Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, May, 1992 Page: 74
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Dewees' statement that Austin was on the river laying out a town and his
later claim that this town was to be his capital is corroborated by a letter from Austin
to Josiah H. Bell dated August 29, 1823 and addressed from "KeyKendales." Austin
I am now endeavoring to find a place suitable for a capital of the colony and believe I shall
fix it below Cummings on this River at a place now occupied by Mr. Bright - If an
opportunity opens I wish you would write me wheither there is any suitable place on your
River... This place I have in view on this river is very well watered with the best of springs
- it is about 38 miles from Castlemans, about 65 or 70 miles from the mouth of this river,
about 25 miles from Boatrights and I suppose about 45 miles from you, and about 70 miles
from the mouth of the Brazos and if the La Baca is settled will be nearly central, but if a
situation can be found on the Brazos more so and a good site I will fix it there14
The address, "KeyKendales," is surely meant to be Kuykendall. It is a fair assumption
that Dewees also meant Kuykendall when he wrote "Kirkendall" in his March 15, 1823
"letter." Thus, it is likely that the settlement of which Dewees writes is the same as that
which Austin nearly chose for his capital.
In his book, Dewees never states that the town of Columbus was established
on the same site as the Colorado River settlement that he came to in 1823. In fact, the
statements that Jesse Burnam lived in the settlement and that it was twelve miles from
the La Bahia Road better fit the location of Burnam's Crossing, commonly believed to
be some distance northwest of Columbus. Thus, Dewees' reminiscences cannot be said
to clearly establish the date on which Columbus was founded.
But he and his business partner of later years, Joseph Worthington Elliott
Wallace, do make the connection between the site of Austin's survey and that of
Columbus in an advertisement that first appeared in the Telegraph & Texas Register on
June 8, 1837. The ad, for the sale of lots in the town of Columbus, reads in part
It is situated upon the site of the projected town of Montezuma, which was selected by
the late Col. S. F. Austin as the capital of his colony and was considered by him as the
most central and most healthy location for the seat of government.15
As we have seen, Montezuma, described in the June 8, 1837 advertisement
as a "projected town," was believed by Oscar Zumwalt to have been an Indian village.
David H. Burr's map of Texas, published in 1833, shows a site called Montezuma at the
point where the Atascosito Road crosses the Colorado River. Though the scale of Burr's
map makes pinpointing locations impossible, it is clear that just north of Montezuma, a
creek branches off to the east.
Burr's map is the earliest known that shows a place name in what is now
Colorado County. Clearly there was a place called Montezuma and that place was in the
vicinity of Columbus. But it is generally believed that the Atascosito Road crossed the
Colorado River about six miles southeast of Columbus, just south of where the creek
known as the Allen Branch hits the river, within a league of land originally granted to
Rawson Alley. Indeed, Alley's property is officially described as "on the east bank of
14 Eugene Campbell Barker, editor, The Austin Papers, 3 volumes, (volumes 1 and 2, Washington,
D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1924 and volume 3, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1926) vol. 2, part
1, pp. 689-690. James Cummins, David Bright, Sylvanus Castleman, and Thomas Boatwright, to whom the
passage refers, were all members of the Old Three Hundred.
15 Telegraph & Texas Register, June 8, 1837.
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, May, 1992, periodical, May 1992; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151385/m1/6/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.