Brides for Brethren: Arizona Territory — 1854-1883


Mr. Drachman has received a letter from California which brings the gay tidings of the sudden and unexpected marriage of I. Goldberg, the everlasting "Lomo de Oro." A few of his friends at the time of his departure for California some three months ago had a sneaking idea that his "pleasure trip" would result in some such tragedy. MORAL: Now all young men a warning take - and stay at home for mercy sake.

The above item appeared in the Tucson Weekly Arizonan, November 11, 1870. A month later, the editor updated his report on the colorful "Lomo de Oro," a playful Spanish rendition of the name Goldberg.

I. Goldberg returned from his "pleasure trip" on Monday. Now what did he bring? What every sensible man will seek to procure before he becomes cankered by bachelorship — a wife.

Altar-shy frontier humor aside, to marry or not to marry was a painful, life-shaping question to Arizona frontier busters like Goldberg. These men — the majority young, broke and single — had chased opportunity into a newly-acquired and still embattled land. When most of the small, occupying American army left the frontier to fight in the Civil War, the settlers had to defend themselves. Those who escaped both assaulting Apaches and American and Mexican criminals faced new trials: an untamed landscape, sparsely inhabited by Indians and Mexicans; harsh elements, and the vicissitudes of nascent enterprises and frontier politics.

Between the Gadsden Treaty (1854) and the end of the Civil War (1865), several thousand Americans, mostly soldiers, lived in the territory. Of that number, 200-300 were women — army wives, laundresses, camp followers and an occasional American wife or mistress of a do-or-die rancher, miner or merchant. In the 1860s and 1870s, the frontier army posts were reactivated and American women trickled into new settlements. But until railroads linked the Arizona Territory to 19th century American civilization, an American woman of marriageable age was as noteworthy in that region as an unclaimed gold nugget.

For Arizona's early Jewish pioneers, the scarcity of women of their own kind posed a painful dilemma. The majority were born in traditional Jewish communities and were emotionally tied to a heritage that saw a "bachelor as no man at all" and those who took a spouse of another faith as dead.

On the non-Jewish side of the equation, they faced equally powerful constraints. During the three centuries Spain ruled the West, Jews were barred by the Mexican Colonial Inquisition, and the Judaic faith was outlawed. With Mexican independence in 1821, Jews, along with other non-Catholics, were granted admission but were denied landownership, citizenship and public worship in the Mexican West. With American rule in 1848 came religious freedom and legal equality. Nonetheless, after 327 years of anti-Judaic Hispanic rule, Jews continued to be viewed as "different" in the strongly Catholic Southwest.

Far from home, each Jewish bachelor solved the "woman problem" in his own way. Those few who were married before they came to the new territory left their wives and children in settled communities, some temporarily, some permanently.

Hyman and Augusta (Drachman) Goldberg, both of Petrokov, Poland, married in Los Angeles in 1852. Ten years later, Hyman struck out for La Paz, a rough gold mining settlement on the east bank of the Colorado River. Augusta and their four children waited in California for him to establish a home base. A friendly disposition and good character won Goldberg a seat on the Yuma City Council and in the Eighth Territorial Legislature, but could not ward off bad luck. In La Paz, Ehrenburg, Prescott, Yuma, also later in Harshaw, he saw initial gains swept off by frontier calamities -- fires, flash floods, bankruptcies. He finally rooted in Phoenix with Goldberg and Son, a clothing store. Augusta and the children joined him, and the Goldbergs became one of that city's earliest ongoing families.

Sarah (Nathan) Goldwater: followed Michael "Big Mike" Goldwater from England to California, but not to the Arizona Territory.Sarah (Nathan) Goldwater: followed Michael "Big Mike" Goldwater from England to California, but not to the Arizona Territory.

Michael Goldwater: Barry's grandad, found the success that eluded elsewhere in infant ArizonaMichael Goldwater: Barry's grandad, found the success that eluded elsewhere in infant ArizonaPolish-born Michel "Big Mike" and Sarah Nathan Goldwater had been married twelve years and had six (eventually eight) children when Big Mike left Los Angeles for La Paz, also in 1862. A former businesswoman, Sarah preferred city life for herself and good schools, secular and religious, for her children. She remained in Los Angeles until 1868 and then moved to San Francisco. In the more than thirty years Goldwater streaked around Arizona Territory seeing to his numerous business enterprises and civic duties, Sarah visited once, some say never. During those years, Big Mike returned to California frequently to buy merchandise, see to his religious duties and spend time with his family. He retired in 1893, leaving two sons to carry on in the Arizona Territory. In San Francisco with Sarah, he lived the life of an aging Jewish gentleman, devoting his final decade to his family, Congregation Sherith Israel and the San Francisco Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Appealing, and more importantly, present, indigenous women proved irresistible to some Jewish firstcomers. Charles Poston, a non-Jew who was in charge of the first mining operation in the Territory in Tubac, 1854-1860, recorded the nature of their appeal.

The Mexican señoritas really had a refining influence on the frontier population. Many of them had been educated at convents, and all of them were good Catholics. They called the American men "Los God-Dammes" and the American women "Las Camisas Colorados" (red petticoats). . . . This accretion of female population added very much to the charms of frontier society. The Mexican women were not by any means useless appendages in camp. They could keep house, cook some dainty dishes, wash clothes, sew, dance and sing....

A non-Catholic who succumbed to those charms was likely to find himself the father of Catholic children, and, if not before, then on his death bed, a Catholic himself. Nevertheless, a number of early Arizona Jews claimed señoritas of their own.

One such marriage united Nathan Benjamin Appel, then 24, of Hochstadt Am Main, Germany, and Victoria Torres, 18, born in the New Mexico Territory and baptized, as her mother had been, in Santa Fe. The wedding took place in Santa Fe five years after Nathan, then a teamster, arrived in the Southwest. In 1858, the couple and their two children moved to Tubac where Nathan opened one of the first American stores in what would become the Arizona Territory. Literate, fluent in German, French, English and Spanish, Appel was elected in 1863 to serve as a delegate to the First Territorial Legislature. Victoria reared their ten children as Catholics, but several became Protestants. Nathan, a freethinker, was buried in a Masonic cemetery.

Alex Levin: of Bahn, Prussia, Tucson brewer and founder of Levin's Park, shown with his son, HenryAlex Levin: of Bahn, Prussia, Tucson brewer and founder of Levin's Park, shown with his son, Henry

Zenona Molina Levin: (Mrs. Alex), of Sonora, MexicoZenona Molina Levin: (Mrs. Alex), of Sonora, Mexico

Another mixed-faith southwestern family grew out of the union of Alex Levin, born in Bahn, Prussia, and Zenona Molina, of Sonora, Mexico. The Levins were among the first families to settle in Tucson after the Civil War.

Levin, a brewer, foresaw demand for a good, cold lager in that extremely arid climate. An audacious entrepreneur and impresario, in 1869 he started Levin's Park and made of it a municipal landmark. The three-acre entertainment center eventually included a restaurant, dance pavilion, theater and opera house, riding stables, an archery range and other recreational facilities. During its heyday, it was the site of every important social and communal event in Tucson.

Some descendants of this energetic, imaginative and, in the end, Catholic couple made names in the theatrical and musical world: violinist Natalie (Levin) Echavarria and singer-actress Luisa (Ronstadt) Espinol.

Lacking the con que (with what), as well as the con quien (with whom), most of the early Jewish pioneers who arrived unwed extended their bachelorhood for years, some forever. Sam Drachman's diary, 1867-1868 and 1871, offers glimpses of their private lives.

Sam arrived in Tucson on September 4, 1867. He went to work in a store at sunrise the next day and worked steadily thereafter. For several weeks, he suffered acclimating aches and pains, on occasion severe enough to keep him in bed. Off hours he spent writing letters or with fellow bachelors — Isaac Goldberg, Julius Goldwater and Lionel Jacobs — playing "Pikey," taking walks and horseback rides and conversing at length, frequently about marriage. Outside the saloons and gambling rooms, entertainment in that still remote desert town consisted of an occasional traveling show, local milestone celebrations and Saturday night bailes (dances).

According to one early observer:

...if some respectable man wanted to give a baile, he would go to someone's shed, sweep it and get someone to play a bass drum and Old José to play the harp. Then the gallants and the belles would come. The mothers always came along as dueñas, chaperones. Everyone was well behaved and there was little rowdyism.

Once Alex Levin got organized, the bailes became balls. On March 3, 1870, the Weekly Arizonan reported:

On Wednesday evening Messrs. Levin and Hopkins of the Pioneer Brewery treated their numerous friends to a grand entertainment at the hall of the Brewery. The walls were hung with beautiful oil paintings of various characters, the most beautiful representing landscapes on the Rhine ... at about nine o'clock the dining tables were cleared away, and the ladies, God bless 'em, all smiling and beautiful, conducted by mine host were seated with due ceremony. It was at this crisis that a stampede took place on the part of the "fossil" portion of the company (baby boys well up into their 30's) who fled to remote corners of the hall, and would evidently prefer being sent home to bed rather than pass through the ordeal of an introduction to a young lady with dark eyes. In fact, it was a matter of doubt whether they would not seek refuge from a pair of eyes even of tender (sic) blue.

One Jewish bachelor, surely more, overcame his shyness sufficiently to engage in a love affair. Sniffing through Barron Jacobs's personal expense accounts, one biographer found "perfumy" listed twice. Further investigation revealed that this Tucson pioneer businessman, civic and social leader had fallen in love with a Mexican woman who bore his illegitimate child. Some years later, Jacobs arranged to marry a 16-year-old Jewish girl from New York City. When she learned of the child, Bella, his young bride, proved wise beyond her years and her schoolgirl braids; she insisted they support and educate the child.

Married in 1868: Rosa Katzenstein and Phil Drachman was the first Jewish couple to settle permanently in TucsonMarried in 1868: Rosa Katzenstein and Phil Drachman was the first Jewish couple to settle permanently in Tucson

The first (known) Jewish bride, Rosa Katzenstein Drachman, arrived in Tucson in 1868. Her reminiscence explains why no one had preceded her and why, for the next dozen years, only the most dutiful, love-struck or desperate Jewish women heeded the call of the Arizona wilds.

Rosa, a native of Baltimore, Maryland, married Philip Drachman in New York City on April 12, 1868. The pair departed on May 1 for the West Coast on the steamer Arizona. They arrived in San Francisco on May 23, and took a steamer to Los Angeles where they boarded a stagecoach for San Bernardino, arriving July 6. On October 21, the pair left for the Arizona Territory in a four-horse ambulance along with the driver Mr. Peck and Lionel Jacobs, both friends of Phil's. Rosa described the journey in a reminiscence.

We traveled at the rate of 25 miles per day and camped near stations where I saw the roughest and worst class of men. As we traveled, we passed many graves of poor fellows who were murdered by the Indians or desperate characters.

Even so, each year more Jewish wives arrived. Among them in 1870 was the aforementioned Mrs. Isaac Goldberg, Amelia Lazarus of San Francisco. That same year, Hanover-born Louis Zeckendorf, a prominent Tucson merchant, married Mathilde Levetritt of South Carolina in New York City. His brother and business partner, William, staged a fireworks display in celebration.


High-spirited William Zeckendorf, merchant: Tucson booster was the grandfather and great-grandfather of two real estate magnatesHigh-spirited William Zeckendorf, merchant: Tucson booster was the grandfather and great-grandfather of two real estate magnates

Julia (frank) Zeckendorf (Mrs. William): New Yorker, traveled to Tucson in 1875 via transcontinental train and stagecoachJulia (frank) Zeckendorf (Mrs. William): New Yorker, traveled to Tucson in 1875 via transcontinental train and stagecoachIn 1875, William, then 29, left town and returned three months later with his bride, 18-year-old Julia Frank of New York City. The newlyweds had taken the second transcontinental train from New York to Oakland, and from there a stagecoach. Also in 1875, Sam Drachman married 18-year-old Jenny Migel of San Bernardino.


Theresa Marx arrived in 1878 as the bride of tailor-merchant Joseph Ferrin. Trained in Germany in natural and herbal remedies, Theresa assisted the town's only doctor, then treated her own patients, in time earning the sobriquet, "Angel of Tucson."  In the late 1870s in the wilds of southeastern Arizona Territory, Anna Freudenthal and Isador Elkan Solomon, natives of Posen, were transforming a tiny Mexican settlement into the eventual county seat of Graham County.

Theresa (Marx) Ferrin, (Mrs. Joseph): a practitioner of natural remedies, was dubbed Angel of TucsonTheresa (Marx) Ferrin, (Mrs. Joseph): a practitioner of natural remedies, was dubbed Angel of Tucson

The first Jewish wedding in Tucson was celebrated on June 26, 1879, with the fanfare due a frontier first. The groom was Joseph Goldtree of Berlin, Germany, a veteran of nine hair-raising years in the Arizona Territory. The bride was Lillie Marks of Sutter Creek, California, the niece of Mrs. H. Solomen at whose home the event took place. According to the Arizona Daily Star, July 1, 1879, the wedding was held in the Solomen garden which was decorated with urns, flowers and candles. A large number of friends were present when the bride and groom took their places beneath a canopy supported by four unmarried gentleman.

...the ceremony opened with blessings for the bride and groom, everybody belonging to the faith and witnesses of the marriage, after which the silver cup containing wine was given first to the bride and then to the bridegroom. Then the bridegroom took hold of the bride's first finger of the right hand and repeated in Hebrew, "Thou are sanctified unto me with this ring. . ."

By the next year, the Southern Pacific had spanned the territory from Yuma to Tucson, and construction was continuing eastward. Settlers began arriving in families.  A number were Jewish; some had marriageable daughters.

In the 1879: Lillie Marks came from Oroville, California to marry Arizona pioneer Joseph Goldtree. Theirs was the first Jewish wedding in TucsonIn the 1879: Lillie Marks came from Oroville, California to marry Arizona pioneer Joseph Goldtree. Theirs was the first Jewish wedding in TucsonIn an 1883 diary entry, Tucson bachelor Mannie Lowenstein noted:

. . . The young ladies here are two Miss Cohns, Miss Czerwinsky, three Miss Gotthelfs, two Miss Goldtrees, two Miss Browns, two Miss Shuyers, Miss Wolf, Miss Elliot, Miss Ezekiel, Miss Kauffman, and Miss Laventhal.

Of these Miss Shuyer got married to Ch. Kirschbaum, Miss Laventhal to Mr. Kauffman, Miss Gotthelf to Mr. Abe Marks, Miss Brown to Herman Welisch, Mr. Witteshoefer to Miss Gotthelf, Miss Goldtree to Mr. Herman Shoenholtz.

 Harriet Rochlin
Arizona Jewish Post, September 5, 1980
© copyright 1980