Samuel Sussman Snow: Early Jewish Physician, Rancher, Fur Trader, “Ditch Agent” and Farmer of Placerville, California

Samuel Sussman Snow

Dr. Samuel Sussman Snow

Dr. Samuel Sussman Snow

Values Codes I – E – H – L


Samuel Sussman Snow (Snoek or Snook) was born in 1818 in Demmin, New Prussia. His father was a rabbi.

Samuel Snow began to study medicine in France.

Then, in 1836, at the age of 18, he journeyed to America.


Along the way

In 1837, Samuel Snow arrived in New York City, where he completed his degree in medicine.

In 1849, Snow was naturalized as an American citizen.

He then headed West, where he became a fur trader in St. Croix County, Wisconsin.

Snow and his wife, Pauline, soon left St. Croix for Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he purchased a ranch of 160 acres – a standard land-grant size.

Samuel and Pauline Snow did not acclimate well to the cold weather in Iowa, so in 1850, they set out for California via covered wagon.

Due to his education and experience working with Indians, Samuel became the leader of this wagon train expedition.


California Gold Country

Three months after leaving Iowa, the Snows arrived in Pleasant Valley, California.

They took squatters’ rights on Sacramento land, which would eventually be the site of the state capitol.

Then, alone, Samuel went to Placerville to provide for the family.

Moving to nearby Dogtown, Samuel Snow opened a tent store for the miners.

His wife and son joined him there.

Paulina Snow ran a restaurant.

In 1851, Samuel bought a ranch in Iowaville, California. His brand was a Double S.

The ranch had living quarters for the family upstairs, and a store and bowling alley downstair.

Additionally, he bought a profitable mine that produced gold for the Snow family until they sold it, almost 100 years later, in 1946.

Snow Mine Entrance-Placerville,CA [1906], #WS1494

Snow Mine entrance, Placerville, CA, 1906, #WS1494

By 1860, Samuel Snow identified himself as a “ditch agent,” meaning that he had the authority to work with the allotment and distribution of water to farmers.

Dr. Snow continued his medical practice in the local area with his neighbors, local miners and Indians.



Dr. Snow was a trustee of the Placerville Hebrew Benevolent Society.

Jewish Cemetery-Placerville, CA [1970], #WS2847

Jewish Cemetery-Placerville, CA, 1970, #WS2847

He helped with the purchase of a cemetery in 1854, as well as the purchase of a lot for a synagogue, built in 1861.

Pauline Snow was Catholic by birth, but apparently adopted her husband’s religion and raised their children as Jews.

Despite a lack of available Jewish education, the Snow children maintained a Jewish identity.



Samuel Snow married Paulina Fink (1827-1882) in New York.

Paulina Snow

Paulina Snow

They had 9 children: Emanuel (1850-1925), Joseph (1851-1926), Jacob (1853-1939), Benjamin (b.1856), Caroline (AKA Carrie)(1858-1949), Herman (1861-1932), Emily (1864-1891), Jennie (1867-1867), and Charles (1868-1932).

Carrie married Rabbi Herman Davidson, of Congregation Ryhim Ahoovim in Stockton, California. [Click here for our Herman Davidson exhibit.]


Samuel Sussman Snow died in 1892.

Paulina Sussman died in 1882

Both are buried at the Jewish Pioneer Cemetery in Placerville, California.

Snows Road, running from Newtown to Camino in El Dorado County, is named for the Snow family.

Snow Ranch-Placerville ,CA [1906], #WS1492

Snow Ranch, Iowaville, CA, 1906, #WS1492

Herman Snow and Carrie Snow, Placerville,CA, #WS1487

Herman Snow and Carrie Snow, Placerville, CA,


  • Reva Clar, “Samuel Sussman Snow: A Pioneer Finds El Dorado,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 3/1.

Samantha Silver is curator of this Dr. Samuel Sussman Snow exhibit.