Sealy, John (1822–1884)

By: Claudia Hazlewood

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: February 24, 2017

John Sealy, merchant, banker, and philanthropist, was born in Kingston, Pennsylvania, on October 18, 1822. He worked in a country store for ten years. He moved to Galveston in 1846 and clerked in a mercantile business until he formed a partnership with John H. Hutchings and moved to Sabine to establish a store for the partnership. In 1854 they were joined by a third partner, George Ball, and returned to Galveston to set up Ball, Hutchings, and Company, a commission and banking business that later became the Hutchings-Sealy Bank. That year Sealy and several other business leaders in Galveston purchased several wharf companies and established the Galveston Wharf Company. In 1858 Sealy was company president. During the Civil War he helped open and maintain trade channels through Mexico for the Confederacy, but the blockade of Galveston caused the firm to move to Houston. Sealy returned to Galveston after the war and helped organize the Galveston Gas Company. In 1870 he had real property valued at $250,000 and personal property of equal value. He and his associates bought the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway in 1870 and the Houston Tap and Brazoria in 1873. In 1876 he was president of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad. In 1879, after his brother George Sealy bought the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, Sealy became president of that line. He resigned in 1881 because of health problems but became general manager the next year and served in that role until his death. Sealy married Rebecca Davis of Bedford, Pennsylvania, in 1857. They were parents of two children, Etta Jane and John Hutchings Sealy. Sealy died at Galveston on August 29, 1884, and left $50,000 to be used for "a charitable purpose." His brother and wife decided to build a hospital. John Sealy Hospital in Galveston opened in 1890 and is a part of the medical branch of the University of Texas.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Earl Wesley Fornell, The Galveston Era: The Texas Crescent on the Eve of Secession (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1961). S. C. Griffin, History of Galveston, Texas (Galveston: Cawston, 1931). Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). David G. McComb, Galveston: A History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981). Ralph A. Wooster, "Wealthy Texans, 1870," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 74 (July 1970).

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Claudia Hazlewood, “Sealy, John,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 21, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 24, 2017