Research Note:

Further Notes on Abraham Isaak, Mennonite Anarchist

STEVEN KENT SMITH*

Readers of a 1908 edition of Emma Goldman's journal, Mother Earth,[1]  may have seen this announcement:

ATTENTION

     A few comrades in New York have started a movement for the purpose of establishing a colony, perhaps in California, where those who desire to live a country life can maintain a school for their children. . . . To make such arrangement possible, it is intended to form a village, each family or member receiving two acres of land as a lot to build their house on and dispose of them otherwise as they see fit, the rest of the land to be exploited cooperatively by those who desire to take part in the cooperation. . . . The intention is to realize this project as soon as possible, and hence the members here in New York have agreed to pay ten dollars as an initiation fee. . . . Comrades desirous to join our association are requested to write for details to A. Isaak, 1320 Teller Ave., New York.[2] 

     "A. Isaak" was Abraham Isaak (1856-1937), Russian Mennonite-turned-anarchist;[3]  acquaintance of such prominent personalities as Clarence Darrow, Jane Addams, Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman and founder and publisher of the internationally circulated anarchist newspapers the Firebrand (1895-1897)[4]  and Free Society (1897-1904).[5] 

     One year after the Mother Earth announcement, Isaak, along with several other families, founded the Aurora Colony, near Lincoln, California, approximately 30 miles northeast of Sacramento. By 1920 the colony would disband, but Isaak and his wife, Maria Dyck, would continue living on the property until their deaths. She died in 1943, and he died three years later.

     In 1991, I concluded an MQR "Research Note" on Isaak noting that almost nothing was known about his Mennonite family background or that of his wife. This report summarizes newly-discovered genealogical information and offers a somewhat more detailed overview of Isaak's life in the years before and after his participation in the short-lived Aurora Colony.

GENEALOGICAL OVERVIEW OF THE ISAAK AND DYCK FAMILIES

     Abraham Isaak was the second oldest of twelve children born to Abraham Isaak (1832-1898) and Helena Wiebe (1835-1882)[6]  in the Mennonite village of Rosenthal of the Chortitza colony (Ukraine).[7]  Abraham Sr. was the son of Jakob Isaak and Katharina Isaak. Maria Dyck (1862-1934) also came from Rosenthal. She was the oldest of four children born to Peter Gerhard Dyck (1837-1907) and Elizabeth Pries (1839-1869).[8]  Peter Gerhard Dyck, the son of Gerhard Dyck (1809-1887) and Maria Dyck (b. 1812), was mayor of Chortitza and also served as the colony's Oberschulze from 1890 until 1893.[9] 

     Little is known of Isaak's life between his birth in the fall of 1856, and his marriage to Maria Dyck in 1879.[10]  Isaak's parents were poor and it was subsequently difficult for Isaak to acquire an education.[11]  While still in Tsarist Russia, Isaak was reported to have been a Nihilist.[12]  Because their first child, Peter, had been conceived out of wedlock, Maria's father threatened to excommunicate the couple.[13]  The father apparently later relented after Abraham threatened never to return to the community. Abraham and Maria did move to Odessa, however, where he worked in a bookstore and began reading revolutionary literature.[14]  At various points in his early career, Isaak was involved in the dry goods business and in "child welfare work."[15]  He would never return to Rosenthal.

     Sometime in 1886, the couple sent their eldest son, Peter, then age of seven, to San Francisco.[16]  Three years later, as a result of his anti-Tsarist activity and his imminent arrest by the Tsarist police, Abraham fled Odessa on a ship bound for Rio de Janeiro.[17]  Maria returned to Rosenthal along with the couple's younger two children, Mary and Abe Jr. Initially, Maria's father refused to pay for the young family's fare to Rio, insisting they instead embark for the United States. Thus, the trio left for New York, and then went on to Portland to join Isaak, who had settled there following a short stint in San Francisco where he had worked as a gardener.[18] 

     It was in Portland, between 1895 and 1897, that the Isaak family published the Firebrand. It may also have been in Portland where Abraham first became an anarchist, after leaving the Socialist Labor Party when it expelled anarchists from its ranks during the First International.[19]  In late 1897, the Firebrand ceased publication after Isaak and his associates were arrested for sending "obscene" material through the mail (a Firebrand-printed copy of Walt Whitman's poem "A Woman Waits for Me"). The Isaaks then moved to San Francisco where they founded Free Society and where they also first met Emma Goldman.[20] 

     In January or February 1901, the Isaaks and the Free Society enterprise moved from San Francisco to Chicago. Pete stayed in San Francisco. It was in Chicago where the Isaaks received their greatest, national notoriety.

CHICAGO AND THE MCKINLEY ASSASSINATION

     On May 6, 1901, four months to the day before he assassinated President William McKinley, Leon Czolgosz heard Goldman speak in Cleveland. On July 12, 1901, Czolgosz attempted to visit the Free Society office in Chicago, then returned later that day and introduced himself as "Fred Nieman." Czolgosz accompanied those at the office (but not including Isaak) to a train station to see off Emma Goldman who was en route to Buffalo. The Free Society associates concluded, because of Czolgosz's repeated references to acts of violence, that he was a spy.[21] 

     Sometime in August 1901 Czolgosz, wanting to meet Isaak, made an unsolicited visit to Isaak's Chicago residence. Abraham was away, but Czolgosz found Goldman and the Isaaks' 16-year-old daughter, Mary, who, along with Goldman, were shortly to embark by train to New York to attend the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. Goldman invited Czolgosz to accompany her and Mary to the train station where Isaak was to see them off.[22] 

Isaak reported what happened next:

     When I reached the depot, I found [Goldman] talking to a strange man, who appeared about 25 years old, was well dressed and smooth shaven.... [Goldman] asked me to find out what the fellow wanted. The man made a bad impression on me from the first, and when he called me aside and asked me about the secret meetings of Chicago anarchists I was sure he was a spy. I despised the man as soon as I saw him. . . . I wanted to learn more about the stranger, so, when I went home, I asked him to accompany me. On the way to my house he asked me again and again about the secret meetings of our societies, and the impression grew on me that he was a spy. He asked me if we would give him money, and I told him no, but added that if he wanted to stay in Chicago I would help him get work. . . . He said he had been a Socialist for many years, but was looking for something more active than socialism. I was sure then that the fellow was a spy, and I wanted to search and unmask him, so I arranged with him to come to my house on the following morning for breakfast.[23] 

     Czolgosz never arrived for the scheduled breakfast. Isaak's suspicions triggered this response in Free Society:

ATTENTION:

     The attention of the comrades is called to another spy. . . . Up to the present he has made his appearance in Chicago and Cleveland. . . . His demeanor is of the usual sort, pretending to be greatly interested in the cause, asking for names or soliciting aid for acts of contemplated violence. If this same individual makes his appearance elsewhere the comrades are warned in advance, and can act accordingly.[24] 

     On September 6, 1901, while waiting in line at the Temple of Music during the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, Czolgosz shot President McKinley. Days later, McKinley died from the wounds. Secret Service officers in Buffalo wired Chicago officials to investigate the Free Society headquarters. Isaak's granddaughter, Grace Umrath, recounts what happened:

     [T]he police came to the house to arrest my grandparents [and] took them all to prison. Mother and Grandmother were released after one night, and Grandpa and Uncle Abe several days later. Mother was put in a cell with drunks and prostitutes, and it was quite a traumatic experience in her life. She always thought it made her timid-afterwards she would always lock up the house when she was alone. . . . Grandpa was very proud of the incident and loved to tell the story. Darrow offered to defend him, but he (Isaak) and his son were released.[25] 

     The Isaak women may actually have spent as many as four nights in jail, though their cases were dropped on September 10, for lack of evidence of a conspiracy to shoot the president; the Isaak men were held until September 23.[26] 

     Allen F. Davis, a biographer of Jane Addams, described the day McKinley was shot: "Officers of the Detective Bureau entered the Isaaks' apartment and arrested him and his family. They destroyed his presses and confiscated his books, including his volumes of Shakespeare, on the excuse that they were radical and dangerous literature."[27]  Settlement House worker Raymond Robins[28]  appealed to Jane Addams in an effort to free Isaak on bail. When that failed, Robins and Addams went directly to Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison Jr. to protest the arrests.[29] 

     Clarence Darrow's offer to defend Isaak may have been indirectly related to Isaak's letter to Robins, dated September 16, 1901, from the county jail, which read as follows: "Dear Sir, As I am almost unable to confer with my outside friends, I wish you would take our case in your hands; I authorize you to act... as you deem best. Sincerely yours, A. Isaak."[30]  Addams may have passed this letter along to Robins, to whom Addams wrote: "Dear Mr. Robins, Enclosed please find Mr. Isaak's letter [the sentences that follow are illegible] Hastily Yours, Jane Addams."[31]  Due, in part, to this intercession, and Isaak's earlier published warning about Czolgosz, the family was released and cleared of any conspiracy to assassinate the president. Czolgosz was executed on October 29, 1901. Historical accounts, both primary and secondary, suggest that Czolgosz acted alone. An October 13, 1901, issue of Free Society printed a retraction of the paper's earlier warning that Czolgosz was a spy.

FROM NEW YORK TO CALIFORNIA: THE AURORA COLONY[32] 

     The Isaak family stayed in Chicago printing Free Society until 1904 when they moved to New York. Thirty years later reflecting on the move, Abraham wrote: "Had we remained in San Francisco or later in Chicago, perhaps Free Society would have continued to appear, but we made the mistake to accept the invitation of a New York Free Society group-and that was the beginning of the end of Free Society. We struggled along until we were $160 in debt (for a printer) and then quit."[33]  In 1909, the Isaaks returned to California with the goal of establishing what became the Aurora Colony.

     What is known about the Aurora Colony comes almost exclusively from Paul Avrich's interviews with Isaak's granddaughter, Grace Umrath, and a handful of other secondary accounts. Isaak reportedly arrived in Lincoln, California, "as a colonization representative of Russian citizens living in Chicago and New York. He purchased [a ranch] and subdivided it, selling it to settlers, several of whom (in 1937) still live on the ranches so purchased; some have resold and returned to their homes in the East or have moved to other parts of the state."[34]  Peter, Isaak's son, acquired a farm adjacent to that of his parents.[35]  Gerald Logan, a historian from Lincoln, California, was 13 when Abraham died in 1937, but he remembers him as "very active and well-liked in the local community-as were most of the members of the colony."[36] 

     Isaak's inspiration for the colony's founding may have come from the Stelton Modern School, in Stelton, New Jersey, which members of the Isaak family frequently visited.[37]  The Stelton School, one of many inspired at the time by the Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer's Modern School movement, attempted to incorporate noncoercive pedagogical and managerial methods within educational environments.

According to his granddaughter, Grace Umrath, Isaak quickly set about to put what he had learned into practice in a new venture called the Aurora Colony:

     Grandpa [Isaak] went out to California and bought this big piece of land near Lincoln, partly with money that Grandma inherited from her family in Russia and partly from subscriptions by prospective colonists. It had a big house and fine orchards. But the members came mostly from New York, Chicago, and other cities, they had no farming experience, and their idea of an anarchist colony was sitting under a tree with fruit dropping into your mouth. . . . The land was divided up, and those who had paid in large amounts of money getting twelve acres and smaller amounts six. The members drew lots after making a numerical grid of land, and Grandpa drew a number for a good plot with a big house-called the Colony House-on it. But fearing accusations of shenanigans, he put it back, then picked a number with a plot of unimproved land. There were about thirty families in the colony.[38] 

     By 1920, however, scarcely a decade after its founding, the colony disbanded. Again, Grace Umrath's recollections provide helpful clues about the colony's demise:

     A few [of the members] were Jewish doctors and dentists, and some accused Grandfather of being high-handed and anti-Semitic- which he wasn't-during the bitterness of the breakup.[39]  Grandpa was the only real farmer, and he and Grandma did a lot of the work on the place. Grandpa, by the way, preached and practiced free love. He had affairs with all those names you mentioned.[40]  . . . At any rate, the colony broke up.[41] 

     Infighting, disillusionment and a naiveté about the rigors of agricultural life all probably contributed to the colony's demise, as did Isaak's alleged anti-Semitism, his ideological zeal, apparent sexual affairs and, perhaps, managerial inflexibility. One incident involved Isaak's refusal to lend a horse to two ladies for a visit to town. Isaak needed the horse for plowing, "and only a real farmer," Umrath wrote, "knows how important it is to get the plowing done while the ground is neither too wet nor too dry."[42]  Still, after the break-up, the Isaaks and several other families remained on the property.[43] 

     Isaak's life after the breakup of the Aurora Colony suggests a surprising inclination toward establishment activities. According to historian Logan, Isaak had been director of the local Farm Bureau, a member of the irrigation district board and the first leader, in 1934, of the Mt. Pleasant 4-H Club. In fact, Isaak was serving as Logan's 4-H clubmaster when Logan joined in 1934.[44]  Isaak had also served two terms as a director on the governing board of the Nevada Irrigation District[45]  and was elected to the Board of Water Commissioners for Placer and Nevada Counties "year after year!"[46] 

     The somewhat hagiographic obituary from the Lincoln News Messenger described Isaak as "far above the average intelligence. He was very liberal, however, willing that the other fellow have his views too. He enjoyed a good argument, but never let it cool his friendship in fact he seemed to like the man who would disagree with him. He was kind to the unfortunate and hospitable in his home."[47]  The author Allen F. Davis, described Isaak as a "thoughtful, sensitive, well-educated man."[48]  But Isaak also had traits not mentioned in the obituaries. His "violent arguments" with his oldest son, Pete, who had become a communist, could be heard on neighboring colony farms.[49]  Isaak reportedly also severed ties with Abe Jr. when Abe's son, Harvey, became a communist.[50]  Argumentative letters, on topics ranging from anarchist theories to Friedrich Nietzsche, abound in the Firebrand and in later publications.

     Isaak was also a womanizer, and as a young man was known as the "kissing bug" while still in Russia.[51]  Already in his publishing days with the Firebrand, he was preaching "free love," a practice that met with disapproval even among some anarchists, including Peter Kropotkin. "Only when a baby was on the way did he get married," recounts Umrath. "He [Isaak] practiced free love except one time when a man looked fondly at Grandma, and then he didn't practice it. In fact, he sent her on a trip to Europe with Emma Goldman to break it up. That was around 1900, and Grandma went on to Russia to visit her family."[52] 

     Isaak's argumentative temperament (reflected in both discussions with family members and the polemics in his newspapers), doctrinaire anarchist tendencies and womanizing all suggest the psychological profile of a complex man whose zeal likely contributed to both the Aurora Colony's demise and strained familial relationships. By all accounts, Isaak remained an anarchist until his death on December 10, 1937, at age 82.

     Although Isaak himself had no formal education, his descendants would become distinguished in a variety of professions. Mary (1885-1974) enrolled in medical school and worked for the lawyer Clarence Darrow. Abe Jr. (1883-1953) campaigned for presidential candidate Al Smith[53]  and later became a New Deal Democrat.[54]  Abe Jr.'s son, Elmer B. Isaac (1912-2004), was an associate of New York City urban planner Robert Moses. Another son, Harvey (b. 1916), served in the United States Navy during World War II and later entered business. One Isaak granddaughter, Dorothy Eaton (Mary's daughter), would become the youngest enrollee, at age 14, in the University of California at Berkeley; Dorothy's sister Grace Umrath became a professional dancer, served as a translator for the Nuremberg Trials, and married Heinz Umrath, a Dutch labor union representative.[55]  Isaak's great-grandson, Barry Eaton (Dorothy's son), who was educated at Berkeley, is currently a planning commissioner for Newport Beach, California.[56] 

     Apparently none of the surviving Isaak descendants identify with their Mennonite heritage. "I haven't had anyone mention or even know about my Mennonite background since I met a Catholic nun when I was doing volunteer work . . . opposing the death penalty," noted Abraham's grandson Harvey Isaak, age 89. "I did not really think of Mennonites as religious, but maybe I am wrong. As for my own religion, I would call it atheism. I also had my time as a young communist, until I returned from being in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and found the Communist Party no longer my ideal." [57] 

CONCLUSION

     In a sense, Isaak came full circle as someone who was born and died in communal settings, albeit settings of distinctly different kinds. That he left the Mennonite village of Rosenthal under a shadow of perceived sexual immorality and political agitation suggests a desire to put his religion and community of origin behind him. That he sympathetically acknowledged his Mennonite background in the pages of the Firebrand, however, suggests something from his religious past continued to shape his perspectives, even after he embraced anarchism.[58] 

     Many questions remain. What dynamics in the Russian Mennonite village of Rosenthal pointed Isaak in the direction of nihilism and political radicalism? Why did his journey to the United States take him first to Rio de Janeiro? How was life in the Aurora Colony organized? What was Isaak's view of violence? Answers to these, and many other questions, might be found in the contents of Isaak's journal, Free Society, whose contents still await careful study.

     Despite these ongoing questions, Isaak's legacy survives among those interested in early-twentieth-century anarchism and communal experiments. According to a multilingual anarchist news service, Isaak is remembered through a labor collective, formed in 2003, called "The Firebrand: A Hundred Year Hiatus, Firebrand is Back . . . With Some F-n Sass!!!'"[59]  A Portland Radical History tour, sponsored by Lewis and Clark College's political economy program, features, among other sites, the Sellwood Post Office, through which Isaak and his co-editors mailed the Firebrand.[60]  Whether a prophet or renegade, Isaak would likely be pleased with these contemporary developments.


[*] Steven Kent Smith is preparing an oral history of Gould Farm, a therapeutic community in western Massachusetts. 1. See Peter Glassgold, ed., Anarchy! : An Anthology of Emma Goldman's Mother Earth (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2001). Mother Earth, which first appeared in 1906 was, in part, Goldman's attempt to fill the literary gap with the 1904 closing of Isaak's journal, Free Society. Return to Text

[2] . Quoted in Laurence Veysey, The Communal Experience (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 239. At this time, Isaak was working at Maisel's Bookstore on New York's Lower East Side. See Paul Avrich, Anarchist Voices: An Oral History of Anarchism in America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), 483. Return to Text

[3] . Anarchism, broadly, is a socioeconomic theory based on social order independent of the dictates of church and governmental authority. For a superb introduction and overview of anarchist thought, see George Woodcock, Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements (Cleveland: World Publishing Co., 1962) and James Joll, The Anarchists (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1964). In addition to Anarchist Voices (1995) see also Avrich's Anarchist Portraits (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). Return to Text

[4] . For a history of the Firebrand, a summary of its content, and the paper's role within labor and radical circles of the Pacific Northwest, see Carlos A. Schwantes, "Free Love and Free Speech on the Pacific Northwest Frontier," Oregon Historical Quarterly, 82 (1981), 271-293. For a summary of the Isaak family's role in the paper's production and Isaak's subsequent publishing career, see Steven Kent Smith, "Abraham Isaak: The History of a Mennonite Radical," MQR, 65 (Oct. 1991), 449-455. Return to Text

[5] . I am unaware of any analysis of this paper. Return to Text

[6] . Helena Wiebe was the daughter of Jakob Wiebe and Helena Braun, whose birth and death dates have not been located. Return to Text

[7] . Much of this genealogical information comes from the California Mennonite Historical Society's Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry ("GRANDMA"). I am grateful to genealogist Tim Janzen, Portland, Ore., and archivist John D. Thiesen, Bethel College, for their assistance with both genealogical data and insights into the Isaak and Dyck families. I also relied primarily on Paul Avrich's interviews with two Isaak grandchildren, Grace Umrath and Elmer B. Isaak, for both genealogical and more recent family history. Isaak family data found independent of these interviews mostly corroborates Avrich's findings. Conversations and correspondence with Isaak grandson, Harvey Isaak, Ramsey, N.J., and a great-grandson, Barry Eaton, Newport Beach, Calif., were invaluable. Return to Text

[8] . Elizabeth Pries was the daughter of Gerhard Gerhard Pries and Katarina Neufeld. Maria's sister, Katharina (1865-1924), married Johann Penner (b. 1864); Barry Eaton has a photograph of the couple. Return to Text

[9] . The latter Gerhard Dyck was the son of Gerhard Dyck (1789-1867) and Maria (b. 1792). See also Avrich's interview with Grace Umrath, who described her grandmother's (Mary Dyck Isaak's) father as "the religious leader of the community." Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 24. Return to Text

[10] . Isaak's obituary notes an Oct. 4, 1856, birth date; the GRANDMA database, however, records it as Sept. 23, 1856. This discrepancy likely reflects the difference between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, the former used by those within the Tsarist Empire and then converted to the latter calendar upon immigrating. I thank Tim Janzen for this insight. Return to Text

[11] . Harry Kelly's obituary of Abraham Isaak appeared in the San Francisco anarchist journal MAN 6:12 (Dec. 1938). A prominent early-twentieth-century anarchist publisher, Kelly helped organize the Ferrer Modern School in Stelton, N.J. Return to Text

[12] . Nihilism in Russia was a loosely organized revolutionary movement of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries that rejected the authority of the state, church and family. See The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/nihilism.html; accessed June 1, 2005. Return to Text

[13] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 24. Return to Text

[14] . Ibid., 27. Return to Text

[15] . Isaak obituary, Lincoln News Messenger, Dec. 16, 1937. I have not seen any other references to Isaak's involvement in dry goods or child welfare work. Return to Text

[16] . 1900 San Francisco Census. A 7 year-old traveling without family begs the question: with whom, if anybody, did Peter travel? Return to Text

[17] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 24, 27. The only GRANDMA reference note for Isaak, "Ausgewandert nach Amerika," suggests Isaak's destination as the United States. It is unclear why Isaak first landed in Rio. Return to Text

[18] . Marshall Everett, Complete Life of William McKinley and the Story of His Assassination (Memorial Edition, 1901), 88; Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 24. Return to Text

[19] . The First International, founded in 1864, was a federation of various radical political parties. Return to Text

[20] . Smith, "Abraham Isaak," 449. The United States District Court, Portland, Ore., dismissed the Firebrand case in June 1898. Return to Text

[21] . Everett, Complete Life of William McKinley, 88; Everett apparently interviewed both Isaak and Emma Goldman following McKinley's assassination. For a chronology drawn from Emma Goldman's Living My Life, see http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/siteindex.html; accessed May 5, 2005. Return to Text

[22] . Ibid. See also Everett, Complete Life of William McKinley, 81. Return to Text

[23]  Everett, Complete Life of William McKinley, 84. Return to Text

[24]  Free Society, Sept. 1, 1901, as quoted in Everett, Complete Life of William McKinley, 87. Return to Text

[25] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 25. Return to Text

[26] . See: http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/siteindex.html; accessed May 5, 2005. Return to Text

[27] . Allen F. Davis, American Heroine: The Life and Legend of Jane Addams (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973), 117. Return to Text

[28] . Raymond Robins (1873-1954) was a lawyer, social worker, lecturer, politician and supporter of Addams's Settlement House project. See http://library.nyu.edu/collections/-archives.html; accessed May 5, 2005. Return to Text

[29] . Davis, American Heroine, 117. See also Eric Rauchway, Murdering McKinley: the Making of Theodore Roosevelt's America (New York: Hill and Wang), 100-105. Return to Text

[30] . Used with permission from Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University. Return to Text

[31] . Ibid. That Addams's letter was dated four days before Isaak's letter to Robins may suggest chronological inconsistency, if Addams acquired this same letter. Return to Text

[32] . Isaak's Aurora Colony had no historical ties with Dr. William Keil's utopian-religious Aurora Colony (1856-1883) located near Portland, Ore. See Charles Nordhoff, The Communistic Societies of the United States (New York: Schocken Books, 1965 [First Published 1875]), 305-323. See also http://www.auroracolonymuseums.com/History.html; accessed June 14, 2005. For a description of late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century communal experiments in California, see Robert V. Hine, California's Utopian Colonies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). Hine's book, however, does not refer to Isaak's Aurora Colony. Return to Text

[33] . Marcus Graham obituary of Mary Dyck Isaak, MAN! 2:6-7 (1934). Return to Text

[34] . Abraham Isaak obituary, Lincoln Daily Messenger, Dec. 16, 1937. I thank Shoni Jones of the Messenger for making this obituary available. Return to Text

[35] . Elmer Isaak letter to Barry Eaton, Apr. 27, 1999. I thank Mr. Eaton for making this and other correspondence available. Return to Text

[36] . Logan letter to author, June 2, 2004. Return to Text

[37] . Isaak's grandson Elmer, for example, visited there on "vacation" as a 5 year old.-Isaak letter to Eaton, Apr. 27, 1999. Return to Text

[38] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 26. Attempts to identify living descendants of the Aurora colonists have been unsuccessful. As for the colony's farming endeavors, Logan's mother reportedly did not believe that any of the colonists "farmed seriously enough to have totally supported themselves. . . ."-Logan letter to author, June 17, 2004. Return to Text

[39] . In an unpublished letter to Paul Avrich, Umrath earlier denied Isaak's alleged anti-Semitism: "I know that there were many things that Grandpa could be criticized for-but I'm sure that anti-Semitism wasn't one of them! Any one who was so strongly against discrimination of any kind-and especially racial discrimination-could NOT have been anti-S! [sic]. All my life most of our friends have been Jewish-and still are. And all of my cousins were half Jewish! Not that Grandpa picked his own daughters-in-law. But it wouldn't have been so likely to happen twice, had the family been raised in an anti-S. [sic] atmosphere."-Letter from Umrath to Avrich, Dec. 6, 1984. Used with permission. Return to Text

[40] . It is unclear, even within the context of the interview, to whom Umrath is referring. Return to Text

[41] . Umrath revealing more on the discord: "When people are sensitive about their race, religion, color or a crooked leg, they are apt to ascribe every imagined slight to that. And certainly there were almost violent arguments in the 'Colony' before it broke up, and I can even imagine that some hard words fell. . . . And whatever else they were, they were certainly not farmers."-Umrath letter to Avrich, 1984. Return to Text

[42] . Ibid. Return to Text

[43] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 28. Return to Text

[44] . Logan letter to author, June 2, 2004. Return to Text

[45] . Lincoln News Messenger, Dec. 16, 1937. Return to Text

[46] . Kelly obituary. Return to Text

[47] . Lincoln News Messenger, Dec. 16, 1937. Return to Text

[48] . Davis, American Heroine, 117. Return to Text

[49] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 27. Return to Text

[50] . Ibid. Harvey Isaak: "I was surprised and disappointed . . . to read that he [Isaak] was unhappy about my becoming a young communist. He never spoke to me about it, and was always very good to me."-Letter to author, July 26, 2004. Return to Text

[51] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 26. Return to Text

[52] . Ibid. This story seems to be corroborated by Emma Goldman in her autobiography, Living My Life (New York: De Capo Press, 1970), vol. 1, chap. 20. In addition, Umrath related this story to Avrich about a flirtatious Abraham Isaak: "One of Grandpa's favorite stories was about an incident in the NY subway. Two pretty young women came in, and one of them took the only vacant seat-next to Grandpa. He gallantly got up and gave his seat to the other gal. They sized him up and began discussing him-in Russian. He enjoyed that for a while; then made a fresh remark of his own in Russian. Thereupon they changed to Yiddish-giggling and saying all sorts of things. Again Grandpa took it in for a while-and finally made an even more daring remark-in Yiddish. For a moment, they were flabbergasted. Then, still giggling, they got up and left the train."-Letter from Grace Umrath to Paul Avrich, 1984. Return to Text

[53] . Harvey Isaak letters to author: July 26 and Aug. 9, 2004. It is unclear whether Harvey Isaak was referring to Smith's 1924, 1928 or 1932 bids for the Democratic presidential nomination. Return to Text

[54] . Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 28. The couple's oldest son, Peter (1881-c. 1945), seems to have maintained his anarchist, then later communist, principles throughout his life. Return to Text

[55] . I thank Frank de Winter, Umrath's nephew, for this information. See also Avrich, Anarchist Voices, 23-28. Return to Text

[56] . Mr. Eaton's daughter recently established a wholesale insurance brokerage company, the first woman in California to do so. I am indebted to Barry Eaton, of Newport Beach, Calif., for providing access to Isaak and Dyck family photographs and documents during my April 2005 visit to Newport Beach. Return to Text

[57] . Letter to author, July 22, 2004. The oldest great-great-grandchild, then age 15, asked during my visit with the Eatons in California: "What are Mennonites?" Return to Text

[58] . Isaak wrote: "I was born and raised in a community of Mennonites in Russia . . . whose religion was against civil laws. . . . These people had been persecuted . . . and were considered as the lawless, just as the anarchists are today."-Firebrand, Mar. 8, 1896. Jacques Ellul's strained analysis in Anarchy and Christianity (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991 [1988]) attempts to establish a nexus between anarchism and Christianity with, curiously, no mention of Anabaptism. See also Karl Kautsky, Communism in Central Europe in the Time of the Reformation (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1966 [org. pub. 1897]), especially chap. 5. This analysis of the Anabaptist movement as a prototype of nineteenth-century political radicalism may be the only scholarly work to do so. Note that Kautsky, a late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century publisher and leader within the German Social Democratic Party, was not an anarchist. Return to Text

[59] . See http://www.ainfos.ca/ainfos336/ainfos11536.html; accessed May 5, 2005. Return to Text

[60] . See www.lclark.edu/~polyecon/bike%20tour.html; accessed May 5, 2005. 98 The Mennonite Quarterly Review 93 Abraham Isaak, Mennonite Anarchist 83 MQR 80 (January 2006)