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Woodhouse, Humphrey Eugene (1822–1899)

Grace Edman Biography Entry

Humphrey Eugene Woodhouse, merchant, son of Humphrey Woodhouse, was born in Wethersfield, Connecticut, on December 4, 1822. Having acquired a rudimentary education, he went to New York at the age of fourteen and obtained a position with a wholesale and retail house that dealt in shipping to foreign countries. In 1847 the firm sent him on a merchant vessel to Brazos Santiago, Texas, in charge of merchandise that was unloaded at Point Isabel (now Port Isabel). From there Woodhouse proceeded to Matamoros, where, after selling his merchandise, he entered the commercial house of Samuel A. Belden. Woodhouse moved to Brownsville in 1848 and there went into business selling goods in his own building. In 1854 he entered a partnership with Charles Stillman. The two extended their merchandising trade far into the interior of Mexico. Woodhouse withdrew from the firm in 1859 and continued importing and exporting alone. He then established a line of packet ships between Brazos Santiago and New York and competed with the Morgan Lines in the shipping trade between New Orleans and Padre Island. During the following years Woodhouse owned or had an interest in about fifty ships of various classes and tonnage. He built a wharf and warehouse at Point Isabel and also operated a general store there. He had a business in Matamoros, as well as the original one in Brownsville. At one time Woodhouse lived in New Orleans, although for the most part he made his home in Brownsville, where he built a house in 1856. During the Civil War his operations were chiefly confined to Matamoros. After the war he reopened his business at Brownsville. Woodhouse was one of the leading border merchants who opposed the high freight rates charged by the steamboat partnership of Richard King and Mifflin Kenedy. With Joseph Kleiber, John S. (Rip) Ford, Simon Celaya, and others, Woodhouse incorporated the Rio Grande Railroad Company (see PORT ISABEL AND RIO GRANDE VALLEY RAILWAY) and built the narrow-gauge railroad from Point Isabel to Brownsville by 1871. In 1892 Woodhouse reported for taxation more than 16,000 acres of ranchland in central Cameron County, listing himself as "resident owner." He was married to Augusta Olcutt of New York City in 1856; they had one daughter. Augusta Woodhouse died after three years of marriage, and in 1865 Woodhouse was married to Mary Belknap; they had six children. Woodhouse died on September 18, 1899, and was buried in the Old Cemetery in Brownsville.

John Henry Brown, Indian Wars and Pioneers of Texas (Austin: Daniell, 1880; reprod., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978). W. H. Chatfield, The Twin Cities of the Border and the Country of the Lower Rio Grande (New Orleans: Brandao, 1893; rpt., Brownsville: Brownsville Historical Association, 1959). LeRoy P. Graf, The Economic History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, 1820–1875 (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1942). Woodhouse, Kleiber, and Garden Papers, University of Texas at Brownsville Archives.

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

Grace Edman, “Woodhouse, Humphrey Eugene,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 22, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.