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Isaac Meranda

Birthplace: France
Death: November 1732 (69-70)
Lancaster, PA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Emanuel Nunez Miranda
Husband of Mary Miranda (Raynolds)
Father of George Miranda; Samuel Miranda and Mary Miranda

Managed by: Austin Drake Worthington
Last Updated:

About Isaac Meranda

Isaac Miranda: Lancaster’s first Jewish-born citizen. Isaac Miranda immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1712 and in less than eight years became an established businessman and pushed onto the frontier. He purchased a farm near Conoy Creek in Lancaster County about 1720, and he owned a large library of Hebraic books. By the time of his death, he was known as a successful Indian trader, farmer, merchant, and even politician. He has historically been considered the first Jew in Lancaster.

Yet even before Isaac Miranda left England for America in 1712, he had converted to Christianity. A Sephardic, or Spanish-descent, Jew and a native of Tuscany, Miranda may have converted out of love in order to marry, out of a change of conscience, or because of his own aspirations. A budding entrepreneur and merchant, Miranda would have encountered many roadblocks to success as a Jew.

Incomplete Freedom of Religion in Pennsylvania

Although William Penn's 1701 Charter of Privileges offered "freedom of religion," it marginalized Jews by preventing them from voting and holding public office. The charter effectively eliminated Jews from positions of power. Miranda's conversion to Christianity prior to arriving in Pennsylvania swept away barriers he may have faced.

  • Reference: Source
  • Isaac Miranda emigrated to Pennsylvania between 1710 and 1715 from Tuscany (Italy). He was born a Jew and apparently was well to do.

At first he engaged in Indian trade with James Logan but soon went out on his own. By 1720, he was in Indian country, in the wilds of Lancaster County. He ran a trading post near Campbell's Inn.

His farm was located along, just below and southeast of, Conoy Creek running along the Susquehanna River about seven-eighths mile. It was about 210 acres in 1737 in his son George's name but was about 500 acres when listed in Isaac's will of 1732. Perhaps his son sold part of it off by 1737. Originally, this land was in Donegal Township, but in 1842 became part of Conoy Township. When Isaac first settled there, it was part of Chester County.

He did quite well on his farm and in his Indian trading post. There is a record of his purchasing a pair of silver candlesticks, a pair of snuffers, and a stand for them in 1720. Through his friendship with Logan and his willingness to take Christian Oaths of Office, he obtained political jobs. In 1723, he was sent by the Governor to negotiate details concerning a mine beyond the Susquehanna. Under orders, he apparently acted against the best interests of the settlers.

In 1727, he was an 'Agent to Receive and Collect Perquisites (compensations) and Rights of the Admirality' and later that year was named 'Deputy Judge of the Court of Vice-Admirality of the Province of Pennsylvania'. His time in office was short and he was fired for failure to carry out an order of the Vice-Admirality Judge. Corruption of others may have been involved.

Miranda was able to hold these offices because he had converted. In the gentile world of Lancaster Cunty, he led a lonely Jewish existence. There was no minyan (ten males) for services, no Kosher meat and no fellow Jews to observe his Jewish life or lack of it. Worse, there were no Jewesses to court and marry. It was no surprise to the historian that Miranda took a Christian wife and, by default, he and his children left the practice of Judaism.

He was a 'wheeler dealer', mixing politics with Indian trading. By the time of his death in 1732, (his place of burial is not known) he was quite wealthy and had extensive landownings.

In his will he left a large tract of land along the Rahway River in New Jersey to his son George (also an Indian trader who would be an early partner of Barnard and Michael Gratz); he bequested to son Samuel, 500 acres of land in Donegal (Lancaster County), and to daughter Mary several houses in Philadelphia. Even in death he had politics on his mind. He left to James Hamilton (who laid out Lancaster), several thousand acres of land in New Jersey and a large amount of personal property if he married Miranda's daughter Mary. Hamilton did not marry Mary but did become Governor of Pennsylvania.

That is all we know of Isaac Miranda, the first person of Jewish blood to enter Lancaster County. It is he and he alone that places Lancaster ahead of a boatload of Jews that arrived in Savannah in 1733."

Sources cited:

  1. Massesman, Paul and Baker, Max, "The Jews Come to America", New York, 1932,2. 75
  2. Lebeson, Anita Libman, "Jewish Pioneers in America 1492-1848", New York, 193. 31, 198
  3. Wolf 2nd, Edwin and Whiteman, Maxwell, "History of the Jews in Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Era of Jackson", Philadelphia, 1957
  4. WW, 18-20, 24. 5, 42, 51, 77
  5. Pennsylvania Archives, 1st Series 266-67; 2nd Series IX-738; 2n5. d Series IX-632
  6. Ellis, Franklin and Evans, Samuel, "History of Lancaster County", Philadelphia, 1883, 16-17


Miranda Family Isaac MIRANDA/MERANDA was probably born in France. His father, Emanuel, moved the family to London, England. Emanuel's will was probated in London, England. Isaac it is assumed also was in London but left for the British colonies in America. The date of his arrival is not established, but it is felt he may have been in New York and the Jerseys for a time before making his residence in Philadelphia where he become naturalized and become a British subject Dec 5, 1710. Settled Conoy Creek below Bridgeville, PA 1715. Converted from Jew to Christianity. First Jew known to settle in Lancaster, PA. He was an Indian Trader. At the time of Isaac's death in 1732, his major assets included 2250 acres on the Rahway or Rockaway? River in eastern New Jersey (18 miles from Newark), 3250 acres in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, and two houses in Philadelphia. Other assets were the property on which he lived, a collection of horses (probably, pack horses for use in Indian trading) and 152 pounds he had on loan to various individuals. (I have a copy of the will.)

Isaac was a close acquaintance of James LOGAN one of the most capable, influential and intellectual men in colonial Pennsylvania. Logan was William PENN's most faithful friend as well as his personal agent. From 1701-1717 LOGAN served as Secretary of the Province of Pennsylvania. Between 1736 and 1738 he served as chief executive of the Province; he was elected Mayor of Philadelphia and in 1731 was appointed chief-justice of the Supreme Court.

LOGAN secured from Isaac several books. A copy given to James LOGAN which is today held in trust at the Loganian Library by the Library Company of Philadelphia has ownership inscriptions of MIRANDA in Spanish on the front and back fly-leaves.

To set a mental image of the America and the Philadelphia into which Isaac immigrated, realize it was 66 years before the American Revolution; Benjamin FRANKLIN was 4 years old; George WASHINGTON wouldn't be born for about another 22 years (1732); William PENN, the founder of Pennsylvania, leaving the administration of the Pennsylvania colony to his trusted assistant, James LOGAN, had returned to England and was near death (1718).

Isaac has been credited with being Pennsylvania's first permanent Jewish settler. Isaac was an apostate Jew (apostate meaning one who renounces a religious faith). In other words, Isaac had been raised and educated in the Jewish faith but had converted to Christianity. Isaac knew Hebrew and Spanish and had a collection of Jewish literature.

Isaac was a Sephardi Jew, which means his forefathers originated in Spain. Supportive of this conclusion is the fact that Miranda is a Spanish surname which comes from "conceyu de Miranda (Austuries)", which roughly translated means "council in Austuries which is called Miranda". Also, in present day Spain there is a village called Miranda located about 150 Kilometers east of Oviedo.

King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella expelled Spanish Jews in 1492. (The same year Columbus sailed for the New World.) As a result, the Spanish Jews migrated to Portugal, the rest of Europe and Northern Africa taking with them their Medieval Spanish dialect, Sephardi. The expelled Spanish Jews are called Sephardi because they called Spain, Shepharad. Those migrating to Portugal were expelled from there about four years later.

Despite the fact that the Pennsylvania colony had been founded on the principle of freedom of religion, "it must be remembered that liberalism in Stuart days was something less than liberalism a century later and much less than today. Although liberty of conscience was written into the law, which recognized the right of free worship, freemen - the only ones who could vote and hold office - had to own property and profess faith in Jesus Christ.

Isaac MIRANDA of Pennsylvania is another illustration of the assimilative process. Though intermarried and baptized, he still had Jewish interests, if one may judge from the fact that when he came to this country, he had a Spanish and Portuguese manuscript attacking Christianity and extolling the Sephardic martyrs of the Inquisition. MIRANDA may very well have been a North American Marrano of Jewish origin who felt himself Jewish and had no allegiance to Christianity, but preferred for "reasons of his own to live as a Christian.

"Marrano" is a Spanish work which literally translated means "pig" a descriptive and telling work for Jews who chose to live as Christians.

Regardless of the reasons Isaac converted to Christianity, he chose to die a Christian because his will specified that "he be buried in a Christian like and decent manner."

Despite his conversion to Christianity and his naturalization being recorded in Philadelphia, his contemporaries still continued to think of and refer to Isaac as a Jew. "Even John LOGAN, a cultured highly educated man and a fine student of the Hebrew bible, could not forgive the Christian Isaac MIRANDA his Jewish origin."

Isaac carved out a career as a successful Indian trader, farmer, merchant, and politician.

It is believed Isaac's father, Emanuel MIRANDA, through efforts to avoid religious persecution chose to identify with French Huguenots who also become outlawed in most of Christen-dom following the revocation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes. Emanuel moved the family to London, England. Emanuel's will was probated in London, England. Isaac it is assumed also was in London but left for the British colonies in America. The date of his arrival is not established, but it is felt he may have been in New York and the Jerseys for a time before making his residence in Philadelphia where he become naturalized and become a British subject Dec 5, 1710.

It is believed that our ancestors settled in Tuscany when the Jews were expelled from Spain. Tuscany, is now part of Italy, but it was under French control in 1732. This could also explain the allegiance with French Huguenots. The French were much more accepting of the Native Americans. They tried to learn from them and didn't try to change them the way the English did.

Isaac's will is a revealing document. It shows that Isaac desperately wanted his daughter to marry into, and be accepted by, the social and political power structure of Pennsylvania and it shows he was thoroughly disgusted and disappointed in his son Samuel (our direct line), to whom he left "one English Shilling". In the codicil to the will, this provision was revised, taking 500 acres out of the land originally left to Mary and giving it to Samuel. Still, a very small disproportionate share of Isaac's total holdings.

Samuel, the son of Isaac was a young man in 1732 when his father died. He had lived with Indians on the frontier several years and on learning of his fathers pending death returned to Lancaster County and was given additional inheritance by his father. It is said he had with him his son, George, born to him and an Indian maid, at the time the child was about two years of age.

It seems Samuel and his family dwelt with the Indians and had been sympathetic with the French and their Indian allies throughout the conflicts between the French and English (French and Indian War). On the frontier Samuel was in the business of trading with the Indians as was his son, George b. ca. 1730.

The name of George's mother remains unknown. His wife, also an Indian woman, is unknown. George's children are believed to be James and Samuel who were at Fort Jackson in western Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War.

James, the son of George, married Susannah OWEN(S). Her father was of the same sort as was George and his grandfather Samuel. John OWEN(S) also a trader among the Indian tribes had a large family by an Indian woman named Senachannah. Some of his sons were notorious as frontiersmen and Indian fighters in the conflicts throughout the last half of the eighteenth century. His daughter, Susannah, married James MIRANDA about 1766 in Lancaster County, PA. It is probable they were in Lancaster County Pennsylvania for a time prior to settling on land next to Fort Jackson in present day Greene County Pennsylvania, where they remained until after the Revolutionary War.

James and Susanna are buried in Bracken County, Kentucky near Augusta, Kentucky.

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Isaac Meranda's Timeline

Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, USA
Chester County, Pennsylvania
November 1732
Age 70
Lancaster, PA, United States
November 1732
Age 70