The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, July 1915 - April, 1916 Page: 47
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Harris County, 1822-1845
the many curvings of the Bayou more than doubled the distance
by water. The idea of railroad transportation from the head of
navigation to the rich cotton lands of the Brazos opened a vista of
future prosperity, and resulted in the initial railway enterprise of
Texas, the Harrisburg and Brazos Railroad, which was projected
in 1839, and actually begun early in 1840. A contract for rail-
road ties was entered into between A. Briscoe, proprietor of the
railroad, and Maurice L. Birdsall, on the 28th day of of February,
1840.9 One of the provisions of the contract shows the unsettled
state of the country. It was expressly stated "that, should the
country be invaded by a foreign foe, from the time that said foe
shall enter the limits of the Republic till they shall depart be-
yond said limits, all obligations of either party by this contract
shall be suspended, and shall commence again on the departure of
said enemy." Attached to the contract are receipts issued to Ely
and Ager, subcontractors at different times, in amounts of one
hundred and fifty dollars each, cash payment, in Texas promissory
notes. Some of the receipts are dated May 8, 1840. A consider-
able number of the ties contracted for were delivered along the
graded road-bed, which extended for about two miles out from
Harrisburg, toward the Brazos River. The grades were still to be
seen within the memory of the writer. Handsome certificates of
stock were printed, and are in my possession, relics of the first
railroad enterprise in Texas.
A paper marked, "California Railroad" in the papers of A.
Briscoe, offers a complete plan for the building of a railroad to
San Diego on the Pacific Coast. The line proposed, was to go by
'Birdsall agreed "to take from the woods and deliver within thirty feet
of the line of said railroad three thousand pieces of post oak or cedar
timber, in a sound state, seven feet in length, clear of the chip or kerf,
and from eight to twelve inches in diameter, hewn straight on one side,
and that said timber shall be deposited five sticks or pieces to every
twenty-five feet of the road; also that five hundred pieces shall be delivered
within one month from the first day of March of the current year, and
that the remaining twenty-five hundred shall be delivered within four
months thereafter, at the discretion of the said Birdsall." Birdsall was
to receive payment of fifty cents lawful money or its equivalent in prom-
issory notes of the government, for each piece of timber so delivered.
Among other provisions of the contract, was one that Birdsall should
receive certificates of railroad stock for any balance due him after the
payment of all expense incurred by him had been met. Certificates of
stock were to be issued when the road should be vested in a chartered
company, or when it should be completed to the Brazos timber.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 19, July 1915 - April, 1916, periodical, 1916; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101067/m1/56/: accessed July 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.