Landscape architect and city planner George Edward Kessler (1862-1923) was born in Germany, brought to America at age three, and eventually moved to Dallas.

George E. Kessler's boyhood in Dallas
Evidence, sources, and research problems


George E. Kessler

George E. Kessler
from Our City--Dallas; by Justin F. Kimball (1927)

(click image for a larger view)


Summary:

Research in the local archives of Dallas, Texas show that George E. Kessler is indeed living in Dallas during the 1870s. But evidence of the Kessler family during George's boyhood years is scarce and contradicts prior biographies.

The most significant documents found are Edward Ernst Kesslerís application for US Citizenship (1876-1879). Though 1905 passport applications refer to his Certificate of Naturalization, no record of it is indexed for the archives of the District Court in Dallas.

No direct evidence has been found that Georgeís father, Edward E. Kessler, died in Dallas Ė no newspaper obituary, no grave site, no probate record. As a possible year of Edward Kesslerís death the usually cited date of 1878 is contradicted by County records he signed in 1879. 1905 passport applications say Edward lived in the USA until 1882.

No Dallas County real estate deeds of that period are indexed under a Kessler name, and no District #14 Court case records are indexed for any Kessler name. No record of the Kesslers' "cotton plantation", "near Dallas", can be found. The date the Kessler family arrived in Dallas County is not known.

There is only one edition of a Dallas city directory (1878-1879) in which Edward Kessler and his son George are listed, and between 1875 and 1880 a Kessler name (E. Kessler) appears only once (1879) in the Tax Rolls of Dallas County. No record of the George's departure to Germany from Texas was found, and contrary to the usual story that George's mother accompanied George and his sister to Germany in 1878, she is still present in Dallas newspapers in 1880. In 1925 Rudolph Einsenlohr recalled that George was "sent" (not taken) back to Germany. The 1881 ship's log listing the return of George and his sister Antonie to America does not include their mother Adolphe Clotilde Zeitsche Kessler (1832-1911).

In hopes of assisting future researchers, I have copied here are all pertinent original evidence documents, a list of archives in which I have searched, and some discussion of several specific research problems, including my list of possible future places to look for further evidence.


Evidence:

1870: Census -- Kesslerís family living in Jersey City, New Jersey... (Click here to view)
1871: Kessler listings in the city directory for Jersey City... (Click here to view)
1871: Kessler listing in the city directory for Hannibal, Missouri... (Click here to view)
1875: Kesslers in Dallas -- downtown on Pacific Avenue -- teaching German and sewing ... (Click here to view)
1876: Edward Kesslerís U.S. Citizenship: Declaration of Intent ... (Click here to view)
1878: "Professor Kessler" plays organ at a Temple Emanu-El wedding ... (Click here to view)
1878-1879: Kessler listings in the city directory for Dallas, Texas ... (Click here to view)
1879: ďE. KesslerĒ listed in the Dallas County tax rolls ... (Click here to view)
1879: Edward Kesslerís U.S. Citizenship: Petition for Naturalization ... (Click here to view)
          Edward Kesslerís U.S. Citizenship: Index (showing no "Grant. of Cit.") ... (Click here to view)
1880: Mrs. Kessler wins a raffle, in "straightened circumstances" ... (Click here to view)
1880: U.S. Census -- no member of Kessler's immediate family can be found in the 1880 Census.
1881: Passenger list with George and sister (mother not listed with them) ... (Click here to view)
1881-1882: New York City Directories -- no member of Kessler's family is listed.
1904 (circa): Newspaper article about George E. Kessler (unknown publisher) ... (Click here to view)
1905: Passport application made by George E. Kessler... (Click here to view)
1905: Passport application made by Clotilde Kessler... (Click here to view)
1912: Alex Sanger recalls Kessler's boyhood in Dallas... (Click here to view)
1923: Alex Sangerís recollection of George Kessler as a boy ... (Click here to view).
1925: Rudolph F. Eisenlohr's recollection of the Kessler family in Dallas ... (Click here to view).
1927: Justin F. Kimballís biography concerning George Kesslerís boyhood in Dallas (Click here to view).
1925: Edward G. Eisenlohr's recollection of the George Kessler ... (Click here to view).


Searches: During 2017 I have searched the following archives --

Dallas County real estate deeds: The Series 1 Index volumes (1 Jan. 1842-31st Dec. 1913) were searched (including Grantor, Grantee, Corporation & Firms -- Grantor, and Corporation & Firms -- Grantee indexes). No Kessler name was found, nor any approximate spelling. It is possible that the Kesslers' "cotton plantation" was deeded to a coporation or partnership using a different name, had been leased (without a filing), was in a different county, or never really existed. For the possibility, the names "Goslin" and "McIlhenny" who affirmed Edward E. Kessler's application for Citizenship, were searched; but no deed records filed under their names appear as possible "cotton plantations" shared with the Kesslers.

Dallas County Immigration and Naturalization files: As shown above, 4 pages were filed by Edward Ernst Kessler expressing his intent to apply, and petitioning the District Court for U.S. Citizenship. While the Dallas archives include no record of Citizenship ever having been granted to Edward Kessler, a 1905 passport application by George E. Kessler states that he is presenting, as proof of his own U.S. Citizenship, his father's Certificate of Naturalization, issed on the same 9th May 1879 date as the final Dallas records. Since George E. Kessler's citizenship was derived from his father's Naturalization, presumably he would have kept that document throughout his lifetime.

Texas District Court # 14: Indexes of Minutes and Case Notes: No Kessler name is found in the Indexes of Plaintiffs or Defendants for the local courts of Dallas - 1870-1888. No divorce for any "Kessler" is listed in modern indexes of that period's cases.

Dallas City Directories: No Kessler name is listed in the 1873, 1875, 1877,1880-1881, editions of the city directories for Dallas (or other archived directories prior to 1889). In a Dallas County directory of 1881-~1882 (including all the rural areas of the county) no Kessler name is listed. Edward Kessler, along with his son George, appear only once in a city directory -- in the 18789-1979 edition shown above.

Dallas County Tax Rolls: No Kessler name is listed in the 1876, 1877, 1878, or 1880 County tax registers. The name "E.Kessler" was found only once, in the 1879 tax rolls (shown above).The 1879 Dallas County tax roll was not divided into separate precincts, only a single list.

Texas newspapers: Pertinent articles found are all copied above. Local deaths were almost always reported in the Daily (or Weekly) Dallas Herald . Omissions are rare and the absence of an obituary for Edward Kessler seems odd. (County Coroner's inquests prior to 1889 are not in today's archives.)

Dallas County probate case records: No Kessler name appears in the Dallas County probate records of those decades.

Edward E. Kessler's grave: No "Find-a-Grave" listing for George E. Kessler's father could be found anywhere in the United States (as of October 2017). No evidence that he died in Dallas County has been found; but there are still many uncataloged cand unmarked burials of the 1870-1880s in Dallas County.

Membership in the Jewish Community: One current online webpage includes George E. Kessler's name on a list of prominent members in the history of the Dallas Jewish Community. I find no evidence to confirm that. George Kessler's maternal grandfather was a minister in the Lutheran church, his parents were married in a Lutheran ceremony, and George E. Kessler's funeral was an Episcopal Church service. But George E. Kessler spoke at Dallas civic luncheon programs along with rabbi David Leftowitz (Jewish Monitor; Vol 10, 10; 19 Nov 1920--Portal of Texas, online); and in an 1878 newspaper story (above) George's father seems to be the "Professor Kessler" playing organ at a Temple Emanu-El wedding. In such manner the Kesslers may be said to have been affilitated with the Jewish Community of Dallas (though not necessarily as congregation members).

Sister and Uncle: In none of the above archive searches have I ever encountered any records from the 19th century with any mention of George E. Kessler's sister (Antonie Louise Kessler: 1863-1947), or his uncle (Jacob Frederick Kessler), living in Dallas.


Sources Not Yet Searched:

Dallas Public Library:
        Special archives (Acheson Collection, etc.)
        Dallas Times Herald obituary--1923
Dallas Historical Society
Kansas City archives
Missouri Historical Society archives
Indianapolis archives





THANKS for research assistance provided by:

John Lawler Drye, Carol Roark, Harry Joe, Kurt Culbertson, Bob Dunn, Paula Bosse, Dallas County deed records, Dallas Public Library downtown 7th and 8th floors, William H. Wilson, and Mike Hazel.


Why is George E. Kesslerís youth in Dallas important?

What prompted Clotilde Kessler to direct her son George toward his unique and special program of education in landscape engineering?

In Dallas County, Texas during the 1870s there were scientists with advanced knowledge and international reputation; and if the Kesslers had arrived in Dallas in 1872, and they had lived in the countryside out near the former ďLa Reunion ColonyĒ, they would have been neighbors with the likes of Emile Remond geologist, Maximilien Reverchon agronomist and his son Julien Reverchon botanist, Jacob Boll naturalist, Dr.s John Stevens and William Armstrong antiseptic surgeons ó highly educated persons who could have been both a significant inspiration to young George, and given reliable advice to his mother about a European training program for her son.

Instead, if the Kessler family had arrived in Dallas in 1875 and had lived only in town, then the influence of Dallas might have been relatively insignificant on George E. Kesslerís future career choice. Having re-examined the meager available evidence, Iím now inclined to feel that the greater inspiration to George Kessler would have been seeing the newly completed Central Park in New York City while he was a boy.

Contact with the Reverchons in Dallas would have been theoretically possible (and some brief encounters might have indeed occurred) but the evidence (as it now stands) shows that it was downtown Dallas merchants Alex Sanger and Rudolph Eisenlohr, not the Reverchons, who had befriended young George E. Kessler during his boyhood years in Dallas. The Eisenolhr family and Alex Sanger ďkept in close touch with him in the years sinceĒ ; while, prior to his death in 1905, Julien Reverchon had been regularly visited by the Director of the Missouri Botanical Garden Ė not by George Kessler.



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11 November 2017; last revised 3rd February 2018
Jim Barnes barnes444@sbcglobal.net