Mike Goldwater, Townsman
Written and researched by Margaret Sypniewska, herbu Odrowaz

Photograph of Mike Goldwater

Polish-born "Big Mike" Goldwater was born in October 1821 (born "Goldwasser" - a name of German origin) He became a boom-town entrepreneur, who had more than one-half dozen stores in California and Arizona, and established a merchant dynasty revolving about Old West gold. Michael Goldwasser was born in Konin (near Warsaw), Poland. He was from a Jewish family of twenty-two children. His father, Hirsch Goldwasser, was an inn-keeper and storekeeper. It is said that the Goldwassers had been in Konin for generations. The Jewish community was established as early as 1412.

In 1847, when local unrest, in Poland, attracted the attention of the Russian Czar's Cossacks, Mike left Poland and moved to Paris, France. It was stated in Jewish News that Mike "left his native Poland in the mid-19th century to avoid conscription in the Russian Army." After that he went to London, England; where he worked as a tailor. He met and married a dressmaker, named Sarah Nathan (d. 1905), in the Great Synagogue of London in March 1850. They had two children: Caroline, Morris (born: 1851), and Baron Goldwater (born: May 1866). They changed their name to Goldwater, anglicized from Goldwasser. His brother, Joseph (d. 1883), and other kin joined him in London (from Poland). When word of the "California Gold Rush" reached Europe, the Goldwaters had saved enough money, from their tailoring business, to buy passage across the Atlantic Ocean to America, the "land of opportunity." After crossing the Atlantic, they went over the Isthmus of Panama, and up the coast of California in 1852.

They planned to open a shop where they could cater to gold miners, and the boom town conditions that developed there. Big Mike opened a saloon and billiard parlor in Sonora, California; and sold fruit and candy as a sideline. In 1857, the Goldwaters moved to Los Angeles, after Sonora's gold vein ran dry. They would go together with his brother, Joseph, in the operating of a saloon in the Bella Union Hotel. After some more saving, they, in turn, bought two general stores in Los Angeles.

By 1860, Mike was running to the East to Arizona to sell knives, tobacco, belts, shoes, ammunition, and epaulets for army officers. By 1862, his Los Angeles store went broke due to a long drought.

This setback did not stop Mike from going on. He then moved to La Paz, Arizona and took a job in an adobe general store. He decided to work here until he again had enough money saved to go on to bigger and better things. Mike worked hard enough to be made a partner, and his brother, Joseph, joined him again. They moved where the business prospects looked the best, and Phoenix seemed to be heading in that direction. In 1872, Michael and Joseph went to Phoenix, Arizona. On one trip for goods, it seems that Joseph was wounded by Indian fire (in 1872), and he kept the bullet around his neck as a good luck charm, since he survived, and as a reminder of the event. By this time, Mike's son, Morris, was old enough to help manage a business, and soon he was in full charge. The Phoenix store got the first telegraph office in Phoenix and Morris worked on learning the Morse code. Morris was so bad at Morse coding, that the man down the line told him to get off the wire...apparently he was sending nonsense? Anyway, true to the family, this did not deter Morris (Mike's son). They closed the Phoenix store and moved to the gold mining town of Prescott. In Prescott they carried high fashion goods and adopted the motto: "The Best Always." Morris later became mayor of Prescott from 1879-1927, and he was said to have won by almost a 2 to 1 margin. He was also the President of the twentieth Territorial Council, and vice-President of the 1910 Constitutional committee. Morris' younger brother, Baron, joined him in Prescott.

In 1883, their father, Michael, opened another store in Brisbee, Arizona; and when gold was discovered nearby, he fell victim to robbers, being that he was one of the more prosperous businesses in town. Five bandits ordered Michael to open his safe and give them all his money. As fate would have it, a town member saw what was happening and went for help. The robber's partner who was staked out at the door, then shot this man and a few others, who apparently rallied to the cause?

The frustrated robbers were forced to leave town empty handed, and a possee caught them and brought them back to Brisbee to stand trial. They were all hanged, but one. No one quite understood the reasoning behind that, so they took the law into their own hands. Vigilantes broke him out of prison and he joined his friends at the gallows.

After this close call, Mike decided to retire to California, since he was older and didn't wish to push his luck any further. The citizens of Prescott asked Mike if he would like to be their mayor. He accepted and won. Mike tried to put through a few laws, such as banning the "B" girls from the bars of Whiskey Row, which was fine with the regular prostitutes that didn't like the competition. He also decided that a wooden fence should be put around the courthouse to keep stray cattle at bay. He then decided that businesses should be required to have wooden sidewalks outside their property, as should all landowners. Later on, Mike had a altercation with Police Chief James Dodson, and moved to San Francisco, where he lived until his death, in 1903.

Mike left his business to his eldest son, Morris. In 1889, Phoenix, Arizona; became the territorial capital and was linked to all the other major cities and towns by the railroad. Mike's sons, Morris and Baron, then closed the Prescott store and went to Phoenix. In 1896, they opened M. Goldwater & Sons, which was soon to be the most prestigious store in Phoenix. After Mike and Sarah's death, Morris married a Protestant named Sarah Shivers Fisher. Baron Goldwater married on January 1, 1907, to Josephine Williams (an Episcopalian). Neither Baron or Morris renounced their Jewish faith, but there were not too many organized Jewish synagogues in those days or too many Jewish girls to choose from. Morris wanted a Jewish burial or if there was no rabbi to rise to this occasion, he wanted a Masonic burial.

The moral of the Goldwasser/Goldwater story is that even though they had hardships along the way, they finally achieved their father Michael Goldwasser's dream of fame and fortune. The Goldwater family finally made it to the top, through persistence and hard work.

For more information on the Old West go to my Old West Pages

This is not the end of this tale, Barry Goldwater, son of Baron Goldwater (d. 1929) and Josephine Williams (an Episcopalian) also went on to a political career, like his uncle Morris:

Barry Goldwater was born January 1, 1909, in Phoenix, Arizona, to Baron and Josephine Goldwater. Arizona became a state in 1912. Barry was raised in his mother's faith (Episcopalian), as is the Jewish custom. Barry went to Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, and graduated, at the top of his class. From Staunton he went to the University of Arizona, in 1928. In 1930, Barry joins the army as a 2nd Lt. In 1936, Barry was the General Manager of the Phoenix Store (at age 27). For a time the business prospered in his care. Then the war required his presence. From 1941-1945 he was a pilot and Colonel in the Army Air Force. Then from 1945-1952, Barry Goldwater was chief of Arizona Air National Guard. His political career began when he was elected to the Phoenix City Council, in 1949.

In 1962, the Goldwaters sold their business to Associated Dry Goods of New York for $2.2 million in Associated Dry Goods Stock. The business was approximately $2 million in debt before the sale.

Barry was a U.S. Senator from the state of Arizona, until 1964. In 1964, he had higher aspirations, and ran for President of the United States of America (Republican) against Lyndon Baines Johnson. While his family was more towards the liberal democratic. He lost the election. Then in 1968, he was re-elected to the Senate, from which he retired in 1987.

Barry Goldwater married Margaret Johnson of Muncie, Indiana. Margaret died in 1985. His second wife was Susan Schaeffer Wechsler (age 51), a health care executive.

    All Barry's children were by wife #1. His children:

  1. Michael Goldwater, named after his grandfather.
  2. Joanne Goldwater
  3. Peggy Goldwater
  4. Barry Goldwater, Jr. who was a Republican member of the House of Representatives from California. He also was an investment counselor.

    Barry Goldwater died on May 29, 1998, in Paradise Valley, Phoenix, Arizona.

    The Goldwater Family Tree



    Goldwater department Store Museum (NEW) ... Southwestern Jewish History (NEW)

    Goldwater: The Man Who Made A revolutionWashington Post

    Morris Goldwater, son of Big Mike



    You are the visitor since October 7, 2003

    Webmaster: Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.,
    Last updated on August 30, 2015
    2000 Maggie973@aol.com

    This page is hosted by