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Levy, Lewis A. (1799–1861)

Diana J. Kleiner Biography Entry

Lewis A. Levy, pioneer Houston merchant and philanthropist, was born in Amsterdam, Holland, in 1799. He and his wife, Mary, lived from 1818 to 1828 in Richmond, Virginia, and then at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New Orleans, Louisiana, before moving to Houston in 1841. The couple had twenty children. In Houston Levy dealt in land certificates, invested in land, and received a headright certificate for 640 acres before January 1, 1842. In that year he was appointed one of three trustees or assignees in the bankruptcy of Jacob De Cordova. In 1843 Levy purchased a lot from Sam Houston a mile southwest of Houston Ranch, and the following year he acquired a half acre southeast of the courthouse. He built a permanent home at this location and later purchased an adjoining fifteen acres. His wife, who was illiterate and signed her name with an X, bought acreage in her own name from Cordova in 1844. From 1850 to 1860 Levy was listed as a Houston merchant, with a store at a site now in the downtown business district. In that period he increased assets of $1,000 in real property to $8,000. In 1850 he published a letter to attract European immigrants to Texas and an article on the history of anti-Semitism in the first major Jewish weekly in the United States, the New York Asmonean. He collected money in New Orleans for yellow fever victims and is believed to have organized the Hebrew Cemetery in Houston in 1854. In 1855 he served as chairman of a new Hebrew Benevolent Association. Levy died in 1861 and was buried in the cemetery he helped to establish. In 1989 gravestone markers for Levy's wife and daughter, Julia, were placed by the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in the Jewish section of Prairie Lea Cemetery, Brenham.

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). Ralph A. Wooster, "Foreigners in the Principal Towns of Ante-Bellum Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 66 (October 1962).


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

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Levy, Lewis A.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 13, 2021,

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March 1, 1995
February 19, 2017

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