Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Dr. Selah Merrill (1837-1909): Clergyman; Anti-Semitic U.S. Consul to Jerusalem

Dr. Selah Merrill

Dr. Selah Merrill was a virulent anti-semite who served as U.S. Consul to Jerusalem under three American Presidents. His views were instrumental in shaping the State Department’s infamous hostility to the presence of the Jewish people in the Holy Land.

Merrill was born in Canton Centre, Connecticut on May 2, 1837 and was a member of the fifth generation of the Merrill family in America. The Merrills were descended from an old Massachusetts family and his original immigrant ancestor was Nathaniel Merrill, who was one of the earliest settlers in Newbury, Massachusetts.

After graduating from Williston Seminary in Easthampton, Massachusetts, he studied at Yale College, but did not graduate. He studied theology at the New Haven Theological Seminary, graduating in 1863, and was ordained in the Congregational Church, at Feeding Mills, Massachusetts in 1864. He spent two years in Germany at the University of Berlin where he studied the ancient Hebrew language.

He served as a chaplain of the 49th U. S. Colored Infantry, also known as the 11th Louisiana Regiment Infantry, at Vicksburg, Mississippi from 1864 until the close of the Civil War.

From 1874–1877, he worked as an arch├Žologist in Palestine for the American Palestine Exploration Society, excavating the second wall of Jerusalem and trying to determine the site of Calvary.

He was a staunch opponent of the commune at the American Colony, Jerusalem and sought every opportunity to dismantle it. He also opposed Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine. Merrill believed that the Jewish people didn't want land to colonize, but cities “where they can live on the fortunes or the misfortunes of other people.”

He also believed that there must have been some hidden justification for the persecution of the Jews in Russia, or the government would not have been so determined to get rid of them.

In 1872 and 1879, he taught at Andover Theological Seminary and became curator of the Biblical Museum there. In 1907 he served as American Consul at Georgetown, Guyana.

Merrill was the author of numerous books including, East of the Jordan, Ancient Jerusalem, Galilee in the Time of Christ, and The Site of Calvary.

He died at his sister's home in Fruitvale (now Oakland, California).

Sources: Jewish Post, Wikipedia, Find a Grave, Washington Post, NY Times

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Judge Henry Lyon Bradford (1851-1932): Newspaper editor; Attorney

Henry Bradford (Image: SF Chronicle)
Henry Lyon Bradford was born in San Francisco on June 28, 1851 and considered himself one of the first native born citizens of California born to white parents. He was educated in San Francisco and went on to study law. His grandfather William Bradford, was a passenger on the Mayflower.

He practiced law in the 1870's in Stanislaus and Mono counties before moving to the Central Valley, where he started the Modesto Strawbuck, a daily newspaper. He went on to publish the Modesto Republican, Modesto Free Press, Interior Press and the California Railroad Journal. While in Modesto, he married Mary Eva Roehrig and had two children.

In 1888, several businessmen encouraged him to move to Monterey, where he started the Monterey Cypress. The paper lasted until 1901.

At the end of the 19th century, he returned to San Francisco to practice law. Bradford, who was fluent in Spanish, dealt with many cases dealing with Mexico and Mexican land trusts. 

According to newspaper accounts, Bradford became the subject of many of Bret Harte's stories, the famous chronicler of the Gold Rush era. 

In September 1910, he married a divorced woman with two children who was 23 years his junior, a story that was significant enough at the time to warrant a news stories in the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Call.

Sources: American Newspaper Directory, Oakland Tribune,, A Memorial and Biographical History of the Coast Counties of Central California by Henry Barrows, San Francisco Call, San Francisco Chronicle