IGNATIUS G. GAAL, superintendent of the County Hospital at El Paso, Texas, whose thorough training and practical experience has well qualified him for the important and responsible duties which devolve upon him in this connection, was born at Somolnok, in the department of Sepeshi Varas, Hungary, in 1847. He was provided with good educational privileges, including opportunity for considerable medical study under Dr. Jacob Heidel, a distinguished physician, who later was connected with the general hospital at Vienna. He was also experienced in the general merchandise and drug trade before coming to America in 1865. After a short time spent in New York looking for work he made his way to Cleveland, Ohio, and secured employment in the furniture factory of Troeger, Winkle & Company, continuing there for about six months. Having by this time learned something of the English language he bought a wagon and team and started on trips through the country selling goods in northern Ohio. Later he engaged in the wholesale liquor business on Seneca street in Cleveland in connection with a man by the name of White, under the firm style of Gaal & Company. In 1869 he went to Kansas and was one of the pioneers of Washington county, locating on the Little Blue when there were few settlers in that part of the state. Mr. Hollenburg, for whom he worked for some time and during that period laid out the town of Hanover and part of the town of Waterville.
After remaining in Kansas for about two years Mr. Gaal went to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1871, but later in the same year started for California. He first landed at San Francisco and subsequently at Sacramento, where he was connected with the Central Pacific (now the Southern Pacific) Railroad. He also acquired valuable real estate interests in the vicinity of Sacramento and also in Humboldt county. He continued successfully in business in California until 1880, when he came to El Paso, Texas, then known as Franklin. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which was the first line to reach this city, had not then been completed to the town but was extended to El Paso in 1881. Mr. Gaal purchased six thousand acres of land in El Paso county, but continued to make his home in the town and for some time had charge of the work of the Southern Pacific car shops; in fact, continued in charge until the shops were completed. Subsequently he resumed the management of the furniture store of Robinson & Carrico of San Antonio street, adjoining the State National Bank, conducting the business for about a year. That was in the pioneer days of the city. In the summer of 1883, Mr. Gaal purchased some property at Ysleta, then the county seat of El Paso county, and located in that town, establishing a general store there. Ysleta was then the largest town in El Paso county, Texas; out of said town he afterwards made a city, and changed the public free school into an independent free school district. His business prospered and he extended his operations to include general contracting for the Southern Pacific Railway. To that company he sold thousands of cords of wood and also did general construction work for the corporation along the Rio Grande river to prevent the road from being washed out. He there built twenty-one miles of railroad track when the line was changed form the valley to the foot hills.
When it was proposed to change the county seat form Ysleta to El Paso, Mr. Gaal for the first time entered actively into politics for the purpose of fighting for the interests of his home town and took an active part in the exciting election, which, however, resulted in the removal of the courthouse to El Paso in 1885.
Since 1883, when Mr. Gaal located in the town of Ysleta, he being a Republican looked around town and vicinity to find out if there were any other loyal Republicans there, but to his great surprise found only one man by name of Pablo Romero, a Mexican, but an American citizen, who declared himself to be a Republican, but was afraid of his life if known publicly; so Mr. Gaal went to work unceasingly, regardless of danger, and reformed old Democrats into young Republicans, and by 1886 had several hundred young Republicans following and supporting him. In 1886 Mr. Gaal was urged to become a candidate for county commissioner on the Republican ticket, but was defeated by a very small majority, owing to a combination of candidates against him. In 1888 he was elected mayor of Ysleta and county commissioner by an overwhelming Republican majority, six to one, against his opponent, and again elected mayor in 1890 and again in 1894. His third election was certainly a vindication of the course which he pursued during his former terms and which proved an exciting chapter in his life history. Mr. Gaal was engaged on the reconstruction of the Acequia Madre irrigation ditch of Ysleta for the use and benefit of the citizens of the City of Ysleta, and in his capacity as mayor he had many men in his employ. This was in 1890. He was opposed in this irrigation project by a number of people of Ysleta because of the fact that another company was about to construct another irrigating ditch. The opposition was a political scheme, concocted by the opposing party. The controversy between the contending parties grew, bitter feeling was engendered and at length trouble of a revolutionary character broke out. At this time Mr. Gaal exhibited great courage and resolution. He was barricaded in his own home with his family for several hours and his enemies fired thousands of shots, but were finally put to flight by the friends of Mr. Gaal. The details of this affair and the proceedings which led up to it would fill a long chapter, showing the open disregard of his opponents for the law, but Mr. Gaal knows that all good citizens feel that he did his duty in every respect. He had the endorsement of county officials and many citizens. A large number of the best citizens became mixed up in those riots in which Mr. Gaal several times narrowly escaped death. When time brought calmer judgment and less biased opinion many who had opposed him saw that his course was correct and the warm friendship and regard which is uniformly extended him today indicates that he was right in the stand which he took. His election in 1894 was an indication of the popularity and the confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens. In 1891 he was appointed inspector and deputy collector of customs in charge of Ysleta under Webster Flannagan, who was then the collector of customs for the El Paso district, and continued to discharge the duties of the office in addition to the management of his general business interests at Ysleta until 1895. He was president of the school board of Ysleta for seven years. In 1899 he was elected superintendent of the County Hospital at El Paso, which position he is now filing. His family, however, continued to make their home in Ysleta. He is extensively interested in farming and was for some time engaged in the milling business. He is a man of resourceful ability, carrying forward to successful completion whatever he undertakes, and has won a creditable measure of prosperity in his private business interests.
Mr. Gaal was married while living in Sacramento to Miss F. C. A. Rademacher, who was born at Willimantic, Connecticut, and they have three sons and a daughter, Charles B., Lillian M., Frank F., and George W. Fraternally Mr. Gaal is connected with Industrial Lodge, No. 157, I. O. O. F., of Sacramento, and also with the Knights of Pythias Lodge No. 11, at Sacramento, California. He likewise belongs to the Elks Lodge No. 187, at El Paso and to the Pioneers’ Society of El Paso, Texas, Mr. Gaal has figured prominently in connection with events that mark the country’s progress and the promotion of its material up building and improvement and in his present office is proving most capable and efficient, carefully conducting the business interests of the hospital and at the same time neglecting no duty toward its inmates.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. I, pp. 493-495.