Guide to the Papers of Augusta Ellis Johnson, 1869


Processed by Felicia Herman

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2018, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Felicia Herman as MS Word document, August 1995. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on June 29, 2009. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:Augusta Ellis Johnson
Title:Augusta Ellis Johnson, papers
Abstract:Contains the correspondence between Mrs. Augusta Ellis Johnson, a Jewish American citizen living in Lima, Peru, and General Alvin P. Horey, United States Minister to Peru, asking American intervention for the release of her 14 year old son Joseph who was forcibly baptized on October 27, 1868, by Dr. Jose Jesus Aylbon, curat of St. Marcelo, and abducted by the Spanish friars of the Convent of the Descalzos. The dispensation of the incident is not known.
Languages: The collection is in English and Spanish.
Quantity: .25 linear feet (1 half manuscript box)
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
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Biographical Note

Augusta Ellis was born in Charleston, though her birthdate is unknown. She married Abraham Johnson on February 17, 1847, in New York City, at Congregation Shearith Israel. The couple's ketubah is witnessed by David Hart and Samp. Simson, as well as by the synagogue's hazzan, J. J. Lyons.

Around 1853, the Johnsons moved to Lima, Peru, where Abraham Johnson worked as a businessman. Although the couple had several children, there is data about only one, Joseph (also referred to as Jos), who was born in Lima on May 31, 1854.

In 1866 or 1867, Abraham Johnson died. Shortly thereafter, in 1868, Joseph Johnson decided (or was persuaded, depending on one's interpretation of events) to become a Catholic. He was baptized on October 27, 1868, over the vociferous protests of his mother.

Augusta Ellis Johnson may have returned to the United States; she is not recorded as having been buried with her husband in the British Cemetery in Lima.

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Scope and Content Note

The collection of Augusta Ellis Johnson contains correspondence between Johnson and General A. P. Hovey, the U.S. Arimister Near the Peruvian Government. The correspondence consists of three letters from Johnson to Hovey and two from Hovey to Johnson, dated January 6 to January 13, and pertains to Johnson's claim that her son, Joseph (Jos) Johnson, had been kidnapped by Catholic priests and baptized against her will into the Catholic faith in the fall of 1868.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying Jews in Peru, forced baptism, and Jewish-Christian relations.

The collection contains five letters.

The documents are in English, with occasional Spanish phrases. They are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Augusta Ellis Johnson, papers; P-98; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Note


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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Papers of Augusta Ellis Johnson, 1869

English and Spanish.
Box 1.
11Letter to U.S. Minister in Peru (1 item)January 6, 1869request_box

From AEJ to General A[lvin] P. Hovey, U.S. Arimister Near the Peruvian Government, Lima, January 6, 1869

  • - She's in Peru, is a widow
  • - She's asking for redress for a violation of her rights as an American citizen
  • - She claims that the Spanish friars have kidnapped her son and changed his religion without her consent, have slandered her and "debased her unstained character"
  • - Her son Joseph was born in Lima in May 1854
  • - There was a court case, in which a priest asked that the son be emancipated from her power "in order to christianize him without the consent of his parent"
  • - The judge ordered that he could not emancipated, but he failed to order the son returned to his mother, and the boy was baptized against his ruling
  • - She asked the President of Peru for help, but he hasn't helped her yet
  • - Her character has been debased by a line in the certificate of baptism that implies that her son was born out of wedlock
  • - "the president President Balta instead of protecting me as bound to do in law, justice and honor, protected those who had robbed me of my son, of my honor, of my credit, by sending his aide-de-camp Colonel Manuel Diaz in government coach to take my son Joseph out of the Convent of Descalzos, towards the middle of the month of November and instead of restoring him to my power and authority, put him in the power of a Colonel Lino Olaria - a friend of [illegible] person who was altogether unknown to me and from whose house my son Joseph wrote me a letter begging me to forgive him and take him back to my own house."

12Letter to U.S. Minister in Peru (1 item)January 9, 1869request_box

From AEJ to Hovey, January 9, 1869

  • - 13 pages
  • - Now she says it's a case of religious liberty for Americans abroad, "the rights of the weak against the powerful, the rights of mothers, be they Jews, Mahometans or pagans to educate their own children against their belief and against the tirany [sic] of the Roman Church - the time of inquisition is passed, when the preist [sic] could rob the Jewish children from their parents and christianize [sic] them by force and against the consent of their parents - which being without protection were obliged to submit in silence in order to save themselves from the flames of Catholic pires."
  • - She says she never threatened him with physical violence, but she doesn't believe that he's competent at this age to decide his own religion
  • - She says that he fled the house not because of her threats but "because he was induced to do so by the preists through the agency of the Negroes [illegible] my servants."
  • - She's saying the same things, but she's angrier - she says that he misunderstood some of the things she said, and answers his claim that he can only interpose in cases of the most cruel outrage by asking (at length) what crueler outrage there could be but this.
[This letter was apparently written in a fury - there are blots, words crossed out, mistakes, etc., and the handwriting is uneven]

13Letters from U.S. Minister in Peru (2 items)January 8 and 12, 1869request_box

From Hovey, January 8, 1869

  • - He restates the facts of the case and then cites the laws which have been violated
  • - Basically, he won't do anything until a final judgment in the case has been reached, and if the judgment is not in accordance with the law, he'll intercede
  • - She's been to see him personally
  • - He says that there's a letter from her son saying that she threatened him with physical violence when she heard that he wanted to convert

From Hovey to AEJ, January 12, 1869

  • - He'll forward the facts of the case to the US government

14Letter to U.S. Minister in Peru (1 item)January 13, 1869request_box

AEJ to Hovey, January 13, 1869

  • - Restating some of the facts of the case
  • - It's not that she doesn't want him to become a Catholic if he really wants to - she just doesn't think that a 14 year old boy can make such a decision for himself
  • - He has been educated in "the israelitish faith"
  • - She's hoping that he'll continue to deal with the situation

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