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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Built it and they will ride it

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
Most motorists traveling down Bremond Street in Houston, Lufkin, and Nacogdoches, or likely any street along US Highway 59 from Houston to north of Nacogdoches, haven't a clue of the debt East Texas owes to Paul Bremond.

Bremond, born in New York City in 1810, was the son of a French physician who moved his family out of the way of Napoleon's disturbances in Europe. Bremond became a hatter who operated successful businesses in New York and Philadelphia until the Panic of 1837.

Bremond moved to Galveston in 1839 to start over. He operated an auction and commission house before expanding operations to Houston, where he became friends and partners/investors with William Marsh Rice, Thomas William House, and William A. Van Alstyne.

They started the Galveston and Red River Railroad, later renamed the Houston and Texas Central, which connected Houston to Hempstead and eventually to Dallas. Bremond also partnered in the building of the Brazos Plank Road.

After the Civil War, Bremond decided to build another railroad to connect Houston to Shreveport, Louisiana. He did so, he said, because he believed such was the will of Moseley Baker, a spiritual advisor Bremond believed controlled his life. Baker, a fiery veteran of the Texas Revolution, had died in 1848. I do not know how Baker, dead for decades, communicated with Bremond.

Bremond chartered the Houston, East & West Texas Railroad, eventually known as "Hell Either Way Taken" from its rough, narrow-gage beginning, in 1875. The line reached Livingston in 1879 and Lufkin, which Bremond founded and named for a sea captain friend, in 1882, and Nacogdoches the following year. Bremond died before the line was finished in 1886.

Paul Bremond's railroad-or Moseley Baker's, depending-cut across East Texas timber country and provided a transportation venue for all that lumber and other wood products. Thousands of East Texans have jobs because of Bremond's or Baker's vision, though they never knew his (their) name.
© Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical
>
January 15, 2007column
A syndicated column in 70 East Texas newspapers
Distributed by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie McDonald is executive director of the Association and the author of more than 20 books about Texas.

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