Trace d’une partie Chemin de Fer de Galveston à Houston et Henderson, Texas, Etats unis d’Amérique, 1857

[Trace of a part of the Galveston Railway in Houston and Henderson, Texas, United States of America]

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Ls. Voise, Trace d’une partie Chemin de Fer de Galveston à Houston et Henderson, Texas, Etats unis d’Amérique, Paris: ca. 1857, Map #93905, Holcomb Digital Map Collection, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

This map, produced in Paris in 1857 by Ls. Voise, is possibly the first depiction of all the completed railroads in Texas prior to the Civil War.[1] As indicated by a legend in the lower-left corner, it shows completed lines in blue, while pink sections indicate rail lines under construction. The black and white lines are proposed railways that would connect Houston north to Henderson, and south through Harrisburg to the port at Galveston.

The legend indicates that blue railroads are completed, pink routes are under construction, and dashed black and white routes are proposed. Roads, county boundaries, and towns are also specified.

The French origins of this Texas railroad map are the result of actions of the Galveston, Houston & Henderson Railroad, which was chartered on February 7, 1853. Beginning in 1853–1854, the company sought to raise money in Paris and London to finance the development of the line. The intended audiences of this map were French, English, and Dutch investors.[2]

The state paid for railroad construction through land scrip grants. This certificate for 640 acres was issued to the GH&H Railroad as partial payment for laying track. Certificate #32/309 issued to the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad Company, 16 July 1867, TRA S-000802, Texas Land Grant Records, Archives and Records Program, Texas General Land Office, Austin, TX.

Construction commenced at Virginia Point,[3] labeled on the map opposite Galveston Island, in 1854. The first rails were finally set down in 1857, and by 1859, the track was completed to Houston. The following year, a two-mile-long bridge linked Galveston and Virginia Point, which was used by General John B. Magruder in his recapture of the island on January 1, 1863.

Construction of the GH&H began at Virginia Point. The pink line shows what eventually became the Galveston Bay Bridge, and a proposed line is drawn extending the railroad to Galveston.

The map focuses on the area surrounding Houston and Galveston Bay, with the counties of Harris, Liberty, Galveston, Brazoria, and Fort Bend all labeled. Larger towns such as Houston, Harrisburg, Richmond, and Galveston are labeled, but many settlements are simply indicated by a cross-and-circle icon. Houston is depicted as the hub of the growing Texas railroad network.

At the time of this map’s creation, 25 miles of track had been completed between Virginia Point and Franklin, and an additional 15 miles were under construction.

Other railroads are shown in addition to the GH&H Railroad. The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos & Colorado stretches southwest from Harrisburg through Richmond, while the Houston Central Railroad departs Houston to the northwest. At the time of this map’s creation, the track between Virginia Point and Franklin (25 miles) was complete. The portion between Franklin and Harrisburg (15 miles) was under construction, and the sections linking Harrisburg to Houston (four miles) and Houston to Henderson (25 miles) were still under consideration.

Houston was the hub of the growing railroad network in Texas. Multiple lines converge in the city, and a proposed 25-mile extension to Henderson is shown heading north.

The Galveston, Houston & Henderson Railroad, which became known as the “Old Reliable Short Line,” holds the distinction of operating under its original charter and name for the longest of any railroad in Texas. Its 136-year run came to an end on December 1, 1989, when it merged with the Missouri Pacific.[4]

This map is part of the Frank and Carol Holcomb Digital Map Collection.

[1] The only other known copy of this map is at the Paris Natural History Museum. OCLC FirstSearch, record 793128442.

[2] Handbook of Texas Online, George C. Werner, “Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad,” accessed October 04, 2017, Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 20, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

[3] Virginia Point was annexed by Texas City in 1952. Handbook of Texas Online, Priscilla Myers Benham, “Virginia Point, TX,” accessed October 19, 2017,

[4] Werner.



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