Rosenberg, Carl Wilhelm Von (1821–1901)

By: Louis E. Brister

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: April 28, 2016

Font size: A / A reset

Wilhelm (William) von Rosenberg, surveyor, topographer, and chronicler of German immigration to Texas, son of Johanna Dorothea (Frölich) and Peter Carl Johann von Rosenberg, was born on his father's estate, Eckitten, near Memel, East Prussia, on October 14, 1821. He was descended from an ancient line of German nobles dating back to the twelfth century. Like others of his class, he spent his youth in formal schooling. He completed high school and an apprenticeship to a surveyor, and in 1841 he entered military service. After serving three years in the Prussian Army, he was commissioned a lieutenant in the reserves. In 1845 he passed the government examination for surveyor at the Royal Academy in Berlin, and from 1846 to 1848 he studied architecture in Berlin and received credentials as a government (royal) architect. His outspoken democratic views in an aristocratic political climate, however, prompted the resignation of his military commission in 1849 and the decision to emigrate to America.

Accompanied by his family, including his parents, six brothers and sisters, and a new wife, Auguste Franziska (Anders), Rosenberg landed in Galveston in December 1849. The Rosenbergs settled on Nassau Farm near Round Top, Fayette County, and during the next six years Wilhelm farmed, learned English, adopted the Anglicized name William, and became a United States citizen. His skillful execution of a design for the Fayette County courthouse in La Grange led to an appointment in 1856 as draftsman in the General Land Office in Austin. In 1861 he became chief draftsman, a position he held until 1863, when he became a topographical engineer with the rank of captain in the Confederate Army. At the close of the Civil War Democrat William von Rosenberg returned to the General Land Office as chief draftsman. He resigned from that post in 1867, when the land office was filled with anti-Confederate, Republican, Reconstruction appointees, many of whom were also German. He then entered into partnership with former state comptroller Clement R. Johns, who operated a land agency in Austin. In 1876 the firm collapsed, and in 1877 Rosenberg opened his own land agency, which he operated until his death on December 4, 1901, in Austin. Rosenberg was the author of Kritik (1894), the first critical account of German immigration to Texas (see ADELSVEREIN), documented by original research in the State Archives and the General Land Office. He was a founding member of St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Austin. He had twelve children, including Ernst (1852–1915), who also became chief draftsman in the General Land Office, and William, Jr. (1859–1919), who served three terms as Travis county judge.

William von Rosenberg, "Kritik: A History of the Society for the Protection of German Immigrants to Texas," trans. Louis E. Brister, Southwestern Historical Quarterly 85 (October 1981, January, April 1982). Alma J. von Rosenberg Tomlinson, comp., The von Rosenberg Family of Texas (Boerne, Texas: Toepperwein, 1949). Von Rosenberg Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Architecture
  • Architects
  • Exploration
  • Explorers (German)
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Founders and Pioneers
  • Pioneers
  • Surveyors and Cartographers

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

Louis E. Brister, “Rosenberg, Carl Wilhelm Von,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

January 1, 1996
April 28, 2016