Brown, James Moreau (1821–1895)

By: Jeanette H. Flachmeier

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: November 1, 1994

James Moreau Brown, businessman, was born in Orange County, New York, on September 22, 1821, the son of John M. and Hannah (Krantz) Brown. The family moved to New York City when Brown was a child. As a teenager he drove a canal boat along the Erie Canal, working with Charley Mallory, later of the Mallory Steamship Lines. He also served an apprenticeship as a brickmason and plasterer and developed ability as an architect. After his apprenticeship Brown traveled in the South. He stayed for a while in New Orleans and then lived for several years in Vicksburg, where he prospered financially.

In 1843 he moved to Galveston, Texas, where he influenced the building of first brick jail and the old market. In 1848 he was elected an alderman. He entered the hardware business in 1847, then formed a partnership in 1850 with Stephen Kirkland, a blacksmith. Kirkland reportedly built the first hook and ladder truck in Texas. Brown was an original member of the first Galveston volunteer fire brigade, organized in October 1843. When Kirkland died in 1859, Brown closed the business and became president of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad. For his help in transporting men from Houston to help recapture Galveston from Union troops, Gen. John B. Magruder rewarded him with the honorary title of colonel. Brown also served the Confederacy as a purchasing agent in Mexico. After the war he resigned from the presidency of the railroad and engaged in the wholesale hardware business in partnership with J. W. Lang. In 1875 Lang sold out to Brown, who then admitted his son J. S. Brown to full partnership in the firm, the name of which was changed to J. S. Brown and Company. The firm became one of the largest enterprises of its kind in the South. After the war Brown also designed and supervised the construction of the First National Bank of Galveston, which was organized in 1866.

By 1870 he was one of the wealthiest men in Texas, with $175,000 in real property and $100,000 in personal property. In 1871 Governor Edmund J. Davis appointed him to the Galveston board of aldermen. Brown also served as a director and president of the First National Bank of Galveston, director and president of the Galveston Wharf Company (see GALVESTON WHARVES), director of the Union and Marine Fire Insurance Company, and president of the board of the Life Association of America. In addition, he promoted the Galveston gas and light companies and served as chairman of the committee for construction of the city waterworks.

Brown married Rebecca Ashton Stoddart of Philadelphia in 1846. In 1859 he built what was reputed to be the first brick house in Galveston, known as Ashton Villa. He also reportedly donated generously, as well as anonymously, to individuals in need. He was a member of the Knights Templar and the Odd Fellows. He died on December 24, 1895. His funeral was held in Trinity Church (Episcopal), and he was buried in Galveston Cemetery. He was survived by his wife and five children.

Drury Blakeley Alexander and (photographs) Todd Webb, Texas Homes of the Nineteenth Century (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1966). John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). Galveston Daily News, December 26, 1895. Dermont H. Hardy and Ingham S. Roberts, eds., Historical Review of South-East Texas (2 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1910). Charles Waldo Hayes, Galveston: History of the Island and the City (2 vols., Austin: Jenkins Garrett, 1974). Ray Miller, Ray Miller's Galveston (Houston: Cordovan Press, 1983).

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

Jeanette H. Flachmeier, “Brown, James Moreau,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 18, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1994