return to Home page Simson Thorman - A Time Line  
  Cleveland's first Jewish settler and longtime leader
1811- 1881

Some historical background

From 1800-1850 Jews from German-speaking Central European locales such as Bavaria and Hesse were our main Jewish immigration. Families came for a better life. Single young men came for economic opportunity, freedom from restrictions on marriage (to limit population growth, many governments allowed only the oldest son in a family to marry) and for some, political liberty. Unmarried Jewish women would come, often with relatives, for in their home towns there were now fewer eligible single men, and the dowry custom meant that many would never find a worthy  husband -- except in a new world where dowries weren't expected.

Helped by the fact that America had welcomed German speakers since colonial times and that, after English,  German was our most widely used language, they soon became an integral part of the developing Midwest.

From a young man in the Bavarian village of Unsleben earning a bare living weaving wool socks, to founding our Jewish community, being head of a large and important family, a community leader and a successful businessman in fur, hides, textiles and retail dry-goods. Simson Thorman's life trajectory is remarkable.


Primary source: his page in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

      1811 Born in Unsleben Bavaria
ca 1828 arrives in US
1832 Visit Cleveland, buys land at Erie and Woodland
1833-1837 Missouri Trapper (fur trader)
1837 Returns to Cleveland. Lives in Flats
1839 Writes to family, friends in Unsleben, Bavaria where 19, including Raichel Klein, led by Moses Alsbacher, leave for New York.
June-July  1839 ST Leaves for NYC to meet Alsbacher Party
Returns here with 15.
1839 Israelitic Society (IS) formed. ST is president
1840 Marries Regina Klein, their son Samuel is born
April 1840 ST signs IS petition to city for Jewish section of city cemetery. City says NO
Aug 8-9, 1840 IS buys Willet St Cemetery, Kanweiler buried
Aug 13, 1843 IS gets gift of land for first synagogue from Connecticut Land Company 
  Founder of Anshe Chesed Congregation (AC)
1850 ST remains a leader of Anshe Chesed after its liberal members leave to form Tifereth Israel 
1853 Founds first Cleveland B'nai Brith chapter
1865 Elected to City Council. In Guard of Honor that welcomes Abraham Lincoln funeral train
1866 With 33 other members of AC petitions to join Tifereth Israel if it will hire Rev G Cohen, spiritual leader of AC as Cantor. TI accepts. Many of our earliest settlers move to the more liberal TI.
June 12, 1881 Dies. Buried in Willet Street Cemetery. Later, their children have Simson and Regina reinterred in the family plot in Mayfield Cemetery, spelling his first name SIMPSON. 

The Thorman family in the 1850 US Census

Simson and Regina (Rachel) Thorman locket 1855

Funeral Story Plain Dealer July 15, 1881
Rabbi Aaron Hahn of Tifereth Israel officiated

Below: SIMPSON THORMAN headstone
Mayfield Cemetery. Cleveland Heights

below: Plain Dealer story by S. J. Kelly   May 17, 1938

page under development  as of June 8, 2023

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