Morgan, Charles (1795–1878)

By: James P. Baughman

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: April 1, 1995

Charles Morgan, shipping and railroad magnate, was born on April 21, 1795, in Killingworth (presently Clinton), Connecticut, the son of George and Betsey Morgan. He moved to New York City at the age of fourteen and soon began a ship chandlery and import business. That venture led to investments in merchant shipping and ironworks and to management of several lines of sailing and steam packets trading with the South and the West Indies. In 1837 Morgan opened the first scheduled steamship line between New Orleans and Galveston. From that axis he expanded his regular service to Matagorda Bay ports in 1848, Brazos Santiago in 1849, Vera Cruz in 1853, Key West in 1856, Rockport, Corpus Christi, and Havana in 1868, and New York in 1875. He was also both partner and rival of Cornelius Vanderbilt in attempts to establish an isthmian transit across Nicaragua in the 1850s. During the Civil War Morgan's vessels were seized or chartered for military and naval service by both sides, but he profited from wartime charters and machinery contracts and resumed his regular routes in 1866. As before the war the Morgan Lines dominated intra-Gulf trade through excellent service and his possession of exclusive United States mail contracts. Much of Morgan's postwar career was devoted to integrating his water lines with rapidly developing rail carriers in Louisiana and Texas. He was also deeply involved in the interport rivalries of New Orleans, Mobile, Galveston, and Houston. Among railroads, he organized, reorganized, and managed the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas, the New Orleans, Opelousas and Great Western, the Louisiana Western in Louisiana, the Gulf, Western Texas and Pacific, the Houston and Texas Central, the Texas and New Orleans, and associated lines in Texas. In the 1870s he also built, at his own expense, Houston's first deepwater ship channel to the Gulf. In 1877 he established Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company as a holding company to control and operate his integrated water and rail services. The system was absorbed under lease by the Southern Pacific Company between 1883 and 1885. On July 5, 1817, Morgan married Emily Reeves; they had five children. After her death in 1850, he married Mary Jane Sexton on June 24, 1851. He died on May 8, 1878, in New York City.

James P. Baughman, Charles Morgan and the Development of Southern Transportation (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1968). S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981).

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

James P. Baughman, “Morgan, Charles,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 08, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995