Charles A. Greenberg, Jewish Merchant Pioneer of Republic, Washington

Charles A. Greenberg

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Charles Greenberg was born Chaim Avrum Minalow in Belz (Bessarabia) in 1858.

He was educated in Russia and spoke five languages: Yiddish, Romanian, Polish, Russian and German.

Charles Greenberg worked for his uncle as a grain broker.

 

In the 1880s, Charles Greenberg came to the United States with his wife and two brothers of his four siblings.

They had changed their name to Greenberg in order to avoid being drafted into the Russian army.

 

Along the way . . .

In New York, Charles Greenberg worked as a peddler, selling household items such as needles and thread.

This job allowed him to study English, learning from his interaction with his clients.

Charles Greenberg then moved to Neceedah, Wisconsin with his wife, Annie (Neé Hannah) (b. 1869) and his brothers, William and Benjamin.   He and his brothers established a mercantile business there.

 

In 1896, gold was discovered in Republic, Washington.  Soon afterward, Charles Greenberg headed west by stagecoach, leaving his family in Neceedah, Wisconsin.

 

Republic, Washington on the Map

Republic, Washington on the Map

Business

In 1900, Charles Greenberg set up a dry goods store over a bakery in Republic, with credit established by the Spokane Dry Goods Company.

He sold clothing and miners’ equipment to the men working at the Knob Hill Mine and in “Eureka Gulch.”

 

A few years later, Annie Greenberg  and the children joined him in Republic.

Charles Greenberg built a five bedroom house for his family, complete with sitting room, parlor, kitchen, attached bathroom with a bathtub and a hot water tank attached to the stove.

The cellar was well-stocked with canned fruits and vegetables that local farmers traded with Greenberg in exchange for the dry goods that his store carried.

The family also had a sizeable orchard with pear, plum, apple, crabapple and cherry trees, gooseberry and current bushes.  They raised chickens, horses and milk cows.

 

Community

In 1906, in order to bring Jewish settlers to Republic, Charles Greenberg advertised in Yiddish-language newspapers such as Tageblatt.

He also corresponded with Rabbi Stephen Wise and Baron de Hirsch.

In 1909, Republic Jews celebrated their first wedding – for William Tolmatsky and Fini Steinberg.   Since the community lacked an official Rabbi, Charles Greenberg performed the ceremony as a lay clergyman.

 

Around 1914, a second wave of settlers arrived in Republic from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.

This marked the arrival of Rabbi J. Abramowitz. 

He incorporated the settlers’ farmland and called it “The Ferry County Farming and Stock Raising Company.” 

Charles Greenberg was among the shareholders, building homes for both the Rabbi and Sam Romanoff, the dairy farm’s manager.

 

In 1915, Republic held its first High Holiday services with Rabbi Abramowitz presiding.

By 1916, the Ferry County Company was dissolved due to the difficult conditions of the Republic land and the inexperience of the colonists.

Charles Greenberg was the third Jew to arrive and the last to leave Republic, Washington.

An 1800's mine in Republic, Washington

An 1800’s mine in Republic, Washington

 

Family 

Charles and Annie Greenberg had ten children.

Born in Wisconsin were Joe, Mose (1889-1946), Emma, David, Harris (1894-1972), Charles and Esther.

Born in Washington were Nathan, Walter and Pearl.

 

Charles Greenberg died in 1936 in Spokane.

Annie Greenberg died in 1910.

They are buried at Mount Nebo Cemetery in Spokane, Washington.

 

For more information see Western States Jewish History:

  • Republic, Washington: A Jewish Settlement in the Small Towns of Washington State, 1898 – 1936. by Meta Buttnick & Julia Niebuhr Eulenberg, Vol. XXXVI, #4

Samantha Silver is our Curator for this Charles Greenberg Virtual Exhibit.