Bremond, Paul (1810–1885)

By: Robert S. Maxwell

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 15, 2016

Paul Bremond, railroad builder, financier, and entrepreneur, was born in New York City on October 11, 1810, to Paul Barlie and Catherine (Green) Bremond of Fishkill, New York. The elder Bremond was a French émigré physician. The younger Bremond left school at the age of twelve to become apprentice to a firm of hatters. He engaged in the hat business in New York and Philadelphia but suffered large losses in the panic of 1837. In 1839 he moved to Galveston, Texas, where he opened an auction and commission house. About 1842 he moved to Houston and expanded his interests, along with the circle of businessmen that included William Marsh Rice, Thomas William House, and William A. Van Alstyne.

Bremond helped to incorporate the Galveston and Red River Railroad, which began construction in 1855. In 1856 the legislature changed the name of the road to Houston and Texas Central, and Bremond, as president, built it north through Hempstead. It was later built through Dallas to Sherman and became one of the major rail lines in the state. Bremond was also involved in the incorporation of the Brazos Plank Road.

He married Harriet Martha Sprouls of New York and with her had a son and two daughters, one of whom, Margaret, was the first wife of William Marsh Rice. Harriet died in 1846, and Bremond then married Mary E. Van Alstyne (daughter of his business partner), by whom he had five daughters. After her death he married the Viscountess Mary Louise de Valernes.

Although most of his family were Episcopalians, Bremond, a spiritualist, organized a Houston society for the study of spiritualism. He believed that he was spiritually guided by Moseley Baker, a soldier of the Texas Revolution. According to Bremond's own story, the spirit of Baker prodded him to build another railroad. He secured a charter in 1875 for the Houston, East and West Texas Railway, to run from Houston to Shreveport through the East Texas piney woods. Though the Houston and Texas Central and most railroads were standard gauge (4' 8"), Bremond now favored a narrow-gauge (3') road, which he thought would be more economical to build and operate. Construction began in 1876 and proceeded slowly. The line reached Livingston in 1879, the site of Lufkin in 1882, and Nacogdoches in 1883. Because local funds and the state land grant did not provide sufficient capital, Bremond mortgaged the railroad to borrow large sums from eastern bankers. The road continued to build north and east to the Sabine River and eventually to a junction with a sister railroad, the Houston and Shreveport, in January 1886. Bremond, however, did not live to see the completion of his work. He died on May 8, 1885, while visiting in Galveston and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston. The town of Bremond in Robertson County and Bremond streets in Houston, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches are named for him.

Robert S. Maxwell, Whistle in the Piney Woods: Paul Bremond and the Houston, East and West Texas Railway, Texas Gulf Coast Historical Association Publication Series 7.2 (November 1963). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981).

Time Periods:
  • Republic of Texas
  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction
  • Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert S. Maxwell, “Bremond, Paul,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 25, 2022,

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September 15, 2016

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