When I visited the Lassen Historical Museum last month, I bought a little book titled The Short-Lived Explorations of Isadore Meyerowitz, by Rosaline Levenson. Knowing that Isadore was Peter Lassen’s partner, I was interested in reading the book. Ms. Levenson did an outstanding job of tracking down every possible bit of knowledge about Isadore’s life. It’s a short book though — very little is known about the man.
Isadore was either a Russian or a Polish Jew. As Levenson points out, parts of eastern Poland alternated between Polish and Russian rule, but given the spelling of his name, he was probably from a Polish area. The date of his birth and the date of his immigration are both unknown, but it is likely that he was younger than Peter Lassen, his partner.
Isadore and Peter Lassen settled in the Indian Valley of Northern California in the 1850s. There they ran a trading post and grew vegetables to sell to miners and travelers. Isadore spent seven years as the partner of Peter Lassen and like Lassen must have been of the same restless and independent nature. Some men who met him in Indian Valley in 1854 referred to him as “an intelligent Russian.” He could speak the local Indian dialect and was married to an Indian woman.
Isadore came to California in either 1848 or 1849. He was a Mason and his name appears on the roster of California Lodge No. 13 when it first met on November 17, 1849. Lassen too was a Mason, although attached to a different lodge, and the Masonic tie would have helped to form a bond between the men.
J. Goldsborough Bruff, to whom we are indebted for so much information about Gold Rush California and Lassen in particular, wrote the following about Isadore in a diary entry on November 14, 1850:
Here occurred an instance of Israelitish fraternal regard. My estimable friend Isadore went to the wagon, in which was a friend of his, a brother Israelite, whom he had previously served. He hinted to him his present situation, when the other offered him a purse of several thousand dollars, but he took only a small sum, to purchase some necessaries to carry out in the hills.
Next time: The Untimely Death of Isadore Meyerowitz