The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976 Page: 302
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
In time, candles and oil lamps with lenses and mirrors concentrating the
light replaced the fires of wood and coal. Keeping these aids in order was
a lonely, hazardous occupation: operators often faced dangers ranging
from hurricanes to war. Today automatic beacons and radio signals have
replaced the sperm oil, kerosene, and butane gas-fed lamps, leaving the
old towers to become museums or to rust high above mighty rollers,
attracting visitors whose imaginations are stirred by these mementoes of
The internal and coastwise trade was of particular importance to the
North American colonies and later to the new American republic. Through
this trade farm products and other commodities were brought overland or
via rivers to coastal ports for shipment overseas, and states which lacked
important ports for transatlantic service could dispose of their products
and obtain the goods they needed. Even before the advent of steam navi-
gation, eastern shippers expanded packet service into the Gulf of Mexico,
particularly to New Orleans near the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Businessmen, especially in New York, were also interested in the events
surrounding the Texas Revolution and scanned newspaper accounts daily
for mention of former associates or friends who were involved in the
struggle for independence. After 1836, land speculating increased and com-
merce between the new nation and the United States expanded rapidly.2
The Texas trade looked promising. Most rivers were navigable into the
interior, and the natural passes to the Gulf were of sufficient depth to allow
entry of light-draft vessels. Although sand bars of soft mud and hard sand,
varying from eight to twelve feet below the water, built up at the entrances,
it was not until later in the nineteenth century that ships were "lightered"
and cargoes transported by barge into ports while ships remained at anchor
off the coast. Despite this handicap, Francis Moore, Jr., editor of the
Houston Telegraph and Texas Register, foresaw little difficulty with maneu-
vering the bars, commenting, "The Port of Galveston may be approached
with less danger than any port in the United States," and he offered
similar praises for the harbors at Matagorda and Aransas Bays. Coastal
villages, linked by irregular trade routes to the interior, soon attracted
regular packet service and became strong competitors for bringing in new
settlers and goods. Although in 1837 Galveston had only a single plank
wharf for landing cargoes, it eventually became the export-import center
Magnetic Needle (London, 1869), i-iii; Irving Conklin, Guideposts of the Sea: The
Modern Aids to Navigation and How They Are Cared For (New York, 1939), 7.
2James E. Winston, "New York and the Independence of Texas," Southwestern His-
torical Quarterly, XVIII (April, 1915), 368-385.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 79, July 1975 - April, 1976, periodical, 1975/1976; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101203/m1/347/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.