Pulsifer, Joseph Perkins (1805–1861)

By: Judith Walker Linsley and Ellen Walker Rienstra

Type: Biography

Published: May 1, 1995

Joseph P. Pulsifer, early Texas apothecary and a founder of Beaumont, the son of Ebenezer and Elizabeth (Dwelbee) Pulsifer, was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on July 8, 1805. Little is known about Pulsifer's education, except that his letters show him to have been an extremely literate man. Probably through apprenticeship, he became an apothecary, and sometime after 1827 he opened a drugstore in partnership with his brother Eben in nearby Charlestown, now a suburb of Boston. There Pulsifer became a member of the Mechanics' Society and served as its secretary in 1831. Sometime during 1832 or 1833 he returned to Newburyport to work in the drug firm of Thomas Davis and Company. In the fall of 1833 Pulsifer moved to New Orleans in search of economic opportunity and found employment in the store of druggist and retail merchant Henry W. Millard. By 1835, however, the firm developed financial troubles. Pulsifer and Millard then entered into a partnership, J. P. Pulsifer and Company, with Texas merchant Thomas B. Huling. The men moved to Texas in July of that year. In a small settlement named Santa Anna, on the Neches River, they opened a store under Pulsifer's management. In the fall of 1835 the firm purchased fifty acres on the Neches River and laid out the boundaries of a new town, which they called Beaumont.

From Beaumont, Pulsifer took an active, if nonmilitary, part in the Texas Revolution. Citizens of the Neches River Settlement, as that area was called, appointed him chairman of the Committee of Correspondence, secretary of the Committee of Safety (see COMMITTEES OF SAFETY AND CORRESPONDENCE), and a member of a local committee to draft ideas for a constitution and bylaws for Texas. He also served as Beaumont's first postmaster and as a trustee of the first school. After the revolution Pulsifer, Huling, and Millard added fifty acres to the original Beaumont townsite. By entering into partnership with Nancy Tevis and Joseph Grigsby, each of whom donated an additional fifty acres, they increased the original area of the town to a total of 200 acres. Beaumont ultimately incorporated both Santa Anna and Tevis Bluff, an older settlement about a mile upriver from Santa Anna. Pulsifer, who never married, remained a citizen of Beaumont for the rest of his life. In addition to practicing his professions of storekeeper and apothecary, he served in various public offices: collector of revenue for the port of Sabine, county clerk, county commissioner, and clerk of the Jefferson County Board of Land Commissioners. Before the first Jefferson County Courthouse was built in 1854, the county commissioners periodically held court on the second floor of his combination home and store in Beaumont. He also served as an agent in Jefferson County for the Austin State Gazette. Pulsifer died in Beaumont in 1861. The one extant volume of his correspondence remains unpublished. It covers the period from 1833 to 1836 and describes his immigration to Texas and his ordeal during the Texas Revolution.

Judith Walker Linsley and Ellen Walker Rienstra, Beaumont: A Chronicle of Promise (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor, 1982).

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

Judith Walker Linsley and Ellen Walker Rienstra, “Pulsifer, Joseph Perkins,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 16, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/pulsifer-joseph-perkins.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995