The Story of the Jews Of Newport…By Morris A. Gutstein; New York, Bloch Publishing Company, 1936.
The History of the Jews of Philadelphia…Edwin Wolf 2nd and Maxwell Whiteman, Philadelphia, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1956 and 1975
The Seixas family established themselves as an important part of early American society. Abraham Mendes Seixas was an officer in the continental army. Benjamin Mendes Seixas was one of the founders of the New York Stock Exchange and prominent businessman. Gershom Seixas was known as “the patriotic Jewish minister of the American Revolution"; he also assisted in the founding of what would later become Columbia University.
His older brother, Moses Mendes was an important merchant who helped establish the Bank of Rhode Island. Additionally he was an important figure in the Rhode Island Jewish community, becoming president of the historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island and led the congregation's welcome for President George Washington.
On July 5, 1797, Rachel Hannah, daughter of Moses Seixas, married Naphtali Phillips. Phillips is know to have took the first copy of George Washington's farewell address that came off the press of the American Advertiser, a leading Philadelphia newspaper. In 1848 this document was placed in the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. Phillips was elected the first American born president of Mikveh Israel at the age of 25; he also helped to draft the new constitution of the synagogue. He soon returned to New York where he became president of Shearith Israel, the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue by 1816, and served for 14 terms. He was also prominent in the affairs of the Democratic Party in New York City.
This deed is a unique link between the Sexias family and naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry, who is most remembered for his heroic role in the War of 1812, and more specifically in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie. Supervising the building of a fleet at Erie, Pennsylvania against the British he earned the title, “Hero of Lake Erie” for leading the American forces in a decisive victory at the Battle of Lake Erie for which he received a gold medal from Congress.
Perry bought the property at 29 Touro Street, delineated in this document, with the idea of eventually retiring there. Unfortunately, in 1819 while commanding the frigate John Adams sailing for the Oronoco River in Venezuela in an attempt to once again discourage piracy in the Americas, he contracted yellow fever and died on August 24th, 1819, on his 34th birthday.
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