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Jan Reymershoffer Revisited

One of the most illustrious names from the pages of Texas Czech
history is that of Jan Reymershoffer. Actually there were three Jan or
John Reymershoffers, and all three of them made their mark on the
history of the state.
Jan Reymershoffer, Sr., was born in Holesov, Moravia, on
December 27, 1808. His father was Frantisek Reymershoffer from
Holesov and his mother Innocencia Klasternik from the Moravian
village of Dub. Jan Reymershoffer was a merchant by trade. After a
period of study and work in Vienna he returned to Holesov, where he
engaged in the mercantile business.
Jan Reymershoffer took as his wife Klara Holy, who was born in
Zadverice, Moravia, on August 12, 1811. Her father was Jan Holy, the
Evangelical minister at Zadverice. Jan Holy baptized and married many
of the Czech emigrants who came to Texas from the Zadverice area.
From Holesov Jan Reymershoffer eventually moved his family to the
Moravian town of Vizovice.
In 1848 revolution broke out in Europe. Jan Reymershoffer was
caught up in the political storm that pummeled the continent. In fact, he
was elected to serve in the Austrian Reichstat. The Revolution of 1848
failed, and a particularly oppressive regime followed in the Austrian
Empire.
In 1854 Jan Reymershoffer packed up and took his family to
America. On September 24, 1854, he left Vizovice, and on January 6,
1855, he arrived in Galveston. He had been in correspondence with
Rev. Arnost Bergman, the Czech Evangelical preacher who was
ministering to the German immigrants at Cat Spring. So Reymershoffer
and his family first settled in that Austin County community. He set up
a store and eventually purchased a farm.
Shortly, however, the Reymershoffer family moved to Allyton in
Colorado County. At that time Allyton was an important commercial
and cotton-trading center. It was also a secessionist hotbed. Czech
immigrants to Texas were known for their pro-Union sentiments, Jan
Reymershoffer included. It is said, however, that he bought a slave to

save himself from the lynch-mob mentality of his neighbors.
Jan Reymershoffer had two sons, John, Jr., who was born in
Vizovice on May 6, 1842, and Gustav, who was born in Vizovice on
August 1, 1847. During the Civil War the young Reymershoffers went
to Matamoros, Mexico, where they found work with a German
mercantile firm.
After the Civil War the Reymershoffer family moved to Galveston.
That is where Jan Reymershoffer, Sr., died on October 10, 1876. He
was sixty-seven years old. His gravestone, and that of his wife, who
died on October 23, 1900, can be found in Galveston’ s Old City
Cemetery.
John Reymershoffer, Jr., and his brother Gustav became successful
businessmen. They founded the Texas Star Flour Mills, and engaged in
trade with both Europe and Latin America. Both brothers served as
aldermen in the city of Galveston. And John Reymershoffer, Jr., served
as consul of the Austro-Hungarian Empire to Texas. He held that post
until his death on December 12, 1899.
John Reymershoffer, Jr., died in New York City. He had gone to
New York to meet his wife and daughters, who were returning from a
trip abroad. He and his wife were walking along Broadway when he
suffered a stroke and died almost immediately. He was fifty-seven years
old, and according to a Galveston newspaper at the time, “ one of
Galveston’ s most prominent and enterprising citizens.”
Gustav Reymershoffer died in Galveston on November 18, 1903.
He died at his sister’ s house, sitting in a rocking chair and reading a
newspaper. He was fifty-six years old. According to his obituary,
Gustav Reymershoffer “ accomplished much, which redounded to the
benefit of the city.”
The third Jan (John) Reymershoffer was the son of John
Reymershoffer, Jr. He followed in his father’ s footsteps both in the field
of international affairs and in business. After the death of his father he
was named Austro-Hungarian consul to Texas. According to his
obituary he was named baron by Emperor Franz Josef and awarded the
Order of the Iron Crown. John Reymershoffer III was also a successful
businessman. He was founder and president of Panhandle Oil Co. John
Reymershoffer III died at his home in Houston on August 30, 1949.

The Jan Reymershoffer family achieved the immigrant’ s dream.
They worked hard, became successful and passed on a legacy to their
children. And they believed that with success came responsibilities. Jan
Reymershoffer, Sr., met new immigrants from the Old Country and
helped them on their way to a new life in a new land. His son and
grandson served both the city of Galveston and their homeland in
Europe. Ironically, this illustrious family name, whose bearers
contributed so much to the state of Texas, is virtually unknown in the
Texas Czech community today.

* Editor’ s note: For more information on the Jan Reymershoffer family,
see Czech Pioneers of the Southwest by Estelle Hudson and Henry
Maresh, and History of Czechs in America by Jan Habenicht.

- Robert Janak

“ Jan Reymershoffer Revisited,” printed in the series Czech Connections,
Cesky Hlas, February 2000, page 15.

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