Abraham Watters, Early Pioneer Synagogue Founder & Jeweler of San Francisco

Abraham Watters

Abraham WattersWS 22/3173

Abraham Watters
WS 22/3173

Values Codes – I-E-L-P

Born in the Prussian-occupied Polish town of either Popowja or Rogasen in 1809, Abraham Watters settled in England in the 1830s.

By 1837 he was in America.

In the 1840s he lived in Georgia and Missouri, and was naturalized in St. Louis in 1847.

Abraham Watters came to San Fran­cisco in 1849.




In 1850 Watters was a partner of Lewis Newfield. Their store featured jewelry and clothing and was located on Kearny be­tween Clay and Commercial.

In the mid-1850s Abraham Watters and his brother Ichel operated a hotel in Sacramento.

Abraham Watters was also involved in jewelry ventures in Guaymas, Mexico in the 1850s, and at Caracas, Venezuela in the 1860s.

In 1866 Ichel and Abraham Watters opened a jewelry business in Salt Lake City, and the latter divided his time between that city and San Francisco until 1878 when he returned to England.

He lived there until 1888 when he returned to Utah to live with his brother.




In January 1850 Watters helped organize the First Hebrew Be­nevolent Society and became its Vice-President, and, in the fall, was elected its President.

The Society established San Francisco’s first Jew­ish cemetery in April 1850 (Vallejo & Gough), which served the community until 1860.

In 1851, Abraham Watters presided over the meetings held to form a United Congregation in the Bay City, which resulted in dis­agreements that led to two Congregations in April 1851: Congregation Sherith Israel and Congregation Emanu-El.

Watters, (a Pole), became the found­ing Vice-President of Congregation Emanu-El under Abraham C. Labatt (a Sephard).

But as its membership was mainly Germanic at that time, Watters soon associated with Congregation Sherith Israel.

When Congregation Sherith Israel built a new synagogue at Post and Taylor in 1870, a number of its members decided to stay with the old 1854 Sherith Israel building on Stockton Street, and they formed a new Orthodox Congregation, Shaare Zedek, of which Abraham Waiters became its first President.




Abraham Watters attended the first meeting of a Ma­sonic Lodge in the Far West in 1849

He was active in the Masonic and Odd Fellows orders, and in the Kesher Shel Barzel (Hebrew for “Band of Iron”).

Watters had been President of the California branch of that Jewish fraternity.


Abraham Watter Tomestone, Salt Lake City, WS9/1304

Abraham Watters Tomestone, Salt Lake City, WS 9/1304

Abraham Watters died in Utah in 1893.





More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:

  • Watters, Abraham, Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part Two, M-Z, Norton Stern, 41/2

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