Saturday, December 13, 2008

South Carolina: Historic cemetery data

Terry Thornton, creator of the Association of Graveyard Rabbits, and thus the impetus to the founding of the International Jewish Graveyard Rabbit, pointed me to a booklet by Dr. Barnett A. Elzas, rabbi (in 1903) of K.K. Beth Elohim, in Charleston, South Carolina.

In a private edition of 250 copies, Elzas published the transcriptions found in three old Charleston Jewish cemeteries. Find the downloadable book here.

Here's an excerpt from the introduction to "Old Jewish Cemeteries at Charleston, SC: A Transcript of the Inscriptions on Their Tombstones." I have bolded the family names.

The cemetery at Coming Street is the oldest Jewish cemetery in South Carolina. It was originally purchased by Isaac Da Costa, the first Hazan of Beth Elohim, for a private burying place for his own family. "Finding that it would be a convenient place for the Burial Ground of the Jews' Congregation in general," he, "out of regard for the said congregation became willing and desirous, and did afterwards intend that the same should be conveyed in trust to the congregation."

Carrying out his original intention. Isaac Da Costa, conveyed this burial ground in 1764, for a consideration of seventy pounds lawful money of the province, in trust to certain trustees" for a place of burial for the use of the Jews residing in Charles Town or elsewhere within the Province of South Carolina, who do and shall conform to the Jewish rites and ceremonies in general, and who do and shall conform to and observe the rules, orders and regulations of the Jews congregation in Charles Town named Beth Eloim."

The following are the trustees mentioned in the deed: Joshua Hart, Immanuel Cortissos, Joseph Da Costa and Samuel Da Costa, of Charles Town, and members of the Jews congregation in Charles Town known by the name of Beth Eloim.

Benjamin Mendes Da Costa, Joseph Salvador, Esq., Solomon Da Costa, Moses Franco and Joshua Mendes Da Costa, of the city of London, and members of the Portuguese Jews congregation in the said city known by the name of Sahar Ashamaim.

Jacob Lopes Torres, Isaac Mendes Furtado. Benjamin Dias Fernandes, Isaac Henriquez and Abraham Aguilar, of the Island of Jamaica, and members of the Jews congregation in King's Town in the said Island, known by the name of Sahar Ashamaim.

Isaac Piza, Benjamin Messias, David Castello, David Lindo and Isaac Pinheiro, of the Island of Barbadoes, and members of the Jews congregation in Bridge Town in said Island, by the name of Nidhe Israel.

Jacob Franks, Daniel Gomes, Benjamin Gomes, Isaac Mendes Seixas and Heyman Levy, of the city of New York, and members of the Jews congregation in that city known by the name of Schorit Israel.

Moses Lopes, Moses Levy, Naphtali Hart, Jacob Rods. Rivera and Aaron Lopes, of New Port, Rhode Island, and members of the Jews congregation in the said Island known by the name of Yeshuat Israel.

Benjamin Sheftal, Mordecai Sheftal, Minis Minis, Isaac De Lyon and Levy Sheftal, of the Town of Savannah in the Province of Georgia, and members of the Jews congregation in the said Town of Savannah, known by the name of Mikve Israel.

The deed is recorded in the office of Mesne Conveyance, Vol. C 3, p. 108 sq.

Those searching Sephardic families will find much information as most of the area's original Jewish settlers were indeed Sephardim. Ashkenazi Jews arrived later. There is a full name index.

Reading through the inscriptions, see individuals born in South Carolina, Massachusetts, New York and other current US locations or natives of Curacao, London, Dublin, Amsterdam, Gibraltar, Germany, France, Prussia, Bavaria, Italy, Poland and elsewhere. Tablets on cemetery walls are in memoriam to relatives who died elsewhere. The deceased died as infants, assassinated on a journey, of yellow fever, in swimming accidents, in shipwrecks, or as Civil War soldiers. Others enjoyed full long lives into their 80s.

The transcription booklet offers many details including origin of the deceased, dates, family relationships. Here is an example:

Sacred to the Memory of
DAVID NUNEZ CARDOZO

A native of the State of New York and for the last sixty years a resident of this city, who departed this life on the 16th. day of the month Tammuz, in the year 5595 of the Creation, corresponding to the 13th. July 1835, aged 81 years, 11 months, and 14 days.

The deceased served as a Subaltern Officer in the militia of South Carolina during a great part of the Revolution, until made a prisoner of war in 1780. He was also attached to the Forlorn Hope when the line* of Savannah were attacked by the combined forces of Gen. Lincoln and Count de Estaing.

As the deceased was an example of patriotism, so in private life he was a model of the domestic virtues, of a sound judgment and well cultivated mind. His career through life was marked by the esteem and respect, and his end by the sincere regret of numerous friends and connexions.

Elzas wrote four additional booklets detailing other South Carolina Jewish cemeteries (names and links below). Find all of them, in a variety of downloadable formats, on the American Libraries site. Topics include the cemeteries at Georgetown, Orangeburg, Charleston (Brith Shalom and Beth Elohim), as well as the transcription edition.

Here are the links for each booklet and introductory remarks by Elzas:

Georgetown, SC:
"The Jewish cemetery at Georgetown is the second oldest Jewish cemetery in South Carolina, and contains a number of inscriptions of historical interest. I have not been able to trace its history owing to the fact that the records in Georgetown prior to the War are no longer in existence."

"This Cemetery, the property of the Hebrew Benevolent Society, of Orangeburg, was purchased in 1886."

"This [General] Cemetery, situated near Magnolia Cemetery, at Charleston, S. C, has been in use since 1856. The inscriptions on its tombstones will furnish the best guide to the various strata of Russian and Polish immigration of the Jewish element in the population of Charleston, S. C, which to-day numerically far outnumbers the remnants of the older elements.

"The cemetery at St. Andrew's Parish: This cemetery, now belonging to the Congregation Berith Shalome, formerly belonged to ''Hevry Bikur Holini," Amalgamated Aug. 27, 1897. It comprises "one acre on Sycamore Avenue, Hillsborough Plantation, in St. Andrew's Parish, Berkeley Coimty, originally conveyed to Hevry Bikur Holim by Deed dated Jan. 7, 1887, and recorded in the Mesne Conveyance Office for Berkeley County, Book A No. 3, p. 220."

"The New Jewish Cemetery of K.K. Beth Elohim, Charleston, SC: The modern cemetery of the Congregation Beth Elohim, situated on Huguenin Avenue, was purchased in 1887. It replaced an older cemetery at Rickersville, from which all the bodies were removed to the present site."

Note for international readers: I often learn about resources on Google Books. However, as my computer is identified as located outside the US, I am limited in what I can view due to certain restrictions. American Libraries is an excellent alternative and I generally have no problem downloading or viewing the same sources.

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