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Simon Adler, born in Bavaria in 1832 (according to his tombstone), was one of the first Jewish immigrants to settle in Batesville (Independence County). He established a successful business career, operating a general merchandise store, working as a real estate speculator and agent, and serving as a cotton broker, as well as founding his own bank. He was a popular and respected man, for census records show that he had at least a dozen namesakes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Simon Adler, along with three of his brothers, moved to Batesville to join yet another brother, Israel Adler, who had formed a business partnership in a general store with French immigrants Aaron and Samuel Hirsch. Simon Adler’s name first appears on county tax rolls in 1856, so he likely arrived in Batesville around that time.
In 1858, Hirsch, Adler & Company acquired the U.S. Mail contract and ran a four-horse stagecoach from Batesville to Jacksonport in neighboring Jackson County three times a week. Dubbed the “Colonel Noland” in honor of Batesville’s well known resident, Charles Fenton Mercer Noland, the stagecoach also had room for nine passengers.
Soon after the Civil War began, all the Hirsch and Adler family members left Batesville. Israel Adler moved to Texas, maybe even to Mexico, taking most of the partnership’s possessions—slaves, stock, and merchandise—for the duration of the war. Simon Adler is believed to have accompanied his brother.
After the war ended, Simon Adler was the only one of the Hirsch and Adler families to return to Batesville. He was back in 1866 and assumed control of all their joint enterprises, eventually acquiring full ownership of the general store and the land holdings. He was the only Jewish resident of the town for over a decade. He also became an independent cotton broker.
In 1880, Adler married Emilie Altschul of New York, New York. The couple had two children, Nathan and Ray.
Adler’s store was housed in the handsome three-story brick Batesville Institute building until it was destroyed by fire in 1880. He then acquired title to the lot and built a two-story brick building that he named Adler Hall. His general store occupied the ground floor; offices and a combination ballroom and opera hall were on the second floor.
Local tradition holds that for years Adler carried bills and notes in his hat as he strolled up and down Main Street, “banking out of his hat.” In 1891, he organized and built the People’s Savings Bank; this building, along with Adler Hall, still stand as landmarks on Batesville’s lower Main Street.
Adler died on October 5, 1904, at the home of a sister in St. Louis, Missouri. He was buried there in Mount Sinai Cemetery.
For additional information:Zilbergeld, Nancy, and Nancy Britton, “The Jewish Community in Batesville, Arkansas 1853–1977.” Independence County Chronicle 21 (April 1980): 2–32.
Nancy BrittonIndependence County Historical Society
This entry, originally published in Arkansas Biography: A Collection of Notable Lives, appears in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture in an altered form. Arkansas Biography is available from the University of Arkansas Press.
Last Updated 4/1/2011
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