Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Life of Mordecai Myers

Portrait of Mordecai Myers in uniform, painted ca. 1810 by John Wesley Jarvis. The original painting is in the collections of the Toledo Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. 

The life of Mordecai Myers (1776-1871) intersected with the history of Schenectady for the last 23 years of Myers' life. Before coming to Schenectady, Myers had already had a full and interesting life. In his years as a young man in New York City, he was active with the Society of Tammany and the Freemasons, served in the New York Militia, and founded a brokerage and auctioneering firm. He had also been a military hero during the War of 1812. During his service in the War of 1812, me married Charlotte Bailey, who had nursed him to health after he was wounded in battle. The couple went on to have ten children. Myers first took public office in 1828 in the New York State Legislature. He served five terms. In 1836, Myers and his family moved to Kinderhook, New York, where he would serve as the mayor and as vice president of a local bank. In 1848, Myers moved to Schenectady.

Although Myers was already 72 when he moved to Schenectady, he did not slow down. He would serve as the first -- and, to date, only -- Jewish mayor of the city, elected in 1851 as a Democrat and again in 1854 as a Whig. "He was from the start a dedicated official," writes Neil Yetwin, a local educator and historian who has researched Myers' life extensively and who has recently produced the first annotated edition of Myers’ posthumous memoirs, "whose accomplishments ranged from authorizing a physician to vaccinate Schenectady's poorer citizens to persuading New York Central Railroad President Erastus Corning to slow the speeding trains from Albany that were causing safety hazards on Schenectady's main arteries." After Myers' second mayoral term was finished, he ran for Congress, unsuccessfully, in 1860 at the age of 84. Mordecai Myers died in 1871 at the age of 95. In his will, he left a $400 bequest to the city of Schenectady toward purchasing land for a hospital. Myers was buried in Vale Cemetery.

To learn more about the life of Mordecai Myers that spanned nearly a century, join us for a lecture by Neil Yetwin this Saturday, March 29. Details are below.

Major Mordecai Myers: An American-Jewish Hero of the War of 1812 

Presented by Neil Yetwin

Date: Saturday, March 29, 2014

Time: 2:00 p.m.

Location: Schenectady County Historical Society, 32 Washington Avenue, Schenectady, NY 12305

Admission: Free and open to the public. This event is sponsored by the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities Program

In addition to speaking, Neil Yetwin will be signing and selling copies of Mordecai Myers’ posthumous memoirs, edited and annotated by Yetwin, entitled “To My Son...”: The Life and War Remembrances of Captain Mordecai Myers, 13th United States Infantry, 1812-1815.

For more information, please contact Librarian Melissa Tacke at 518-374-0263, option 3, or by email at The Schenectady County Historical Society is wheelchair accessible, with off-street parking behind the building and overflow parking next door at the YWCA.

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