Charles de Bremond

Charles de Bremond, New Mexico

Just after the title page in Lowry Hagerman’s The Karakul Handbook the dedication page reads thus:

Dedication to Charles de Bremond

Wondering who de Bremond was and the role he played as one of the early 20th century Karakul pioneers turned out to be a quick but fascinating study in New Mexico history.

Charles was born in Switzerland, immigrated to the US in 1891, and settled in the New Mexico territory after purchasing 280 acres. From a 1907 edition of A History of New Mexico [1] “To Charles de Bremond has come the attainment of a distinguished position in connection with the agricultural and stock-raising industries of the Territory. Prior to leaving his native land of Switzerland he was for eight years in military life, and he came to the Pecos Valley in company with his uncle, Henry Gaullier, and invested here at the instigation of J. J. Hagerman. In 1891 he located in Carlsbad, Eddy county, and in 1894 took up his abode in Roswell, purchasing two hundred and eighty acres of land northeast of the city. In addition to this he leases ninety thousand acres of Indian reservation land near Capitan, where he ranges sheep. He believes in a just lease law, and is numbered among Chaves county’s most prominent and honored citizens. He has a beautiful place, and has clearly demonstrated what can be done by industry and close application.”

In August 1894 Charles married Charlotte Scarritt from St. Louis, Missouri. There two daughters, Marie and Edith, were born. Two months after the birth of their second child, May 1900, the family was back together in Roswell settling into farm life with two household servants.[2]

By 1910 [3] the de Bremond’s had one private family servant (perhaps a nanny or teacher for the girls), ten farm laborers, and one ranch cook; eight were Italian and three were of Mexican-Spanish descent. (Charles was of Swiss-French and Italian ancestry, but the Swiss actively recruited Italians to immigrate to the US and work the land of the Pecos Valley.[4]) In that ten years, with an enormous flock of top quality purebreds Charles had developed quite a reputation as a sheep man. An American Wool and Cotton Reporter article from 1906[5] reads “Captain Charles de Bremond is among the few sheep men in New Mexico who are determined to raise the standard of New Mexico wool and sheep, and he is raising pure Shropshire sheep in the White mountains, where he has a vast range of 90,000 acres. Captain de Bremond received the record price this year for his wool and lambs and he intends to maintain his high standard. Here recently sold F.E. Baker, of Whitehall, Illinois, 7000 lambs at $3.40 per head, which was $1.13 per head above the average this year, for New Mexico lambs. Last year he received the same price for his lambs. His White mountain and Chaves county clips of wool were sold this year, 23 ½ cents for White mountain clip and 26 cents Chaves county clip. Both clips aggregated 85,000 pounds.”

It was also in 1910 that the decade-long armed struggle called the Mexican Revolution began. Charles was a military man with almost every article referring to him as Captain. His rank was soon to be elevated. So was his breed of sheep.

In December 1911, a short paragraph in the El Paso Herald Livestock section[6] was titled Roswell Man Buys High Priced Sheep. “Captain Charles de Bremond has received a fancy Persian sheep for which he paid $1080. He declares it to be the pick of one of the finest flocks in Texas. A number of prominent stock men are stocking up with this breed. One hundred head of ewes are expected this week and will play a big part in raising the standard of valley sheep.”

We do not know which Texas flock these sheep came from, but two top choices would be C.C. Young and Alex Albright. They were neighbors in 1909 near the west Texas city of Wichita Falls (Holliday/Dundee) [10] until Young moved to Belen, southeast of El Paso, Texas. [7] Dr. Young’s first (December) 1908 Karakul import was three rams and twelve ewes with seven lambs born on the journey. Therefore, most of the hundred head of ewes expected to arrive in New Mexico in 1911 would have been first and second generation Karakul crosses, mostly half-blood or possibly three-quarter blood lambs born in 1910 and 1911. A theory is that the expensive “fancy Persian sheep” was a purebred ram from the original imported stock, with most of the crossbred Karakul ewes originating from Alex’s farm. Albright had been a Lincoln sheep breeder for almost a decade [11] before Young set up his Karakul farm down the road. Just two years after the first import, it was already well-known that the crossbred Karalinc “…produces an excellent skin, very rich in luster and in my [Dr. Young] opinion far superior to the average Persian lamb skin sold on the American market.” [12]

A quick political announcement – New Mexico became the 47th state on January 6, 1912.

Either way, de Bremond and Young must have met and discussed the next planned trip to Asia for the second (1912) importation of Karakul sheep with the favor of trip financing deliberated. This would make sense as to Lowry’s dedication “…de Bremond, whose interest and efforts made some of the first Karakul importations into this country possible.” After Young returned, he exclusively acknowledged de Bremond in his writings.

From a June 6, 1913 newspaper article[7]: “…Dr. C.C. Young of Belen, Texas, physician and breeder of fancy sheep, is in possession of the secret of the breeding of lambs from which is taken the Persian lamb fur. Dr. Young began his work at the instigation of the United States Department of Agriculture. Today there are seventeen animals of the right kind, distributed among the ranches of Dr. Young, Captain Charles de Bremond, of Roswell, N.M. and the government experimental station. In five years, Dr. Young declares, American women will be wearing Persian lamb skins raised in their own country, and in a few more years America will be exporting the skins.”

And from C.C. Young’s 1914 Journal of Heredity article[8]: “Out of the second importation, six rams and four ewes were purchased by the Hon. Charles de Bremond of New Mexico, I retaining an undivided half interest in them; the balance are the property of the writer and his associates in Charlottestown, P. E. I., Canada, where black silver foxes and other fur-bearing animals are raised with wonderful success.”

Thus, after Dr. Young returned from his 1912 expedition, he mentioned de Bremond at least twice, once in a major scholarly journal. The theory of trip financing appeared more probable, but there was still something incomplete, missing in the enigma.

The Mexican Revolution was already six years old when Francisco “Pancho” Villa and approximately five hundred of his men raided Columbus, New Mexico on March 9, 1916. The attack was “to exact revenge on an American arms dealer who sold ammunition to Villa that he used in the Battle of Celaya and which turned out to be useless. [15] “The New Mexico National Guard was ordered…on the Mexican border by President Woodrow Wilson, from 9 May 1916 to 5 April 1917 for service as part of the Punitive Expedition commanded by Major-General John J. Pershing”. [14] Around 5,000 U.S. troops spent nearly a year in Mexico in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attempt to capture Villa. The U.S. entered WWI on April 2, 1917. “The Mexican Punitive Expedition served as a training ground and prelude to World War I, coming just prior to [the U.S.] participation in that war. Many men who participated in [Mexico] went almost immediately to serve in World War I.” [14]

Charles was a Captain of the New Mexico National Guard’s Battery A, Field Artillery. de Bremond and his unit served during the Mexican Punitive Expedition and in France during World War I. [13] He had been elevated three times in rank from Captain to Colonel. WWI ended November 11, 1918.

A little over a year later, December 7, 1919, Charles de Bremond died, at the age of 55, as a direct result of a German gas attack he experienced in the spring of 1918. [16] Upon his death, friends attempted to have de Bremond awarded the Distinguished Service Medal posthumously. In his honor, there is a current training site named the deBremond National Guard Facility located at the Roswell Industrial Air Center. [13]

Charles de Bremond died just eleven years after the onset of the U.S. Karakul fur sheep industry, when it was still in its infancy. He was involved almost from the beginning, just three years after the first import; thereby giving his family and shepherd/ranch hands eight years of experience with Karakul sheep before his passing.

Even though the de Bremond and Hagerman families were “neighbors” somewhere along the several hundred miles of Pecos Valley, there still seemed a puzzle piece was missing from Lowry’s dedication. It read like there was something more, besides financing C.C. Young’s second and third expeditions to Asia to import additional Karakul sheep. The mystery was finally solved doing a Hagerman family search [9].

Lowry Hagerman married Marie de Bremond, Charles’ oldest daughter, thereby “inheriting” a pioneer Karakul sheep flock, which he clearly embraced. Lowry Hagerman dedicated The Karakul Handbook to his father-in-law.

DY Hunter, author, January 31, 2015
Copyright ©2015 & ff, DYH; all rights reserved

References:

  1. Anderson, George. History of New Mexico: Its Resources and People. Vol. 2. Pacific States Publishing, 1907, p. 811
  2. 1900 Census, Roswell, Chaves, New Mexico; Roll: 999; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0030; FHL microfilm: 1240999
  3. 1910 Census, Roswell, Chaves, New Mexico; Roll: T624_913; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0304; FHL microfilm: 1374926
  4. Eddy County Citizen, July 30, 1892.
  5. “SHEEP NOTES, New Mexico.” American Wool and Cotton Reporter, October 18, 1906, p. 24
  6. “Roswell Man Buys High Priced Sheep.” El Paso Herald, December 4, 1911
  7. “American Brings Persian Lamb Secret from the Far East.” Schnectady Gazette, June 6, 1913, p. 7
  8. Young, C.C. “Breeding Karakul Sheep.” Journal of Heredity 5, no. 4 (1914): 174
  9. “New Mexico, Deaths, 1889-1945,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FLYB-NSS : accessed 5 January 2015), Lowry Hagerman in entry for James John Hagerman, 26 Oct 1936; citing Armijo Ranch, Santa Fe, New Mexico, reference cn 5340, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Santa Fe; FHL microfilm 1,913,302.
  10. Young, C. C. Some Facts about Karakule Sheep. Holliday, Tex.: [C.C. Young], 1909.
  11. Jack O. Loftin, “ALBRIGHT, ALEX,” Handbook of Texas Online, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal82, accessed December 12, 2014. Uploaded June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  12. Young, C.C. “Karakule Fur, Produced in Texas.” Farm and Ranch, March 4, 1911.
  13. “deBremond National Guard” GlobalSecurity.org MILITARY. Accessed November 18, 2014. (http://www/globalsecurity.org/military/facility/roswell.htm)
  14. Daniel, Karen Stein. “New Mexico’s Participation in the Mexican Punitive Expedition: Prelude to World War I.” New Mexico Genealogical Society. Accessed November 18, 2014. http://www.nmgs.org/artNM-WWI.htm
  15. “Mexican Revolution-Pancho Villa.” Accessed January 6, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexican_Revolution
  16. Carlsbad Current, December 12, 1919, Obituary sec.

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