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GOD & TEXAS: Henry Rosenberg

Heinrich Rosenberger was the son of a humble cobbler in Bilten, Switzerland. Due to family poverty, he left school to work in the fabric industry. Despite these lowly beginnings, Heinrich became one of the wealthiest businessmen in…… Texas!

Born in 1824, Heinrich immigrated to Galveston at the age of 19. He worked in a dry goods store owned by his childhood friend John Hessly, and changed his name to Henry Rosenberg. In 1851, he met and married Letitia Cooper, who owned the hat shop next door.

After buying Hessly’s store, Henry expanded the business statewide, became a director of a national bank, and was elected alderman in the city of Galveston. Additionally, Henry was appointed by the State of Texas to serve as consul to Switzerland.

Often, the yellow fever epidemic forced the Galveston railroad to be quarantined. This led to stalled shipments and spoiled goods. In 1873, Rosenberg partnered with the Sealy brothers to build their own business, the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad, which stretched to Temple in central Texas. Fortunately, the new railroad crossed the Brazos River at an area known as Mudtown, now named Rosenberg after Henry Rosenberg.

When Rosenberg died in 1893, he was a revered financier and philanthropist. He had no children, and he loved the City of Galveston. Therefore, he bequeathed many gifts to the city that included the Rosenberg Library, the Texas Heroes Monument, the Island City Orphans Home, the Letitia Rosenberg Home for Abused Women, and “drinking fountains for man and beasts.”

History records that Rosenberg had a deep commitment to Christ. He helped to build churches both in the United States and Switzerland. He served as vestryman at Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston and provided one-half of the cost to design and build Eaton Chapel. He donated a beautiful stained-glass window for the chapel titled, “The Good Shepherd.”

Later, Rosenberg helped design and build the Grace Episcopal church in Galveston, where he was attending at his death. Not forgetting his roots, he furnished finances to re-build the Village Church in his hometown of Bilten, Switzerland. Heaven alone will reveal the lives that were changed because Rosenberg cared about their souls.

Friend Yancy Lewis said of Rosenberg, “Henry was a man in whom there was developed most clearly and strongly the conception that wealth is not given in absolute and unqualified ownership, but that its possessors hold it in trust for high purposes and for worthy causes.”

Rosenberg fulfilled 1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

May each of us live with these same principles.

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