23 May 1906: The large house on the left at 2328 Sealy Avenue was a rooming house under the supervision of Lucy Pond in 1910. The library built in 1903 at 2302-20 Sealy (Ave I) was a bequest from one of Galveston’s leading citizens, Henry Rosenberg (1824-1893). Swiss immigrant Rosenberg came to Galveston at age 19 and built one of the largest fortunes in the state. He became president of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad and owner of The Rosenberg Bank. In addition to the library, his other bequests included funding assistance for Eaton Chapel, the Y. M. C. A., the Rosenberg Free School, the Letitia Rosenberg Home for Women to house aged and indigent women, the Rosenberg Monument for the Heroes of the Texas Revolution, and many water fountains across the city. His second wife Mollie Ragan Macgill Rosenberg, founder of the Galveston Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, was the driving force behind the erection of the Confederate Monument in front of the Courthouse.
23 March 2019: The library has expanded over the years to encompass the entire block, which now includes parking for patrons, and the former rooming house which stood on the right has been demolished long before the memory of any living Galvestonian.
Postmarked: 23 May 1906; Galve[ston, Texas]
Stamp: 1c Blue Green Ben Franklin #300
To: Mrs. E. Beilharz,
861 Bryan St.,
Dear Mother: Yours & invitation received I do not expect to be in Dallas on the 1st. It is impossible to get a boarding house nearer than 3 or 4 blocks from the beach, grade raising is still going on. I have found the boarding problem a hard one
[Above] Wan’ted to get a room near the beach too but found it impracticable. Will investigate further & let you know. Will
William Ernest Beilharz was a 22 year old young Dallas man, well educated and from a family long-established in North Texas. He had been working in his hometown as a clerk in the city engineers’ department, and the move to Galveston was clearly an effort to advance his career. Despite difficulties in finding a place to live in Galveston, he was able to find lodging at Fannie Peck’s rooming house at 1221 Tremont Street about 3 blocks south of the pictured library. He also found work as a draughtsman for the Gulf Coast & San Francisco Railroad lines with offices in the Union Station. The commute to work was a 12 block walk to 123 Rosenberg Avenue at 25th, or a short streetcar ride on the Galveston Electric Company trolleys.
His father was the first of this German family to come to Texas, immigrating at 19 from Baiersbonn in the district of Freudenstadt in Baden-Württemberg. He was the eldest son of Jacob Beilharz and Dorothea Rosina, who would go on to parent a family of 14 children. After crossing the Atlantic Ernest spent about six years in New York City before coming to Dallas, soon sponsoring his brother Matthäus Theodore to come over on 2 January 1884 onboard the Saale from Bremen. Ernest found work in the leather and saddlery business with G. H. Schoellkopf & Company, a wholesale leather merchant specializing in saddlery, shoe findings, and saddlery hardware, who would become his brother-in-law. Theodore worked in the stonecutter trade, and in the late 19th century would build a stoneyard between Swiss Avenue and Pacific on North Hawkins Street, and it may be that William acquired an interest in construction trades through his Uncle Theodore.
His mother to whom he was refusing an invitation to visit Dallas was Henrietta Boll, born in 1858 in Switzerland, daughter of Professor Jacob Boll, an early Texas naturalist. Henrietta’s grandfather, Henry Boll, came to Texas on July 4, 1855 on board the Franziska, disembarking at Galveston. He and a number of other immigrants then walked all the way to Dallas to join La Réunion socialist utopian community. A year later Henry and his wife Magdalena Peier bought a farm north of downtown Dallas [near where Baylor Medical Center is now located], a well-situated town of less than 1,000 citizens on the banks of the Trinity River. With his son, Henry, Jr., they farmed and worked as butchers, but his more academically inclined elder son Jacob remained behind in Switzerland where he had married Henrietta Humbel in 1854. While Jacob pursued a study of natural history, Henrietta had three children [who would ultimately come to America]: Wilhelm (1853), Hedwig (1855) and Henrietta (1858).
Jacob Boll was a pupil of fellow Swiss naturalist, Louis Agassiz (1807-1873), himself taught in Paris by Georges Cuvier and Alexander von Humboldt. Jacob bought a pharmacy in Bremgarten, Switzerland, and collected the local flora, publishing a book on his discoveries in 1869. He made his first trip to see his father in Dallas in 1869, stopping at Harvard to visit his former professor Agassiz, who enlisted him to collect specimens in Texas for the Harvard Museum of Comparative Biology. Jacob crisscrossed the Atlantic between America and Switzerland on various assignments over the next few years: Harvard assistant curator for Agassiz (1871); investigating American silkworms for possible cultivation in the US (1871); collecting Texas mollusks and seeds of woody plants for the Swiss government (1871); collecting New England insects (1872); collecting flora of Albula Pass, Switzerland (1872). His wife died in August 1873, which allowed him to finally settle permanently in America, arriving on the Utopia on June 18, 1875 from Glasgow via Hamburg with Wilhelm and Henrietta. The family settled in his father’s hometown of Dallas, where Jacob began a series of collecting expeditions for the Harvard Museum of Comparative Biology and the American Museum of Natural History. He died of snakebite on September 29, 1880 in Wilbarger County, TX while collecting reptiles.
When Jacob died, his son Wilhelm was working as a doctor in Medina County, TX and had been married to Fannie Fretz for about a year. Henrietta had been married for about 2 years to Gottlieb Henry Schoellkopf in Dallas. His only dependent, his daughter Henrietta, was probably staying with her grandfather Henry in Dallas, but within the year, she married Ernest Beilharz in 1881. Ernest and Henrietta had a family of 5 children in Dallas: Bertha (1882), William Ernest (1883), Erna (1887), Edith (1889), and Alfred J. (1893). Their house in 1900 was at 861 Bryan north of downtown about a mile from where Henry Boll’s farm once prospered. In the 19th century as Dallas grew to encompass the farm, Henry Boll named Swiss Avenue to honor the heritage of so many immigrants in the area. Just a few blocks away sat Boll Street, named for Henry Boll, a street now much abbreviated by Central Dallas’ encircling downtown freeways. Swiss Avenue was one of East Dallas’ earliest subdivisions, and in the 1910’s became a showplace of fine homes for the wealthy. Swiss Avenue Historical District remains one of the most exclusive in Dallas where homes now sell in the million dollar range, but it had only begun when William Ernest Boll refused his mother’s invitation.
Will might well have soon regretted his decision as his mother died 10 April 1907, just 10 months later. His father was completely distraught by the death of his wife, and two days before the one year anniversary of her death, committed suicide in the back room of a business he had started, the Texas Liquor Company. This paired catastrophes left despair in its wake for many years, and Will’s brother Alfred J. Beilharz followed in his father’s footsteps when he shot himself in the heart at the Sailing Club on the east side of White Rock Lake in 1938 at the age of 45.
Will was certainly also deeply affected, and may have thrown himself into his work, shuttling repeatedly between California and Texas. He seemed to be everywhere at once: Dallas (1907) draftsman for a cement company; San Francisco (1907) draftsman for Southern Pacific Railroad Company; San Diego (1908) partner in an architectural and engineering firm; San Francisco (1910) structural engineer. He seems to have settled down after he married Miss L. A. Weideman on 15 September 1912 in Dallas, remaining there through 1918 when he registered for the WWI draft, working as an engineer for a steel company.
The rest of his history is somewhat uncertain. He lived in Los Angeles County in the 20’s and 30’s, and by 1942 he is described as “paralytic” and divorced. He died in 1946 at the age of 62, and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, CA. Much of the rest of the family is buried in Oakland Cemetery, in Dallas, more of a sculpture park than a burial ground: his father Ernest Beilharz (1853-1908), mother Henrietta Boll Beilharz (1858-1907); Uncle Theodore Beilharz (1860-1907); siblings Bertha Amelia Beilharz (1882-1973), Erna Marguerete Beilharz (1887-1936), Edith Lucy Beilharz (1889-1929), Alfred J. Beilharz (1893-1938). Others in the family are buried in Greenwood Cemetery: father-in-law Jacob Boll (1828-1880), sister-in-law Hedwig “Hattie” Boll Schoellkopf (1855-1901), brother-in-law Dr. William Boll (1853-1891); Henry Boll (1804-1876) and his wife Magdalena Peier Boll (1806-1887), their children John Boll (1829-1898), Henry Boll (1830-1904), Dorothea Boll Nussbaumer (1832-1912), Susan Boll Frichot (1834-1869).