A week ago, I was “aware of no evidence or claims that any members of Bertha’s family owned slaves or participated in the slave trade.”
That statement is no longer accurate. I have found compelling evidence that the uncle Bertha Levy Ochs lived with for several years in Natchez, Miss., before the Civil War owned at least five slaves.
He was her father’s brother and his name was John Mayer because he dropped the surname Levy, according to a family tree compiled by the Ochs-Sulzberger clan some 70 years ago.
Mayer was a store owner and prominent leader of the small Jewish community in Natchez and, during the war, organized a home-guard unit, according to family letters and historians.
Neither the 1860 census nor its separate “slave schedule” lists the names of Mayer’s slaves. They are identified as two males, ages 70 and 26, and three females, ages 65, 45 and 23.