Shortly after the end of the Civil War, a railroad line was run from Houston to Texarkana passing through largely unpopulated sandy lands of what is now Robertson County.
Along this railroad route, the village of Bremond (named for the Houston businessman that influenced the building of the Houston to Texarkana railroad) sprang up in the late 1860's. Bremond was founded as a cotton town but was in desperate need of manual labor to produce and gin the cotton crops. With the end of the Civil War in 1865, all slaves were freed and manual labor was in short supply throughout the south.
Meanwhile, in another town south of Bremond called Old Waverley (Walker County), the Waverley Emigration Society was founded on September 19, 1866 to actively recruit European laborers to work the cotton plantations. The organization meeting was held in a general store owned by James Meyer Levy. The following year (1867), Levy went back to Poland and visited the villages of Exin (Kcynia), Slupy, Smogulec, Szubin, and surrounding areas.
He managed to recruit several Polish emigrants who arrived at the port of New York on April 9, 1867 aboard a ship called the SS City of Antwerp. These Polish emigrants then traveled to the port of Galveston on the steamship called the C.W. Lord arriving on April 23, 1867 where they made their way to plantations in the New Waverley area. Many of these emigrants eventually settled in Bremond.
When the railroad passed through Hearne and Calvert and the town site for Bremond was staked-off in early 1869, thousands of people moved westward. When Bremond came into existence as a roaring boom town and railroad terminus, settlers flocked to the place. The first settlers in Bremond were railway workmen and merchants of all kinds who had followed railroad construction from Houston. Within a year after the first train, Bremond had a population of over 2000 and the overflowing population spread into the countryside.
While the new town prospered, much of the land surrounding it was cut into farm land and cotton growers came to be near the shipping plant. This was an interesting time in Texas history. Reconstruction was ending; the telephone was one year from invention (1877); Thomas Edison had started manufacturing electric lights; ox-wagons were disappearing; and the Texas frontier was gone. Medical science was improved; travel by railroad was convenient; newspapers were filled with interesting advertisements guaranteeing restoration of health by new drugs and mineral baths; and their was money in the country. Barbed wire was in use in the late 1870s and farmers protected their crops and homes. They dug wells and confined their prized stock near their dwellings.
In 1875, J.C. Roberts, a large plantation owner in the Bremond area, invited a Polish family, Joseph and Kathryn Bartula to sharecrop on his plantation. (1) The Bartulas had lived in Austrian Poland (Brzostek, Pilzno County, in the Diocese of Tarnow) and immigrated to Texas in 1873. (2) From the port of Galveston, the Bartulas made their way to the east Texas settlement of New Waverly and then to Bremond.
After working as a sharecropper on the Roberts plantation for a couple of years, Joseph Bartula saved enough money to buy 60 acres of land from Mr. Roberts (and was given an additional 40 acres). Joseph Bartula then wrote back to his friends in Poland about the wonderful opportunities that existed in Robertson County Texas and he was soon joined by dozens of other Polish settlers. In 1877, Father Joseph Mosiewicz became the pastor of the Marlin Polish community and began holding Mass at the Roberts home for the Bremond settlers.
By the fall of 1877, over fifty Polish families had settled in Bremond, enough to start their own church. Their initial efforts at raising funds for the new church failed (most of the farmers had spent everything they had getting to Bremond). Fortunately, the Protestants in the area joined in the church raising efforts and a new church was dedicated on Pentecost Sunday in 1879. The original church was constructed of wood and had the traditional Polish Catholic Church steeple. The original church stood until the 1900's when a new stone church was built in the same spot. This church was completed in 1908 and stood until its replacement in 1971.
Joseph Bartula kept an accurate diary that provides us with valuable historical information about the early-day Bremond settlement. (3) According to Bartula's diary, the following families made Bremond their home by 1879: J. Bartula, Fr. and Fl. Bajonski, J.Bulmanski, A. Baranski, J. Bajerowski, F. Bielamowicz, J. Balcerek, J. Cerklewski, J. Cholewiak, M. Cwikiel, A. Grabowski, J. Drajus, J. Fojut, F. Golasinski, S. Knapik, A. and J. Kazmierowski, A. Krzesinski, F. and M. (widow) Knof, J. Kubiak, A. Lemanski, F.Lazina, W. Matysiak, A. Miller, J. Ochedalski, M. Pieniazek, W. Pietrzykowski, M. Paszkiet, K. Rybacki, F. Ruminski, E.Schepert, M. Szulc, A. Standera, J. Stachowiak, A. Strugala, J. Suchowiak, M. Surma, W. Urbaniak, J. Zapalacz, A. Adamik, J. Sadowski, T.Kepinski, W. Wisniewski, M. Szturemski, and L. Staszewski. This list of names was jotted down in 1894 by Joseph Bartula.
Over the coming years, thousands of Poles settled the area, eventually making Bremond the largest Polish community in Texas. The incoming settlers were poor but not afraid of hard work and soon found employment as sharecroppers. Some came over as indentured servants, pledging their labor for a period of three years in return for passage to Texas and a place to stay.
Eventually, many of the settlers managed to buy their own farms and others started their own businesses in the thriving community of Bremond. Today, Bremond has a variety of stores, banks, savings and loans, a cotton gin and one of the largest populations of any of the surrounding towns.
1. Jacek Przygoda,"Texas Pioneers from Poland", P.11.
2. Rev. Edward J. Dworaczyk,"The First Polish Colonies of America In Texas.
3. T. Lindsay Baker, "The Polish Texans," The University Of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio. 1982.