First Jewish Settlers

Cornwall's Jewish community is one of the oldest in Ontario. The first Jewish man known to have come to the area was Louis Ollendorf, a German Jew who immigrated in 1811 and worked as an innkeeper in Osnabruck. A few of the other early arrivals to the Cornwall area came from Germany; most were from Eastern Europe.

One of the earliest settlers was Alexander Vineberg, who came to the Cornwall area around 1860. His son Hiram arrived soon after. The family ran a grocery store. Hiram was an independent-minded young man with plenty of ambition and an unusual story. He fulfilled his ambition to become a medical doctor through studies at McGill University and then spent some seven years travelling as a doctor around the world. Another early settler was William Jacobs, who settled in Lancaster, near Cornwall, in 1864. William Jacobs' son, Samuel became a lawyer. He became an expert on Canada's railway law and eventually wrote a textbook on this subject.

Several of Cornwall's founding families grew into large clans. One example is the Miller family. Nathan and Dora Miller came to Canada from the Vilnius area of Poland around 1885. They arrived in Montreal with Nathan's older brother Jacob, who was married, but had temporarily left his family behind until he could get settled. They lived there for several years and Nathan and Dora's first two children were born in Quebec. Nathan and Jacob's youngest brother, Moses, later left with his wife for the United States, in 1886, where their first two children were born. Nathan, his brother Jacob and his family moved to Cornwall from Montreal around 1887. Jacob's wife and children joined them in 1889. Moses and his family followed suit in 1896. The family (except for their sister Rachel) was reunited when their parents and brother Abraham joined them from Poland that same year.

Probably Cornwall's most famous Jewish son was Toronto's first Jewish mayor, Nathan Phillips. His family, on both his mother's and his father's side, were early immigrants to the Cornwall area. Phillips' maternal grandparents, the Rosenblooms, had come from Lithuania to the Cornwall area, where Nathan Phillips' mother Mary was born. Mayor Phillips' father, Jacob Phillips, married Mary Rosenbloom in 1890 in Montreal.