By Dr. Tommy Stringer, Navarro College Foundation
Like many Texas communities, Bremond owes its beginnings to the railroad. It is located on State Highway 14 in Robertson County. The townsite was part of an 1841 land grant to Mary Peterson, the widow of John Peterson who was killed in the Texas Revolution. Eventually the property came into possession of a group of investors headed by William Marsh Rice of Houston. He and his partners granted right of way to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad as it expanded its line from Houston to Dallas. The first train arrived in Bremond in 1870, greatly enhancing the community’s future. That same year a post office was established along with a school, several churches, and a newspaper. By the following year, Bremond had six hotels and a population of 1,000. A group of Polish immigrants settled in Bremond in the late 1870s, establishing a Catholic church and engaging in cotton farming.
The namesake of the town, Paul Bremond, was born in New York City in 1810, the son of a French physician. He left school at age 12 to apprentice as a hatmaker, a business he engaged in until 1837. An economic downturn that year called the panic of 1837 resulted in significant financial losses for Bremond. Looking for fresh start, he moved to Galveston in 1839, where he opened an auction house. In addition, he established a business relationship with William Marsh Rice and was one of the investors in the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. A common practice was to name towns along the rail line for prominent railroad officials, hence the naming of the Robertson County community for Bremond.
Although he was reared as an Episcopalian, Bremond became a spiritualist. He believed he was being guided by the departed spirit of Mosely Baker, a soldier who was killed in the Texas Revolution. According to Bremond, Baker’s spirit directed him to build another railroad. Consequently, he chartered the East and West Texas Railroad to run from Shreveport, La., through the piney woods of East Texas. Construction began in 1876 and proceeded slowly, reaching Livingston in 1879, Lufkin in 1882, and Nacogdoches in 1883. Desperate for capital, Bremond mortgaged the company to borrow large sums of money from Eastern bankers. Bremond did not live to see the project finished as he died in 1885, seven months before the line was completed. It was short-lived, largely because it was a narrow gauge line. Standard width between rails is four feet, eight inches, but Bremond’s was only three feet. His rationale was that the narrow gauge was cheaper to build and operate.
After some up and down years through the 1970s and 1980s, Bremond’s population has stabilized to around 1,100.
Dr. Tommy Stringer is executive director of the Navarro College Foundation.
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