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El Paso civic leader and cigar manufacturer born in Prussia

May
24
1857

On this day in 1857, Ernst Kohlberg was born in Beverungen, Westphalia, at that time a province of Prussia. He left home in 1875 with Solomon C. Schutz, who had business interests in the El Paso area. Kohlberg agreed to work for Schutz without salary for six months to a year in order to defray the costs of his passage to Texas. The two reached Franklin, as El Paso was then called, by stagecoach. Kohlberg's first impressions of his new home were less than glowing. He wrote to his parents that the town was "nearly the end of the world and the last creation." After working off his debt to Schutz, Kohlberg invested in a Mexican gold mine and worked in San Francisco before returning to Franklin in 1881 and opening a cigar store in partnership with his brother. On a family visit to Germany in 1884, Kohlberg met and married Olga Bernstein. The two became prominent civic leaders and philanthropists in El Paso; Olga Kohlberg founded the first public kindergarten in Texas. In 1886 the Kohlberg brothers established the first cigar factory in the Southwest. Among Ernst Kohlberg's other holdings was the St. Charles Hotel, which he leased to a compulsive gambler who in 1910 shot and killed Kohlberg after falling far behind in his rent.

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