Nathan Kallison: Pioneer Jewish Businessman & Rancher of San Antonio, Texas

Nathan Kallison

Nathan Kallison of San Antonio

Nathan Kallison of San Antonio

Values Codes: I-H-E-L-P

Nathan Kallison was born in 1873, in Ladyzhinka, Russia.

His parents were Moshko and Dina Kallison.

Along the way . . .

Nathan Kallison journeyed to America in 1890.

He and his brother, Jacob Kallison, traveled separately, but were reunited in New York.

Together, they went to Chicago, where their older cousin, Joseph Kallison, lived.

There Nathan Kallison found work as a harness maker.

He attended the Jewish Training School in order to learn English and American history.

In 1893, Nathan Kallison opened his own harness shop.


In 1894, the Kallison brothers brought their mother, Dina, to Chicago.

In 1896, the Kallison family was naturalized as American citizens.

San Antonio, Texas

During the late 1890s, Nathan Kallison considered moving to Albuquerque and Arizona.

Eventually, in 1899, they moved to San Antonio, Texas.

Nathan Kalison opened his harness shop at 124 S. Flores Street. This shop – also their home – became a successful leather business.

In 1908, Nathan Kallison extended his business to include ranching supplies and general merchandise.

It became the leading farm and ranch store in south Texas.

In 1910, Nathan Kallison purchased land in San Antonio for $3.76 an acre, officially becoming a rancher.

Kallison Ranch Entrance

Kallison Ranch Entrance

Kallison taught himself about the science and practice of agriculture.

He experimented with agricultural techniques and varieties of wheat – such as Abyssinian Duran — that could withstand extreme temperatures.

The sign at the entrance to his ranch read: “Established in 1910 for development of better farming and ranching.”

The Kallison family were agricultural innovators. For instance, theirs was the first ranch in Texas to grow flax.


In 1914, the Kallisons moved to a three-story Victorian house at 701 San Pedro Avenue.

BBQ at the Kallison Ranch

BBQ at the Kallison Ranch


During the 1920s, Nathan Kallison renamed his store to Kallison’s Department Store.

Following a devastating flood in 1921, Kallison quickly rebuilt his store along with an addition that incorporated much of the west side of the 100 block of Flores.

It was all elegantly designed and called Kallison’s Block.


Nathan Kallison married Anna Letwin (b. 1877) in 1895.

Together they had four children: Morris (1896-1966), Pauline (1881-1953), Bertha “Tibe” (1902-1982) and Perry (1903-1999).


Perry Kallison assisted his father in the agricultural side of the family’s business interests. He married Frances Rosenthal, whom he met through his sister, Tibe Kallison.

Morris Kallison worked in the family’s store. He left school after ninth grade to work in the store, though he eventually took classes at Alamo City Business College.

After World War II, he turned his focus to real estate, buying up commercial properties in downtown San Antonio.

Morris Kallison was a bar mitzvah at Temple Beth El in 1909.

Pauline, Tibe and Perry Kallison were confirmed there.

Nick Kotz, Tibe’s son, is a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Washington Post and the Des Moines Register


Nathan Kallison died in 1944 in San Antonio, Texas.

Anna Kallison died in 1959.

They are buried at the Temple Beth El Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.


While Kallison’s Department Store closed in 1967, the building at 124 S. Flores remains – including   the statue of a cowboy holding a saddle.

In 2002, the Government Canyon State National Area expanded to include 1,161 acres of the Kallison Ranch due to the ranch’s location above the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer.


For more information, see this issue of Western States Jewish History:

  • Weiner, Hollace Ava. “Frances Rosenthal Kallison 1908-2004: Texas Cowgirl with a Jewish Conscience.” Western States Jewish History. Fall 2015; 48 (1): 3-25.

Other Sources:

  • Kotz, Nick. The Harness Maker’s Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas. Fort Work, TX: Texas Christian University Press, 2013. Print.

 Samantha Silver is Curator for this Nathan Kallison exhibit.

Other family pictures would be appreciated.

Be sure to share this exhibit on your facebook page so other hear about the Jewish Museum of the American West.


Jews in the News

A Congregation for Waco, Texas — 1879

Waco, Texas. The Jewish community of this place are about organizing a congregation, preparatory to building a synagogue and Sunday school. This movement had long been spoken of, but until the B’nai B’rith lodge had taken action in the matter, nothing definite was decided upon. The action of the lodge in so zealously furthering the formation of a congregation, is deserving of much praise.

Jewish Messenger, New York, March 14, 1879, WSJH, Vol. 22, #4.