Railroad EHterrises i the
Repubic of Ceas
EUGENE O. PORTER
TEXAS possesses few natural means of transportation. Her
rivers, though long, are unnavigable except for short
distances near the coast and there only for boats of quite
light draft. In addition, the first Anglo-American settlers found
mud flats and sand bars obstructing the entrance to all the streams
and a sunken mass of tangled drift clogging the lower Colorado.
The navigable parts of the Sabine, Trinity, and Neches rivers
flowed through a thinly populated swampy waste and the Red
River was closed above Lake Caddo in Louisiana by "the raft," a
long jam of driftwood.' Thus there was not "a single adequate
natural highway to the outer world."2 As for overland transporta-
tion, the first Anglo-American immigrants found only blazed trails
connecting the three small and widely separated centers of Span-
ish population: La Bahia, now Goliad; Bexar, now San Antonio;
and Nacogdoches. Nor had overland communications improved
by the time of independence. The roads of the country were
still of "nature's construction, nothing being required in the dry
season except bridges for the frequent streams. .... In wet seasons
travelling .. [was] troublesome and expensive."s In fact, the
soil of Texas' "black waxy, prairies" rendered wagon transporta-
tion in wet weather next to impossible.' It is little wonder, there-
fore, that Texas no sooner gained her independence from Mexico
than she began planning a system of transportation. And those
plans took into consideration not only highways and canals but
railroads as well.
'The Great Raft, 165 continuous miles from Loggy Bayou to Carolina Bluffs,
was finally removed in 1838, after almost six years of work by Henry Miller Shreve.
Bennett's Bluff later honored Shreve by adopting the name of Shreveport. Stewart
H. Holbrook, Lost Men of American History (New York, 1946), 125-126.
2Charles W. Ramsdell, "Internal Improvement Projects in Texas in the Fifties,"
Mississippi Valley Historical Quarterly, IX, gg.
aWilliam Kennedy, History of Texas (London, 1841), lo9.
4Alexander Deussen, "The Beginnings of the Texas Railroad System," Transac-
tions of the Texas Academy of Science for 19o5, IX, 42.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 59, July 1955 - April, 1956. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101162/. Accessed January 26, 2015.