Select Lehman Miscellany

Here are some Lehman stories and accounts over the years:

Early Lehmans in Switzerland

Lehman, a Mennonite family name, originated in the Emmenthal canton of Bern in Switzerland.near Langnau, the original home of most of the Mennonite Lehman families.  There was a farm there named Lehn from which they got their name.  David L. Habegger’s 2007 book The Lehman Families of Langnau covered these Lehmans.  It detailed seven different Lehman families from the Bern canton, four of whom were connected.

Wilhelm Lehman of Affterleen near Hassli in Emmenthal is the earliest Anabaptist of the family of which they are records. He was imprisoned in October 1566 because he refused to take the oath of allegiance.  Both he and his wife testified to their faith when questioned.  Wilhelm was sentenced to death by the sword.  After eleven days of anxiously waiting for his execution, he did take the oath and was pardoned.

During the difficult times of the first two decades of the 18th century most of the Lehmans left their Emmenthal home. Some went to the Palatinate, others to Alsace or the Bishopric of Basel, and some to Pennsylvania

Lehman and Other Spellings in America

The majority arrived in America as Lehmanns.  Many became Lehmans.  And some assumed a more anglicized version of the name – Layman, which was already an established English surname in America, or Leman, Leaman or Leeman. 

Often the spelling change came from the English-speaking county clerk and could be variable.  For instance, Rudolph Lemen in York county, Pennsylvania had three sons in the 1740’s – Christian Lemen, David Lamon, and John Laymon – and these different spellings have been handed down to the present.

The table below shows the progression in the usage of some of these names in the 1840 and 1920 US censuses.


Lehman and Leaman were more found in Pennsylvania, Leman and Lehmann (the latter perhaps reflecting later arrivals) in New York, while Layman was more widely spread.

Joachim Lehman/Layman to Kentucky

At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783 Joachim Lehman - by then Joachim Layman - acquired land in Bedford county, Pennsylvania.  Thirteen years later he was able to purchase a larger landholding of 643 acres in what was then Grayson county, Kentucky.  This was frontier country at the time.  His deed was the first ever recorded in Grayson county.

In 1798, two years after the purchase, Joachim and John Storms left Pennsylvania to live on Joachim's land in Kentucky.  They journeyed by land from Pennsylvania to the junction of the Monogahela and Alleghany rivers, then down the Ohio River by flatboat to Bear Grass Creek where they stopped for a few months before navigating to Cloverport (now Breckenridge county).  Again, by land with a wagon and mule team, they passed the Falls of Rough and reached the head of Laurel Branch, about a half mile west of the Quisenbury schoolhouse, where they settled.

By the time of the 1810 Grayson county tax list, Joachim was dead.  But his sons Jacob, Adam, and Michael Layman were recorded there.

Lehman Brothers - from 1847 to 2008

The line began with Abraham Low who changed his Yiddish name Low (or Loeb) to the German Lehmann  He was a Jewish cattle drover in Franconia in north Bavaria and had three sons:  

  • Henry Lehman born Hayum Lehmann (1822-1855), the first to make it to America in 1844.  He died at a young age from yellow fever.   
  • Emanuel Lehman born Mendel Lehmann (1827-1907), who arrived in 1847.  
  • and Mayer Lehman (1830-1897), who came in 1850 and became the driving force behind the growth of Lehman Brothers in New York.   
The company succession lay with the descendants of second brother Emanuel:
  • Philip Lehman (1861-1947), who was Lehman Brothers managing partner from 1901 to 1925.
  • and his son Robert Lehman (1891-1969) who was Lehman Brothers managing partner from 1925 to 1969.
Mayer Lehman’s sons, however, distinguished themselves in other fields:  
  • Sigmund Lehman (1859-1930), one of the founders of Montefiore Hospital   
  • Arthur Lehman (1873-1936), co-founder of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies and the Museum of the City of New York   
  • Irving Lehman (1876-1945), Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals   
  • and Herbert Lehman (1878-1963) who served as both Governor and Senator for New York.  
This family has been commemorated in a 2007 book entitled Lots of Lehmans: The Family of Mayer Lehman of Lehman Brothers, which gives an anecdotal history from various Lehman family members.  Mayer Lehman's descendants today number some 600.

These Lehmans were in their prime immortalized in Our Crowd, Stephen Birmingham’s history of New York’s prominent German Jews.  The society Birmingham depicted was solemn, cloistered and perfectly groomed, walled off from both the WASP upper crust that rejected Jews and the Jewish hoi polloi.  Mayer Lehman's wife Babette, the matriarch of the family, insisted that her children visit her daily at her Upper East Side home.

But the Lehmans are not what they were.  They relinquished their hold on Lehman Brothers in 1969 and the company crashed in 2008.  Wendy Lehman Lash, a great grand-daughter of Mayer Lehman and President of the Lehman foundation said at the time: “It’s very sad to see the company name go down the drain.

Isidore Lehman of Jackson, Mississippi

The Lehman brothers began their American enterprise in Montgomery, Alabama.  There were other Jewish enclaves in the South in the 19th century such as Jackson, Mississippi.  

Near the turn of the century, Isidore Lehman began his career in Jackson as a shirt washer in a cart for a Memphis laundry company.  His hard work and determination led him to eventually become partner and owner of Jackson Steam Laundry.   Located on 730 State Street, Jackson Steam Laundry was known for the slogan: “When clothes are dirty, 730.”  Lehman’s store not only cleaned clothes.  It also served as a bathhouse for people without running water.  
His store stayed open until the 1960’s.

Isidore Lehman was also very involved in Jackson’s civic affairs.   He was president of many organizations including the Jackson and Mississippi Chamber of Commerce as well as Beth Israel synagogue, Hinds County Red Cross, and the local school board. 


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