THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION
Jack L. Koch '49

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WHEN GWYN TURNER ASKED ME TO TALK TO YOU TODAY ABOUT THE JEWISH

PEOPLE OF DEMOPOLIS, I THOUGHT THAT MY SEVENTY THREE YEARS OF RESIDENCE

HERE SHOULD FURNISH ME WITH ALL OF THE MATERIALS THAT I NEEDED. I WAS

MISTAKEN. THE MORE I THOUGHT ABOUT IT, AFTER I ACCEPTED HER INVITATION,

THE MORE I REALIZED HOW LITTLE I ACTUALLY KNEW. SO, AT THE BEGINNING, I

HEREBY ACKNOWLEDGE A GREAT DEBT TO DR. WINSTON  SMITH, THE LATE JAMES

ARMISTEAD, HIS LOVELY WIDOW, EMOGENE, MRS. HUGH WILBURN, AND OTHERS) FOR

THE INFORMATION AND ASSISTANCE THEY HAVE GIVEN ME.

IT WAS A SURPRISE TO ME TO LEARN THAT, IN ALL PROBABILITY THE FIRST

JEWISH PERSON TO COME TO DEMOPOLIS, TO LIVE, WAS MR. ISAAC MARX- IN, OR

ABOUT 1840, ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY YEARS AGO.

THE BOOK, "OUR CROWD" THE GREAT JEWISH FAMILIES OF NEW YORK, THE

AUTHOR, MR. STEPHEN BIRMINGHAM, TELLS OF THREE LARGE MIGRATIONS OF JEWS

ACROSS EUROPE IN THE EARLY 1800’S. MOST OF THEM TRIED TO SETTLE IN GERMANY,

WHERE OPPORTUNITIES FOR WORK, EDUCATION, HOME AND FAMILY WERE BEST AT THAT

TIME. BUT SOME OF THE JEWS WERE FORCED TO CONTINUE TO POLAND, RUSSIA, AND

AUSTRIA-HUNGARY. AS MR. BIRMINGHAM ALSO TELLS US " THEY OFTEN FOUND

CONDITIONS WERE SOMEWHAT WORSE THAN THEY HAD FACED BEFORE." SO, IN 1819, WHEN

THE "SAVANNAH" THE FIRST STEAM DRIVEN VESSEL CROSSED THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, THE

DREAM OF A FOURTH MIGRATION, THIS TIME TO THE UNITED STATES, THE LAND OF

OPPORTUNITY AROSE IN THE HEARTS OF JEWS EVERYWHERE. THE GERMAN JEWS, WHO,

HAD HAD BETTER ADVANTAGES THAN THE OTHERS WERE THE FIRST TO COME TO THIS

AREA. THEY CAME ALONE, YOUNG, SOMETIMES ONLY FIFTEEN YEARS OF AGE, WITH A

SLIGHT KNOWLEDGE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, NO MONEY, SOME EDUCATION, BUT,

WITH A GREAT DESIRE TO WORK, SAVE MONEY AND BRING OTHER MEMBERS OF THEIR

FAMILIES TO THIS COUNTRY. HOW COULD THOSE PARENTS GIVE UP, IN MOST CASES, THEIR

OLDEST SON, TO GO THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY, IN SEARCH OF A BETTER LIFE, WITH THE

REALIZATION THAT THEY MIGHT NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN? FEW OF US, HERE TODAY, WOULD

WANT TO MAKE THAT SACRIFICE.

AUTHOR BIRMINGHAM, IN HIS BOOK "OUR CROWD" MENTIONS THE NAMES SELIGMAN

AND LEHMAN AS VERY WEALTHY NEW YORK JEWISH FAMILIES. IT IS THE FIRM BELIEF

OF MY SOURCES THAT BOTH GOT THEIR START "PEDDLING" IN THIS AREA. THEY DID

NOT LIVE HERE, BUT, THEY WALKED THROUGH THIS SECTION OF ALABAMA, SELLING

LINENS, KITCHEN UTENSILS, ETC. FROM THE PACKS THEY CARRIED ON THEIR BACKS

UNTIL THEY WERE ABLE TO BUY A MULE AND WAGON, OR A HORSE AND BUGGY.

BUT, AS I SAID BEFORE, MR. ISAAC MARX, IS BELIEVED TO BE THE FIRST JEW

TO STAY IN DEMOPOLIS AND MAKE IT HIS HOME. THE YEAR WAS 1840. HE CAME

FROM GERMANY TO MOBILE, WHEN HE WAS 15 OR 16 YEARS OLD, WITH NOTHING BUT A

A DESIRE TO WORK AND MAKE A LIVING. IT IS BELIEVED THAT HE WORKED ON A RIVER

BOAT TO PAY FOR HIS TRANSPORTATION PART OF THE WAY TO DEMOPOLIS. AND IT IS

ALSO BELIEVED THAT HE WALKED THE REST OF THE WAY, SELLING HIS WARES FROM THE

PACK ON HIS BACK. I DO NOT KNOW WHY HE STOPPED IN DEMOPOLIS, AND MADE IT HIS

HOME. HE MUST HAVE RECOGNIZED THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR "MERCHANDIZING" IN A

SETTLEMENT OF PLANTERS. SUFFICE IT TO SAY, HE DID STAY IN DEMOPOLIS, AND

THAT IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION TO OUR CITY.

IT IS ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE FOR US, TODAY, TO BELIEVE THAT A MAN WALKING

DOWN DIRT ROADS, STOPPING AT EACH HOME ALONG THE WAY, SELLING ITEMS THAT HE

COULD CARRY ON HIS BACK, COULD MAKE A LIVING, SAVE MONEY, ESTABLISH A HOME

AND BUSINESS, AND MAKE A FINANCIAL SUCCESS. BUT, MR. ISAAC MARX DID JUST

THAT.

MRS. HUGH WILBURN ENJOYS TELLING OF HIS VISITS TO HER FAMILY HOME. OFTEN,

IT WAS LATE IN THE AFTERNOON WHEN HE WOULD APPEAR, WALKING UP THE DUSTY JEFFERSON ROAD.

HER MOTHER AND GRANDMOTHER TOLD HER THAT THEY ALWAYS PROVIDED

HIM WITH SUPPER, LODGING AND BREAKFAST. AFTERWARDS, HE WOULD OPEN HIS PACK

AND GIVE THEM THEIR CHOICE OF ANYTHING HE HAD TO PAY THEM FOR THEIR KINDNESS

AND HOSPITALITY. THEN, HE WOULD SELL THEM WHATEVER THEY NEEDED. MRS. WILBURN

SAYS SHE STILL HAS THE LINEN TABLE CLOTH, WITH THE FLAG OF THE UNITED STATES

WOVEN INTO THE CENTER, THAT HE GAVE THEM ON ONE OF HIS VISITS. AND SHE ALSO

SAYS THAT SHE WISHES SOMEONE WOULD CALL ON HER AGAIN TODAY, AT HER HOME, WITH

NEEDLES, PINS, LINENS, KITCHEN UTENSILS, ETC. THAT WOULD SAVE HER A TRIP INTO

TOWN. MRS. WILBURN HAPPILY REMEMBERS WHEN, AS A LITTLE GIRL, HER MOTHER TOOK

HER TO MR. MARX’S STORE WHERE SHE BOUGHT CHECKED GINGHAM DRESS CLOTH FOR 10 c

PER YARD. IN THE TEN YEARS FOLLOWING HIS ARRIVAL IN DEMOPOLIS, MR. MARX

WORKED, SAVED, AND ACCUMULATED ENOUGH TO HAVE A SMALL FRAME STORE BUILDING

ON THE PROPERTY WHERE MR. AND MRS. GEORGE WILLIAMS NOW LIVE. IT WAS IN THE

EARLY 1850’S THAT HE MARRIED AND HAD A HOME NEAR THE STORE. MR. AND MRS. ISAAC

MARX HAD TEN CHILDREN. TWO DIED IN THEIR EARLY CHILDHOOD - THE GIRLS MARRIED

AND MOVED AWAY. FOUR SONS, JACOB, EDWARD, JULIUS AND HENRY STAYED IN

DEMOPOLIS FOR MANY YEARS AND ESTABLISHED OUTSTANDING SUCCESSES IN THE

BANKING AND BUSINESS COMMUNITIES OF OUR CITY. THE THREE OLDER BROTHERS

ORGANIZED AND OPERATED MARX BANKING COMPANY ON THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF

WASHINGTON AND WALNUT STREETS. AMONG THEIR MOST VALUED EMPLOYEES WERE MR.

JOHN NORWOOD AND MR. R. B. McCANT'S. IN 1912 THE ROBERTSON BANKING CO. BOUGHT

MARX BANKING CO. INCLUDING THE BUILDING, AND MADE IT ITS HOME UNTIL IT MOVED

INTO ITS PRESENT LOCATION IN 1975. AFTER THE SALE, MR. JACOB MARX AND MR. EDWARD

MARX MOVED TO NEW YORK CITY, WHERE THEY WERE MOST SUCCESSFUL AGAIN IN THE

BANKING BUSINESS. MR. JULIUS MARX AND HIS FAMILY RETIRED TO DENVER, COL. WHEN

MR. HENRY MARX, THE YOUNGEST OF THE FOUR BROTHERS WAS READY TO ENTER THE

BUSINESS WORLD, HIS BROTHER, EDWARD, JOINED HIM IN ESTABLISHING A HORSE, MULE,

WAGON AND CARRIAGE BUSINESS. THEY TOO, WERE HARD WORKERS, AND GOOD BUSINESS

MEN. WITHIN A FEW YEARS THEY WERE ONE OF THE LARGEST STABLE OPERATORS IN WEST

ALABAMA. THEY INTRODUCED THE FAMOUS "STUDEBAKER" WAGON TO THIS AREA, AND

"FLOODED" THE COUNTRY SIDE WITH THEM. AFTER MR. HENRY MARX WAS SAFELY

"ON HIS WAY" IN THE HORSE AND MULE BUSINESS, MR. EDWARD JOINED HIS BROTHER

JACOB IN NEW YORK CITY.

MR. HENRY MARX CONTINUED HIS BUSINESS HERE IN DEMOPOLIS UNTIL HIS DEATH IN 1960, DURING THE LAST FEW YEARS WITH THE HELP OF MR. H. D. MOORER.

MRS. WILBURN TELLS ME THAT FEW PEOPLE EVER KNEW OF HIS GENEROSITY WHEN

FARMERS NEEDED A MULE, OR MULES, ON CREDIT OR ON LOAN, TO MAKE A CROP. I

AM SURE THAT ALL OF YOU KNOW THAT HE AND HIS WIFE LEFT THEIR VERY LOVELY HOME

AND OTHER PROPERTY, TO A YOUNG LADY THEY CONSIDERED THEIR "FOSTER" DAUGHTER.

A FINAL STATEMENT ABOUT MR. ISAAC MARX: DESPITE THE PROBLEMS OF STARTING

A NEW LIFE AT AN EARLY AGE,IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY, AS A PEDDLER, MAKING A LIVING, AND SUPPORTING A VERY LARGE FAMILY, HE FOUND THE TIME TO SERVE HIS COUNTRY, "THE CONFEDERACY" DURING THE CIVIL WAR.

IT IS MY HONEST OPINION, THAT NO HISTORY OF DEMOPOLIS, NO REPORT OF ITS

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL GROWTH COULD BE RECOUNTED TO YOU WITHOUT TELLING OF THE LIFE, AND THE CONTRIBUTION --- THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION OF MR. MORRIS MAYER.

HE WAS TRULY A "MERCHANT PRINCE" IF THERE EVER WAS ONE. MR. MAYER WAS BORN IN GERMANY IN 1849. HIS FAMILY AND THE MARX FAMILY MUST HAVE BEEN FRIENDS IN GERMANY, BECAUSE IT WAS AT THE SUGGESTION OF MR. ISAAC MARX THAT MR. MAYER’S FAMILY AGREED TO LET HIM COME TO THE UNITED STATES. HE CAME BY BOAT, IN THE STEERAGE, AND ARRIVED AT ELLIS ISLAND IN NEW YORK HARBOR WHEN HE WAS ABOUT FIFTEEN YEARS OLD. HE HAD LESS THAN ONE DOLLAR IN HIS POCKETS WHEN HE GOT OFF OF THE BOAT. HE STARTED HIS BUSINESS CAREER IMMEDIATELY BY BUYING 15 OR 20 NEW YORK NEWSPAPERS FOR 1 CENT EACH AND SELLING THEM TO HIS FELLOW IMMIGRANTS FOR 2 CENTS EACH. WITH HIS PROFITS HE BOUGHT MORE AND EXPANDED HIS OPERATIONS. WHEN HE WAS ALLOWED ENTRY INTO NEW YORK CITY HE BEGAN TO BE A PEDDLER ON-HIS-WAY SELLING HOUSEWARES, COOKING UTENSILS AND WHATEVER ELSE HE COULD CARRY.

HOW HE ARRIVED IN DEMOPOLIS, NO ONE KNOWS. BUT IT IS BELIEVED THAT HE

MANAGED TO BUY A HORSE OR MULE ,SOMEWHERE ALONG THE WAY TO FURNISH TRANSPORTATION AND CARRY MORE MERCHANDISE FOR SALE. HE STOPPED FIRST IN UNIONTOWN, WHERE MR. ISAAC MARX HAD FRIENDS AND RELATIVES. THEN HE CAME TO DEMOPOLIS TO WORK FOR MR. MARX. HE MOVED TO GAINESVILLE FOR A BRIEF TIME, THEN RETURNED TO DEMOPOLIS WHERE HE REMAINED FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE. AFTER WORKING AND SAVING FOR SEVERAL YEARS, HE SENT FOR HIS BROTHER LUDWIG. IN 1868 OR 1869 THE FIRM OF MAYER BROTHERS WAS LAUNCHED. IT STARTED IN A VERY SMALL FRAME

BUILDING ON NORTH WALNUT STREET WHERE MR. TOM BREITLING HAD HIS OFFICE, AT

THE TIME OF HIS DEATH - -- WHERE FONVILLE TAYLOR AND JEROME LEVY NOW HAVE

THEIR OFFICES. THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT MR. MORRIS MAYER WAS A GENIUS IN-SO-FAR

AS MERCHANDISING AND OPERATING A BUSINESS ARE CONCERNED. THE TWO BROTHERS

WORKED NIGHT AND DAY. THEY SAVED THEIR MONEY AND BROUGHT ANOTHER BROTHER

AND SISTER FROM GERMANY. DURING THE NEXT 30 YEARS THE BUSINESS GREW TO SUCH

AN EXTENT THAT THE MORRIS MAYER HOME WAS MOVED FROM THE CORNER OF CAPITOL

AND WALNUT STREETS, TO THE CORNER OF COMMISSIONER AND CAPITOL STREETS, AND A

LARGE THREE STORY BUILDING WAS ERECTED WHERE THE HOME ONCE STOOD ----WHERE

THE ROBERTSON BANKING COMPANY IS NOW LOCATED.

MAYER BROTHERS HAD NOW BECOME A VERY LARGER WHOLESALE, JOBBING AND

RETAIL BUSINESS. THEY ALSO OWNED AND OCCUPIED THE ADJOINING BUILDINGS WHERE

CULPEPPER ELECTRIC AND SPIGHTS MEN’S STORE NOW OPERATE. THEY EMPLOYED MANY

PEOPLE. SOME WORKED IN THE VARIOUS STORE DEPARTMENTS AND SOME WERE "DRUMMERS"; OR TRAVELING SALESMEN WHO COVERED A RADIUS OF ABOUT 50 MILES OF DEMOPOLIS, TRAVELING BY HORSE AND BUGGY OR, BY BOAT ON THE RIVER. AMONG THEM WAS MR. LEE METZGER OF MOBILE ,WHO LATER MARRIED MISS FANNIE MAYER, DAUGHTER OF MR. MORRIS MAYER. THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO PASSED AWAY BEFORE 1900 ARE BUT A

MEMORY. BUT IN MY LIFETIME, I KNEW, AND I REMEMBER A LARGE NUMBER WHO WERE

EMPLOYED THERE, AND LATER LEFT TO ESTABLISH THEIR OWN BUSINESSES, HOMES AND

FAMILIES, AND MADE DEMOPOLIS A BIGGER AND BETTER CITY. LET ME NAME SOME OF

THEM: THE THREE BLEY BROTHERS, MR.T. C. COMPTON, MR. BEN LEVY, MR. ROULHAC

GEWIN, MR. SAM NEILSON, MR. BEN GREGORY, MR. AND MRS. CARL MICHAEL, MR. GEORGE

DORMS, MY BROTHER ISADORE KOCH, MR. BATES BELL AND MR. SAM BREITLING.

I ALSO REMEMBER MR. AND MRS. C.M. WILSON, MISS DELLIE  BREITLING, MISS DELORES,

RUDISILL, MISSES EMMA AND ZENA STEPHENS, MRS. GERTRUDE MITCHELL, MRS. VIOLA COMPTON JEFFERSON AND MR. SOL ELKAN, OF COURSE, UNCLE OF THE BLEY BROTHERS. ALSO, MRS. FLOY MATTHEWS, DR. AND MRS. T. C. REID AND MRS. CECILE HICKMAN.

YOU CAN READILY SEE THAT "MAYER BROTHERS" GAVE EMPLOYMENT, PAID SALARIES,

AND FURNISHED LIVELIHOOD FOR A VERY LARGE GROUP OF PEOPLE, AND BROUGHT

THOUSANDS OF CUSTOMERS TO DEMOPOLIS. IT WAS BY FAR THE MOST SUCCESSFUL

BUSINESS OPERATION IN WEST ALABAMA. I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT THEY DID A MILLION

DOLLARS A YEAR IN SALES IN THE 1890’S -- AN IMMENSE SUM FOR THAT TIME. WITH

IT ALL MR. MAYER FOUND TIME TO SERVE ON OUR CITY COUNCIL, AND AS A VERY

INFLUENTIAL DIRECTOR OF THE ROBERTSON BANKING COMPANY.

WHEN MR. MORRIS MAYER WAS A YOUNG MAN, FATE PLAYED HIM A STRANGE TRICK,

REMINISCENT OF LONGFELLOW’S STORY OF MILES STANDISH AND JOHN ALDEN. HE

WAS ENGAGED TO MISS SOPHIE MARX, DAUGHTER OF MR. ISAAC MARX, BUT, ONE DAY,

BEING TOO BUSY AT HIS STORE TO ESCORT HER TO A PARTY, HE ASKED HIS GOOD

FRIEND LEONARD NEWHOUSE, TO FILL IN FOR HIM. MR. NEWHOUSE WAS HAPPY TO

OBLIGE, AND TO MR. MAYER’S SURPRISE, AND CHAGRIN, THEY FELL IN LOVE AND

SOPHIE MARRIED LEONARD. ONE OF THEIR DAUGHTERS, JULIA NEWHOUSE, MARRIED

MAX HELLMAN OF NEW ORLEANS. THEY WERE THE PARENTS OF LILLIAN HELLMAN,

WHOSE PLAY "THE LITTLE FOXES" WAS BASED, IN PART, ON HER MARX FOREBEARS.

MR. MAYER WAS MORE FORTUNATE IN HIS NEXT, AND REAL LOVE AFFAIR. HE MET,

COURTED AND MARRIED A VERY LOVELY LADY, MISS JANETTA THREEFOOT OF MERIDIAN,

MISS. THEY HAD A LARGE FAMILY, AND I AM SURE THAT MANY OF YOU HAVE PERSONAL

KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR THOUGHTFULNESS, GENEROSITY AND LOVE OF THEIR FELLOW MAN.

A DAY NEVER PASSED THAT A TRAY WASN’T SENT TO A FRIEND, NEIGHBOR OR SOMEONE

IN NEED. I HAVE FOND MEMORIES OF MRS. MAYER, MRS. GERLIE MAYER STEINHART, MRS.

FANNIE MAYER METZGER, AND OF COURSE LEHMAN. THEY WERE TRULY THE EPITOME OF A

GREAT FAMILY AND THEIR CONTRIBUTION CANNOT BE MEASURED.

 

IT IS WITH A GREAT DEAL OF PLEASURE THAT I TELL YOU OF THE LONG FAMILY, OF THEIR

CONTRIBUTIONS AND INFLUENCE, JEWISH CONTRIBUTION, TO OUR CITY.

MR. MORITZ LONG WAS BORN IN VIENNA, AUSTRIA IN 1848. AN OLDER BROTHER, IN

BUSINESS, AND LIVING IN SELMA, ALA. SENT FOR MR. LONG WHEN HE WAS A VERY

YOUNG MAN. I DO NOT KNOW HOW OR WHEN THEY MET, BUT, MR. LONG FELL IN LOVE

WITH, AND MARRIED, MISS EMMA SANDER, WHO WAS BORN IN EUTAW, ALA. IN

1862. MR. LONG OWNED AND OPERATED A GENERAL MERCANTILE STORE ON THE

NORTHEAST CORNER OF WALNUT AND WASHINGTON STREETS, HERE IN DEMOPOLIS, WHERE

CATO’S IS NOW LOCATED. IT WAS A FRAME BUILDING AND THE SITE-WAS CALLED THE

"LONG CORNER" FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.

MR. AND MRS. LONG HAD SIX CHILDREN, FOUR GIRLS AND TWO BOYS. ONE SON

PASSED AWAY WHEN HE WAS TWENTY YEARS OLD. BUT THE OTHER ONE, MILTON, WAS

A MOST SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MAN, AND HE MADE THE GREATEST CONTRIBUTION TO

OUR CITY. HE WAS A WORLD WAR ONE VETERAN. HE WAS ALWAYS VERY ACTIVE IN

CIVIC AFFAIRS, A VERY INFLUENTIAL DIRECTOR OF ROBERTSON BANKING COMPANY,

AND MERCHANTS GROCERY COMPANY. HE OWNED FIVE OR SIX DOWNTOWN STORES, AND

KEPT THEM IN MODERNIZED CONDITION AT ALL TIMES. AT THE TIME OF HIS DEATH

IN 1956, HE LEFT, IN ADDITION TO SUBSTANTIAL SUMS TO THE JEWISH TEMPLE AND

FOR UPKEEP OF THE JEWISH CEMETERY:

$5000.00 TO ROBERTSON BANKING COMPANY-IN TRUST, INCOME TO BE USED FOR THE

PURPOSE OF PROVIDING SCHOOL LUNCHES, CLOTHING AND MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR

NEEDY WHITE CHILDREN IN THE 1ST, 2ND AND 3RD GRADES OF DEMOPOLIS ELEMENTARY

SCHOOL.

$500.00 TO U.S. JONES HIGH SCHOOL TO BE USED FOR PURCHASE OF EQUIPMENT FOR A

DOMESTIC SCIENCE ROOM.

$500.00 TO BIRDEYE NEGRO SCHOOL OF GREENE COUNTY TO BE USED FOR THE PURCHASE

OF EQUIPMENT WHICH IS NOT FURNISHED BY THE STATE OR GREENE COUNTY.

$500.00 TO MARENGO COUNTY CHAPTER OF AMERICAN RED CROSS.

$500.00 TO CRIPPLE CHILDREN’S CLINIC OF BIRMINGHAM.

$500.00 TO B’NAI BRITH HOME, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE A CHARITABLE INSTITUTION.

$500.00 TO DAMON RUNYAN CANCER ASSOCIATION.

AT HIS MOTHER’S DEATH, MRS. LONG, LEFT $500.00 TO BE USED TO PURCHASE

EQUIPMENT NEEDED IN THE HOME ECONOMIC DEPARTMENT OF DEMOPOLIS HIGH SCHOOL.

TO ME, IT IS ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE, THAT ONE SMALL FAMILY, A JEWISH FAMILY, LIVING

IN A SMALL TOWN, COULD BE THAT CONCERNED ABOUT THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.

WHO CAN FORGET THE CONTRIBUTIONS TO DEMOPOLIS BY JEROME AND MARIE LEVY?

HE HAS BEEN ACTIVE ALL OF HIS ADULT LIFE IN THE BUSINESS, RELIGIOUS, SOCIAL

AND SERVICE CLUB ACTIVITIES OF OUR COMMUNITY. HE HAS SERVED AS RABBI FOR

OUR TEMPLE FOR ABOUT 40 YEARS. HE HAS SERVED ON OUR CITY COUNCIL, AND WAS

PRESIDENT OF THAT ORGANIZATION FOR TWO TERMS WHEN THE MAYOR HAD NO VOTE.

HE HAS BEEN PRESIDENT OF THE ALABAMA SOCIETY FOR CRIPPLE CHILDREN AND

ADULTS FOR TWO (2) TERMS. HE HAS SERVED AS DISTRICT GOVERNOR, ROTARY INTERNATIONAL FOR THE DISTRICT THAT COMPRISES THE SOUTH HALF OF ALABAMA. HE HAS

SERVED FOR 12~~ ON THE STATE OF ALABAMA AND NATIONAL LIBRARY BOARDS.

HE AND MARIE HAVE SERVED ON OUR LOCAL LIBRARY BOARD FOR MANY YEARS. BUT,

I AM TOLD THAT IT WAS MARIE, WITH HER PERSISTENCY AND PERSEVERANCE, THAT

DEMOPOLIS HAS A FINE NEW LIBRARY BUILDING~COMPLETE WITH AN EXCEPTIONALLY

WIDE SELECTION OF BOOKS AND RESEARCH MATERIALS.

PLEASE LET ME ALSO REMIND YOU THAT ANOTHER JEWISH CITIZEN OF DEMOPOLIS,

FRED A. RICHARD JR., A MEMBER OF THE LONG FAMILY, NOW LIVING IN MONTGOMERY, GAVE $5000.00 TO OUR LOCAL LIBRARY TO BUY ENCYCLOPEDIAS AND OTHER REFERENCE SOURCES.

MISS DELLA YARETZKY WAS A LOVELY LITTLE LADY WHO CAME TO DEMOPOLIS IN

1906-1907 FROM TUSCALOOSA TO TEACH ALGEBRA, GEOMETRY, LATIN AND OTHER

SUBJECTS IN OUR HIGH SCHOOL. HER STARTING SALARY WAS $30.00 PER MONTH.

SHE TAUGHT HERE FOR 37 YEARS. HER STUDENTS INCLUDED CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN OF HER FIRST PUPILS. WHEN I WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL IN 1920-1924,

SHE WAS THE 8TH GRADE ROOM TEACHER AND WAS STILL TEACHING THE SAME SUBJECTS.

MANY PEOPLE IN OUR TOWN, MY. AGE, AND OLDER, REMEMBER HER WITH LOVE AND

AFFECTION, AND WILL ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL FOR THE WONDERFUL CONTRIBUTION

SHE MADE IN OUR EDUCATIONAL CIRCLE, AND HER INFLUENCE ON THE LIVES OF

THREE GENERATIONS OF OUR CITIZENS.

AND NOW I ASK YOUR SPECIAL INDULGENCE.

BACK IN THE YEARS OF 1918-1928, ESPECIALLY, WE HAD IN OUR TOWN A LITTLE LADY,

ABOUT 5 FEET 2 INCHES TALL, WHO, IN AUGUST 1915, HAD BECOME A WIDOW AT AGE 41,

WITH SIX CHILDREN AND A MOTHER TO SUPPORT. SHE HAD LITTLE "MEANS", BUT A BIG

HEART, AND STRONG DETERMINATION TO GIVE HER CHILDREN THE ADVANTAGES THAT

THEIR PLAYMATES HAD. SHE DID FORGET ONE THING THOUGH, SHE NEVER LET THEM KNOW

HOW POOR THEY REALLY WERE. SHE LOVED PEOPLE, AND ALL OF THE CITIZENS OF OUR

TOWN KNEW, ADMIRED AND RESPECTED HER.

CARING FOR HER OWN FAMILY GAVE HER AN INSIGHT INTO THE NEEDS OF OTHERS.

SO SHE GRADUALLY BECAME THE FIRST "RELIEF" OR "WELFARE AGENCY" IN DEMOPOLIS.

IN THOSE DAYS WE HAD QUITE A NUMBER OF FAMILIES LIVING IN SHORTLEAF WHO

WERE OUT OF WORK BECAUSE THE COTTON MILL WAS CLOSED, AND, A NUMBER AT SPOCARI BECAUSE THE CEMENT PLANT WAS "DOWN". THE RED CROSS WAS THEIR SALVATION. THAT ORGANIZATION, THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND IN THOSE DAYS, WAS BUILT, AND SURVIVED ON VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS. THIS LITTLE LADY, DESPITE ALL OF HER OWN PROBLEMS, ASSUMED THE JOBOF HELPING THESE NEEDY PEOPLE. THEY CAME TO HER HOME AT’ALL HOURS. THERE WERE MANY TIMES WHEN HER CHILDREN WOULD COME HOME FROM SCHOOL TO FIND THESE UNFORTUNATES ON THE FRONT PORCH, OR IF THE WEATHER WAS BAD, IN THE LIVING ROOM, WAITING TO SEE THE "RED CROSS LADY". IN ALMOST ALL CASES, SHE WOULD GIVE THEM AN ORDER TO MR. TOM GRAVES STORE, OR MR. JOHN SPIGHT’S STORE, FOR SOME MEAT, FLOUR, LARD, MEAL, SUGAR AND OTHER SUPPLIES. SHE HAD NO KEY TO HER HOME, SO IT WAS NOT TOO BIG A SURPRISE WHEN ONE NIGHT A STRANGE MAN WALKED IN WHILE THE RED CROSS LADY WAS TALKING TO TWO OF HER YOUNGEST SONS IN THE LIVING ROOM. THE STRANGER WAS STOPPED AS HE STARTED UP THE STAIRS. WHEN ASKED WHAT HE WAS DOING, HE REPLIED, "I WAS TOLD TO COME HERE AND THE RED CROSS LADY WOULD GIVE ME A ROOM TO STAY IN TONIGHT." HE WAS RIGHT, BUT HE WAS ALSO WRONG. SHE SENT HIM TO A ROOMING HOUSE THAT ACCEPTED RED CROSS TRANSIENTS.

THIS LITTLE LADY KNEW IN HER HEART, AND BY HER ACTIONS) WHAT "CHARITY"

REALLY MEANT. SHE WAS TRULY REMARKABLE AND I AM VERY PROUD OF MY MOTHER’S, HANNAH LEVY KOCH’S CONTRIBUTION TO DEMOPOLIS.

IN CLOSING, LET ME MAKE A FEW STATEMENTS OF FACTS CONCERNING THE JEWS OF DEMOPOLIS: AS I SAID BEFORE -- THEY CAME, YOUNG, WITH LITTLE EDUCATION, NO MONEY,

BUT A DESIRE TO WORK, SAVE, ESTABLISH A BUSINESS, MARRY, HAVE A HOME AND FAMILY AND GIVE THEIR CHILDREN ALL OF THE ADVANTAGES THEY DID NOT HAVE. ALL OF THEM WERE ACTIVE IN THE LOCAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, AND LOCAL SCHOOLS ACTIVITIES.

A NUMBER OF THEM SERVED ON THE CITY COUNCIL. ONLY ONE, MR. ISADORE BLEY, WAS MAYOR. SIX, MR. H. B. PAKE, MR. MORRIS MAYER, MR. TOBY ELY, MR. MORRIS GOLDMAN, MR. H. A. FEIBELMAN AND MR. MILTON LONG, SERVED ON THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE ROBERTSON BANKING COMPANY. MR. ISAAC MARX SERVED IN THE CIVIL WAR. DR. HENRY BLEY, MR. MILTON LONG AND MR. ADRIAN PIZER, UNCLE OF MELVIN LEVY, SERVED IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR. MR. PIZER GAVE HIS LIFE. FLORIAN KOCH, MELVIN LEVY, FRED RICHARD AND I SERVED IN WORLD WAR II. ED LEVY JR. AND MY SON, JACK, SERVED IN THE KOREAN WAR. WE HAVE HAD OUR OWN CEMETERY SINCE NOVEMBER 6, 1878, ALMOST ONE HUNDRED

YEARS. IT WAS A GIFT TO THE JEWISH PEOPLE OF DEMOPOLIS FROM MR. AND MRS. JOHN C. WEBB SR. WE HAVE HAD OUR TEMPLE, OR CHURCH, OR SYNAGOGUE, AT ITS PRESENT LOCATION, SINCE APRIL 10, 1890. BEFORE THAT DATE SERVICES WERE HELD FIRST IN PRIVATE HOMES, AND LATER ABOVE A DOWNTOWN STORE.

I HAVE CHECKED WITH THE CITY OF DEMOPOLIS POLICE DEPARTMENT, AND, THE SHERIFF OF MARENGO COUNTY. THERE IS NO RECORD THAT WE COULD FIND WHERE A JEW HAS BEEN INCARCERATED IN OUR JAILS.

IN MY LIFETIME I HAVE KNOWN ABOUT 160 JEWISH PEOPLE IN DEMOPOLIS. BUT,

NOW, TIME HAS TAKEN ITS TOLL. TODAY, WE HAVE ELEVEN (11) JEWS IN OUR TOWN,

OUT OF A POPULATION OF ABOUT 7500 TEN OF THESE ARE IN THEIR SEVENTIES.

THE ELEVENTH ONE IS 50 YEARS OF AGE.

IN MARENGO COUNTY, WITH A POPULATION OF ABOUT 25,000, WE HAVE FOURTEEN (14) JEWS, THE 11 IN DEMOPOLIS, AND 3----THE NATHAN LEVY FAMILY IN LINDEN.

IT APPEARS THAT WE ARE FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF OUR ILLUSTRIOUS FOUNDERS,

THE ROYAL FRENCH SETTLERS. THEY CAME, BUT DID NOT STAY. THE JEWS CAME,

ESTABLISHED HOMES AND BUSINESSES, DIED, AND LEFT FAMILIES. NOW, THE

CHILDREN OF THOSE FAMILIES, DURING THE PAST TWENTY FIVE (25) YEARS, HAVE

GONE ON TO COLLEGE, HAVE BECOME PROFESSIONAL MEN AND WOMEN, AND MOVED TO

LARGER CITIES WHERE ADVANTAGES FOR THEM ARE GREATER. STRANGELY, AS IT MAY

SEEM, THERE IS NOT A MERCHANT AMONG THEM.

I FEEL QUITE SURE THAT WHEN THE HISTORY OF DEMOPOLIS IS WRITTEN BY

SOMEONE MORE QUALIFIED THAN I, THE RECORD OF THE JEWISH CONTRIBUTION

WILL BE A SHINING LIGHT THAT ALL OF US, BOTH JEWS AND CHRISTIANS WILL BE

PROUD OF.

 

POSTSCRIPT, 12/9/1999

JACK L. KOCH (SON)

SINCE THE TIME THIS REPORT WAS WRITTEN, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THOSE JEWS IN THE CEMETERY IN DEMOPOLIS, THERE ARE BUT TWO JEWS LEFT IN THE CITY, BERTRAM JULIUS ROSENBUSH AND HIS MOTHER MIRIAM. ALL THE OTHERS ARE EITHER DEAD OR HAVE MOVED ON TO "GREENER PASTURES". ALLOW ME TO BLOW MY IMMEDIATE FAMILY’S HORN FOR A FEW MOMENTS. MOTHER WAS ACTIVE IN THE STUDY CLUB FOR FIFTY YEARS, PAINTED, SKETCHED, AND HAD A MIND LIKE A "STEEL TRAP" AND A GOOD SENSE OF HUMOR TO ACCOMPANY IT. SHE WORKED TWO JOBS DURING WORLD WAR TWO WHILE DAD WAS OFF AS AN ENLISTED MAN IN THE ARMY. DAD WAS MORE OF A "PLODDER", HAD A WELL-HIDDEN INFERIORITY COMPLEX, AND WAS AN OWNER AND THE BOOKKEEPER OF THE INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER TRUCK AND TRACTOR DEALERSHIP. HE HOUNDED ALL HIS FRIENDS FOR MONEY WHICH HE SCRUPULOUSLY ACCOUNTED FOR – AND STARTED THE SCHOLARSHIP FUND OF THE ROTARY CLUB WHICH SENT MANY DESERVING SCHOLARS TO COLLEGE. HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR DOCTORS, DENTISTS, TEACHERS, AND OTHERS WHO ATTENDED COLLEGE WITH THE MONEY HE COLLECTED. THE FUND IS NOW NAMED IN HIS HONOR. AFTER CELEBRATING THEIR GOLDEN WEDDING ANNIVERSARY AT HOME IN DEMOPOLIS, THEY RELUCTANTLY SOLD THE HOME THEY BUILT AND MOVED INTO AN APARTMENT AT COVENANT VILLAGE IN MONTGOMERY WHERE THEY SPENT THE LAST EIGHT YEARS OF THEIR LIVES. HAVING BOTH OF THEM NEAR WAS A JOY TO ALL OF US, AND THEY MADE THE BEST OF IT – ALTHOUGH THEIR HEARTS NEVER LEFT DEMOPOLIS AND WHEN THEY PASSED AWAY, WENT BACK THERE TO BE AT HOME. WHEN IT BECAME IMPOSSIBLE TO OPERATE THE JEWISH TEMPLE, THE BUILDING AND GROUNDS WERE GIVEN TO TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH ACROSS THE STREET (THE ONLY EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN THE WORLD THAT OWNS A JEWISH TEMPLE). THE BUILDING IS KEPT AS A MEMORIAL TO THE JEWS OF THE AREA AND THE CEMETERY HAS A FUND AT THE ROBERTSON BANK FOR PERPETUAL CARE. THE JEWISH POPULATION THAT HELPED TO BUILD THE CITY IS GONE FOREVER.