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KESSLER, HENRY

Main Street
400 Block of Main Street between Preston and Prairie, 1860s. Courtesy of the University of Houston Libraries. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Land Scrip Receipt
First Texas scrip no. 392 to J. Budd of Philadelphia for 640 acres of land, September 26, 1836. Courtesy of the University of Houston Libraries. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

KESSLER, HENRY (ca. 1812–1840). Henry Kessler (also spelled Kesler or Kisler), businessman and early Houston civic leader, was born in Silesia about 1812 and immigrated to the United States with his brother Charles in 1832. He arrived in Texas by 1836 and is probably the man of that name who was awarded a bounty certificate for 320 acres of land for his services in the Texas army from April 11 to July 20, 1836. As early as November 1837 he was operating a general store in Houston known as Kessler's Arcade. The establishment, located near Main Street between Preston and Prairie, was enlarged in October 1838 to include a restaurant and bar, known as the Round Tent Bar. Soldiers and veterans of the Texas Revolution often traded land scrip at the notoriously rowdy bar in exchange for drinks and food. Kessler’s Arcade, which provided dry goods, sundries, German newspapers, and music, became an early focal point for the nascent community of Houston. It served as a polling station, and was a popular meeting place for early civic groups and municipal organizations. It is also where Kessler experimented with mulberry trees and cultivated a garden famous for its corn.

Kessler became an important member of early Houston society. He served as treasurer of the Buffalo Bayou Company, organized to make the bayou navigable, was a member of the Houston City Council, treasurer of a city school, vice president of the Houston Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of health, secretary of the Houston Post Oak Jockey Club, and a Mason. He married Mary Bonzano of Wurttemberg, Germany, on March 22, 1838. The couple had at least one child.

Kessler died at his home in Houston on October 30, 1840. At the time of his death, Kessler possessed a considerable fortune, including sizeable land holdings and numerous city lots. A notice of December 25, 1840, indicated that Kessler's wife had been appointed his administrator.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Louis Wiltz Kemp Papers, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Telegraph and Texas Register, March 27, 1839, January 6, 1841. Max Freund, Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1954).

Diana J. Kleiner

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Diana J. Kleiner, "Kessler, Henry," accessed June 26, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fke37.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 17, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.