The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946 Page: 289
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Notes and Documents
the practical King. King was convinced that Rio Grande navi-
gation could be made profitable only by constructing new types
of boats, especially designed for Rio Grande conditions: stout
side-wheelers, of five hundred tons burden to handle traffic in
the open Gulf, from the ocean port at Brazos de Santiago to
deep water above the mouth of the Rio Grande, and light
draft stern-wheelers of two hundred tons burden, to operate
from Brownsville and Matamoros upstream. The new partner-
ship of "M. Kenedy & Co.," composed of Kenedy, King, O'Don-
nell, and Stillman, was organized in 1850 to build and operate
boats of these new types. O'Donnell sold his interest to Kenedy
in 1852. M. Kenedy & Co., as thus reorganized, continued to
operate twenty-six boats in all at huge profits until Stillman
left the Rio Grande for New York, in 1865. The firm was then
reorganized as "King, Kenedy & Co.," and continued in profit-
able operation until the building of railroads ended the steam-
boat era, in 1882.
The Grampus, first of the five hundred ton Rio Grande side-
wheelers, operated between Brazos de Santiago and Browns-
ville and Matamoros. She was skippered by Richard King.
Earliest of the light draft stern-wheelers was the Comanche,
operated by Mifflin Kenedy. The great commercial success of
this undertaking resulted from the wise distribution of part-
nership responsibility and power. Kenedy had the patience,
tact, and understanding to make lasting friends of his sensi-
tive but appreciative customers from the North Mexican states.
King, only, of the partners, possessed the driving force essen-
tial to handling the ocean-going and lightering problems of the
firm. That this partnership was admirably constituted, the
vast fortunes built by Stillman, King, and Kenedy are ample
"The essential facts relating to the development of commercial steam-
boating on the Rio Grande may be found, somewhat scattered, in Frank
C. Pierce's A Brief History of the Lower Rio Grande Valley (1917) and
in the manuscript, Memoirs of Colonel John S. Ford, especially in his
chapters entitled "M. Kenedy & Co.," and "King, Kenedy & Co." Such
additional details as are here presented were gleaned by the writer from
many interesting conversations with the late Captain William Kelly, of
Brownsville, who was an officer in the United States quartermaster service,
in charge of Rio Grande river boats, in 1865-1866. Kelly, mustered out
of service during 1866 at the mouth of the Rio Grande was immediately
employed by Mifflin Kenedy for similar duties with King, Kenedy & Com-
pany, with whom he continued until that firm dissolved. He then operated
on his own account until, at the turn of the last century, steamboating on
the Rio Grande came to an end with the disintegration of the Bessie, last
of the Comanche type stern-wheelers to negotiate the sandbars of the
erratic border stream.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 49, July 1945 - April, 1946, periodical, 1946; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146056/m1/322/?q=stillman: accessed June 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.