Skip to main content

Minis Family Papers

 Collection
Identifier: Mss 334

Scope and Contents

The Minis family papers include letters, deeds, indentures, clippings, estate records, marriage settlements, genealogies, architectural drawings, scrapbooks, pamphlets, notebooks, and photographs. They cover the major part of three centuries and six generations of a prominent Savannah, family, give a detailed history of the family, and constitute a particularly rich historical source for the colonial, Revolutionary, and Civil War periods of Savannah history. Family connections in Philadelphia and South Carolina provide some insight into the history of those areas.

Abraham (ca. 1694-1757), a general merchant, and Abigail (1701-1794), his wife, are represented in the collection only by legal documents (i.e., no personal correspondence): indentures (land grants and deeds to tracts of land), wills and marriage settlements. Because Abigail survived Abraham by 37 years and was aggressive in her acquisition of lands, many of the land grants, including one from George III, are in her name alone.

The children of Abraham and Abigail were Leah, Esther, Philip, Minis, Joseph, Samuel, Judith, Hannah, and Sarah. Of these, only Leah (1726-1802), Minis (1736-1771), and Philip (1734-1789) are represented by papers in the collection, although there are references in some documents (especially the parents' wills) to the other children. Philip was reputed to have been the first white child conceived and born in the colony of Georgia. He was married in 1774 to Judith Polack (1745-1819) of Rhode Island, and, like his father, was a successful merchant. With one exception, the materials representing Philip Minis are all documents, including a marriage contract and a number of records relevant to Philip's involvement in the Revolutionary War and its aftermath, his mercantile interests, and his extensive activities in the Jewish congregation in Savannah. From the hand of his elder sister, Leah, however, are two original letters addressed to Mordecai Sheftall (1735-1797) at Sunbury concerning shipments of foodstuffs in early 1777, and for their brother Minis Minis, there are several records of land holdings.

The offspring of Philip and Judith Minis were Abigail, Frances, Abraham, Isaac, unnamed infant daughter, Hester, and Philippa. Included in the collection are brief records of Frances' (1776-1822) marriage and Abraham's (1778-1801) untimely death, but there are extensive records for their younger brother, Isaac (1780-1856), who became a citizen of note in Savannah. Recorded are his role as purveyor of supplies to the U.S. military and efforts to recover moneys due him; the prenuptial agreement with Dinah Cohen (1787-1874) of Georgetown, SC, prior to their marriage in 1804; his extensive dealings in Savannah real estate, including the "Constitution Hill" lands; his relationship with his children, particularly Abraham ("Abram") (1820-1889), whose power of attorney he held; and the complications attendant upon the settlement of his estate. His wife Dinah survived him by 18 years and is represented in the collection by family correspondence; by her official pardon and oath of allegiance to the U.S. government following the Civil War; and by documents relative to the administration of her complex estate.

The two individuals around whom the most numerous and historically rich materials in this collection center are the son and daughter-in-law of Isaac and Dinah, Abraham ("Abram") (1820-1889) and Lavinia (Florance) (1825-1923) Minis. Extending from the time of their engagement in October, 1850, to Abraham's death in 1889, the exchange of letters between Savannah and Philadelphia (Lavinia's childhood home and where she almost invariably summered with her and Abram's children), gives a daily account of family occurrences: births, progress, and education of their children; illnesses, treatment thereof, and deaths in the family; detailed descriptions of weddings, dinner parties, and other social events; shopping and current prices for items of clothing and household commodities; hiring, training, and supervision of servants; the social institution of calls paid and received; and family and neighborhood news and gossip.

Information, however, regarding Abram's commodity brokerage and shipping firm (particularly with regard to cotton), the economy generally, and local and national politics can also be found in this collection. This correspondence is addressed largely to business associates and competitors, and to friends such as Joseph Story Fay (1812-1897), one-time Savannah mercantilist and Abram's first employer, who eventually left Savannah to return to his native Boston. Fay in the 1860s writes tellingly of the anguish of watching the dissolution of his country and the realization that cherished Savannah friends are, at least technically, now the enemy. He includes frequent observations both before and after the Civil War (there are no letters from him for the War years) on national politics and the economy, the miserable condition of the South under Reconstruction, his and Abram's personal finances, his (Fay's) antebellum connection with the Central Railroad Company, and his and Abram's association with the Union Society and its Bethesda Orphanage. Ancillary to the above materials are correspondences from Lavinia Florance Minis' parents Jacob L. Florance (1803-1867) and Hannah Levy Florance (1806-1870) of Philadelphia; from Abram's numerous siblings and their spouses, and, rarely, from Lavinia's ("Venie's") siblings. The content of these is devoted almost entirely to family matters.

Abraham and Lavinia's children were Jacob Florance (“J.F.,” 1852-1936), Maria (1853-1941), Rosina (1855-1856), Isaac (1857-1893), Abram (1859-1939) and Lavinia Florance (1864-1944). Each is represented in the collection, several by letters to their father beginning in their childhood when they were in Philadelphia for the summer. The correspondence gives accounts of childhood illnesses, celebrations, schooling, and, in adult years, of business matters (J.F. and Isaac joined Abram in the firm, A. Minis & Sons, and Abram went into the legal profession.) In the latter connection, Abram's subseries includes many papers relative to matters of family business, his marriage in 1902 to Mabel Amelia Henry (1870-1971) of New York, and the general history of the Minis family. Abram's son, Abram Minis, Jr. (1903-1998), of the sixth generation, continued that interest, and his papers in the collection are principally reflective of that concern.

At intervals throughout the collection occur certain legal documents, usually recording land transactions. Most of these do not reveal any connection with the Minis family, but they may refer to property that later came into the family's possession. Series 2 is composed solely of letters between Abraham Minis (1820-1889) and his fiancée/wife Lavinia Florance Minis (1825-1923), with occasional enclosures from their children.

Dates

  • Majority of material found within 1756 - 1990

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

The first generation of the Minis family to come to Georgia shores was Abraham (c.1694-1757) and his wife Abigail (1701-1794) of German origins. Records indicate that the Minis family as well as the Sheftalls and one Jacob Yowell were Ashkenazim. See Malcolm H. Stern, "New Light on the Jewish Settlement of Savannah," American Jewish Historical Quarterly, LII, (March 1963), p. 177. They landed in Savannah July 11, 1733, together with a number of Sephardic Jewish families coming to the colony from Spain and Portugal after a residence in England. For complete biographical information on the family see The Minis Family of Georgia, 1733-1992, by Kaye Kole (Georgia Historical Society, 1992).

Extent

5.8 Linear Feet

Language of Materials

English

Abstract

The Minis Family was one of the first to settle in Georgia after it was founded as a British colony in 1733. They have been active in business, law, and the military in Savannah and elsewhere for nearly two hundred years. The papers in this collection include correspondence, clippings, diaries, and a prayerbook relating to the family and its history.

Arrangement

The papers are arranged chronologically by family member.

Custodial History

The Minis Family Papers are part of the Savannah Jewish Archives that were transferred from the Georgia Historical Society to the Breman Museum in 2015. They were a gift of Robert Powell Minis to the Savannah Jewish Archives in 1993.

Related Materials

Mss 394, Henry-Hendricks Family Papers

Separated Materials

Oversize materials and photographs

Processing Information

This collection was processed by L. Alexander (1993), M.J. Belanger (2002), and Lindsay Resnick (2015). Converted to ArchivesSpace by Lindsay Resnick (2020).
Title
Minis Family Papers, Mss 334
Status
Completed
Author
L. Alexander (1993), M.J. Belanger (2002), and Lindsay Resnick (2015)
Date
1993
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum Repository

Contact:
1440 Spring St. NW
Atlanta Georgia 30309 United States
678-222-3700