August Bondi: a good Jew

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Apr 16 13:47:04 MDT 2001

[The other night PBS had a documentary on Jews in the USA. Mostly it
involved doctrinal disputes between the reform and conservative branches,
but there were also profiles of revolutionary-minded Jews whose actions
made them a better Jew than most of the doctrinally inclined--most
especially August Bondi. This is from the Anderson County, Kansas
historical archives:]

AUGUST BONDI was a splendid figure in the annals of Kansas for fully half a
century, and has been fitly described as soldier and patriot and one of the
immortal followers of John Brown.

>From the city of culture and of old world civilization, Vienna, Austria, it
is a far cry to the plains of Kansas where were performed those deeds which
will ring down through history. August Bondi was born at Vienna July 21,
1833, a son of Hart Emanuel and Martha (Frankl) Bondi, who were also
natives of Vienna. His father was a Jewish manufacturer of cotton goods.
August Bondi was educated at the Catholic College of the Order of Piarists.
He also had a private tutor. At the age of ten he was admitted to an
institution of normal grade, and in 1847 began the study of the English
language. When fourteen he became a member of the Academic League and
fought under Kossuth during the Hungarian war for liberty. He had just been
admitted to the University of Vienna, but his participation in the war
caused him to be exiled.

On September 6, 1848, he started for the United States with his parents,
and they landed at New Orleans on the 10th of November. From there a boat
brought them up the Mississippi to St. Louis, where he landed November 23.
After a few months of employment as a typo in St. Louis, he taught school a
year in that city, and another year was employed as a teacher in Texas. He
became a naturalized American citizen on July 21, 1854. For one year he was
in the clothing business at St. Louis.

A practice which August Bondi began early and kept up to the end of his
days was the writing of a diary. From this record it is possible to trace
with absolute accuracy his varied relationship with many important affairs
and events. From this diary it is learned that he arrived in Kansas May 26,
1855. He was from the first an intense anti-slavery partisan. From St.
Louis he had gone up the river on the steamer Polar Star to Kansas City,
which point he reached April 2, and on April 4 he arrived at Lawrence.
After two weeks at Lawrence he made a trip through the eastern section to
acquaint himself with affairs on the border. With a partner he squatted on
a claim on the Mosquito branch of the Pottawatomie in Franklin County.
There in the fall of 1855 he became acquainted with John Brown. He opened a
general store at Lawrence, and that was one of the first places of business
there. He kept it until 1856.

After the burning of Lawrence he joined the company of John Brown, Jr. When
this force disbanded he joined John Brown, Sr., and took part in the
engagement at Black Jack, and was with Brown in his different raids along
the border until the final fight at Ossawatomie in September, 1856. During
the border warfare his own property was destroyed by Quantrell's men, and
some years later the Federal Government allowed him $1,000 in damages.

In February, 1857, he laid out the Town of Greeley in Anderson County and
was appointed postmaster in the same year, holding the office just a year.
>From that time to the outbreak of the Civil war he kept the underground
railway station at Greeley. In 1858 he was appointed enrolling officer for
Kansas Territory for the Eighth Brigade in Anderson County.

On April 29, 1861, he took the oath of allegiance and on December 23, 1861,
enlisted in Company K of the Fifth Kansas Cavalry, and during his service
of three years was present in nearly all the engagements in which the
regiment took part. In 1862 he became commissary sergeant and later first
sergeant. Several times he was wounded, and on September 14, 1864,
sustained a grave injury and was made prisoner by the Confederates near
Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and was left for dead on the battlefield. On November
10, 1864, he was discharged at Leavenworth.

For a short time Mr. Bondi conducted a grocery store at Leavenworth, but in
1866 located at Salina, where he also opened a store. From the first he was
closely indentified with the public life of the town and county. He served
as probate judge of Saline County from 1876 to 1878 was register clerk in
the United States Land Office in 1879, was also police judge and in 1880
was member of the commission to appraise the old Fort Harker Military
Reservation. In 1884 he was appointed a member of the State Board of
Trustees of Charitable Institutions. He held many other offices. For three
years during President Cleveland's last term he was postmaster of Salina.
In 1896 he was admitted to the practice of law. He was an active member and
contributor to the Kansas State Historical Society, and his thorough
scholarship made his recollections especially available for historical
material. He was a thirty-second degree Mason, belonged to the Independent
Order of Odd Fellows and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

In 1898 Mr. Bondi went back to revisit his old birthplace in Vienna. While
visiting the German consul in the city of St. Louis he fell dead on the
street September 30, 1907.

Louis Proyect
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