connecticut until 1804 when he returned to [upstate] New York” (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel Cook settled with his wife at Pompey, in Onondaga County, following his brothers Selah and True Cook, who both had journeyed and settled there (from Connecticut) sometime before 1795 (Frank Cook, 2-4). At Pompey (in his forty-sixth year), Lemuel Cook bought a sixty-acre farm and prosperously worked it until 1818, when he applied for his first military pension (Frank Cook, 2-4). Cook’s wounds from the American Revolution were beginning to take their toll on his health (Frank Cook, 2-4), and several of his sons, still living with him, were not yet of age to be able to satisfactorily help him with the running of his Pompey farm (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel Cook sold his Pompey farm in 1821, which was positioned on Henneberry Road (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Lemuel’s older sons, Lemuel Jr. and Miles Cook, were both of age to give their father some assistance at his farm in Pompey, but both sons had families and farms of their own to tend, so the help they both were able to give to Lemuel Cook Sr. was hence very mitigated (Frank Cook, 2-4). In 1821, Lemuel Cook (Sr.) relocated to North Bergen, in Genesee County, and he bought and operated a farm there (while living with his younger two sons, Gilbert and Selah) until around 1832. Lemuel Cook (Sr.) then moved again (for the final time) to his last residence (also a farm) at Clarendon, New York (Frank Cook, 2-4). Lemuel’s initial land purchase at Pompey, New York, was part of the Military Tract located there (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Gilbert and Selah Cook bought and operated their own farms, near their father, at Clarendon, New York (Frank Cook, 2-4). Hannah Cook died sometime in the first part of the nineteenth century (Frank Cook, 2-4) and Lemuel Sr. remarried his second wife, Ruth Cook, formerly of Monroe County (in upstate New York) and a past resident of the village of Sweden (Frank Cook, 2-4). Ruth Cook died in 1860 (Frank Cook, 2-4), causing Lemuel Sr. to stay with his sons, Gilbert and True Cook, who both insisted that their father retire from farming after nearly eighty years of his doing the very rigorous work (Frank Cook, 2-4).

Now in his twilight years, Lemuel Cook would enjoy telling his grandchildren and great-grandchildren of his wartime adventures (Frank Cook, 2-4), and (with the help of a cane) Lemuel Cook would cherish walking into town to pick up his pension check, at the Clarendon Post Office, (Frank Cook, 2-4). Two years after his very fortuitous meeting with the superb historian, E. B. Hilliard, the undeniably durable and spirited Revolutionary War veteran Lemuel Cook Sr., passed away at Clarendon, New York, aged 107 years old, succumbing to his infirmity, that which is called great antiquity (Frank Cook, 2-4). The date of Lemuel Sr. Cook’s death is May 20, 1866 (Rochester Union Advertiser, 1), and his subsequent prayer service and burial took place on May 23, 1866, in the family cemetery built on the property of his son, Curtis Cook, in Clarendon, New York (Rochester Union Advertiser, 1).

Hilliard’s historical account of Lemuel Cook fills in much of Cook’s background narrative, which is factually absent from Frank Cook’s very concise (though highly detailed) exegesis describing his revered ancestor. It is also noted here that Frank Cook’s excellent biographical commentary about Lemuel provides much missing critical information about Lemuel’s life, which is not at all recorded in Hilliard’s account of Private Cook. And Lemuel Cook’s life was a truly amazing one.

Hilliard says that Lemuel Cook, while still a young man, became engaged in a tavern brawl (near Utica, New York) with an unknown aboriginal American (Hilliard 7-8) over a disagreement between them involving cattle (Hilliard, 7-8). The male aboriginal “…assailed him [Lemuel] at a public house, as he [Lemuel] was on his way home, coming at him [Lemuel] with great fury, with a drawn knife. Mr. Cook was unarmed, but catching up a chair, he presented it as a shield against the Indian’s thrusts till help appeared. He [Lemuel] says he never knew what fear was, and he [Lemuel] always declared that no man should take him prisoner alive” (Hilliard, 7-8). Lemuel Cook was not a man who cowered in the presence of danger.

E. B. Hilliard further says of Lemuel Cook, “His frame is large. His presence is commanding. In his prime, he [Lemuel] must have possessed prodigious strength. He [Lemuel] has evidently been a man of most resolute spirit…the old determination still manifesting itself in his look and words. His voice [Lemuel’s], the full power of which he still retains, is marvelous for its volume and strength” (Hilliard, 7-8). Hilliard went on relating Lemuel Cook’s character traits, “Speaking of the present [Civil] war, he [Lemuel] said, in his strong tones, at the same time bringing down his cane, with force upon the floor, ‘It is terrible. But, terrible as it is, the rebellion must be put down!’’’ (Hilliard, 7-8). Lemuel was mentally alert and patriotic at one hundred and five years old and two years from his death. But he very well knew that a civil war is the worst kind of war, where fathers square off against their sons and brothers kill their brothers. Lemuel Cook knew this awful reality because he had engaged in such a war (against the British) during the Revolution. Indeed, the American Revolution resembled the American Civil War in many categories, although the battles of the Revolution had body counts usually much lower than those of Civil War battles.

In his old age, Lemuel Cook often stuttered in his speech and frequently had problems with his memory (Hilliard, 7-8). Lemuel would quickly catch on to the gist of a conversation once his years-rich mind became focused (Hilliard, 7-8). He (Lemuel) enjoyed hearing and telling good jokes, talking to his friends and family, going on long walks, and reading his Bible (Hilliard, 7-8). Hilliard was positive to document Cook’s political leanings as an active and life-long Democrat (Hilliard, 7-8). But, unlike many Democrats of Civil War America, Lemuel Cook Sr. was one who was wholly loyal to the Union cause (Hilliard, 7-8).

Lemuel Cook was a very dynamic force in American history, from his personal life in the late eighteenth century of colonial British America through to the early, middle, and late nineteenth century. At this very time, a new nation did rise, unseen like any in the history of the world before it, brazenly declaring that all men under God were created equal and that the newly-minted country, called the United States of America, would dedicate all of its people, resources and lifespan to the fulfilling of this divine declaration (See U. S. Declaration of Independence, paragraphs 1-8, by Thomas Jefferson and others).

The story of Lemuel Cook is the story of the United States of America. Lemuel Cook’s biography is one of the most astonishing life stories in all of American history. Although Lemuel Cook’s life ties him directly to the history of Connecticut and New York State, Cook’s story historically transcends its time, place, and space with respect to American geography. This is so because America was Lemuel Cook and Lemuel Cook was America. History cannot be neglectful of its own events, but, more significantly, history cannot be derelict in the proper mentioning of the very souls who inhabit it…and Lemuel Cook’s soul looms largely over our American history.

Lemuel Cook’s markedly novel and extraordinary life incorporates the last two decades of Western Civilization’s Enlightenment, the whole of the nineteenth century’s Romantic Movement in the arts, letters, and music that replaced it, as well as the first two-thirds of the Victorian Age (Harrington, 545-561 and Capers, 561-579). Lemuel Cook’s life directly coincided with the lives of esteemed American thinkers and writers as diverse as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, to those of Walt Whitman, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, who followed them both (in the annals of American history) much, much later on in time (Harrington, 545-561 and Capers, 561-579). The hugely expansive length of Lemuel Cook’s life makes his individual biography virtually unprecedented in the time span of his American country. For instance, Lemuel Cook was very well alive for Cornwallis’ remarkable surrender to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia (in 1781), as well as being alive, too, for Robert E. Lee’s epoch-making surrender to Ulysses S. Grant, at Appomattox Courthouse, also in Virginia (in 1865). Cook lived long enough for the American Civil War to begin and end. And Lemuel Cook lived long enough to understand the Civil War’s historical importance with respect to the American nation as a whole. At age 105, Lemuel still had his wits about him (Hilliard, 7-8), albeit his wits were at times slowed down by his much-advanced age (Hilliard, 7-8).

The Brookhaven Times Newspapers comment on Lemuel Cook’s life, “He [Lemuel Cook] lived through the War of 1812…saw his countrymen settle westward, achieving new frontiers…and in 1861, he saw our young republic descend into a brutal civil war,” (Editors, BRTN, 1). The Brookhaven Times Newspapers also accurately say of Lemuel Cook, “At the time of his [Lemuel’s] enlistment [in the Continental Army] in 1775, there were just thirteen British colonies. By the time of his [Lemuel’s] death [in 1866], there were [existing] thirty-six American states” (Editors, BRTN, 1). Cook lived through the American life and times of Manifest Destiny, the Mexican-American War, the Indian Wars, and the First Industrial Revolution (Harrington, 545-561 and Capers, 561-579). Cook’s life is certainly not one to be overlooked by American historians. Lemuel’s eyes “…witnessed so much: [they] watched as Benjamin Tallmadge led charges against British soldiers, watched as [fellow Culper spy and New Yorker] Caleb Brewster carried secret messages to camp, and they witnessed [at Yorktown] the sword of General Cornwallis being offered to [General] Washington,” (Editors, BRTN, 1). The eyes of Lemuel Cook were wise and discriminating.

There are no legal or family records from Lemuel Cook’s vast and vital life that document any possible criminal activity or financial distress of his while he lived, whether Lemuel was living in New England or whether he was living in upstate New York. All written documentation regarding Lemuel Cook’s life strongly indicates that he was a genuinely moral, and diligently laborious farmer. The historical record also shows that Lemuel Cook was an industrious and economically successful agriculture agent.

From Lemuel Cook’s last will and testament, drafted and sealed in 1855 (Lemuel Cook, 1), we see at that time, Lemuel Cook Sr. had eight living children, including seven male heirs and two female heirs (Lemuel Cook, 1). Their names are Esther Coleman, Curtis Cook, Gilbert Cook, Lemuel Cook Jr., Lyman Cook, Miles Cook, Worthy Cook, and Electa Tousley (Lemuel Cook, 1). The Senior Lemuel Cook’s last will and testament was registered in Orleans County of upstate New York (Lemuel Cook, 1). Lemuel Cook’s son Selah Cook is not listed in his will with his other children (Lemuel Cook, 1). But from Lemuel’s codicil, written sometime later on and clearly printed at the bottom of Lemuel’s will, we know that his son Selah Cook was alive when Lemuel Cook Sr. died and that Selah was residing in Flint, Michigan (Lemuel Cook, 1). For unknown reasons, Selah Cook has not left any fixed sum of money in his father’s will, as all of Lemuel Sr.’s other heirs had been given by him (Lemuel Cook, 1). Selah Cook was only bequeathed by Lemuel Cook Sr. some of the monies collected from the sales of the great patriarch’s chattel properties (Lemuel Cook, 1). All of the Senior Lemuel’s progeny in the 1866 probated will are listed as living in upstate New York (Lemuel Cook, 1), with the two exceptions of Selah Cook (who is listed as being a resident of Flint, Michigan) and Lyman Cook, who is documented in Lemuel Cook’s will as being a resident of Buffalo, Wisconsin (Lemuel Cook, 1). Gilbert Cook (as the executor of his father’s will) seems to be the greatest recipient of Lemuel Cook Senior’s estate, receiving the sum of $400.00 dollars (Lemuel Cook, 1), which is two hundred dollars more received than most of Lemuel’s other heirs (Lemuel Cook, 1). Gilbert Cook profited even further from the benefit of his father’s settlement, as in the case of the elder Lemuel’s daughters, Electa and Esther (Lemuel Cook, 1), with Gilbert being awarded $390.00 dollars more than each of them. We may only speculate as to why Lemuel’s two daughters (Esther Coleman and Electa Tousley) each received only ten dollars in his will (Lemuel Cook, 1).

With Lemuel Cook’s death in May of 1866, one of America’s final living bridges to the War for Independence had forever vanished. But, we do not see Lemuel Cook as some tragically orphaned, anachronistic ghost. Rather, we must see Lemuel Cook for what he was. The exceptionally long-lived Revolutionary War private was an incarnate example of America’s greatest possibilities. We have several historically authentic photographs of him and three authentic verbatim personal commentaries of his left to us, which reveal much about Lemuel Cook to our minds and to our spirits alike. Most importantly, modern America has Lemuel Cook’s great life as leaving behind a rich legacy. This is one that expresses American values at their best. Such a heritage is entirely immune to the destructive power of passing time, and (because of this) Lemuel Cook outlives history.

About the Author: Michael Mauro DeBonis is a poet and a historian from Long Island, NY. A graduate of both Suffolk County Community College (A. A. in Liberal Studies) and SUNY at Stony Brook (B. A. in English literature), Michael’s work first appeared in the Brookhaven Times Newspapers and in the Village Beacon Record. His current work (poetry and prose) may be found in The New York History Review and elsewhere. Mr. DeBonis is dedicated to studying and to learning the history of the great State of New York. 



1) Biography.Com, Washington Irving: A Life, 2015-2020, copyright 2022, The Editors.

2) The Brookhaven Times Newspapers, Under Tallmadge’s Command: The Last Surviving Culper Connection, The TBR Staff, August 19, 2016, Setauket, NY, copyright 2022.

3) Gerald M. Capers, The Encyclopedia Americana, volume 27, pages 561-579, copyright 1970, New York, NY, The Americana Corporation.

4) Frank Cook, Lemuel Remembers Washington, circa 1855-1864, Clarendon, NY,, copyright 2022, Burr Cook.

5) Frank W. Cook and Holly Cook, The Cooks: A Family Genealogy (1978-2013),, copyright 2022, Burr Cook.

6) Lemuel Cook, Last Will and Testament, 1855-1865, Clarendon, NY,, copyright 2022, Burr Cook.

7) Fred Harvey Harrington, The Encyclopedia Americana, volume 27, pages 545-561, copyright 1970, New York, NY, The Americana Corporation.

8) Elias Brewster Hilliard, The Last Men of the Revolution, copyright 1863-1865, Hartford, Connecticut.

9) Thomas Jefferson, The United States Declaration of Independence, paragraphs 1-8, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 4th, 1776.

10) The Rochester Union Advertiser, Obituaries, May 22, 1866, copyright 1866, Clarendon, NY, The Editors.

11) Alexander Rose, Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, copyright 2006-2007, Bantam Dell/Random House Publishing, New York, NY.

12) Benjamin Tallmadge, Memoir of Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge, Forgotten Books/Dalton House Publishing, copyright 2015, London, England.

History as Poetry

 History as Poetry



Are you the one who stashes your dreams,
at bottoms of rivers, or star-striped streams?
Are your memories of days long-past
written on sea-foams, where moonlight’s cast?
Tell me who you are… Tell me who you are…
What is your place in the sky?
When did dusk or dawn first color each eye?
How brightly burns your star?
Tell me who you are… Tell me who you are…
Where is the place you will rest your breath?
What sings sparrows of life or death?
Will your feet in the snow trail near or far?
Tell me who you are… Tell me who you are…

---Michael Mauro DeBonis, 09-25-2022.

About the Poet: Michael Mauro DeBonis is a poet and a historian from Long Island, New York. A graduate of both Suffolk County Community College (A. A. in Liberal Studies) and SUNY at Stony Brook (B. A. in English literature), Michael’s work first appeared in the Village Beacon Record and in the Brookhaven Times Newspapers. His current work (poetry and prose) may be found in The New York History Review and elsewhere. Mr. DeBonis is dedicated to studying and to learning the history of the great State of New York.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Eleazer Williams: Indian Preacher and Sometimes Pretender

By Rebecca Rector
All rights reserved ©2023

Eleazer Williams (1788-1858) was the great-great grandson of Rev. John Williams, who survived the 1704 Indian raid on Deerfield, Massachusetts. The family members that survived were marched to Kahnawake (Caughnawaga), Canada, a Catholic settlement of the Mohawk tribe. Rev. John was later redeemed from Canada and returned to Deerfield, but his daughter Eunice elected to stay. She married a Mohawk, Francois Xavier Arosen, and became known as the “unredeemed captive.” Her grandson Eleazer was born in Canada in about 1788, of mixed Anglo and Mohawk blood. He straddled both the Indian and white worlds, later living and preaching in New York and Wisconsin.

As a child, he and his brother John were sent to school in Massachusetts. In 1803 Eleazer wrote a letter his brother – first thanking God for his multitude of tender mercies, and reminding John - “oh, remember that we are born to die and must soon appear before him.” In another letter to John, in January 1804, he wrote: “It is my ernest [sic] wish for your salvation and good. I hope God will make you happy - in this world and more in that which is to come - I commend you to the care of God…”[1]

Several other early letters reveal his religious thoughts:

  • 1806 to friend Charles Sheldon: “We must remember, my friend, that we are probationers for eternity, placed here on Earth, we are bound to neither state of existence - to a world of light & joy or that region of darkness & woe-- If we mean to be prosperous in this world. We must love and keep his commandments and trust in him.” [2]
  • and 1806 to his cousin Rev. Elisha Williams in Beverly, Massachusetts on the death of Elisha’s child: “Truly life is uncertain & how short it is our abode in this world and soon shall we bid adieu to it, We are all glideing down the stream of time, and shall soon reach the ocean of eternity; who can promise himself years to come? what is our life. It is like vapour that offereth for a little time & then vanesheth away.”[3]

Eleazer was exposed early to Catholicism at Caughnawaga, but he later rejected these teachings and those of his Calvinistic mentors in New England. In 1815 Eleazer took his first communion and was confirmed at St. John’s Episcopal Church in New York City by Bishop John Henry Hobart.[4] In 1816 Hobart established a Mission at Oneida Castle, NY, where Eleazer became a lay catechist, reader, and teacher to the Indians in their native tongue, supported by the Episcopal Church.[5] There, he converted many Oneida’s to the Episcopal faith, and translated the Book of Common Prayer and some hymns into the Mohawk language. He also interpreted for Baptist missionaries with the Oneidas and Stockbridge tribes.[6]

At this time, he also began assisting some Oneida and Stockbridge Indians to relocate to Green Bay, Wisconsin, due to pressure from whites wanting to settle on their lands. After the Revolution, it had become government policy to remove all Indians west of the Mississippi, and Eleazer became involved in some land deals, especially as a negotiator for the Ogden Land Company. Although appearing to help the Indians, he was really assisting the land company, causing many Indians to mistrust him.[7] During the 1820s and 1830s, he moved back and forth frequently between Wisconsin and the St. Regis Mohawk Reservation on the New York -Canadian border. Back in Wisconsin, he married Madeleine (Mary) Jourdain in 1823, daughter of Joseph Jourdain, a blacksmith of the Green Bay Indian Agency. Their son John was born there in 1825.[8] In 1826 Eleazer was ordained an Episcopal deacon in New York.[9] He was appointed schoolmaster at St. Regis Mission in 1835, but he came into conflict with the Catholic missionaries there and was forced to leave a year later.[10]

During the 1840s, he continued to travel frequently, preaching and lecturing. However, he had again come into conflict, this time with the Episcopal hierarchy and the Oneida tribe in Wisconsin. There were complaints about his conduct and that he was representing other denominations. In 1842 he published “The Salvation of Sinners through the riches of Divine Grace.” This was a speech he gave at Oneida Castle on the eighth triennial anniversary of the Indians conversion to Christianity.[11]

Eleazer Williams played many roles during his life – preacher, teacher, lecturer, negotiator, and interpreter. He was also a storyteller and at times stretched the truth. In the late 1850s, he wrote a biography of this father, Thomas [Indian name Tehoragwanegen], and apparently embellished some of it, especially Thomas’ roles during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812.[12] Another story that has been perpetuated for many years is that Eleazer claimed to be the “lost dauphin” of France, the real son of King Louis XVI. It was a time when he was no longer supported by the church and needed money. He was adept at manipulating situations and people as he sought prestige and prominence.

He played up this fraudulent tale into the 1850s and newspapers all over the country printed the story, wondering if he could really be the dauphin and of French Bourbon blood. It was quite an intriguing story and was apparently passed down through his family, as his son John L., in the 1880 census of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, listed his father as being born in France! Ultimately, the story was recently proved untrue, as DNA analysis in 2000 of the presumed heart of the long-dead child king [Louis XVII] matched the DNA of a hair sample from Marie Antoinette.[13]

Sadly, Eleazer died on 28 August 1858,[14] poor and alone at the St. Regis reservation in New York. The Albany Morning Express stated he had “gone to the spirit land where that mystery in regard to his parentage is made plain.”[15] Although often cast in a negative light, it is important to recognize that he, as an Indian, struggled with dual identities and was often marginalized. James A. Clifton writes, “Looking back on his life career of serial assumed identities from the perspective of our era, we can see in him a person who vaulted from one persona to another… Was there, however, a stable, core identity behind the many masks he wore?” [16] He had noble aspirations, but his desire for prestige and claims to fame got the best of him. His wife Mary continued to live in Wisconsin, where several censuses list degrees of Indian ethnicity for her and adopted Indian children and grandchildren.

About the author:
Rebecca Rector is a professional genealogist and retired librarian in Troy, NY. During the pandemic she has been transcribing letters and diaries for Newberry Library in Chicago, and National Archives. One of the Newberry projects was the letters and sermons of Rev. Eleazer Williams. Her work has been published in American Ancestors and NGS Magazine.

[1] Eleazar Williams letters, sermons, and essays, 1758-1858, Newberry Library, Chicago, image 114446, and image 114448.

[2] Eleazer Williams letters, sermons, and essays, 1758-1858, Newberry Library, Chicago, image 114457.

[3] Eleazer Williams letters, sermons, and essays, 1758-1858, Newberry Library, Chicago, image 114459/60.

[4] Michael Oberg, Professional Indian: The American Odyssey of Eleazer Williams (Phila: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015), 51.

[5] History of Madison County, State of NY, Chapter 1, online at

[6] Michael Oberg, “Flawed Shepard: Eleazer Williams, John Henry Hobart, and the Episcopal Mission to the Oneidas”, in The Wisconsin Oneidas and the Episcopal Church: A Chain Linking Two Traditions, ed. L. Gordon McLester 111 et. al.  (Indiana University Press, 2019), 46.

[7] Oberg, Professional Indian, 85-86. For a contemporary Oneida point of view see: Dr. Carol Cornelius, Forces that Impacted Oneida’s Move to Wisconsin, Oneida Cultural Heritage Department, online at  FORCES-THAT-IMPACTED-ONEIDAS-MOVE-TO-WISCONSIN-9.13.pdf                                                                                                                                      

[8] John H. Hanson, The Lost Prince (NY: G.P. Putnam & Co., 1854), 300; Publius V. Lawson, Prince, or Creole: The Mystery of Louis XVII (Menasha, WI: George Banta Publishing Co., 1905), 279.

[9] Darren Bonaparte, Eleazer Williams: The Lost Mohawk. Wampum Chronicles, online at

[10] Dictionary of Canadian Biography, online at

[11] Eleazer Williams. The Salvation of Sinners through the riches of Divine Grace.

[12] Eleazer Williams, Life of TE-HO-RA-GWA-NE-GEN, Alias Thomas Williams, A Chief of the Caughnawaga Tribe of Indians in Canada. (Albany, NY: Munsell, 1859). Published by Franklin B. Hough. Handwritten copy (mss galley) is at New York State Archives, Franklin B. Hough papers. Much of the war information is unproven.

[13] Crispian Balmer, DNA Test Solves Mystery of French Child King. Reuters article, Paris, April 19 [2000] in The Oneida Nation in Wisconsin has a Long History of Following Fraudsters, online at ONEIDA-NATION-FOLLOWS-SCOUNDRELS-–-DNA-Test-Solves-Mystery-of-Lost-Dauphin(4).pdf

[14] “Death of the Rev. Eleazer Williams, the Pretended Dauphin of France”. New York Times, September 4, 1858, 5. 

[15] “A Letter to the Journal of Commerce from Bombay, Franklin County says: the Dauphin, alias Rev. Eleazer Williams, is dead” Albany Morning Express, September 4, 1858, online at

[16] Geoffrey E. Buerger, “Eleazer Williams: Elitism and Multiple Identity on Two Frontiers”, in Being and Becoming Indian: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers, ed. James A. Clifton (Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1989), 112. Clifton wrote the introduction to Buerger’s essay.



[1] “A Letter to the Journal of Commerce from Bombay, Franklin County says: the Dauphin, alias Rev. Eleazer Williams, is dead” Albany Morning Express, September 4, 1858, online at

[1] Geoffrey E. Buerger, “Eleazer Williams: Elitism and Multiple Identity on Two Frontiers”, in Being and Becoming Indian: Biographical Studies of North American Frontiers, ed. James A. Clifton (Richard D. Irwin, Inc., 1989), 112. Clifton wrote the introduction to Buerger’s essay.




Saturday, October 8, 2022

Yiddishkeit: Preserving Jewish Identity in Albany, 1850-1930.

by Harvey Strum, Russell Sage College

Copyright © 2022. All rights reserved by the author.

Rabbis did not like secular Jewish communal institutions’ proliferation from the middle of the 19th century into the early 20th century. Clubs, fraternal organizations, societies, lodges, women’s organizations, Zionist associations, and athletic organizations did not monitor members’ behavior or admonish members to fulfill their specific religious responsibilities. In America, a “decoupling of previously fused ethnic and religious components of Jewish group life and self-identification developed.” Yiddishkeit---“as a folk or people with a common history---became separable from Judaism” and produced “a rapid proliferation of religion unrelated social and cultural institutions.”[1]

“The rabbis complained that lodges, clubs, societies, and other ‘community’ institutions undermined their authority and drained membership from their congregations. and encouraged American indifference to religion,” according to historian Hasia Diner. For example, Rabbi Solomon Schindler, a leading Reform rabbi in Boston, bemoaned the low attendance at synagogues because Jewish immigrants considered “their lodge meetings” equivalent to attending religious services. Historians agreed with Schindler’s analysis and considered it a product of the American separation of church and state and widespread voluntarism. American Jews, whether in Albany, New York, or Chicago, voluntarily joined together in associations that served their social, educational, philanthropic, mutual aid, political, and communal needs. Fraternal organizations served the needs of an immigrant generation and their American-born sons searching for a sense of belonging and social fellowship. Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale believed in 1910 that immigrants “stood alone in a strange land” and lodges supplied “ties of friendship,” a deep-felt need of new immigrants. For Jewish immigrants seeking to adjust to a strange new environment creating voluntary associations helped in adapting to America. Fraternal orders and other voluntary societies developed in every Jewish community. As the Utica Jewish community historian concluded, the associations filled “the need for social integration and cultural adjustment to the American environment.” Some Jewish immigrants viewed these groups as a way to maintain their identity as Jews outside of attendance at synagogues, while others used them as halfway stations for Americanization and assimilation. For Jews who did not frequent taverns, the fraternal societies allowed men to socialize in a safe, reassuring, and positive atmosphere creating an alternative to their often drab and exploitive occupations. [2]

Albany’s Jews organized their own institutions for social, fraternal, and philanthropic purposes. Between 1843 and 1859, each of the synagogues, Orthodox Beth El (German). Reform Anshe Emeth and Orthodox Beth El Jacob (Polish) organized burial societies and mutual aid societies for the ill. Modeled after the Chevra Kadisha (holy society) of European communities, these societies “ performed the prescribed rituals surrounding the death” from purification of the body to burial. Jewish religious tradition required that Jews must be buried in separate cemeteries for Jews. Every synagogue purchased land for a cemetery, and every Jewish organization formed in the 19th or early 20th centuries made provisions for the burial of their members. Gentiles could not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Jewish immigrants maintained this tradition, whether Reform or Orthodox, whether in Albany, New York, or in Albany, Georgia. [3]

In 1843, the Society for Brotherly Love became the first society in Albany to provide mutual aid for the ill, assist with burials if needed, assist the poor, and help recent Jewish immigrants and Jewish travelers passing through the city. Brotherly Love emerged as the first association independent of the synagogues. By 1847, a Ladies' Benevolent Society started with a separate School Fund Society “to pay for the schooling of poor Hebrew children.” In 1855, the synagogues united their societies to aid the poor and sick, creating, on September 20, 1855, the Hebrew Benevolent Society of Albany. This occurred not without dispute. Initially, all were in agreement, and” this union was saluted by every candid mind as a step to reunite our Israelites in sentiments and in pursuit of a noble purpose.” A dispute quickly emerged, however, with another philanthropic association that had just been established, Shiloh Lodge of B’nai B’rith, over conflicting fundraising efforts in 1854. In spite of the rocky start, both organizations quickly became well-respected philanthropies winning recognition from local political leaders and the general public for their good works. As one newspaper pointed out in 1885: “The society is doing noble work among the poor, sick, and distressed, and its efforts should be encouraged in every way possible.” As an example of its activities in 1897, the Hebrew Benevolent Society spent over $2,000 for “the relief of the poor and needy.” While a secular organization, the Hebrew Benevolent Society upheld Jewish traditions and Yiddishkeit, like supporting Succoth, the feast of booths, and encouraging members to attend holiday services at Temple Beth Emeth in 1918. [4]

B’nai B’rith, the first national Jewish secular organization, was started in New York City in 1843 by German Jews. A uniquely American institution, it encouraged social interaction to help new immigrants learn how to adapt to America from more seasoned immigrants. The organization walked the tightrope of the American Jewish experience, encouraging members to become real Americans and preserving Jewish identity by sponsoring talks on Jewish subjects. It provided mutual assistance and supported education and moral uplift. aid to widows and children, philanthropy, and patriotism. B’nai B’rith and other mutual aid societies offered death benefits, limited health insurance, brotherhood, and a sense of Jewish identity for immigrants attempting to adjust to an alien environment. Historian Howard Sacher viewed B’nai B’rith as a halfway house to acculturation, but Hasia Diner noted that “B’nai B’rith articulated a conception of Jewishness that existed outside of the synagogues and rabbinic authority, proclaiming according to historian Deborah Dash Moore, a bold new vision of the nature of Jewish identity.’”[5]

Albany boasted two chapters of B’nai B’rith, Shiloh Lodge, founded in December 1853, carried out most transactions in German. The Shiloh Lodge established the day school, B’nai B’rith Academy, in 1866, combining Hebrew and secular subjects. It fulfilled “a uniquely Jewish function,” providing Jewish education, as did other lodges of B’nai B’rith. However, insufficient funding forced the academy to close in 1870. Many of its members came from the German synagogues Orthodox Beth El and Reform Anshe Emeth. It became one of the most well-respected secular Jewish organizations in the city. Members of the Shiloh Lodge joined with other Jewish lodges in 1886 to contribute to the Albany bi-centennial fund, earning the press's commendation for patriotism. As another indication of the lodge’s civic responsibility, members donated to a city-sponsored concert in December 1887. Also, Shiloh Lodge contributed to the construction of a new Albany hospital in 1910. In addition, members participated in recreational activities. In July 1897, for example, “both the old and new went down the river” in a moonlight excursion down the Hudson River to New Baltimore. Members frequently joined the Gideon Lodge on excursions in the summer. Many of Shiloh’s members belonged to other German language societies. Jacob Newburg, who immigrated from W├╝rttemberg and ran a hat store on South Pearl Street, belonged to the German Oak Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Julius Levanthal, born in Hanover, became “one of Albany’s foremost businessmen and prominent Jewish resident who served as congregation president of Anshe Emeth and Beth Emeth from 1884 to 1903 ” and belonged to the German language chapter of Free Sons of Israel. [6]

Albany’s German Jews founded or participated in a number of German language societies until World War I. German Jews from congregations Beth El and Anshe Emeth self-identified with the German language and culture. German Jewish synagogues continued to hold separate services in German and English. In Albany, German Jews often assumed leadership roles in German cultural associations. The retention of language became an essential part of the retention of identity for immigrants and their descendants in American society and a barrier to assimilation. German-speaking Jews could easily reinforce their German since there were over fifty German lodges, societies, clubs, athletic associations, and ladies’ societies in Albany in 1910. In fact, when Beth El and Anshe Emeth merged and built a new building Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the leader of Reform Judaism and former rabbi at Beth El and Anshe Emeth, returned to Albany. On May 23, 1889, Wise delivered a speech in German, dedicating the new synagogue of the combined congregation of synagogue Beth Emeth. [7]

Members of the two German Jewish congregations belonged to numerous German language societies. The German Literacy Society, Deutsche Gesellschaft, organized in 1848, remained heavily Jewish. The Literacy Society spawned a German singing society, Albany Liederkranz, in 1849. Rabbi Wise played an important role in both associations. The purpose of the German Literary Society was “to study and spread German literature as well as to extend assistance to newly-arrived German immigrants.” German Jews belonged to half-dozen other societies that included a larger number of non-Jewish Germans, including the Albany Turin Verein, German Harmonia Lodge, and German Oak Lodge of Odd Fellows. This paralleled the larger national trend of Jews of German origin subscribing to German language newspapers and becoming “patrons of German clubs.’ For many Jews, “German culture was an important unifying force.” Prior to the 1890s, many German Jews, especially members of Reform congregations, appeared to identify more closely with non-Jewish Germans than with their brethren from Poznan, Galicia, Poland, Russia, Hungary, or Lithuania.

The continued use of German did not please many of the grown children of the German-speaking immigrants. Younger members of the Shiloh lodge of B’nai B’rith revolted in 1870 and established the English language, Gideon Lodge, on March 17, 1870. Members noted: “while Shiloh Lodge retains our Mother Tongue in its proceedings, we cling to that of the Country we reside in,” reflecting the impact of Americanization. The behavior of the grown sons of German congregations would be repeated by the sons of Yiddish-speaking East European Jews who would spawn the Conservative branch of Judaism, another example of American-born Jews retaining their Jewish identity and seeking acceptance as English-speaking Americans, not as foreigners, not as the “other.” [8]

Members of the Gideon Lodge, led by Simon Rosendale, played an important role in reaching out to other chapters of B’nai B’rith in 1870 to support the mission of Benjamin Peixotto to Bucharest to help alleviate the suffering of Romanian Jews. Jewish political activist Simon Wolf of Washington requested help from Albany’s B’nai B’rith. The Gideon Lodge pressured President Ulysses S. Grant to appoint Peixotto, president of B’nai B’rith, to the post and raise funds for the mission. Simon Rosendale wrote a condemnation of Romania’s behavior and appealed to the brothers of the organization, Jews and Americans, to donate to Peixotto’s mission. Two years later, in June 1872, the lodge established a committee headed by Simon Rosendale to raise additional funds to support Peixotto’s mission. In June 1903, Gideon Lodge donated funds “for the relief of the Kishineff sufferers,” victims of Russian pogroms against Jews. According to historian Mark Raider, “Kishinev marked a turning point in American Jewish history,” as Jews of whatever religious affiliation, ethnicity, or political beliefs “reacted with horror” at the barbaric actions of the Russian government. Jews rallied to denounce the Russian government, even in Fort Worth, Texas. Over 300 pogroms initiated by the Russian government took place between 1903-1906. The continued pogroms in Russia led the Gideon Lodge to organize a special meeting in November 1905 at Beth Emeth “for the purpose of appropriating means for the relief of the stricken Jews of the Russian Empire.” money was donated to help the survivors of the pogroms. As an expression of their identity as Jews, the Gideon Lodge and other Jewish organizations sought to assist Jews abroad and identified with the plight of Jews in Europe. Although Albany’s Jews had tried to assist Jews in Europe since 1853, the pogroms in Russia created a new determination and feeling of responsibility to help alleviate the plight of Jews abroad. As Mark Raider concluded, events in Russia created a national consensus among American Jews about the role of American Jewish philanthropy. [9]

The plight of Jews in Eastern Europe once again became a subject of concern during World War I. Hundreds of thousands of Jews uprooted by the war in Eastern Europe fled for safety. Roving armies decimated scores of Jewish communities and impoverished hundreds of thousands of people. From 1914-17, the Russian government forced 600,000 Jews from their homes. American Jews created the Joint Distribution Committee to distribute aid to Jews displaced by the war and help Jews in Palestine. As historian Daniel Soyer concluded, American Jewish assistance overseas became “a defining characteristic of American Jewry.” Albany’s Jews had a personal stake in helping because, as historian S. Joshua Korn noted about the Jewish community of Utica: “there as hardly a person who was not related to a war-stricken family in war-torn Europe and Palestine, for the vast majority of Jews were immigrants of…1890-1914 and their children.” Most of the Jews living in Albany and neighboring communities of Schenectady, Cohoes, and Troy immigrated to the Capital District at the same time as the Jewish residents of Utica. Albany’s synagogues and Jewish organizations, including the Gideon Lodge, felt obligated to assist displaced and hungry Jews in Europe. B’nai B’rith lodges expressed concerns for their brethren in Eastern Europe ever since the plight of Romanian Jews emerged in the late 1860s and early 1870s. By the 1890s, German Jews felt a sense of solidarity with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe and identified with their deteriorating status in Europe. [10]

Local relief efforts by Jewish organizations started with the outbreak of the war, but a major drive coincided with President Woodrow Wilson declaring January 27, 1916, Jewish Relief Day. Members of the New York state legislature passed resolutions endorsing Jewish Relief Day. New York Governor Republican Charles Whitman issued his own proclamation asking the people of New York to donate to reduce “the sufferings with which the Jewish people are confronted.” Prominent members of Beth Emeth, who also belonged to the Gideon Lodge, like Simon Rosendale, Albert Hessberg, and Rabbi Max Schlesinger, led the campaign in Albany. All the synagogues and associations, such as Yiddish language and Socialist Local 320 of Workmen’s Circle, socialist labor Zionist Poale Zion, working-class Hebrew Tailor’s Association, middle class and predominately Jewish Washington Lodge of Masons, Ladies’ Auxiliary of Beth El Jacob (Orthodox-Polish), and Ladies’ Radical Society, donated to Jewish relief. The misfortune facing Jews in Eastern Europe created unity in the United States for Jewish groups, regardless of denominational, ethnic, political, or language differences. Helping the Jews of Europe and Palestine united secular and religious groups and reinforced a sense of Yiddishkeit within the Jewish community of Albany and the Capital District. A number of non-Jews donated and or endorsed the campaign, including Republican Mayor Joseph W. Stevens and former governor Irish Catholic Martin Glynn, a Democrat and first Irish Catholic governor of the state. Funds raised went to the Joint Distribution Committee.[11]

In an article appearing in the American Hebrew on October 31, 1919, entitled “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop,” former governor Martin Glynn condemned the “threatened holocaust of human life” [and] “bigoted lust for Jewish blood,” in Eastern Europe. Polish troops killed 40,000 Jews in eastern Galicia between 1919-21, and a mix of Ukrainian nationalists, White Army, and elements of Red forces killed 100,000 Jews in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, and Lithuania, and 150,000 died of starvation, disease, and exposure as these roving armies devastated at least 150 Jewish communities between 1917-21. Romanian troops killed another 5,000 Jews in Hungary. “Tragedy of Jews Stirs Albanian Hearts,” proclaimed the Albany Argus in October 1919 as the second round of fundraising for the Jews of Eastern Europe began. Gideon Lodge joined with all Jewish organizations, synagogues, and many non-Jews to contribute to the injured and starving. On October 5,1919, members of B’nai B’rith’s lodge donated $150 “for the Jewish War Sufferers…unanimously carried.” Governor Al Smith and Catholic and Episcopalian bishops of Albany endorsed the fundraising and condemned the atrocities. Jews of Albany, including members of the Gideon Lodge, joined with Jews from Troy, Cohoes, and Schenectady on December 7, 1919, at the Palace Theater in Schenectady in a mass meeting to denounce the atrocities in Eastern Europe.[12]

In the interwar years, B’nai B’rith reached out to the sons of East European Jews, expanding the membership at the local and national levels. It created a youth wing, and young men joined Aleph Zadik Aleph Fraternity. At local colleges, chapters of Hillel attracted younger Jews. By 1940, B’nai B’rith had 150,000 members and became the largest secular Jewish organization. In Albany, the Gideon Lodge supported aid for Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the relocation of some survivors to Albany, and successfully built B’nai B’rith Parkview Apartments in Albany in 1973 for Jewish senior citizens. Albany’s Jewish Community Council worked with B’nai B’rith to make Parkview a reality. The Gideon Lodge and Gideon chapter of B’nai B’rith women assisted in providing support services for the seniors at Parkview. In the 1990s, the Gideon Lodge welcomed Soviet Jews who settled in Albany and Schenectady and assisted in finding housing for the latest Jewish immigrants to the Capital District. From 1974-1981 at least eighty-one Jews from the U.S.S.R. arrived in Albany. Since 1988 about 1,300 Soviet Jews have moved to Albany. [13]

While the Gideon Lodge was the longest-lasting fraternal organization in Albany, a number of other associations and branches of national organizations developed between the 1870s and the early 1900s. These organizations suggested the richness of Jewish communal life that” combined ideas of “mutual benefit with social and recreational functions.” On September 15, 1872, the B’nai Mordecai Lodge of Kesher Shel Barzel (Chain of Iron) opened a chapter. While B’nai B’rith initially attracted German Jews and their descendants, KBB, established in 1860, became a primarily Polish fraternal organization. A second chapter, the Capital City Lodge, was also formed, but both agreed to merge in 1894. Free Sons of Israel, started in New York City in 1849, chartered a local chapter on April 5, 1872, Arnon Lodge appealed to German Jews and their descendants. Most of the members of Free Sons belonged to Anshe Emeth and Beth El, and later Beth Emeth. It had a glorious celebration in April 1899 on its Silver Anniversary, with 250 in attendance for dinner, and several hundred more came for the dance. One of the speakers, Simon Rosendale, stressed the charitable purposes of the lodge. Prominent non-Jews recognized the good works of the Arnon Lodge, including Mayor Van Alstyne and Governor Theodore Roosevelt. The Governor praised the members and denounced anti-Semitism. B’rith Abraham, founded in 1844, was one of the first Jewish fraternal societies to offer death benefits to members and their wives. It started as a German and Hungarian Jewish association, although it later accepted Russian and Polish Jews. It also had a strong connection to Beth El and Anshe Emeth. Morris Coplon, its local chairman, led the association when it held its national convention in Albany on August 23, 1896, as 250 members attended the convention. Not surprisingly, Rabbi Max Schlesinger of Reform Beth Emeth delivered the opening prayer and blessing.

The arrival of Polish and Russian Jews after 1870 fostered a new group of fraternal orders. Independent Order of B’rith Abraham, organized nationally in the 1880s, emerged as a Russian Jewish association, and a local chapter was chartered in 1893. It started as an organization of Hungarian Jews but quickly expanded to include Jews from the Russian Empire. By expanding membership, it soon rose to 200,000 members and, for “a brief period in the early 1900s, constituted the largest Jewish organization of any kind in the United States.” Chapters of Sons of Benjamin (1897-1901), Albanian and Capital City lodges of Assembly of Israel ( November 27, 1894, and December 8, 1895), and Young Men’s Montefiore Association (December 26, 1896) were established. Public officials recognized these Jewish societies and invited them to public functions, like having members of B’rith Abraham, Young Men’s Montefiore Association, and Independent Order of B'rith Abraham march in the October 1909 Hudson-Champlain Commemoration. [14]

East European immigrants voluntarily formed chapters to meet their emotional, social, burial, sickness, and recreational needs. These lodges fostered responsibility, fellowship, and Yiddishkeit. Branches of the fraternal organizations developed in each upstate New York community where enough Jewish men lived to support a lodge---Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Utica, Gloversville, Amsterdam, and Poughkeepsie. The most popular was B’nai B’rith, Free Sons of Israel, and B’rith Abraham. Upstate Jewish communities, like Albany, did not support a secular Jewish organization popular in New York City and other large cities---landsmanshaftn, associations of Jewish men from the same city, town, or village in the old country, like the Bialystok Mutual Aid Society. Their functions were similar to fraternal orders but rooted in men, landsmen, from the same community in Eastern Europe. By the 1930s, New York City hosted over 3,000 landsmanshaftn, but this local connection to hometowns did not flourish in upstate Jewish communities, primarily due to the lack of numbers and the anti-Jewish and restrictive immigration laws of 1921 and 1924 that cutoff most Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe. [15]

One politically motivated fraternal order that originated in New York City found a home in Albany and other upstate Jewish communities---Arbeiter Ring (Workmen’s Circle), a nationwide fraternal and mutual aid society with a Yiddish and Socialist agenda. Founded in 1892, combining socialism, Yiddish culture, and the fraternal organizational structure, Workmen’s Circle became popular with Jews from Poland, Russia, and Lithuania. The organization expressed a secular sense of Jewish solidarity and identified with workers’ rights and the Yiddish language. While usually linked to Jewish communities in larger cities like Boston and New York, Workmen’s Circle found a responsive audience in upstate Jewish communities of working-class Jewish immigrants. It represented an expression of first-generation Jewish identity among immigrants from Eastern Europe through the socialist revolutionary movement in the Russian Empire, the General Jewish Workers’ Union, known as the Bund. The Bund combined class struggle “with loyalty to the Jewish people---indeed, to Jewish peoplehood.” In the United States, Workmen’s Circle expressed the ideas of the Bund but widened its appeal by stressing a Yiddish-based socialist and cultural movement. By combining Yiddish culture, socialism, mutual aid society benefits, and brotherhood, it created an attractive mix “making it the longest-lived and most effective of all East European fraternal orders”[16]

Member of Workmen’s Circle discussed Yiddish literature, listened to Yiddish language speakers, and invited Yiddish theater groups from New York City to give performances at local theaters. As the historian of the Utica Jewish community concluded: “The Arbeiter Ring…had a profound influence on a large section of the Jewish population in Utica during the first quarter of the twentieth century.” For the immigrant generation, it played an important role in the lives of Jews in Albany, Schenectady, and Troy. Workmen’s Circle appealed to industrial workers, peddlers, tailors, and small merchants attracted to the secular Yiddish culture it promoted. Some came to discuss contemporary political and economic issues like the arrest of four Socialists in Albany on August 26, 1917, for handing out a four-page pamphlet that the courts decided violated the Espionage Act. Others came for a general discussion of socialism in Yiddish or for a non-political discussion of Yiddish writers, like Sholem Aleichem. Wherever there was an immigrant Jewish community from Eastern Europe---Poughkeepsie, Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo, there was a branch of the Arbeiter Ring in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Jewish radicals of whatever political orientation could mingle in the fraternal order of Workmen’s Circle. [17]

Some communities, like Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Rochester, and Buffalo, organized Yiddish language Folk Shules in the 1920s and 1930s. The afternoon schools taught Yiddish, Jewish history, and socialism. Sadie Flax, for example, remembered learning Yiddish and socialism at the Workmen’s Circle school in nearby Schenectady. The schools passed on the passion for Yiddish and socialism to another generation, this time to American-born children of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Workmen’s Circle ran their school out of their building on Ash Grove Place. The Albany school ran into the 1940s. The Albany branch of Workmen’s Circle was founded in semi-secret on May 14, 1904, in the home of N. Rosenberg. Orthodox Jews distrusted the organization and discouraged renting space for the organization’s meetings. Members of the Orthodox community destroyed flyers for Workmen’s Circle's meetings forcing it to meet initially quietly and finally meet outside the Jewish neighborhoods in the South End of Albany.

However, the arrival of Jews fleeing the Russian pogroms brought Jews with experience in the Russian radical movement that quickly embraced Workmen’s Circle leading to a second branch, Number 122, in 1907. It became popular with new immigrants, and its meeting place on 67 South Pearl Street became “the modern Yiddish culture center of the city.” Residents flocked to the concerts and the speakers. Members of the Albany local worked with the Jewish-dominated unions, bakers, and tailors, founding the Bread and Meat Cooperative. Workmen’s Circle worked closely with Jewish bakers to support unionization and the purchase of union-made baked goods. Workmen's Circle assisted the garment workers by raising money for their organizing efforts in February 1920 and joining in the campaign to persuade consumers to only patronize stores that sold unionized goods. In 1914, the two locals merged into Branch 320. Workmen’s Circle started fundraising for Jewish relief to help Jews in Europe in 1914 and participated in drives in 1916, 1918, and 1919 for Jews displaced by the war. The Albany chapter contributed $100,000 for the defense of the four Socialists arrested in August 1917 for violating the Espionage Act. According to the local press, the Albany local’s reach extended to Jewish communities in Troy, Hudson, Gloversville, and Glens Falls. [18]

In 1909, the organization purchased land for a cemetery. Although Workmen’s Circle was secular, it agreed with the Orthodox that only Jews, and not Gentiles, could be buried in a Jewish cemetery. It took “a heated discussion, lasting several weeks,” before the majority of members rejected burying non-Jews. Two of the most interesting monuments in the cemetery are written in Yiddish. One, to Harriet Thuroff, “Thy memory shall be the guiding star in our struggle.” Rose Halpert’s includes a commemoration of her activism in the revolutionary workers' movement. Children and grandchildren of the original members of the Workmen’s Circle are still being buried in the Albany Cemetery.

A faction of Workmen’s Circle broke off in 1929 to form International Worker’s Order, affiliated with the Communist Party. An Albany branch, Jewish Peoples’ Fraternal Order, seceded from the local Workmen’s Circle, and in retaliation, Workmen’s Circle refused to bury the Communists in their cemetery. During the McCarthyite period, the federal government dissolved the political movement as a Communist front in the early 1950s and seized the cemetery but eventually returned it to the JPFO. Historian Maurice Isserman argued: “regardless of its political affiliation, JPFO played a significant and largely positive role in the lives of tens of thousands of American Jews.” Isserman appears correct since the JPFO and its broader organization, International Workers Order, sponsored Yiddish language schools and Yiddish cultural activities, a more radical version of Yiddishkeit. [19]

Another national fraternal organization founded a chapter in Albany, Farband. Founded in Rochester in 1910, the Farband, also known as the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance, appealed to the same East European working-class immigrant population of the Workmen’s Circle but combined socialism with active support for Zionism, while Workmen’s Circle remained non-Zionist as did JPFO. Farband supported folkshulen (Folk Shuls) but promoted both Yiddish and Hebrew, Jewish cultural activities, and the same benefits as other fraternal orders. A chapter of Farband was established in Albany in 1912. Farband established the city's first secular Yiddish school, one of the earliest in the country.

In December 1912 and January 1913, Farband held its national convention in Albany. Opening on December 28, 1912, the conference discussed improving the conditions of Jewish workers, modern Yiddish education, and improving insurance coverage. It met at another recently created Jewish cultural institution, Hebrew Educational Institute, on Franklin and South Ferry Streets, in the heart of Albany’s Jewish neighborhood. Farband advocated for Jewish workers’ rights, socialism, and Zionism and later became linked to socialist labor Zionism in Palestine. At the founding, Farband included Socialists-Territorialists Zionists who believed in a Jewish homeland, including areas outside of Palestine. Albany’s chapter also organized Farband chapters in other communities like Schenectady. As historian Moses Rischin concluded: “socialism was Judaism secularized” Combining an emphasis on Yiddish and Hebrew along with socialism provided another vision of Yiddishkeit for Jewish immigrants. [20]

Several occupational groups unique to the Capital District acted as mutual aid societies. The two most common occupations of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe were tailors and peddlers. This had been true for German immigrants earlier since the membership of Beth El, Beth El Jacob, and Anshe Emeth in the 1850s were primarily peddlers. Recent immigrants formed the Jewish Peddlers Association in Schenectady in 1916 “for the promotion of intellectual, social, and recreational activities for the families of its members.” Members listened to Yiddish language speakers, and the talks attracted larger audiences, becoming community events.

Earlier, a group of eight tailors in Albany on August 31, 1891, organized the Hebrew Tailors Association “for mutual benefit and benevolent purposes.” Apparently, an Albany Jewish tailor fell ill and had no means to take care of himself, and this motivated the creation of a society to help fellow workers. It would take care of the sick, help those in distress, and provide for the burials of members. It became a well-respected local Jewish organization and even marched in the Hudson-Champlain Commemoration in October 1909. Hebrew Tailors joined in fundraising for all the Jewish causes, like Jewish Relief Day in January 1916 and a second round of fundraising in March 1916. Tailors also held recreational activities for its members. For example, one hundred couples participated in a ball on February 24, 1902, “and it was the early hours of the morning before the dance broke up.” The association sponsored annual dinners and annual balls. At the ball on January 3, 1910, “there was a good crowd present and most enjoyable time was had.” [21]

Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe brought radical traditions, and as Moses Rischin noted, socialism became secularized Judaism. Both the Socialist parties in Albany and Schenectady had Jewish sections. There was no coincidence that the Albany Socialist Party had its headquarters on South Pearl Street, in the heart of the Jewish neighborhood. For the immigrant generation struggling to find their place in American society and primarily working class, socialism appealed to their sense of solidarity, Jewish ethics, and the Jewish quest for justice. In Albany, Jews were peddlers, bakers, tailors, garment workers, and cap workers. There were a number of cap factories in Albany, and “almost all of whose workers were Jewish.” Failed efforts to unionize further inflamed their resentment of economic inequality. Jews from the Russian Empire identified with the Jewish branch of the Russian Social Democratic Party---Bund, a Yiddish language workers movement among Jews in Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia. Working-class Jews felt exploited in America and brought their loyalty to socialism to the United States. A small number later split off to endorse the more radical Communist Party. [22]

However, there was another radical alternative, Jerminal, the Albany Jewish anarchist group active between 1900 and 1920s. Jewish anarchists would sometimes meet with their Italian immigrant comrades from Schenectady over tea and pastry to discuss the revolution. Leon Malmed, a local deli owner, played an active role and developed a close relationship with Emma Goldman. “Red Emma” spoke several times in Schenectady and Albany between 1906-1917, with the help of Leon Malmed, her sometime lover. Emma would deliver talks in Yiddish, English, and Russian. A handbill in Yiddish, for example, advertised, “Emma Goldman, the very popular speaker…will speak in Albany…first of April 1906.” Albany’s police interfered on April 1, 1906, breaking up the talk by Goldman. Leon Malmed introduced Goldman, but her critique of the American government angered a police sergeant who ordered the meeting stopped. The “audience was composed entirely of foreigners,” meaning Jewish immigrants from Russia. For a small number of Jews from the Russian Empire, anarchism seemed another way to express secular Jewish values in Yiddish. Jewish anarchists based their positions on Jewish ethical norms, but they rejected Judaic religious rituals. One of the problems for Jewish anarchists, whether in Albany or New York City, was working-class Jews agreed with their critique of inequality that stemmed from Jewish values but opposed the anarchist attack on Jewish religious rituals, severely limiting the growth of Jerminal and other Jewish anarchist groups. [23]

Zionism became another way for Jews in Albany to preserve their identity as Jews. In 1898, Jews in Albany, Troy, and Schenectady formed chapters that sent delegates to the 1898 Federation of American Zionists convention. Representatives from the Albany, Troy, and Glens Falls chapters attended the 1900 convention. A chapter of Choveve Zion (Lovers of Zion) began at the same time. A Zionist fraternal order, Max Nordau Lodge, opened on September 16, 1900, and associated with the Federation of American Zionists. Albany Zionists actively purchased Jewish National Fund stamps. Another Zionist group, also affiliated with FAZ, Sons, and Daughters of Zion, expanded “ intensive and widespread Zionist activities.” They became active in fundraising for displaced Jews in Europe during World War I. and sponsored lectures and concerts to raise money for Palestine and promote Zionism. Religious Zionists established a chapter of Mizrachi in 1914 after Mizrachi leader Meyer Berlin visited Albany. Socialist Zionists had several options, like supporting Zionism while enrolled in the Jewish branch of the Socialist Party or Workmen’s Circle. They could join the group of Socialist Territorialists Zionists or the chapter of Poale Zion (Workers of Zion) that started a chapter in Albany in 1906 and supported their fraternal association, the Farband Labor Zionist Order. Zionists held regular memorial services to honor the death of Theodore Herzl. In 1916, for example, Sons and Daughters of Zion sponsored an event at the Orthodox (Polish) Beth El Jacob synagogue with speakers in English and Yiddish. All the Zionist groups joined in the campaign for Jewish war relief for the Jews of Europe and Palestine in 1916, 1918, and 1919.[24]

On June 3, 1920, 4,000 Jews from Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Hudson, Glens Falls, and Cohoes marched down South Pearl Street in Albany’s Jewish neighborhood in support of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Carrying banners in English and Hebrew with the Zionist flag, six-pointed blue star, and stripes on a white background, the Stars and Stripe's marchers walked past “shops and residences along the route” decorated with the Zionist flag as Jews celebrated the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine, Balfour Declaration, and “the restoration of Israel.” Marchers represented all of the Jewish societies “and congregations of virtually every city near Albany.” A band played Hatikvah. This became the largest Jewish parade in the history of the city. Speakers included Governor Al Smith (Democrat), Mayor James Watt (Republican), and former governor Martin Glynn as Albany’s Catholics and Protestants endorsed the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. The massive parade for Zionism and a Jewish homeland in Palestine showed that Zionism and Americanism were not in conflict. American political leaders, Democrats, and Republicans supported Jewish nationalism. Zionism became another manifestation of how Jewish immigrants and American-born Jews maintained their identity as Jews in Albany and America. [25]

Jews also joined national fraternal orders. There were Jews in the Masons, Knights of Pythias, and Odd Fellows, often in predominately Jewish chapters in Albany and Schenectady. This got repeated as middle-class Jews formed their own chapters of the Odd Fellows and Masons in Syracuse or the Jewish lodges of the Masons and Odd Fellows in Utica or Knights of Pythias, Odd Fellows, and Masons in Buffalo. By joining these societies, “Jews sought equality and integration into America, and at the same time continued to behave as Jews.” These secular lodges enabled Jews to socialize with fellow Jews “without the tumult of synagogue politics and congregational bickering.” Predominately Jewish lodges contributed to Jewish causes, like Jewish war relief in World War I or support for creating Jewish community centers. This became another outlet for Jews wanting to preserve their identity as Jews but outside the context of synagogues and denominational differences within Judaism. [26]

Women’s associations performed the same functions and provided the same communal responsibilities to preserve Jewish identity. As Hasia Diner noted, women’s associations “served the same religious and communal needs, and most members came from the same families.” Furthermore, “these societies saw themselves as agencies for the preservation of Judaism in its full sense.” They took care of the sick and acted as burial societies for women. The Ladies or Women’s Benevolent Society took on charitable functions. By the late 1860s, Purim balls became a vehicle for fundraising for charity, and Albany’s women sponsored one in 1869. Women played a major role in fundraising fairs for the Jewish Home for the Aged in 1880, primarily members of the German Beth El and Anshe Emeth congregations. In the 1880s, the Ladies Sewing Society sponsored entertainments to raise funds to help the poor in the Jewish community, such as for example, the one organized in 1883. The actions of German Jewish women in Albany fit the pattern of “German Jewish volunteer women being particularly active in organizing and raising funds for social welfare programs” to help poor members of the Jewish community.[27]

Reacting to the male B’nai B’rith, a group of Jewish women created a women’s equivalent in 1845 in New York called the United Order of True Sisters (Unabhangiger Orden Trueue Schwestern) that emphasized social, educational, and philanthropic activities. A predominately German-Jewish organization, Anshe Emeth and Beth El members established an Albany chapter, Abigail Lodge, on August 4, 1857. German remained the language of meetings until 1905. Women organized the Clara de Hirsch Society in 1890 “for the purpose of giving aid to the poor and needy” within the Jewish community. In 1893, a national women’s organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, was established for educational, social, and philanthropic purposes. Local women established a chapter on December 8, 1895, and by 1903 it had 125 members. In Albany, the chapter concentrated on religious education for the children of East European immigrants, and after World War I, on settling displaced East European Jews on farms in southern Rensselaer County. Young Jewish women in Albany founded a chapter of the YWHA in December 1915, sponsoring athletic and educational activities and dances at the Albany Yacht Club, where young people socialized. Merging with the YMHA in 1925, they formed the Jewish Community Center. According to historian Howard Sachar the Jewish community center movement “translated Judaism and Jewish identity into the widest ambit of Jewish civilization.” [28]

A national women’s Zionist organization founded in the 1920s as an arm of the Zionist Organization of America, known as Hadassah, established an Albany chapter in 1923 to support medical, vocational, and land reclamation projects in Palestine. Linked to labor Zionism, Pioneer Women, founded in 1921, established an Albany chapter in the 1920s. These women’s organizations acted to reinforce Jewish identity in Albany and provided different options for women to contribute to the community. They bridged the gap between becoming American and remaining Jewish. Zionism became an integral part of Jewish identity in Albany by 1920 for Jews of East European origin and by 1929 for Jews of German origin. [29]

These organizations helped Jews preserve their identity and provided mutual aid, social support, and ”camaraderie in times of joy and comfort in times of trouble, illness, and death.” Jewish organizations raised funds for philanthropy, social services, education, and maintaining Jewish institutions. As a small religious and ethnic minority in American society, Jewish organizations allowed Jews to retreat into an “exclusive social and cultural space.” Ever since Jews arrived in America in 1654, Jews have faced the same question---how to maintain Jewish identity in an overwhelmingly Christian society and cling to separate ethnic, religious, cultural, and social values as they navigated between Americanization and remaining Jewish. Jewish associations were bottom-up institutions created to serve the needs of immigrants and their children, searching for options to preserve Yiddishkeit while becoming American. Each individual Jew decided on their commitment to Judaism or to a Jewish identity outside of synagogue membership. Every commitment to religion and ethnic identity was voluntary for Jewish immigrants and their descendants. Howard Sachar’s comments on the Jewish Center movement suggested one of the several ways Jewish immigrants and their descendants found creative methods to reinvent their Jewish identity in secular mediums. Jewish organizations expanded Jewish civilization and constantly reinterpreted the meaning of Yiddishkeit for Jewish immigrants and their descendants. These institutions allowed Jews to maintain their identity as Jews outside of the communal politics of synagogues and the conflicting interpretations of Judaism. [30]

About the author: Harvey Strum is a history and political science professor at Russell Sage College in Troy and Albany. His most recent publications include: America’s Mission of Mercy to Ireland, 1880, New York History, 2018; Schenectady’s Jews, Zionism, New York History Review, 2019, 2020, 2021.




[1] Ewa Morawska, Insecure Prosperity: Small-town Jews in Industrial America, 1890-1940 


(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), 135.


[2] Hasia Diner, A Time for Gathering: The Second Migration, 1820-1880 (Baltimore and 


London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 87; S Joshua Korn, The Jewish 


Community of Utica, 1847-1948 (New York: American Jewish Historical Society, 1959), 


40; Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale, “A History of the Jewish Community of 


Albany, 1836-1910,” in Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1910 (Albany: Beth Emeth Congregation, 


1910), 69.


[3] Diner, Time for Gathering, 93; Louis Silver, “The Jews of Albany,” YIVO Annual of Jewish 


Social Science (1954), 241; Rabbi Naphtali Rubinger (Ohav Shalom), “Albany Jewry of 


the Nineteenth Century,” (Ph.D. diss.:Yeshiva University, 1971), 278, For Jewish 


cemeteries, Walter Zenner and Jewish Historical Society of Northeastern New York, 


Guide to Jewish Cemeteries in Northeastern New York (Albany: Jewish Historical Society, 


2003). Covers Jewish cemeteries between Newburgh and Plattsburgh. 


[4] Hoffman’s City Register, 1847,28. The records of the Society of Brotherly Love are in 


the Archives of Congregation Beth Emeth, Albany, New York; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 


241. For the Hebrew Benevolent Society-B’nai B’rith dispute, Israelite, November 3, 1854, 


1:17.134; For praise of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, see Albany Argus, September


13, 1885. 5; For a yearly report of its actions, Albany Argus, November 2, 1897, 9. As an 


example of the Hebrew Benevolent Society upholding Jewish traditions see the support 


for Succoth, Albany Argus, September 20, 1918, 16.


[5] Howard Sacher, A History of the Jews in America (New York City: Vintage Books, 1992), 


70; Diner, A Time for Gathering, 109-110; Deborah Dash Moore, B’nai B’rith and the 


Challenge of Ethnic Leadership (Albany: SUNY Press,  1981), 7.


[6] Albany Argus, April 5, 1886, 8,  April 23, 1886, 8, December 31, 1887, 8; Rubinger, 


“Albany Jewry,” 282;  Dr. Max Schlesinger and Simon Rosendale, “A History of the Jewish 


Community of Albany. 1836-1910’ in  Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1910, (Albany: Beth Emeth, 


1910), 69. Copies available at the Beth Emeth Archives, New York State Library, both in 


Albany. Also, Sefton Temkin Papers, MS-738, Box 8, folder 6, American Jewish Archives, 


Cincinnati, Ohio; Albany Argus, May 23, 1897, 7,  July 21, 1897, 7, August 22, 1910, 1 


and  6; November 14, 1910, 3; On the educational function of B’nai B’rith, see Diner, 


Time for Gathering, 111.


[7] Schlesinger and Rosendale, “Jewish Community of Albany,” 61.


[8]  Minutes of the Gideon Lodge of B’nai ‘B’rith, Day of the Installation, 1870, Box 1, folder 


1, Minute Book, 1870-73,  Series A, General, 1870-1932. B’nai B’rith, Gideon Lodge, No. 


140 (Albany, N.Y.), MS-377, American Jewish Archive, Cincinnati, Ohio. Also, for German 


societies and citation in previous paragraph, Silver, “The Jews of Albany,” : 230. Also,  


For citations about Jews and German organizations nationally, Gerald Sorin, A Time for 


Gathering: The Third Migration, 1880-1920 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 


University Press, 1992), 6. For German societies and German Day in Albany, Albany 


Argus, August 22, 1910, 1, 6. There were 37,000 Germans and their descendants in the 


Albany area in 1910. One out of every four people in Albany were German. About 1,500 


would have been German Jews and their descendants. The first German Day was held 


in 1904.


[9] Minute Book, June 9. 1872 June 7, 1903, November 12, 1905, December 3, 1905, in 


Minute Book, 1899-1912, Series A, General, 1870-1932, B’nai B’rith, AJA. Also, Mark 


Raider, The Emergence of American Zionism (New York: New York University Press, 


1998), 18.”An American Jew” to the editor, Albany Press-Knickerbocker-Express, May


21, 1903. For the national organization, National Committee for the Relief of Jewish 


Sufferers by Russian Massacres, American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish 


History, New York City. Also, see Gary Dean Best, To Free A People: American Jewish 


Leaders and the Jewish Problem in Eastern Europe, 1890-1914 (Westport, Ct: 


Greenwood Press, 1982), 114-40; Cyrus Adler, ed., The Voice of America on Kishineff 


(Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1904),xvii. Adler cites one meeting in Albany 


in 1903. For Fort Worth’s protests against Russian barbarism, Hollace Weiner, “Whistling 


Dixie while Humming Ha-Tikvah: Acculturation and Activism among Orthodox Jews in 


Fort Worth,” American Jewish History  53:2 (Fall 2020): 214. (whole article, 211-37


[10] Daniel Soyer, Jewish Immigrant Associations and American Identity in New York, 1880-


1939 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997), 162; Korn, The Jewish 


Community of Utica, 125. Also, Oscar Handlin, A Continuing Task: The American Joint 


Distribution Committee, 1914-1964 (New York: Random House, 1964), 19-33; Harvey 


Strum, “To Aid their Unfortunate Coreligionists: Impact of World War I and Jewish 


Community in Albany,” Hudson River Valley Review, 32:2 (Spring 2016):53-75. Marsha


Rozenblit and Jonathan Karp, eds, World War I and the Jews: Conflict and 


Transformation in Europe, the Middle East, and America (New York: Berghahn Books, 


2017); Moore, B’nai B’rith, 57.


[11]  For Woodrow Wilson, for example, Albany Argus, 24 January 1916; Resolutions of the 


Assembly, 17 January 1916, New York Legislative Record, and Index: A Complete 


Record. From January 5-20 May 1916 (Albany: Legislative Index Company, 1916). 521-


23; Proclamation, “For the Relief of the Jewish People in Belligerent Countries in Europe, 


21 January 1916,” Public Papers of Charles Seymour Whitman, Governor, 1916 (Albany:


J.B.Lyon Company, 1919), 5; For identification of Beth Emeth members, Congregation 


Beth Emeth, Congregation Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1914-1922 (Albany: Beth Emeth, 


1922), 73-76; Albany Times Union, January 23-28, 1916; Albany Knickerbocker Press, 


January 23-28, 1916; Albany Evening Journal, January 22-28, 1916; Albany Argus, 


January 21-28, 1916. Unfortunately, neither the Governor Whitman nor Governor Glynn 


Papers at the New York State Library provide further details on their support for Jewish 


Relief Day.


[12] Martin Glynn, “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop,” American Hebrew, October 31, 1919. 


Used a copy at Beth Emeth Archives, Albany, N.Y. Unfortunately, Dominick C. Lizzi, 


Governor Martin Glynn. Forgotten Hero (Valatie, N.Y.: Valatie Press, 2007) does not 


mention Glynn’s support: Albany Argus, October 19, 23, 1919; Minute Book,  October 5, 


1919, in  Minutes of the Gideon Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Box 1, folder 3, Minute Book, 1913-


32, Series A, General, 1870-1932, B’nai B’rith, AJA. For the mass meeting in 


Schenectady, Broadside in Yiddish and English, “Big Mass Meeting to Protest against the 


Massacres and Pogroms of Jews in Ukraina and Eastern Europe,” Box 1, Rosenthal 


Collection, Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, N.Y. For Albany protests, see 


Albany Evening Journal, December 16, 1918; Albany Argus, December 12 and 16, 1918; 


For a protest in Schenectady see Schenectady Jewish Community to Robert Lansing, 


May 16, 1919, Woodrow Wilson Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. For a 


protest against the pogroms by Jewish soldiers, see Petition by Jewish Soldiers 


Protesting the Treatment of Jews in Europe, folder 260-105, Box 86, Governor Alfred 


Smith Papers, New York Archives, Albany, N.Y.


[13] B’nai B’rith Lodge, No. 140,Celebrate the 120th Anniversary (1870-1990) (Albany: B’nai 


B’rith, 1990), 6-7, copy in Historical files of B’nai B’rith, Jewish Historical Society of 


Northeastern New York, Jewish Federation, Albany. “B’nai B’rith Parkview Apartments 


25th Anniversary,” 25th Anniversary Scrapbook, Records of Parkview Apartments, Albany, 


N.Y. For a couple of surviving records of the B’nai B’rith chapter in nearby Schenectady, 


see Letter of Introduction for Hershel Graubart, Member of the Junior Order of B’nai B’rith, 


March 19, 1942, given by Hershel to the Agudath Achim Archives, Niskayuna, New York, 


and Aleph Zadik Aleph (Youth Fraternity of B’nai B’rith) Membership Certificate for


Hershel Graubart, Schenectady Lodge 879, B’nai B’rith. Collections in B’nai B’rith House, 


Niskayuna, New York. Agudath Achim is a Conservative synagogue.


[14] Diner, Time for Gathering, 109; Albany Directories for 1902, 1907, and 1915; Beth 


Emeth Congregation Yearbook, 1910, 69-70; Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 141-43; Rubinger,


“Albany Jewry,” 296; Book of Incorporation Papers, Books V and VI, Albany County 


Records Office, Albany, N.Y.; Albany Times Union, June 11, 1903, Also, see “Jewish 


Societies,” Albany Argus, April 15, 1894, 2. For the incorporation papers of Assembly of 


Israel, November 27. 1894, Book of Incorporation Papers, Albany County Records Office. 


Copy provided by Maura Cavanaugh, Archivist, August 3, 2021. For Free Sons of Israel


and Theodore Roosevelt, Albany Argus, April 20, 1899. For the national convention of 


B’rith Abraham, Albany Argus, August 22-24, 1896—see 22nd, 5 and 24, 9 especially the 


24th for a large story on the convention. B’rith Abraham and the International Order of 


B’rith Abraham were separate national associations with separate Albany lodges.


[15] See for example, Diner, A Time for Gathering, 106, 109, 113,125; Sacher, Jews in 


America, 198-200; Sorin, A Time for Building, 97-98, 115-16; Henry Feingold, A Time for 


Searching: Entering the Mainstream, 1920-1945 (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins 


University Press, 1992), 58-59.


[16] Sorin, A Time for Building, 30; Sachar, History of the Jews, 197. The surviving records 


of the Albany and Capital District branches of Workmen’s Circle are in the archives of the 


YIVO Institute for Advanced Jewish Research in New York City. Records are primarily in 


Yiddish. The author obtained photocopies including of a couple of photos. Also, Silver, 


“Jews in Albany,” 244-45. For Jewish peddlers, see Peddlers Books, Special Collections, 


New York Archives, Albany.


[17] Kohn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 44; Michael Dobkowski, ed., Jewish American 


Voluntary Organizations  (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 489-94; Silver, “Jews 


in Albany,” 244; Stuart Rosenberg, The Jewish Community in Rochester, 1843-1925


(New York: Columbia University Press, 1954), 152-54 on local Workmen’s Circle, which


acted like the chapters in Albany. Also, Soyer, Jewish Immigrant Associations, 66-70. For 


a later discussion of Workmen’s Circle, see Tillie Wasserman, to the Executive Secretary, 


May 5, 1964, Workmen’s Circle, Branch 117, Workmen’s Circle Papers, YIVO Institute 


for Advanced Jewish Research, New York City. For correspondence, primarily in Yiddish 


on the Workmen’s Circle School in Albany, also see Workmen’s Circle Papers.


[18] Interview of Sadie Flax with author in 2005. Sadie was the volunteer historian/archivist 


at Temple Agudath Achim in Niskayuna, N.Y. and former co-president of the Jewish 


Historical Society of Northeastern  New York Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 244; Albany Argus, 


August 28, 1917,10. The case, Pierce v, United States went to the Supreme Court in 1919 


and decided in March 1920, 7-2 upheld the conviction with dissents by Brandeis and 


Holmes. Also, New York Times, August 27, 1917, 2, and list of prisoners, Albany County 


Jail and Penitentiary Records, 83, Albany County Records Office. For the reach of the 


Albany chapter to surrounding branches, Albany Argus, March 21, 1920, 26. For the 


relationship between Workmen’s Circle and Jewish bakers, Albany Argus, March 28, 


1920, 14. For an example, contributions by Workmen’s Circle to Jewish causes, like 


the relief of Jews in Europe, Albany Argus, March 1, 1916, 5. March 21, 1916, 8, March 


28, 1916, 8.



[19] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 244; Walter Zenner, Jewish Cemeteries, 21, 8, 10. 20; 


Dobkowski, Jewish American, 491, 190-92. Maurice Isserman wrote the entry on JFPO.


[20] Albany Argus, December 28, 1912, 5, December 29, 1912, 3,and January 1, 1913, 8; 


Dobkowski, Jewish American, 305-09. Also, Albany Times Union, January 1, 1913; 


Albany Evening Journal, December 30, 1912; Albany Knickerbocker Press, December 


31, 1912; Moses Rischin, The Promised City: New York’s Jews, 1870-1914 (Cambridge,


MA: Harvard University Press, 1962, 1977), 166.


[21] Incorporation Papers, Hebrew Tailors’ Association, August 31, 1891, Albany County 


Records Office; Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 243. Silver spoke to Z. Levitan, the then 


secretary of the Tailors in 1936; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 297-98; For example, Albany


Argus, March 1, 1916, 5 for second round of fundraising for displaced European Jews. 


Also, March 21, 1916, 5, For recreational events, see Albany Argus, January 4, 1898, 2, 


February 25, 1902, 5 and January 4, 1910, 5. Hebrew Tailors have a significant cemetery 


for the burials of the children and grandchildren of the original members with a very visible 


chapel that can be seen from the nearby road. Zenner, Jewish Cemeteries, 16.


[22] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 243-44.


[23] Emma Goldman to Leon Malmed. February 1906 and March 18, 1915, Emma Goldman 


Papers, University of California at Berkeley; Albany Knickerbocker Press, April 2, 1906. 


Also, see Rischin, Promised City, 154-55, 161; Sorin, A Time for Building, 110-112; Jeff 


Coplon, ed., Spanning Two Worlds: The Rich and Memorable Lives of Jacob and Bessie   


Coplon (Schenectady: Privately printed, 1997), 3-5, 41. Courtesy of David Coplon to 


author. “Foreigners” quote taken from Albany Argus, April 2, 1906, 8. For additional 


correspondence between Goldman and Malmed: Papers of Leon Malmed and Emma 


Goldman, 1899-1982, MC 322; M88, Schlesinger Library. Radcliffe Institute, Cambridge, 


MA. The handbill in Yiddish was in an exhibition at the Albany Institute of History and Art 


on the Jewish Experience in Albany in the 1990s. Dan Malmed translated the handbill 


into English from Yiddish. This is taken from of list of objects in the exhibit.


[24] Silver, “Jews in Albany,” 246; Albany Argus, July 22, 1916, 7; Raider, American Zionism, 


40-41; Albany Times Union, January 16-19, 1916; “Jewish War Relief,” Tri-City Jewish 


Chronicle, (Schenectady), February 11, 1918, 92. Copy available at the New York State 


Library, Albany, New York and American Jewish Archives; Congregation Beth Emeth, 


Congregation Beth Emeth Yearbook, 1914-22 (Albany: Beth Emeth, 1922), 73-76. Copies 


available in the Beth Emeth Archives and the Albany Public Library; Christopher Serba,


Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants During The First World War  (New York: 


Oxford University Press, 2003), 170; Joseph Rappaport, Hands Across the Seas: Jewish 


Immigrants and World War I (Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books, 2005), 76-77, 81.


[25] Albany Argus June 2, 3, 4, 1920; Albany Times Union, June 4, 1920.


[26] Diner, A Time for Gathering, 161-62; For a photo of the Zion Lodge of Odd Fellows, a 


Jewish lodge, taken in 1939, White Studio Collection, New York State Museum, Albany, 


New York; For Utica, Korn, The Jewish Community of Utica, 58-59; For Schenectady, for 


example, “Zion Lodge of I.O.O.F. Y’s Owl, April 1925, 10, Copy used at the Schenectady


County Historical Society, Schenectady, N.Y. For the Jewish Progressive Lodge of the 


Knights of Pythias, photo of lodge members in 1927 borrowed from the private collection


of Leah Cook. Her father was a member.


[27] Diner, A Time for Gathering, 97-98; Hebrew Ladies Sewing Society Benefit, February 


6, 1883, Pamphlet, Local History Room, Washington Avenue branch,  Albany Public 


Library; Sorin, A Time for Building, 141. For Jewish women in Schenectady, see, for 


example, “Jewish Bazaar.” Schenectady Evening Star, May 8, 1903. For fair for the


Jewish Home, New York City Jewish Messenger, January 30 and February 6, 1880. For 


the continuing role of Jewish women helping the poor and aged by a contemporary report, 


see: Hortense Barnet,  “Jewish Community a Powerful Influence for Good in Albany,” 


Albany Knickerbocker News, July 11, 1915, July 18, 1915. These were incredibly positive 


portraits with photos of German Jewish women and men members of Reform Beth Emeth.


[28] For the records of the United Order of True Sisters, Manuscript Group 638, American 


Jewish Archives. Part of the records are in German. Also, for a local branch, see United 


Order of True Sisters Noemi #11 at the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at the New


England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston; Rubinger, “Albany Jewry,” 296; Albany


Times Union, October 13, December 6, 1915, May 35, 1925, March 11, 1976; Sachar, 


Jews in America, 705.


[29] Silver, “Jews of Albany,” 244-45; Hadassah Region History of the Upper New York State 


Region, 1998, private collection of Dorothy Ganz, Albany. Photos of Jewish women’s 


organizations are in the Jewish Community files, Special Collections, State University of 


New York at Albany. Additional materials, such as Y records, are in the files of the Jewish 


Historical Society of Northeastern New York at the Jewish Federation in Albany. Anti-


Jewish Arab riots in Palestine in 1929 started this change in Reform Beth Emeth. See 


Nelson Fromm, President to Members of the Beth Emeth, August 28, 1929, Beth Emeth 




[30] Lee Weissbach, Jewish Life in Small Town America: A History (New Haven, CT: Yale 


University Press, 2005), 242. Also, 269-70 for the preservation of Yiddish based culture 


in small town America. Sacher, Jews in America, 705 for how Jews used secular methods 


to reinterpret Jewish identity.