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Labatt, Abraham Cohen (1802–1899)

Diana J. Kleiner Biography Entry

Abraham Cohen Labatt, trader, merchant, and a founder of the first Jewish Reform congregation in the United States, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1802. He learned the merchandising trade. He was a Sephardic Jew and subscribed to the first reform synagogue in the country in 1825. Labatt married Caroline Hyams, with whom he had sixteen children. They moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, and in 1831 to New Orleans. He visited Velasco, Texas, in 1831, and in 1837 made his first visit to determine whether trade could be established between Charleston, Texas, and Mexico. In 1849 he joined the California gold rush as a merchant. In San Francisco he became master of one of the West's first Masonic lodges, which he named the Davy Crockett Lodge. He helped to found the city's first synagogue, Shearith Israel, and served as president of Congregation Emanuel. Labatt moved to Louisiana in the 1860s. He then moved to Waco, Texas, in 1869 and to Galveston after 1878. He died in 1899.

Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989). Ruthe Winegarten and Cathy Schechter, Deep in the Heart: The Lives and Legends of Texas Jews (Austin: Eakin Press, 1990).


  • Peoples
  • Jews
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
  • Patrons, Collectors, and Philanthropists

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Labatt, Abraham Cohen,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed November 25, 2020,

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