Nathan Kallison was a path-breaking innovative rancher and agriculturist on the 2,700-acre land he owned that is now part of Northside ISD and Government Canyon State Natural Area. His mission was to share scientifically advanced and effective techniques in farming and ranching to the entire South Texas area. In addition, Kallison was a well-known and successful merchant in downtown San Antonio.
At age 17, Nathan Kallison immigrated from czarist Russia and came to San Antonio via Chicago in 1899. With a $300 investment, he opened a saddlery and harness shop which grew into a unique and legendary farm and ranch store, becoming the largest supplier of related goods in the Southwest. Kallison’s Store in downtown San Antonio became a crossroads for literally thousands of farmers and ranchers in the area.
Beginning in 1910, Kallison bought and developed the Kallison Ranch, which included the property where Nathan Kallison Elementary is built. The ranch served as a living laboratory for experiments in soil conservation, seed improvement, new crops (like flax) for the area, better animal breeds (like the Polled Hereford), and improved farm implements and equipment. To express his vision for the ranch, Kallison placed a sign above the ranch gate that read, Establish in 1910 for the Development of Better Farming and Ranching. Having a profound desire for learning, Kallison succeeded in realizing his vision by working with agricultural extension agents and with agronomists from Texas A&M and then showcased the new and highly recommended scientific practices for the benefit of others. As one of the earliest ranchers to embrace these new concepts of scientific farming and ranching, Kallison would hold “mini seminars” at his ranch to demonstrate new methods or products.
Dr. Mary Volcansek, Executive Director of The Center for Texas Studies at TCU and a professor at TCU, wrote, that “Nathan Kallison is among the many individuals … who have helped to form the culture of honor, entrepreneurship, courage, and resilience that characterized the state of Texas.” When Kallison came to Texas, he soon demonstrated the spirit and strength of the westerner as a rugged individualist, unafraid of charting his own course, looking only for the opportunity to better oneself and contribute to the larger community. He was also sympathetic to those going through rough times, as he would readily defer customer payment at Kallison’s Store to when times were better. And during the depression, he and his wife, Anna, made their ranch a haven for as many as 20 displaced families who had lost their land, as Kallison erected tents for them on the ranch as a temporary refuge. Kallison described his basic philosophy to a San Antonio Express reporter in 1933 saying, “Some people want to get rich in too much of a hurry. They just won’t take the time to be friendly and kind, to give good service and a little more in old-fashioned friendship.”
Nathan Kallison was a young and poor man when he made his way to San Antonio. He ended up playing a very significant role in the advancement of the farm and ranch community and in the rise of South Texas. He died at the age of 71 in 1944.