Koch, Theodore F. (1854–1940)

By: George O. Coalson

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: January 15, 2014

Theodore Koch, land developer, was born on April 1, 1854, in Looward Castle in the Netherlands. He sailed to the United States in 1884 and settled in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he promoted the purchase of land in the area by settlers. In 1887 he married Clara Hoeborn; they had three children. When land for sale became scarce in the Midwest, Koch sought land elsewhere. On a trip to South Texas in 1906, he met Robert Kleberg, Jr., who told him that Henrietta King, owner of the King Ranch, intended to sell some of her land. While he was in Texas, Koch also visited Victoria and investigated available land in that area. He then went to Germany, where he induced some German businessmen to provide the capital for him to purchase 40,000 acres in Texas.

He returned to Texas in 1907 and purchased about 20,000 acres of land in the southern part of Nueces County from Mrs. King. He also bought land at Palacios and at Winnie, near Beaumont. In promoting the sale of his Texas land, Koch opened offices in St. Paul, Chicago, Beaumont, Houston, and Riviera. Sales went well until 1915, when a hurricane hit the Winnie area. Many of the landowners became discouraged and left. To make matters worse, another hurricane struck the Riviera region the next year, doing great damage and slowing the area's growth. Koch suffered further reverses during World War I, when the Alien Property Board froze the German capital he had been using for his land speculation. Seeking to recover financially, he established a fig farm at Winnie in 1922. Although the business prospered, Koch benefited more from oil leases on his property. He died on September 19, 1940, on a visit to New Braunfels.

Theodore F. Koch Papers, South Texas Archives, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Kingsville, Texas. Kleberg County Historical Commission, Kleberg County, Texas (Austin: Hart Graphics, 1979). Tom Lea, The King Ranch (2 vols., Boston: Little, Brown, 1957).

  • Agriculture
  • Promoters

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

George O. Coalson, “Koch, Theodore F.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/koch-theodore-f.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
January 15, 2014