Past Treasure of the Month – October 2017
This month Rosenberg Library exhibited a unique early 20th century hat rack which belonged to Galveston real estate magnate John Charles League (1851 – 1916.) Made from the horns of Texas steer, the hat rack was used at League’s country house on the west of end of the island.
John Charles League
John Charles League was born in Galveston in 1851 and was the eldest son of Thomas and Esther (Wilson) League. He was educated by private tutors as a young child and later attended preparatory school in Baltimore, Maryland. After graduating, League spent two years in Europe travelling and continuing his studies. When he returned to Galveston in 1872, he assumed management of his late father’s substantial estate. He invested in real estate, purchasing land throughout the state of Texas which he used for ranching and later for oil prospecting.
J.C. League married Nellie Ball in 1874. During the early 1880s, the couple hired Galveston architect Nicholas J. Clayton to design a grand mansion for their family at 1710 Broadway. Their home and garden was one of the most elegant in the city. The Leagues traveled abroad frequently and maintained a second residence in New York.
League served on various charitable boards including those of the Rosenberg Library, the Galveston Orphans Home, the Letitia Rosenberg Women’s Home, and the Galveston Board of Education. He was a member of the Texas Real Estate Association, the Seabrook Hunting and Fishing Club of Houston, and the Galveston Garten Verein.
The Development of League City
In 1893, J.C. League purchased land in the northwestern part of Galveston County along the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railroad track. He platted and oversaw the development of residential lots, roads, parks, schools, and churches in addition to a commercial district. The new community was named League City in his honor.
In January, 1916, J.C. League underwent an emergency appendectomy. He never recovered from the procedure and died several days later. A funeral was held at the family home followed by a private burial at the Episcopal Cemetery.
Rosenberg Library preserves a large collection of papers related to J.C. League’s personal and business dealings in its Galveston and Texas History Center.
These horns were fashioned into tables, chairs, and hat racks,
as well as smaller items such as knife handles and buttons.