Henry J. Labatt: Influential Early Pioneer Jewish Attorney of San Francisco

Henry J. Labatt

Henry Labatt, 1896 WS 16/2292

Henry Labatt, 1896
WS 16/2292

Values Codes  H-I-E-L

An important Jewish family in pioneer San Francisco was the Labatts. They were Sephardic Jews.

Abraham Cohen Labatt, who had been born in Charleston, South Carolina, became the first President of Congregation Emanu-El when it was or­ganized in April 1851.



Henry J. Labatt, one of Abraham’s sons, born in New Orleans, was probably the most influential of the early Jewish attor­neys in the Bay City.

When Congregation Emanu-El was founded he prepared an illuminated manu­script of the Articles of Incorporation, which he signed.

He served as Secretary of the Congregation from 1854 to 1860.

Labatt was also active with the largely Polish membership of the First Hebrew Benevolent Society, serving as Secretary and Board Member in the 1850s.



When the first Jewish newspaper in the West was established in October 1856, The Voice of Israel, Henry Labatt was its co-Editor with Rabbi Herman Bien.

He was an active and effective polemist, defending the good name of California Jewry from its occasional detractors.

Henry Labatt effected the incorporation of the Chebra Bikur Cholim U-Kadischa and the Chebra Berith Sholom, early San Francisco benevolent groups.

Labatt was also active in the Hebrew Young Men’s Literary Association.

By 1853 Henry Labatt was considered an authority on California law, having written a series of forty-eight-page booklets on the decisions of district courts in the State.

In 1856 he authored one of the State’s first law books, The Practice Act of California, on civil law proceedings.


Galveston, Texas

After spending the 1850s and 1860s in San Francisco, Henry Labatt moved to Galveston, Texas, where he continued his distin­guished legal career, and served in the Texas legislature.

Henry Labatt even had a small Texas town named after him.

Labbat Texas was a small, one-store flag stop and switch on the San Antonio and Arkansas Pass Railroad.

The town was abandoned in the 1930’s.


Henry Labatt became President of Zacharias Frankel B’nai B’rith Lodge #242 of Galveston in 1878.

At the dedication of the Lodge, Labatt spoke, together with Rabbi Abraham Blum, who was soon to become the Spiritual Leader of Congregation B’nai B’rith of Los Angeles.


Henry Labatt died in 1899 in Texas.


For information about his Texas years, click below.

Henry Jacob Labatt: Pioneer Jewish Lawyer During His Texas Years


More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  • Labatt, Henry J.; Henry J. Labatt (1832-1900): Pioneer Lawyer of California and Texas; San Francisco; Kramer, William M.; 28/3
  • Labatt, Henry J.; Labatt on the Commercial Position of the Jews in California; 1856; San Francisco; Labatt, Henry J.; 29/3
  • Labatt, Henry J.; Pioneer Lawyer of California and Texas; San Francisco; Kramer, William M.; 15/1
  • Labatt, Henry J., Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part One, A-L, Norton Stern, 41/1

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