Yotes on Sarly Steamboatig on the Rio grande
The earliest effort at steamboat navigation of the Rio
Grande, above Matamoros, was that by Henry Austin in 1829.
He brought to the Rio Grande a stout, well built steamboat
called the Ariel, and operated it between Matamoros and
Camargo for several months. Henry Austin had an irascible
disposition, and the easy going business methods of the inhab-
itants did not appeal to him. Austin quarreled with the mu-
nicipal authorities of the communities he was serving; and
there is a story that an ordinance of either Reynosa or Camargo
forbade steamboats to tie up within the municipal limits, on
the ground that the gases from their smokestacks were dele-
terious to the inhabitants' health. Since the Ariel was of
too deep draft for successful navigation of the Rio Grande,
Austin gave up after a few months and took the Ariel north
where she was lost within the year on Galveston Bay.
Mirabeau B. Lamar, whose flair for assembling historical
facts was as remarkable as was his inability to use them, notes
(evidently from information obtained from Henry Austin):
Captain Henry Austin was the first man to introduce a steamboat into
Texas. He had been a year in enterprising projects on Del Norte. He
had taken a steamboat there with a view of opening trade with Chihuahua.
He expended a large amount of money; effected little [see General Austin's
letter to him about the navigation of Del Norte], and then came around
to the mouth of the Brazos, and ascended to Brazoria with his boat. This
was the first on this river, as it had been the first on the Del Norte.'
Egerton, English surveyor for the Grant and Beale's Colony,
reporting in 1834 implies that there was another attempt at
Rio Grande navigation soon after Austin's departure, but of
this I have found no other account. Egerton says:
The course of the Rio Grande from the Dolores Ferry [above modern
Eagle Pass] to a short distance below the town of Loredo is in various
placed more or less impeded at low water by rocks . . . at about two
leagues below the Presidio del Rio Grande, one of the ledges traverses
the river, in an oblique direction, from one bank to the other . . . imme-
'Lamar Papers, No. 2407, VI, 172. On his reaching Brazoria, see his
letter to General Austin, dated August 25, 1830.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146056/. Accessed September 5, 2015.