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The Harris Newmark Family

By John Newmark Levi, Jr.

Copyright © 2003. All Rights Reserved

 

 

I am a fifth generation Los Angeleno. My great great grandfather, Harris Newmark, came to Los Angeles from Prussia in 1853. He was 19 years old and spoke only German. He left Europe in April of 1853 and arrived in New York in August. Having decided to come to California, he set out in September 1853 by ship from New York city to Nicaragua. He crossed that land by foot and mule then took a ship up the west coast to California, arriving in San Francisco on October 16, 1853. He then boarded a sailing vessel, the steamer Goliath, and reached San Pedro on October 21st, almost six months to the day from when he left his native land.

 

Harris went to work for his brother, Joseph Phillipp Newmark, who had come to Los Angeles in 1852 and bought out a local merchant. Harris and J.P. would be partners in various enterprises over the next 40 years. In 1856, Harris became engaged to his first cousin, Sarah Newmark, the daughter of his uncle, Joseph Newmark. There were few Jewish families in Los Angeles, but it was unusual to have an uncle who was also your father-in-law.

 

Harris and Sarah married and had eleven children, six of whom lived past their early years. One of them was Estelle Newmark, who married Leon Loeb in 1879. She was my great grandmother and had Edwin, Joseph and Rose Loeb (my grandmother). The well-known, and still existing, Los Angeles law firm of Loeb & Loeb was founded by my two great uncles, Edwin J. and Joseph P. Loeb.

Rose Loeb (b. 1881) married my grandfather, Herman Levi (b. 1870, Stuttgart), one of the original founders of the Capitol Milling Co. in 1883. Located about a mile north of the civic center across from the new Chinatown, Capitol Milling provided Los Angeles with flour for many decades.

 

Harris Newmark was not formally educated, but he taught himself three languages (English, Spanish and Chinese) over the many years he was a merchant and entrepreneur. He became involved in local politics and associated with many of the great early pioneers in the area. He knew, for example, Phineas Banning, William Mulholland, Isaac Lankershim, Isaac Van Nuys and Pio Pico.

 

Towards the end of his life, Harris Newmark wrote Sixty Years in Southern California, first published in 1916. This large, well-indexed volume details many incidents in local history and is still in print. Harris was a man of many talents and was most instrumental in forming the Jewish community in early Los Angeles, including charities such as the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Jewish Orphans Home and the first synagogue, Congregation B’nai Brith. The latter continues to this day as Wilshire Boulevard Temple.

 

Today, my great grandson, Taylor, is the eighth generation of the Harris Newmark family to live in Southern California. The Newmarks married into many of the other older Jewish families in Los Angeles. They were prominently featured in a recent exhibition of Jews of the West at the Gene Autry Museum of the Western Heritage.

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