Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Records of Israel by Grace Aguilar, London 1844 - Copy of the Minis Family of Savanna, Ga

A London printing that fell in to my hands recently, found it's way already in the year of publication to one the most prominent Jewish families in the South.

Records of Israel.
by Grace Aguilar
Publisher: London : J. Mortimer, 1844

Contains 2 signatures of prominent American Jews, of the Minis family. Signed on title by Jacob Florance Minis and on following page by his aunt Philippa Minis, dated 1844, the year of publication, who gifted him the book

The Minis family, were original settlers of Savanna, Georgia, arriving in Savanna in 1733. When fear of Florida's Spaniards drove Sephardi Jews from Georgia in 1741, only the Minis and Sheftall families, Ashkenazi in origin remained.

"One of the first families to arrive after Oglethorpe, and proudly claiming the first true-born Georgian (the first child conceived and born in Georgia), descendants of this family continue to live in Savannah as they have for 275 years. In every generation, Minis family members have made significant contributions to the economy, the defense, the government, the culture and the to the philanthropic and religious live of the community. Author, archivist and certified genealogist Kaye Kole explores the accumulated family documents of the Minis family and brings family members to life as she traces the story of the Minis family against the broader development of our city, state and nation."

For a full length book on the Minis family, see The Minis family of Georgia, 1733-1992 by Kaye Kole.

Jacob Florance Minis (1852-1936) was born on November 12, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the eldest son of Abraham and Lavinia Florance Minis. Florance, as she was known, spent much of his childhood in Savannah, Georgia. At the age of fourteen he entered Washington College (known today as Washington and Lee University). By the fall of 1870, he decided to leave college and return to Savannah, where he became a clerk (and later partner) in his father's shipping office. Florance Minis was very active in the Savannah community. He held memberships in several clubs and was the chairman and president of several organizations, including the Commercial Bank, Merchant's National Bank, Savannah Cotton Exchange, Savannah Naval Stores Association, Georgia Historical Society, Savannah Brewing Company, and others. On June 19, 1890, Minis married Louisa Porter Gilmer (1852-1921) in London, England.

A full biography of Lavinnia Florance Minis, Jacob's mother can be read here and below is a brief biography of his father, Abraham.

Abraham Minis:

Son of Isaac Minis; born at Savannah 1820; died 1889. He was physically disqualified from serving in the field at the outbreak of the Civil war. Though disapproving of secession, he, after hostilities commenced, espoused the Confederate cause, and filled a position in the commissary's office at Savannah. He also subscribed liberally to the issue of Confederate bonds.

Here is additional information from


One who knew him best wrote of him: "From his earliest years his course was
one of duty well performed. Quiet and modest, yet firm and brave, he noted well
his part as son, brother, husband, parent, neighbor and citizen. With no
ambition but to be right, his amiable qualities made him beloved and respected
by all who knew him, while all he did was based upon strictly moral and
religious principle, unswerved by fear or favor."

   All through the dark days of the yellow fever epidemic of 1876 he, with his
eldest son, Mr. J. F. Minis, remained in Savannah doing all in his power, for
those who needed assistance, in a quiet, unostentatious way of which the world
knew nothing. His nature was one of the noblest simplicity, combined with the
utmost moral strength and a deep sense of justice guided his every action.

   The affection he inspired in the humble and lowly was attested when the
longshoremen who had worked for him, as a spontaneous tribute, marched in a body
to his funeral.

   Many positions sought him. He rendered service as an alderman, acting as
mayor, during the absence of that functionary, was a director of the Southern
Bank and of the Central Railroad & Banking Company of Georgia.

   For years he devoted much of his busy life to the presidency of the Union
Society, and unbounded were his zeal and enthusiasm in behalf of this noble

   At the breaking out of the Civil war, physical disabilities rendering
military service impossible, he entered the commissary department at Savannah,
and, to help the cause, invested .a large-proportion of his means in Confederate
bonds, although he had always been apprehensive of what proved to be the result
of the desperate four years' struggle.

   On the failure of the South, he was consequently left with the most
limited resources.

   Confronted with the disheartening task of, beginning afresh his business
career, he did so with the courage displayed by the best type of the men of the
South, and the years brought their reward.

   He died in New York City, November 6th, 1889, adding another honorable record
to the family name, and was buried in Savannah.

I found it fascinating that the book reached Savanna already in the year of publication, the book being printed in London.
Much additional info can be read on Abraham Minis and other members of the family in the Jewish Encyclopedia article by Cyrus Adler, Encyclopedia Judaica and the above work by Harden.
The Abraham Minis House, built in 1860, in Savanna is currently a historical landmark.

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