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Henry Cohn was born in 1831 in Dobrzyn, a town on the Polish-Prussian border. He came to the United States in 1852 and settled in Saint Louis, California and Poker Flat, California, both of which are located in the Gold Country of California. Cohn became an American citizen in Downieville, California and operated a store in Poker Flat between 1857 and 1863. He was a freemason and member of Saint Louis Lodge No. 86. Henry returned to Germany in 1864 and remained there until his death in 1915. Some of Henry Cohn's descendents and other relatives settled and remained in the Western United States, including nephews Alex and Louis Cohn, who had come to join Henry in Saint Lois and Poker Flat and then ultimately settled in Utah in 1867, and son Carl, who settled in Berkeley. Henry included his experiences during the California Gold Rush and the 1850s and 1860s in his memoir entitled "Recollections of My Youth."
The collection contains personal documents, including a copy of Henry (Heiman) Cohn's birth certificate, a certificate of his apprenticeship as a furrier (both in the German language), a document from New York City attesting to Henry being a Master Mason (1854), a California gold bullion receipt, and Cohn's passport (1861). The collection also contains photographs of Henry and members of his family, genealogical information about Cohn's family, and copies of English and Hebrew translations of Cohn's Jugenderinnerungen (i.e. Recollections of My Youth), in which he describes his days at Poker Flat and St. Louis, California.