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Jews in the First Capital: A History of Chillicothe Ohio’s Jewish Families

By Austin Reid

The Antebellum Years: A Historic Introduction and Overview of Chillicothe’s Early Jewish Residents and Their Family Histories

On January 6, 1939, Edwin Wenis, a veteran journalist, and editor with the Chillicothe Scioto Gazette, wrote a column reflecting on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe, and the suffering it was causing to innocent people. Turning locally to Chillicothe’s Jewish residents he remarked:

Their contribution to Chillicothe’s success, especially the older families, and their aid in the promotion of cultural matters have not been trivial, but really worthwhile. I can truthfully say that no race of people who become citizens of Chillicothe have contributed more toward the success of the city and its advancement in business, industry, and culturally in proportion to their numbers than have these same Jewish people.”[1]

By this time, Chillicothe’s Jewish population, which likely never amounted to more than half a percent of the overall community, had passed its peak and there were no longer any local Jewish organizations active in the city. That such a sentiment could be presented by the editor of Ross County’s largest newspaper, however, speaks to the rich history of Jewish families in Chillicothe. Given Chillicothe’s importance in the development of Ohio, it is likely that Jews joined other groups in traveling to the growing town beginning in the 1810s. Some of these early Jewish residents only stayed for short periods, while others established more permanent homes. One possible early Jewish resident is Thomas Cohen. According to research undertaken by the Columbus Jewish Historical Society, Thomas was a trained silversmith from Virginia who lived in Chillicothe around 1815 before moving to St. Louis.[2] Around this same time, according to the 1820 federal census, another man with the surname Cohen lived in Chillicothe. Unlike Thomas, however, Perry Cohen and his wife, Hester were Black.[3] While it is not likely Perry and Hester practiced Judaism, it is possible that Perry’s forebears were connected somewhere to America’s early Jewish community, possibly as slaves owned by a family with the name Cohen.[4] It is also possible that a past marriage along Perry’s family line resulted in the name. While interracial marriage was uncommon in the United States for much of its history, these marriages did occur. Indeed, an interracial marriage will comprise part of the story of another early Jewish resident in Ross County, as will be discussed in the next paragraph.

By the 1830s, Chillicothe was home to three residents, Hezekiah Amburgh, Moses Levi, and Tucker Isaacs, who certainly had Jewish ancestry. Amburgh, who was born around 1791, was remembered locally as an early Jewish resident well into the 20th century, and, like many 19th-century Jews in Chillicothe, he was born in what is today Germany.[5] Hezekiah arrived in Chillicothe in 1828 and he worked as a merchant. By the time of the 1850 census, Hezekiah married Catharine Bird, a native of Ohio, and they lived with three children, Ann, Louis, and Isiah. Louis was born in 1835, which was four years before Catharine’s marriage to Hezekiah. Because of this, Louis may have been a stepson of Catharine or Hezekiah. The Amburgh family also had relatives in both Cincinnati and Columbus. Familial relationships were maintained between the three locations and these helped Hezekiah in his business practices. For a brief period in 1861, Hezekiah served as Chillicothe’s justice of the peace and mayor. Members of the Amburgh family would remain in Chillicothe until the 1910s. Moses Levi arrived in Chillicothe around 1820 and worked as a merchant tailor. By the 1830s, however, he had moved out of Ross County.

Tucker Isaacs was a Charlottesville, Virginia native and the son of David Isaacs and Nancy West. David made a living as a merchant on Charlottesville’s Main Street and his wife, Nancy West was a free woman of color. Since interracial marriage was illegal under Virginia law, and since Nancy was not Jewish, the couple was united under common law.[6] Tucker also married a woman of color, Ann-Elizabeth Fossett, who had previously been a slave owned by President Thomas Jefferson. At the time of their marriage, Ann was still a slave but her parents, who had been manumitted through Jefferson’s will in 1826, purchased her freedom by 1837. After obtaining her freedom, Ann and Tucker were required to leave Virginia under a law that mandated manumitted slaves remove themselves from the state. They elected to come to Ross County in the late 1830s because Ann’s parents lived in the area.[7] At some point in the 1840s, Ann and Tucker moved back to Charlottesville, where Tucker continued to own land, but the couple was compelled to come back to Ohio in 1850 after Tucker was arrested on charges of attempting to forge free papers for his enslaved brother-in-law, Peter Fossett.[8] After returning to Ross County, the couple purchased a 158-acre farm which became a stop along the Underground Railroad.[9] Ann and Tucker had at least six children.

In addition to residents like Amburgh and Isaacs, who established long-term homes, Chillicothe, as a regional trade center, saw its share of itinerant traders. Some of these peddlers were Jewish and at least two names in this group have been preserved. Philip Heidelbach and Jacob Seasongood were both immigrants from Bavaria who met in Chillicothe in the late 1830s. They decided to go into business together and in 1840 they established a store, Heidelbach & Seasongood in Cincinnati. The two men would continue to work together until 1868 and each achieved remarkable success in business.[10] By the 1840s more Jews had moved to Chillicothe and established businesses. In 1840 Henry Sulzbacher opened a clothing and tailoring store.[11] Two years earlier, Henry immigrated from Europe, and it seems he lived in Bainbridge, Ohio, which is located 19 miles southwest of Chillicothe. On October 9, 1846, he married Helena Guiterman, whose family lived 27 miles away in Rainsboro. The Guiterman family had themselves come from Bavaria in 1845. Henry was active in the community and was a member of both the Ground Hog [sic] Club and Masons. The former club was an early social group in Chillicothe while the local Masonic Scioto Lodge was created in 1805. Henry was also a volunteer with the Reliance Fire Company, Chillicothe’s first volunteer fire brigade and in 1851 he served as the group’s treasurer.[12] Helena and Henry would raise ten children. Members of the Sulzbacher family would remain in Chillicothe for around a century.

 Elias and Sarah Strauss were another early Jewish couple in Chillicothe. They arrived as immigrants from Bavaria by 1847 with their oldest son, David. Elias opened a grocery store at the corner of Arch and North High streets and the couple raised six additional children.[13] The family’s grocery store was in business until 1902 when Samuel Strauss, the youngest child, moved out West after declaring bankruptcy.[14] Two other children, Bettie and Julius, moved to Danville, Illinois. Another child, Rosa died in 1897 following a protracted illness.[15] Another family that merits closer examination is the Guiterman’s. While no records exist of any Guiterman’s living in Chillicothe prior to 1850, except for Helena, it is likely that other members of the family were in the vicinity. Helena had two brothers, Joseph and William Guiterman as well as a sister, Bertha. It is known that William was a member of a local independent military organization called Harrison Guards in 1856.[16]  He also married a local woman, Mary Eliza Baker in 1859 around the age of 23. In 1870 William and Mary moved to Wyoming, where William worked in the cattle business. Mary would periodically travel back to Chillicothe to visit her ill mother.[17] Joseph Guiterman was born four years before Helena in 1825 and he seems to have spent much of his adult years in Portsmouth, Ohio. He made a living there as a clothing merchant and would travel to Chillicothe on occasion to visit the Sulzbachers. Joseph is buried at Walnut Hills Jewish Cemetery in Cincinnati.[18] Bertha moved to New York City following her marriage into the Trounstine family.    

The first train came through Chillicothe in 1852, marking another decade of expansion for the town.[19] Among these newer residents included several Jewish families. Jacob Buchen, an immigrant from Hesse, was in Chillicothe beginning around 1850. He began his time in the city as a peddler, but eventually earned enough in income to open a store. In some sources Jacob is described as a dry goods merchant while in others he is a junk dealer.[20] He was married to Clara and the couple had at least three children, Abraham, Hannah and Jane. Jacob’s mother, Frances also lived with the family around 1850. All three of the Buchen children would move away from Chillicothe after reaching adulthood. Jane would marry Aaron Kohn, a leading Kentucky lawyer, in 1878 and relocate to Louisville.[21] Hannah wed Julius Cone of Chicago in 1884. This marriage ceremony was performed in Chillicothe at the Warner House on North Paint Street. The famed Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise of Cincinnati acted as officiant.[22] Abraham would move to Baltimore and work at a clothing store. Another Jewish businessman in Chillicothe in the early 1850s was Henry Hecht. Henry arrived in the United States in 1848 along with his wife, Henrietta. The Hechts were both quite active in the community. Henry was a member of the Odd Fellows since 1856 and he helped to create a new chapter, the Metropolis Lodge in 1873. This Lodge joined the older Tecumseh Lodge, which had been organized in 1846.[23] Henrietta had a large circle of friends and at the time of her death in 1917 she was called, “one of Chillicothe’s most respected and esteemed women.”[24]

Henry made a living as a merchant tailor and he was the father of at least four children. Three of these children, Alfred, Charles and Rose, moved to Detroit while the other, Bettie died in Chillicothe at the age of 40 after contracting tuberculosis.[25] Alfred and Charles both achieved success in business, but Charles, the oldest son, did face setbacks. Before living in Detroit, Charles resided in Toledo and then Illinois. While in Toledo, Charles’ tailoring establishment caught fire in 1893 and was completely ruined. The fire took place scarcely a year after the business had opened. After Rose moved to Detroit, she married William Goldberg and was an active volunteer with the Mount Sinai Hospital Association. She passed in 1937. Hecht family members in both Detroit and Chillicothe were also connected to the Epsteins. While Samuel Epstein had lived in Chillicothe for a brief period in the early 1850s, he moved away for much of the decade before returning in 1858. Once back in Ross County, he worked with Henry and established Epstein & Hecht, a merchant tailoring company. Samuel would partner with Henry for 35 years before opening his own store on South Paint Street. Epstein was also active in the Chillicothe community as a charter member of the local Knights of Pythias lodge, which was formed on November 30, 1870, and as a member of the Improved Order of Red Men. This later fraternal society despite its name was formed by white males and its membership was limited to white men. In an era before Social Security, and other social welfare programs, communal groups like the Knights of Pythias, Masons, Odd Fellows and Order of Red Men served not only social purposes but also as a type of insurance. Fraternal societies frequently provided medical care and disability benefits for members. Organizations would also often have funds available to provide for widows and orphans left by deceased members. In these ways, fraternal societies, while flawed by discriminatory practices, filled a need in the community.

Samuel was also an active member of the local Democratic Party and he served on City Council for a time. Here he helped to create Chillicothe’s first municipal fire department in 1879. This was a significant improvement for the city, which had been visited by several intense fires over the course of its history. Samuel was married twice in his life. His first wife, Rebecca was the mother of Benjamin, Henry, Morris, who is also named Moritz in some sources, Rose, and Sarah. Benjamin and Henry would move to Detroit together where they joined Alfred and Charles Hecht at Samuel Summerfield’s furniture store. The families would remain connected and when Alfred died in 1935 he left Ben’s sons $500,000 each.[26] This would amount to almost nine and a half million dollars in 2020. Morris remained in Chillicothe his whole life and worked as a tailor.[27] Rose moved to Toledo after her marriage to David Levitt and Sarah moved to Parkersburg, West Virginia after marrying Moses Kuder. In 1879 Rebecca died and was buried in the Epstein family plot at Walnut Hills in Cincinnati. Carrie, an immigrant from Germany, was Ben’s second wife. The couple married in 1881 and they had one son, Jesse, who would go on to attend Ohio State University and become a pharmacist in Youngstown and later Akron. Following Samuel’s death in 1913 Carrie moved to Akron to live with Jesse.[28]             

Bertha and Louis Epstein, Samuel’s younger siblings, also lived in Chillicothe for a time. For several years in the 1860s, Betha helped to raise her children in Ross County. Her husband was Emanuel Newhoff, and their two children were Amanda and Mayer. The young family experienced tragedy, however, in 1868 when Emanuel’s life was cut short as a result of drowning in Paint Creek.[29] After her husband’s death, it seems Bertha and her children moved to Cincinnati. Louis worked for a time at Epstein & Hecht before moving to Cincinnati to open a cigar store.[30] The final Jewish family known to have lived in Chillicothe by 1860 were the Kaufman’s. Jacob Kaufman and his wife Eliza were married in 1849 and it is recorded in the 1850 census that Jacob worked as a peddler. The couple had three children, Babbeth, Fannie and Edward. A man named Isaac Kaufman also lived in Chillicothe at the time of the 1850 census and it is likely that he was a younger relative of Jacob’s. Of the Kaufman children, Edward would become especially notable in local social circles as one of the charter members of the Chillicothe Elks Lodge. By 1908, however, Edward had moved to Dayton.[31]

The Civil War and Late 1800s: A Period of Growth for Chillicothe’s Jewish Community

On April 12, 1861, Fort Sumter in South Carolina was attacked marking the beginning of the American Civil War. Chillicothe did its part to support the war effort and a military base, Camp Worthington was created near the city. The local Jewish families also contributed. Two Jews are known to have enlisted, Louis Amburgh and David Strauss. Amburgh served with the 149th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and achieved the rank of First Lieutenant. Strauss served in Company B of the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In town, Henry Sulzbacher busied himself creating some of the uniforms worn by Union troops from Ohio. The early 1860s also brought new Jewish residents into Ross County. Samuel Frank was in Chillicothe by 1860. Less than five years later he established a clothing store, S. Frank & Company, which was located on 24 West Second Street across from the post office.[32] David Kline also arrived around this same time to open a clothing store. The biggest family, however, was started by Moses and Pauline Bottigheimer who were in Chillicothe by 1869. The Bottigheimers had seven children. Some as young adults created controversy on occasion. In 1896, two children, Rose and Samuel, were arrested after getting into a fight allegedly over Rose’s behavior towards men in public.[33] Three years earlier, another daughter, Ophelia, broke off an engagement with a local man, Moses Rendbird. At the time Ophelia was around 18 and Moses, a young Jewish transplant from Cincinnati, was working selling scrap metals. After their breakup, a fight between Moses and Ophelia grew so heated that her brother, David came to her aid. The resulting brawl saw both parties arrested.[34] Three years later in 1896 Ophelia journeyed to Circleville with Rose to secretly marry David Tucker, a resident of Pickaway County.[35] Sixteen months afterward, Rose married Leonard Blum, a resident of Greenfield, at a ceremony attended only by David and Ophelia.[36]   

Moses died in1897.[37] Moses had been in business for 25 years and at various times he is described as selling clothing or scrap materials. His obituary also states that Jewish residents of Chillicothe were buried in either Cincinnati or Columbus because Ross County lacked a Jewish cemetery. This is not entirely accurate, however, because some Jews, such as Henry Sulzbacher, were already buried at the local Grandview Cemetery by 1897 and other families would elect to have plots there over the next several decades. The story of the Bottigheimer family in Chillicothe ends around 1905 when the last members moved away. The Sulzbacher children were also beginning to grow up and establish their own households. Charles, the oldest son of Henry and Helena, worked with his father and by 1876, at the age of 29, he took over full control of the store. Henry went into a retirement that lasted 14 years. By 1870 five out of the ten clothing merchants in the city were Jewish. Moses Bottigheimer, Samuel Epstein, Samuel Frank, David Kline, and Henry Sulzbacher were all in business.[38] In 1883 Charles married Rachel Lebensburger, a native of Dayton and the couple had six children. It is not known, however, if Charles and Rachel were wed through a civil ceremony or a religious ceremony. The first Jewish wedding known to have taken place in Chillicothe occurred in 1875 when Abraham Stefel and Diana Sinsheimer were wed at Wissler’s Opera Hall. Approximately 100 guests attended.[39] Nothing else is known about the couple, however, and no other records exist of them being present in Chillicothe.

 Abraham and Julia Feldman were the next Jewish family to arrive. Both were immigrants from Austria-Hungary who were married before coming to the United States in 1873. By 1874 the couple had found their way to Ross County and Abe established Feldman & Company, a dry goods store. Abe was joined by his younger brother, David but he did not remain in Chillicothe for long. By the early 1880s David was in Cincinnati working with Jonap & Company.[40] Abe and Julia also came to Chillicothe with at least one child, Joseph, and the couple had six additional children. Not all the children continued to practice Judaism throughout their lives. While some were active supporters of Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Publication Society out of Philadelphia, at least one, Maurice appears to have converted to Christianity by the time of his death in 1928. At Maurice’s funeral, both Rabbi Jacob Tarshish of Columbus and Reverend Carl Hickey of the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church in Chillicothe officiated.[41] Maurice Jr., the grandson of Abe and Julia, was a member of a Presbyterian youth group and led devotionals.[42] The Feldman family is not unique in experiencing religious conversions. While most conversions involving Chillicothe residents are of Jews who become practicing Christians, conversions to Judaism have also occurred. In April 1893 Lois Bries, a Chillicothe native, converted to Judaism after moving to Cincinnati.[43] In more recent times David Fyffe, who grew up in Chillicothe, converted to Judaism in 1982 at Congregation Beth Chayim Chadashim in Los Angeles. In 2005 David moved from California to Israel with his husband, Arlan Wareham.[44]

Between the years 1881 and 1884 more than 200 anti-Jewish riots occurred in the Russian Empire. These attacks received wide coverage in the American press and played a significant factor in the immigration of hundreds of thousands of Jews to the United States from Eastern Europe. Several Jewish families who lived in Chillicothe during the 20th century came to the United States during this period. By the early 1880s Chillicothe was already home to several Jewish families. Yet no organized Jewish communal or religious groups existed. This circumstance did not go unnoticed. In July 1882, the editors of the American Israelite, a Jewish newspaper based out of Cincinnati, wrote about the need for more Jewish communities to lend their aid to refugee resettlement efforts. Turning to Chillicothe they remarked:

(Chillicothe) has quite a number of Jewish residents, some of whom are well-to-do. As far as we know, that community has no congregation, and never contributes a dollar to any Jewish charity. There is no reason why the Chillicothe Israelites should not take care of at least ten families of refugees.[45]

Indeed, in 1880 Chillicothe’s approximately nine Jewish families, while involved in many secular organizations, did not appear to have organized any type of Jewish association. A specifically Jewish organization would not exist until the mid-1890s. Despite the town’s lack of a formal Jewish community, however, more Jews found their way to the city. In 1885 Abraham and Pauline Levy arrived in Chillicothe from Philadelphia. The Levys were immigrants from Central Europe who had already lived in the United States for around 30 years before moving to Ohio. They also had seven children and were married for 50 years.[46]

Four of the Levy children relocated to Chillicothe around the same time as their parents. Their names were Belle, Harry, Louis, and Sarah. Louis and Harry both worked with their father at the newly established Levy Clothing Company. Louis would also marry a local woman, Maie Miller in 1891 and raise two children in town.[47] Sarah moved to Chillicothe with her husband Benjamin Aarons and for a time Ben too worked at the Levy store. By the early 1900s, however, Ben had opened his own clothing store at 32 North Paint Street. Ben’s enterprise was quite successful, and he was also locally known as a skilled equestrian.[48] Belle, the youngest child, would marry Myer Cohn, a native of Wilmington, Ohio sometime between 1905 and 1910. Both initially worked at the Levy Company. Myer also expanded his business interests by purchasing the Adams Dairy, which became quite profitable. The couple used some of their wealth for philanthropic causes. Myer would serve as director of the Chamber of Commerce and was active in both the Elks and Masons.[49]

In 1887 Moritz Schachne arrived in Chillicothe from Milwaukee. Moritz decided to settle in Ross County after a chance meeting with Samuel Epstein that occurred while Schachne was waiting in town between trains.[50] Moritz also had a wife, Bertha Horwitz, who he married in 1862. The couple emigrated in 1875 and would have seven children.[51] When Moritz first arrived in town, he established a clothing store named the Bee Hive on South Paint Street. In 1889 this store was renamed M. Schachne & Son after Moritz’s oldest son, Richard joined the business. The store moved temporarily to West Second Street in 1895 while the Commercial House block on South Paint was being renovated. When the Schachne store returned to its newly refurbished original location it would remain until 1979 and over time expand to become the largest department store in Ross County. By the early 1960s the store comprised 38,000 square feet and employed 75 people.[52] Three generations of the family would manage the store.  

Moritz was also active in the community as a member of the Masons, and he would play an important role in organizing religious services in Chillicothe during Jewish holidays. The Schachne home on East Main Street was for many years the site of High Holiday observances. Starting in 1901 Moritz’s nephew, Rabbi David Klein of Columbus, would travel to Chillicothe every 30 days to conduct a Sunday religious service, lecture and provide instruction for Jewish youths. These gatherings were held in the local Odd Fellows Hall.[53] The first High Holiday services recorded in Chillicothe occurred in 1886 and were led by Rabbi C. B. Goldsmith of Cincinnati. At the time the American Hebrew, a weekly newspaper out of New York, reported that eleven Jewish families lived in Chillicothe. It was also reported that efforts were underway to organize regular Friday night Shabbat services and create a Sunday school.[54] In 1893 a group of Jewish women created a sewing society that met weekly on Thursday afternoons. Chillicothe’s Daily Gazette called the group “a pleasant innovation”.[55] Members included Sarah Strauss and Carrie Bergman.

The Bergman family was a recent addition to the Chillicothe Jewish community. Carrie moved to Ross County with her husband, Eleazer around 1893 when the store One Price Clothiers opened. Eleazer was in business with his brother, Abe and their store would be open until 1936. When the store closed, another Jewish businessman, Edwin Goodman purchased it and opened Goodman’s, which also sold clothing. Carrie was a native of Ironton, Ohio and she was born into a Jewish family with the surname Weiler.[56] Eleazer was an immigrant from Poland and during his many decades in Chillicothe he would be active in the Elks, Knights of Pythias, Kiwanis, and the Chillicothe Athletic Club. He also supported the Ross County Welfare Association and was a member of a Jewish fraternal society, B’nai B’rith.[57] Carrie and Eleazer had four children. Their names are Beatrice, Bernard, Lucile, and Maurice. Bernard went on to attend Ohio State and was the editor-in-chief of the campus student newspaper, the Ohio State Daily Lantern. Later he would move to New York City with his brother Maurice and become a newspaper editor. Lucile married Manuel Mendelsohn in 1923 and moved to Elyria, Ohio. It is also likely that Beatrice moved away from Ross County as no records exist mentioning her in Chillicothe after 1910. Abe Bergman would marry twice in his life. His first wife was May Steinhart, a native of Cincinnati, and they were married in 1904. The couple had two children, Louise, and Oscar. Both would leave Ross County as adults. Louise married Malcolm Stern and moved to Philadelphia after attending Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Oscar attended the University of Cincinnati and acted in comedy movies for a time before moving back to Chillicothe. While in town he worked at One Price Clothiers and won awards for designing store window displays. He moved to Cleveland in 1933 to take a position as a men’s fashion editor with the Plain Dealer. May died in 1923 and is buried in Piqua Ohio’s Jewish cemetery.[58] Abe’s second wife was Belle Grusinsky, a native of Buffalo, and they were married in 1925.[59]

By the mid-1890s Jewish families in Chillicothe were coming together to organize social outings such as picnics and dances.[60] Social ties were also maintained with other nearby Jewish communities. In May 1894 a party of twelve visitors arrived from Circleville and different households in Chillicothe hosted the guests.[61] Ties between the communities were facilitated by individuals such as Benjamin Friedman who had lived in both towns. Connections also existed to Ironton’s Jewish community. Weddings were also a community highlight. On September 26, 1883, Edward Herzog of Cincinnati was married to Fannie Kaufman. Edward remained in Chillicothe and opened Herzog’s Mammoth Clothing House. He also served as a director with the Chillicothe Board of Trade before moving to Marion with Fannie in 1898.[62] One of the largest Jewish weddings ever held in Chillicothe occurred on January 02, 1895, when Philip Brunner and Selma Schachne were married at the Warner House. Over 200 guests attended the wedding and at least 500 telegrams were received. Philip had lived in Schenectady, New York before his marriage and other out-of-town guests arrived from numerous cities including Canton, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Parkersburgh, Pittsburgh and San Francisco.[63] Phillip settled in Chillicothe after his marriage and in 1898 he opened the Golden Eagle Clothing House.[64] This store remained in business until 1903. Philip and Selma had at least one daughter, Clara.

Chillicothe’s First Jewish Organization

Early in 1895 several Jewish families in Chillicothe came together to create the Excelsior Club, a formal organization to facilitate social gatherings. Members included: Ben and Sarah Aarons, Henrietta and Henry Hecht, Edward and Fannie Herzog, and Bertha and Moritz Schachne. This club may have been based on the nonsectarian Excelsior Club, founded two years earlier in 1893 by various Chillicothe residents to provide social opportunities for married couples.[65] Meetings for Jewish residents were held weekly on Sundays at the club’s rooms. These were located on the third floor of the Goldsberry building on West Main Street.[66] By autumn, the Excelsior Club also sponsored religious activities including High Holiday services.[67] Singles were included as members. One such member was Leon Kahn, an immigrant from Alsace-Lorraine and a French teacher at Chillicothe High School. Kahn, who had lived in Chillicothe for around four years, was only a brief member, however, because he would move to Roff, Oklahoma in October 1895.[68] Around 40 people were present for Leon’s going away party. The Chillicothe Daily Gazette reported that this was nearly all the Jews in town.[69] A Ladies’ Auxiliary for Excelsior also existed. The first Auxiliary board consisted of Sarah Aarons as president, Bettie Hecht as vice president, Rose Epstein as secretary, and Annie Strauss as treasurer.[70] The women organized special events including a strawberry festival.       

The Excelsior Club rooms were also used to entertain Jewish guests from out-of-town. Frequent visitors to Chillicothe could even decide to become non-resident members. Excelsior helped to bring Chillicothe’s Jewish families closer together. In 1895 it was estimated that 15 Jewish families lived in Chillicothe and in June efforts were made to organize a religious congregation in town.[71] These efforts, however, were not entirely new. Nine months earlier, the Chillicothe Daily Gazette reported that Jewish residents were raising funds to construct a synagogue in town. An effort was also made to hire a rabbi. Charles Levy of Cincinnati, who served as associate rabbi at Plum Street Temple, visited Chillicothe to support fundraising efforts. The paper concluded its article by stating:

There is, of course, any number of obstacles to be overcome in an enterprise of this kind, but a great deal of perseverance is being displayed and it seems probable that these obstacles will be overcome.[72]     

Ultimately, however, a synagogue would not be built in Chillicothe. Over the next few years more reports would be made of efforts to build a synagogue and secure the services of a full-time rabbi.[73] These too were unsuccessful. Religious services would continue to be held in rented quarters or in private homes. The Excelsior Club also faded from written records after 1896. One of its last recorded events is a Purim party held in February of that year.[74] The absence of recorded events does not mean the club disbanded, but it does suggest that its activities no longer had the same level of visibility within the Chillicothe community.      

 Some of the newer Jewish residents of Chillicothe included Ida and Louis Bernstein, Annie and Solomon Goldstein, and Max and Rebecca Segal. Ida and Louis were in Chillicothe by 1898 and they left sometime after 1902.[75] Louis made a living as a peddler according to the 1900 census. Annie and Solomon arrived by 1897 and they remained in Chillicothe until 1910. Solomon owned a scrap metal business on Riverside Street and in 1898 he was elected Noble Grand of the Odd Fellows. He also led Yom Kippur services during 1900 for local Jews. Solomon was joined in business by his brother, Lazarus who was married to Matilda. After her husband’s death in 1913, Matilda continued to manage the scrap business until departing for Columbus one year later with her son Hyman.[76] Max and Rebecca arrived in Chillicothe from Lithuania around 1889 along with their two children, Samuel and Rose. They would also have six other children after settling in Ross County. In 1895 Max created a scrap metal business that became known as Segal & Sons.[77] The company lasted until 1956 when Max’s son, Ben sold the firm to Albert Shaevitz, a businessman living in Columbus. This was ten years after the death of his older brother and business partner Samuel.[78] Albert renamed the establishment Chillicothe Iron and Metal Company.

Three of the Segal sons became journalists after attending Ohio State. Abe worked for the American Israelite and later became president of the Western Printing Company. Henry also worked with the Israelite and became the paper’s editor for 55 years.[79] Robert, the youngest child, graduated from Ohio State in 1925 and moved to Cincinnati to take a job with The Cincinnati Post. Ten years later, Robert moved back to Chillicothe to become Associate Publisher of the Scioto Gazette.[80] While living in Chillicothe, Robert was active with the YMCA and he served as president of the Ohio State University Alumni Association of Ross County. In 1940 Robert moved to Boston, where he worked for the Jewish Community Council of Metropolitan Boston. In addition to Rose, Max and Rebecca also had three younger daughters, Frances, Minnie, and Rachel. Rose moved away to Philadelphia early in life while her sisters remained in Chillicothe for most of their lives.

The Decline and Rebirth of Organized Jewish Life in Chillicothe

In 1901 the Reform Advocate out of Chicago reported that a congregation was formed in Chillicothe. This group utilized rented quarters for services. [81] Over the next three decades Chillicothe’s Jewish community would peak in numbers. Some families that arrived between 1900 and 1914 included Lizzie and Wolf Wormser, Anna and Rubin Aaronson, as well as Bessie and Jesse Frad. Some singles also moved to town, including Moses Steinberger, Sidney Schaengold and Ben Greenblat. The Wormsers owned a scrapyard in town until the 1910s while the Aaronsons operated a jewelry store on Paint Street. In 1914, however, Aaronson’s was declared bankrupt, and the family moved away. Jesse arrived in Chillicothe around 1908 with his brother, Samuel to open a bar on East Second Street.[82] Tragedy would strike the brothers in 1910 when an auto accident resulted in Samuel’s death at the age of 20.[83] On July 11, 1911, Jesse married Bessie Kendis, a native of Cleveland, and the couple had three daughters, Eleanor, Gloria and Marion. Both partners would become active volunteers in Chillicothe. Bessie was involved in planning an annual charity ball and she served on the Chillicothe Hospital Women’s Board for more than 40 years. She was also a charter member of the Ross County Mothers’ Club of OSU.[84] Jessie, who would eventually close the Frad Brothers bar in order to open a confectionery store and work in real estate, was active in welfare work with B’nai B’rith, particularly during World War I.

The Frad confectionery shop may have been a partnership between Jesse and his father, Nathan. While Nathan and Fanny Frad lived in Newark, Ohio between 1910 and 1916, it seems that during the first decade of the 20th century and after 1916 they resided in Chillicothe. The couple had six additional children aside from Jessie and Samuel. Their four daughters were Anna, Florence, Hattie, and Lena while their two other sons were Harry and William. Harry opened a short-lived clothing store in Chillicothe before moving to New York City by 1930.[85] William also moved out of Ohio as an adult. Anna married Sam Segal in 1911 and remained in Chillicothe until her death in 1961.[86] Florence would marry Walter Yaco in 1917 and remain in Chillicothe until after 1930. Hattie died young while living in Newark, and Lena moved to Columbus.[87] Nathan and Fanny were both immigrants from Europe who married after their separate arrivals in the United States. Most of the single Jews who moved to Chillicothe in the first decade of the 20th century were also immigrants. Moses Steinberger was an immigrant from Poland, Sidney Schaengold lived in Warsaw before arriving in the United States, and Ben Greenblat was born in Russia. Of these immigrants, Sidney would successfully open a clothing store in 1919 after working at Minces Underselling Store for about six years. This shop was called Sidney Schaengold’s, and it was located on North Paint Street. The business would remain open until 1935 when Sidney elected to close the shop to focus on business interests in Cincinnati. Sidney never married, but at the time of his death two nephews did live in Israel.[88]   

Jewish families in Chillicothe relied on rabbis from other locales to facilitate life cycle events. The first important life cycle event for a Jewish male is a bris or circumcision. This ceremony, which takes place eight days after birth, marks one’s entry into the covenant of Abraham. In 1900, Rabbi Fraber of Circleville is recorded as visiting Chillicothe to perform a circumcision for Henry, the son of Max Segal.[89] Six years later, Rabbi Horwitz, also of Circleville, visited for the bris of Hyman, the son of Lazarus Goldstein.[90] Another important religious event is funerals. While most Jewish funerals were officiated by rabbis from Columbus, Rabbi Julius Baker, who ministered to Congregation B’nai Israel in Lancaster from 1932 to 1957, also visited Chillicothe to conduct these services.[91] Several Chillicothe families would be included among the members of B’nai Israel during the period from 1927 until the years leading up to the synagogue’s closure in 1993. These members included the Goodmans, Gordons and Segals. Other families were members of synagogues in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Dayton over the years. Jews in Chillicothe also affiliated with communal organizations in Franklin County. In 1908 Fred Lazarus, a Columbus businessman, visited Chillicothe to recruit for the B’nai B’rith chapter in Columbus.[92] The interest meeting was held at the home of Moritz Schachne. Later in the year, several Jewish men in Chillicothe joined B’nai B’rith at the same time as a group from Circleville. In 1909 six additional local Jews joined the Columbus chapter of B’nai B’rith.

According to the 1914 - 1915 American Jewish Yearbook, 50 Jews were estimated to live in Chillicothe in 1907.[93] Religious services continued to be held monthly in town during this same year.[94] Evidence also exists of a Jewish charitable society during the early years of the 20th century. In 1900 Eleazer Bergman served as the group’s secretary.[95] Setbacks began to occur in 1910 when Rabbi David Klein left Columbus for a position in Sumter, South Carolina. Klein was a friend to the Chillicothe Jewish community. In addition to leading monthly Sunday services and providing religious instruction for locals, he also supported charitable efforts organized by Jewish residents. For example, in 1899 Klein gave a lecture in town to raise money for the Chillicothe hospital at a program organized by Moritz Schachne.[96] Another loss for the Jewish community occurred in 1911 with the death of Moritz Schachne. Moritz was among the community’s foremost leaders and during his funeral many businesses in town closed. Two years later Samuel Epstein, another notable leader within the community, died. In 1914 the Scioto Gazette reported that Richard Schachne and his brother, Julius traveled to Columbus to observe Yom Kippur.[97] No other mention of holiday observances was made and this likely means that no local High Holiday services were organized during this year. As early as 1909 the same newspaper reported that other major Jewish holidays were not being observed locally among Jewish residents.[98]

Jewish life in Ross County experienced a revival, however, during World War I. The reason for this development was that in 1917 Chillicothe was selected as the site of Camp Sherman, a military training center. In just a few months the population of Chillicothe began to increase rapidly, and many new businesses developed to meet the needs of soldiers. By the time Camp Sherman was decommissioned in 1921, over 120,000 servicemen passed through the training grounds.[99] At the end of 1917, it was estimated that 750 Jewish servicemen lived at the camp. By March 1918 this number had grown to approximately 1,000.[100] Chillicothe’s Jewish community, while modest in size, strived to meet the unique cultural and religious needs of Jews stationed locally. They were helped in this work by two national organizations, B’nai B’rith and the Jewish Welfare Board (JWB). B’nai B’rith is a national Jewish fraternal society founded in 1843 while the JWB was created on April 9, 1917, to support Jews in the service. Each organization worked together. September 1917, the same month in which servicemen began to arrive at Camp Sherman, marked the start of organized religious and social activities. On September 16th through the 18th Rosh Hashanah services in Chillicothe were led by Rabbi Aaron Cohn of Toledo and Rabbi David Phillipson of Cincinnati. On the 25th and 26th Rabbi Joseph Kornfeld of Columbus led Yom Kippur services.[101]

While many Jewish soldiers were given leave to travel for the High Holidays, numerous others remained in Chillicothe during both 1917 and 1918. Local residents also attended holiday services and hosted soldiers in their homes for meals and fellowship. B’nai B’rith, in part through its local members, provided additional opportunities to build community. In February 1918, the organization dedicated a building on the corner of Paint and Second Street to provide a space for social events and relaxation.[102] This community center was made possible through the support of both local Jewish residents as well as Jews throughout Ohio. Similar organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, were also providing similar opportunities for servicemen of other faiths. By late March, Friday night Shabbat services were being held at the center under the auspices of the JWB.[103] The JWB also brought in staff to assist in coordinating religious services, lectures, dances and other programming. Jack Rosenbaum was the first JWB representative in town. Rabbi Joseph Leiser of Joplin, Missouri was brought to Chillicothe by B’nai B’rith to provide pastoral services.

On April 21, 1918, a new B’nai B’rith chapter was chartered in Chillicothe by the national governing body of B’nai B’rith to recognize the efforts local Jews demonstrated in meeting the needs of servicemen. The lodge number was 830 and around 25 members were recorded on its chartering day.[104] Members of Columbus’ Zion Lodge assisted in the chapter’s installation. The first officers of the Chillicothe lodge were: Sam Segal as president, Jesse Frad as vice president, Jack Furman as warden, Eleazer Bergman as monitor and Jonas Feldman as secretary. Other members included Abe Bergman and Richard Schachne.[105] Jonas was the son of Abe and Julia Feldman, while Jack Furman was among Chillicothe’s newer Jewish residents, having moved to the town in 1915 to open a shoe store. Reporting on the occasion the Columbus Jewish News wrote:

This Lodge has been established in Chillicothe by Bnai Brith as a result of the fine spirit which has been shown by the Chillicothe community in co-operating with the work which the Bnai Brith has undertaken in that city. The community has responded almost to a man in the up-building of the club which was established there by the Bnai Brith and which is now under the direction of the Jewish Board of Welfare [sic]. The women of the community have also been a powerful factor in making the club a success. They have given their time willingly and unselfishly to the preparation of good things to eat for the boys and in arranging nice entertainments for them at the club rooms. It is more than certain that with the zeal and earnestness that the men and women of Chillicothe have displayed in the welfare work that the new lodge will be a big success.[106]   

One of the local women active in volunteering with servicemen was Bessie Frad, the wife of Jesse. Bessie was a gifted piano player and singer and would provide entertainment for those at Camp Sherman.[107] Several local Jews were also in the service during World War I. These men included Abe Segal, Ben Segal, Mortimer Friedman, Sidney Schaengold and Walter Yaco.

 In addition, a few Jews who came to Chillicothe for training decided to relocate to the city following the war. These individuals included Bernard Brackman, Louis Laeger and Charles Sulzer. More will be written about these men later. By the end of the war, Jewish religious services were being offered twice a week in Chillicothe. During the 1918 High Holiday period, both Orthodox and Reform services were organized. Max Segal helped to arrange the Orthodox services at the Elks Lodge on Second Street while Reform services were held at the B’nai B’rith club. Two hundred servicemen were estimated to have attended either service.[108] Around this same time, the JWB also opened a center in Camp Sherman itself. The work of the JWB continued in Chillicothe until the summer of 1921. This was about three years after government-sponsored welfare groups had ceased their activities.[109] At its largest the JWB employed five people in Chillicothe. These staffers included Jack Skirball, Al Weinberg and Harry Weisman, who would be the last JWB representative in Chillicothe. Jewish servicemen continued to be at Camp Sherman right up until the camp’s decommission in 1921. One of the JWB’s last activities was organizing two communal Passover seders at the Elks Lodge in April 1921. Around 40 servicemen and town locals attended each dinner, and Nathan Frad led the ceremonies.[110] During the period after the war Rabbi Kornfeld of Columbus would also visit monthly to provide pastoral services. Kornfeld also accepted invitations to speak at secular organizations in Chillicothe including the Century Club.[111]   

In 1918 it was estimated that Chillicothe’s permanent Jewish population totaled 51 individuals.[112] By 1928 this number had risen to 58.[113] The mid to late 1920s were likely the most populous years for Chillicothe’s Jewish community. Yet, even at this time Jews were only a minute percentage compared with Chillicothe’s overall population of nearly 18,000. By 1922 B’nai B’rith sold its club and the JWB building in Camp Sherman was no more. Around this same time, however, a group of Jewish residents organized the Beth El Council with the intention of continuing to provide social events for the Jewish community. Members included Abe Bergman, Malvena Berg, Hattie Braffman, Fanny Frad, Ruth Friedman, Sidney Katz, Rose Schachne, and Rose Segal.[114] Malvena, Hattie and Sidney were all recent arrivals in Ross County. Malvena moved with her husband, Julius in 1915 after he opened the Chillicothe Bargain Shoe Store with Jack Furman. Hattie relocated to Chillicothe in 1918 when her husband, David, opened a pawn shop on East Main Street. Sidney arrived in Chillicothe with his brother, Leo in 1916 to open a clothing store, Katz and Katz, on North Paint Street. Religious functions were also occasionally organized by visiting out-of-town rabbis such as Samuel Mayerberg of Dayton, who stopped in Chillicothe during March 1922 while on a tour of several smaller Jewish communities.[115] Yet, by 1924 it seems no Yom Kippur services were held in town. Rather, Jewish residents were reported as traveling to Columbus, Cincinnati, or Dayton to observe the holiday.[116]

The years following World War I did not mark the end, however, of Chillicothe’s economic boom. In 1923 the United States government selected Chillicothe as the site of a large veteran’s hospital. One major advocate for Chillicothe at this time was Louis Laeger. Louis was a native of New York who served as a commander in the American Legion following World War I. He was among the Jewish servicemen stationed at Camp Sherman who relocated to Chillicothe following the war. While Louis’ primary job appears to have been working at an army retail store, his larger impacts on the community were through his service on City Council and his efforts over eight years as a leader within the Chamber of Commerce. In these roles, Louis also helped to lobby for the United States Industrial Reformatory to be opened in Chillicothe in 1926, creating more jobs for Ross County residents.[117] Louis was among Chillicothe’s most notable young residents and was seen as a rising business star. Tragically, however, he was killed in December 1932 as a result of an auto accident.[118] Louis, who was 36 years-old, left his wife, Mary and four children. Rabbi Jacob Tarshish of Columbus officiated at his funeral and burial in Grandview Cemetery, which was widely attended by fellow Elks and American Legion members.[119]

Tragedy also struck the family of another Jew who moved to Chillicothe after World War I. Charles Sulzer was born in Grussenheim, Alsace-Lorraine, and he immigrated to the United States in 1911. Prior to his emigration from Europe, he had fought in the Imperial Germany Army as a member of the cavalry, and he worked for a trading company in Paris. In this role, he traveled extensively across Asia. In his business affairs he was assisted by his ability to speak seven languages. It was stated in Charles’ obituary published on September 28, 1937, that he served with General John Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces on the Western Front, during World War I. While on General Pershing’s staff Charles’ fluency in French proved especially useful.[120] Charles was sent to Chillicothe in 1918 for demobilization and he decided to open a grocery store in town. It should be noted here that Charles does not appear to be related to any other contemporary residents of Chillicothe with the surname Sulzer, some of whom also owned businesses in town. Melanie Gaffin, the wife of a fruit dealer named Harry Gaffin, was however Charles’ sister. She and her husband were both immigrants who arrived in Chillicothe by 1910. Charles married Zoe Helmendinger, a native of Alsace-Lorraine, in 1921 while on a visit to Paris. Thirteen years later, however, Zoe died of an illness at the age of 51.[121]  A little over two years later in 1937 Charles took his own life leaving no descendants.[122] Rabbi Samuel Gup of Columbus officiated at both Zoe and Charles’ funerals and each are buried in Grandview Cemetery.

Organized Jewish Communal Life in Chillicothe Fades

Between the years 1925 and 1935 several Jews left Ross County. In 1925 the Beth El Council had around 35 members and meetings were held bi-monthly.[123] Beginning in 1924, however, membership had already begun to decline. Bernard and Celia Brackman moved in that year to Fort Wayne, Indiana after spending three years in Chillicothe.[124] Prior to relocating, Bernard worked at Saul’s, a chain store specializing in ladies clothing. Julius and Malvena Berg moved to Detroit in 1926 with their daughter, Babette after Julius sold his stake in the Chillicothe Bargain Shoe Store. David and Hattie Braffman also moved around this same time. Death also diminished the Beth El Council’s membership. In November 1925 Fanny Frad, a leader in the group since its inception, died.[125] Later, on January 31, 1927, Myer Cohn died. In addition to his work with Beth El, Myer was also the owner of Adams Creamery. This creamery was a major business in town. In 1921 the company earned over $15,000 in profits.[126] This would be equal to approximately $218,000 in 2020. Reflecting on Myer’s death the editors of the Scioto Gazette wrote:

The city of Chillicothe lost in the death of Myer Cohn, one of her leading young business men. One who had a prescience and an energy to work to bring about the concrete result of that foresight which comes to but few men. He will be sadly missed as one of the elements in the upbuilding of Chillicothe, which was one of the dreams of his life. Myer Cohn is dead. We shall miss him but the memory of his good deeds will ever be a monument to him as one who loved his fellow man and who was a protector to the weak and unfortunate.[127]

The last initiatives recorded as being sponsored by Beth El were a donation to a local Girl’s Nutrition Camp and a visit by members to the veteran’s hospital.[128] After January 1926 no more public references to the group can be found.  

By the mid-1930s young Jews began moving away from Chillicothe at a faster rate than they could be replaced. None of Harry and Melanie Gaffin’s three children remained in Chillicothe as adults. Abe and Max moved to Dayton while Rosalie moved to Baltimore. Rea and Sidney Katz, who were married in 1917, also saw all three of their daughters move away.[129] Leo Katz, a brother of Sidney, too chose not to not remain in Chillicothe for long. Older more-established Jewish families were also vanishing from Chillicothe. By 1935 only William and Carrie Sulzbacher remained from their family. Their other siblings had scattered to cities including Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, Marietta, Minneapolis, and Rome, Georgia over the years. Carrie was married to Charles Erdmann; a local businessman and member of the First Presbyterian Church and William had become a notable pharmacist in town. Both siblings died in the 1940s. William had no children, but he devoted significant energies to the Ross County Welfare Association. He would serve several terms as the organization’s president during his lifetime. At William’s funeral, Reverend Harold Weir of the First Presbyterian Church officiated.[130]

Two Jewish families that continued to grow in Ross County were the Schachnes and Segals. Of Moritz’s and Bertha’s seven children, four would grow up at least partially in Chillicothe. From these siblings, two would stay in town for most of their adult lives. Julius, the youngest son never married, and he spent a few of his early working years in Ashland, Kentucky.[131] After returning to Chillicothe in 1909 he began working with his father and older brother, Richard. It was at this time that the family store became known as M. Schachne & Sons. Richard would serve as a director of the Chamber of Commerce for over thirty years, and he was an early member of Rotary. It was also under Richard that the Schachne store expanded to have a presence on both Paint and Main streets. Richard married Rose Peavy, a native of New Jersey, on September 03, 1901, in New York City. The couple had three children, Isaac, also known as Peavy, Maurice and Richard Jr.[132] All would work at the Schachne store as adults. Richard Jr. would also serve as president of the City Council in the mid-1950s and Mayor of Chillicothe in the mid-1960s. Maurice worked at Schachne’s for over forty years until the store closed in 1979 and he was active on the boards of Community Chest and the YMCA. Community Chest would later be known as United Way of Ross County. In 1937 Maurice married Kathryn Yost. The ceremony was performed by Rabbi Harry Margolis, the husband of Clara Brunner.[133] Isaac, who would live to be 105, was active in numerous civic organizations, including the Retail Merchants Association and Kiwanis, in addition to his work at Schachne’s. He was married to Margaret Dimity in 1932 and passed away in 2010.[134]   

The Schachne family was also joined in 1905 by Siegfried Schachne, a relative from New York. Siegfried was married to Esther Peavy, who was herself likely related to Rose Peavy Schachne. The Peavys were at the time a wealthy family in New York City that was involved in the wholesale clothing business.[135] Once in Chillicothe, Siegfried and Esther opened the Globe Furniture Company, which was originally located in the Masonic Building on Main Street. The couple brought with them their young daughter, Ruth. In 1918 Ruth married Mortimer Friedman, a recent graduate of Ohio State University. Mortimer worked at his in-law’s store and eventually came to become an owner of the company. Mortimer and Ruth had three sons and a daughter. Their daughter, Dorothy moved away from Chillicothe while their sons remained. Each would be involved in maintaining the Globe Furniture Company, which continues to exist in Chillicothe as of 2021. By the 1980s, the Friedman brothers, Donald, Herbert, and Kenneth seem to have joined the local Presbyterian Church with their families.

Note has already been made of the children of Max and Rebecca Segal who left Chillicothe, but little has been said about those who remained in Ross County. Both Frances and Minnie Segal remained unmarried throughout their lives and they were active in helping to manage the family’s business interests. Frances is also known to have volunteered with the Ross County Welfare Association. Sam Segal, the oldest brother in the family, was the individual most responsible for expanding the family’s business activities beyond the Segal & Sons scrapyard. In the early 1920s, Sam was involved in creating the Segal-Schadel Company, which produced paper products. By the mid-1940s Segal-Schadel became a part of the Mead Corporation, and it produced items such as address books, diaries, and notebooks. Sam served as president of Segal-Schadel even after its acquisition by Mead. Sam also volunteered time with the Red Cross, where he served as director, the Rotary, and the Salvation Army. Additionally, he was active with the Ross County Agricultural Association, Society for Crippled Children, and a supporter of Congregation B’nai Israel in Lancaster.[136] During the 1930s he served on City Council and was Chillicothe’s Safety Director from 1936 to 1937. Anna and Sam Segal had one daughter, Louise who was born in 1913. The second-oldest brother in the family, Ben also established a new local business called the Chillicothe Hardware Company. In his personal time, he served as president of the YMCA and vice president of the Council of Social Agencies and Tuberculosis Association. Other organizations Ben held leadership positions in included the American Legion and Kiwanis. Like his sisters, Frances and Minnie, Ben never married.[137]   


Much like the greater portion of the 1800s, the general absence of Jewish communal life in Chillicothe does not mean the absence of Jewish residents. Since the late 1930s new Jewish denizens have occasionally moved into Ross County. Some have also raised families locally. There are various reasons why Jews continue to maintain a modest presence locally. Some, such as Philip Cohen and Roberta Wasserman, arrived to work at the VA Medical Center.[138] Others, including Max Ratner and David Tennenbaum, have worked at the United States Industrial Reformatory and its successors, the Chillicothe and Ross correctional institutions.[139] Ross County’s penitentiaries have also generally included small numbers of Jews. In 1930, 11 out of the 490 persons at the Chillicothe Reformatory were Jewish.[140] Ten years later, a seder was organized at the institution for Jewish inmates.[141] By 1980 it was estimated that eight Jews were incarcerated.[142] It is likely that a small number of Jewish inmates continue to be included within the contemporary prison population.  

In town, several medical professionals have been Jews over the years. These include Elmer Engelman, who was in Chillicothe during the 1940s and early 1950s, Irving Gordon, who had a dental practice in town around 1950 and Steven Fleischer. Steven had a particularly notable career in Chillicothe as a pediatrician for 54 years. In 2009 Steven retired, but the practice he helped to create continues.[143] Steven and Naomi Fleischer also raised their family in Chillicothe. Jewish entrepreneurs have also continued to start businesses in Ross County over the decades. These establishments have included Goodman’s, The Fashion, which was owned by Norman and Mollie Goldberg, and The Boston Store, owned by Julius and Helen Silverman.[144]

Chillicothe’s last recorded Jewish communal activity took place in 1946 when a charity dinner was organized to support the United Jewish Fund. Edwin Goodman served as chairman for the event and an attendance of 25 people was prepared for.[145] Rabbis have also continued to visit Ross County to provide pastoral care and officiate at religious services for both patients at the VA Medical Center and permanent residents of Ross County. By 1981 it was estimated just four Jewish families lived in Chillicothe.[146] In the first two decades of the 21st century, Jews have continued to reside in Chillicothe in small numbers. These individuals help to contribute to the overall Ross County community. Additionally, on a micro level Chillicothe’s Jewish population over the past two centuries has also experienced many of the same changes and events that have shaped larger Jewish communities across Ohio. The history of Chillicothe’s Jewish families provides one significant lens through which to view both Chillicothe’s history and the overall Jewish experience in Ohio.


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[1] “50 Years on Paint Street: The Memoirs of E.S. Wenis,” Chillicothe Scioto Gazette, January 6, 1939.

[2] Jane Kaufman, “Unraveling Mysteries of Central Ohio’s Early Jews Requires Eying Threads Carefully,” Columbus Jewish News, July 31, 2019,

[3] Beverly Gray, “Records of Negroes in Ross County, Ohio, Before 1818,” Lest We Forget, Hampton University, 2020,

[4] Rich Cohen, “The Black Cohens,” Tablet, February 25, 2020,

[5] Marc L. Raphael, “The Early Jews of Columbus, Ohio: A Study in Economic Mobility, 1850 - 1880,” in American Jewish History: Volume 2 Central European Jews in America, 1840 -1880, Jeffrey S. Gurock (New York: Routledge, 1998), 450.

[6] “Early Jewish Settlement in Charlottesville,” University of Virginia Library, 2020,

[7] “Tucker Isaacs,” Ohio History Central, accessed December 29, 2020,

[8] “Tucker Isaacs,” Monticello, accessed December 29, 2020,

[9] Ibid.

[10] Jonathan D. Sarna, “A Sort of Paradise for the Hebrews: The Lofty Vision of Cincinnati Jews,” in Ethnic Diversity and Civic Identity, Henry D. Shapiro and Jonathan D. Sarna (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 138.

[11] “Death of Mr. Henry Sulzbacher,” Chillicothe Advertiser, June 20, 1890.

[12] Edwin Wenis, “Quaint Tales of Old Chillicothe: The Reliance Fire Co,” Scioto Gazette (Chillicothe), June 4, 1936.

[13] “The End Comes to Mrs. Sarah Strauss, a True Woman of Israel,” Scioto Gazette, July 24, 1903.

[14] Daily Scioto Gazette, February 18, 1902, p 4.

[15] “Miss Rosa Strauss Dead,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, January 21, 1897.

[16] Edwin Wenis, “Quaint Tales of Old Chillicothe: The Harrison Guards,” Scioto Gazette, February 21, 1936.

[17] “A Long Journey,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, July 15, 1896.

[18] “Joseph Guiterman,” Find A Grave, 2020,

[19] Katherine Fisher, “1852 Brought the First Locomotive to Chillicothe,” Scioto Gazette, May 7, 1938.

[20] Edwin Wenis, “The Savage Crops,” Scioto Gazette, September 23, 1935.

[21] “Made a Good Haul,” Daily Scioto Gazette, January 14, 1901.

[22] “The Cone-Buchen Wedding,” Chillicothe Advertiser, March 7, 1884.

[23] “Brother Members of Tecumseh Lodge,” Scioto Gazette, August 18, 1909.

[24] Obituary of Mrs. Henrietta Hecht, Daily Scioto Gazette, October 6, 1917.

[25] “Death of Miss. Hecht,” Daily Scioto Gazette, January 4, 1904.

[26] “Fortune Left by Alfred A. Hecht,” Chillicothe Scioto Gazette, February 16, 1935.

[27] Obituary of Morris Epstein, Scioto Gazette, November 18, 1932.

[28]  “Remains of Samuel Epstine Taken to Cincinnati, Ohio,” Scioto Gazette, April 17, 1913.

[29] “Guests from the Queen City,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, August 9, 1897.

[30] “Death of Louis Epstein,” Scioto Gazette, July 9, 1900.

[31] “Letters From the Absent Living Ones,” Scioto Gazette, December 1, 1908.

[32], U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[33] “A Lively Argument,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, May 12, 1896.

[34] “A Family Affair,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, April 6, 1893.

[35] “Strong Love did His Reason Blind,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, February 1, 1896.

[36] “A Quiet Wedding,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, June 23, 1897.

[37] “Moses Bottigheimer’s Death,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, September 11, 1897.

[38], U.S., City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line].

[39] Circleville Democrat and Watchman, p 2, December 3, 1875.

[40] Obituary of David Feldman, Scioto Gazette, March 11, 1911.

[41] Obituary of Maurice Feldman, Scioto Gazette, May 14, 1928.

[42] “Young People to Hold Church Praise Service,” Scioto Gazette, November 18, 1931.

[43] American Israelite, p 6, April 27, 1893.

[44] “Remembering David Fyffe,” Beth Chayim Chadashim, May 13, 2015,

[45] The American Israelite, July 21, 1882, p 22.

[46] Obituary of Mrs. Pauline Levy, Daily Scioto Gazette, January 10, 1916.

[47] Obituary of Louis Levy, Scioto Gazette, June 6, 1927.

[48] “Mr. Ben Aarons, Merchant Dies,” Scioto Gazette, November 25, 1935.

[49] “Myer Cohn Succumbs to Second Attack of Angina,” Scioto Gazette, January 29, 1927.

[50] “Schachne’s in Celebration of Store’s 75th Birthday,” Chillicothe Gazette, May 31, 1962.

[51] Obituary of Mrs. Bertha Schachne, Daily Scioto Gazette, March 17, 1916.

[52]  “Schachne’s in Celebration of Store’s 75th Birthday,” Chillicothe Gazette.

[53]  “Jews Hold Religious Services in I.O.O.F. Hall,” Scioto Gazette, November 18, 1901.

[54]  “Domestic News,” American Hebrew (New York), October 22, 1886.

[55] “A Pleasant Innovation,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, November 2, 1893.

[56] “Funeral of Mrs. Bergman,” Scioto Gazette, December 4, 1936.

[57] “E.L. Bergman Succumbs in Cumberland Hospital,” Chillicothe Gazette, October 9, 1943.

[58] Obituary of May Bergman, Daily Scioto Gazette, June 15, 1923.

[59] Obituary of Belle Bergman, Jewish Review and Observer (Cleveland), December 22, 1944.

[60]  “A Delightful Event,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, January 18, 1894.

[61]  “All From Circleville,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, May 18, 1894.

[62] “The Round Up,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, April 4, 1895.

[63] “United Under a Canopy of Roses,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, January 3, 1895.

[64] “The Golden Eagle Co.,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, January 5, 1898.

[65] “The Hand of Time,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, February 22, 1893.

[66] “The Excelsior Club,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, February 18, 1895.

[67] “A Day of Fasting,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, September 27, 1895.

[68] “How They Take French,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, January 16, 1893.

[69] “A Farewell Reception,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, October 30, 1895.

[70] “An Auxiliary Formed,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, May 11, 1895.

[71] “Domestic News,” Reform Advocate (Chicago), June 8, 1895.

[72] “A Synagogue to be Erected,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, September 10, 1894.

[73]  “Jews Hold Religious Services in I.O.O.F. Hall,” Scioto Gazette, November 18, 1901.

[74]  “The Feast of Purim,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, February 27, 1896.

[75] “A Judgement Sought,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, March 30, 1898.

[76] Obituary of Lazarus Goldstein, Daily Scioto Gazette, June 28, 1913.

[77] S. B. Goodkind, Eminent Jews of America (Toledo: The American Hebrew Biographical Company, 1918), 269.

[78] “Ben Segal Sells Scrap Business,” Chillicothe Gazette, March 30, 1956.

[79] “Henry Segal Dead at 84,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency, July 23, 1985,

[80] “Salve Atque Vale, Hail and Farewell, “ American Israelite, February 14, 1935.

[81]  “Domestic Notes,” Reform Advocate, December 14, 1901.

[82] “Plunged,” Scioto Gazette, June 6, 1914.

[83] “Speeding Tourists Came to Sad Ending Sunday Morning,” Scioto Gazette, November 14, 1910.

[84] Obituary of Mrs. Jesse Frad,” Chillicothe Gazette, October 18, 1972.

[85] “Notice of First Meeting of Creditors,” Daily Scioto Gazette, February 02, 1922.

[86] “Segal-Frad,” Daily Scioto Gazette, June 6, 1911.

[87] Obituary of Miss. Lena Frad, Scioto Gazette, October 29, 1910.

[88] “Schaengold Ex-Merchant, Dies at 60,” Chillicothe Gazette, July 09, 1952.

[89] “Jewish Ceremony,” Daily Scioto Gazette, November 3, 1900.

[90] “Master Goldstein Named,” Daily Scioto Gazette, September 10, 1906.

[91] Obituary of Max Segal, Jewish Independent (Cleveland), November 8, 1940.

[92] “B’nai B’rith,” Scioto Gazette, April 6, 1908.

[93] Herman Bernstein, “Statistics of Jews,” American Jewish Yearbook 5675 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1914), 372.

[94] Henrietta Szold, “Directory of Jewish Organizations in the United States,” The American Jewish Year Book 5668 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1907), 351.

[95] Cyrus Adler, “Directory of Local Organizations,” The American Jewish Year Book 5661 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1900), 404.

[96] “For Charity,” Chillicothe Daily Gazette, April 15, 1899.

[97] “To Observe Yom Kippur,” Scioto Gazette, September 29, 1914.

[98] “Harvest Festival Next,” Scioto Gazette, September 14, 1909.

[99] “Camp Sherman, Ohio’s WWI Soldier Factory,” National Park Service, April 18, 2020,

[100]  “B’nai B’rith Welfare Work,” Columbus Jewish Chronicle, March 29, 1918.

[101] “Hebrews in Camp Sherman not Neglected,” Scioto Gazette, September 14, 1917.

[102] “Jewish Club is Opened,” Scioto Gazette, February 8, 1918.

[103] Ibid.

[104] “Chillicothe to Have Local Lodge,” Columbus Jewish Chronicle, April 19, 1918.

[105] “B’nai B’rith Lodge in Chillicothe,” Columbus Jewish Chronicle, April 26, 1918.

[106] Ibid.

[107] Obituary of Mrs. Jesse Frad,” Chillicothe Gazette, October 18, 1972.

[108] “Welfare Board’s Building at Camp Sherman Almost Completed,” Columbus Jewish Chronicle, October 4, 1918.

[109] “Welfare Work at Camp Will End Nov. 1st,” Scioto Gazette, October 1, 1919.

[110]  “Community Seder Given by Jewish Welfare Board,” Daily Scioto Gazette, April 25, 1921.

[111] “Rabbi Kornfeld Discusses Fallacies in Process of Americanization,” Daily Scioto Gazette, March 14, 1921.

[112] Samson D. Oppenheim, The American Jewish Year Book 5679 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1918), 62.

[113] Harry Schneiderman, The American Jewish Year Book 5689 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1928), 191.

[114] “The Feast of the Purim,” Daily Scioto Gazette, March 25, 1921.

[115] “Rabbi S. Mayerberg Takes Jewish Faith Into Smaller Cities,” Ohio Jewish Chronicle (Columbus), March 31, 1922.

[116] “Jews to Celebrate Yom Kippur on Wednesday Next,” Scioto Gazette, October 3, 1924.

[117] “Tribute Paid to Memory of Laeger,” Scioto Gazette, March 6, 1933.

[118] “Louis Laeger Killed in Crash With Truck,” Scioto Gazette, December 21, 1932.

[119] “Military and Fraternal Rites for Louis Laeger,” Scioto Gazette, December 23, 1932.

[120] “Charles Sulzer is Victim of Bullet,” Chillicothe Gazette, September 28, 1937.

[121] “Mrs. Zoe Sulzer Summoned Here,” Chillicothe Gazette, May 9, 1935.

[122] “Charles Sulzer is Victim of Bullet,” Chillicothe Gazette, September 28, 1937.

[123] “Beth-El Council has Social Session,” Scioto Gazette, March 19, 1925.

[124] “Honoring Mr. and Mrs. Brackman,” Scioto Gazette, October 29, 1924.

[125] Obituary of Mrs. Nathan Frad, Scioto Gazette, November 20, 1925.

[126] “New Incorporations,” The Creamery and Milk Plant Monthly 10, no. 1 (1921): 37, accessed January 3, 2021,

[127] “Myer Cohn,” Scioto Gazette, January 29, 1927.

[128] “First Contribution to 1926 Girls’ Camp,” Scioto Gazette, September 19, 1925.

[129] “Funeral Rites at II Tuesday for Clothier,” Chillicothe Gazette, July 8, 1946.

[130] “Dr. Sulzbacher Dies: Prominent Druggist Taken at 81,” Chillicothe Gazette, April 12, 1943.

[131] “Will Return Here,” Scioto Gazette, June 7, 1909.

[132] “Dean of Local Merchants Dies; Rites Thursday,” Chillicothe Gazette, March 2, 1954.

[133] “Miss Kathryn Anne Yost Married to Mr. Maurice Schachne at Dun Glen,” Chillicothe Scioto Gazette, June 25, 1937.

[134] Obituary of Peavy Schachne, Haller Funeral Home, Crematory, & Monuments, July 26, 2010,

[135] “Mrs. Schachne’s Share in Estate, Scioto Gazette, July 18, 1914.

[136] “Sam Segal Dies After Illness of Two Months,” Chillicothe Gazette, June 10, 1946.

[137] “Ben M. Segal Dead at 85,” Chillicothe Gazette, August 7, 1978.

[138] “Biegacz-Cohen Wedding Planned Oct. 8 in Canton,” Chillicothe Gazette, July 10, 1972.

[139] “David Tennenbaum First Graduate of New OSU Program,” American Israelite, June s9, 1977.

[140] “Jewish Judge is Denounced for ‘Jewish Crime Wave’ Charges, Jewish Review and Observer (Cleveland), January 10, 1930.

[141] “U.A.H.C Brings Seder Service to the Unfortunate,” Detroit Jewish Chronicle, April 19, 1940.

[142] “Chanukah Party in Prison,” Cleveland Jewish News, December 19, 1980.

[143] “After 54 Years, Local Pediatrician Hanging up His Stethoscope,” Chillicothe Gazette, August 2, 2009.

[144] “Julius Silverman Leaving City to Make Their Home in Cincinnati,” Chillicothe Gazette, August 12, 1949.

[145] “Drive Slated for Jewish Aid,” Chillicothe Gazette, November 14, 1946.

[146] Max Schechter, “Prisoners Remembered at Passover, Cleveland Jewish News, May 8, 1981.