Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, May, 1992 Page: 76
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Colorado River. Kuykendall, in his recollections of Abraham Alley, indicates that the
settlement on the Colorado was not at the crossing. He states that Alley and his broth-
ers, John and Thomas, went "to the Atascasito crossing on the Colorado, where they
settled on the east side of the river" in 1822.24 Later he distinguishes between that site
and the settlement on the Colorado, writing of "Robert Brotherton from the settlement
near the locality of the present town of Columbus."26 If these writers are correct, then,
Montezuma was the name applied to the Atascosito crossing and was distinct from the
settlement on the Colorado.
It is generally agreed that until 1835 or 1836 the future location of Columbus
was a widely used river crossing that, because Benjamin Beeson28 lived there, was
known as Beeson's Crossing.27 Joseph Chambers Clopper, travelling through Texas in
1828, kept a diary in which he confirms the existence of Beeson's. He notes,
Start again - cross the Colorado ... we put up at Mr. Beeson's - this part of the Colorado
is about 25 miles from the Brazos and becoming quite populous as well as the last named
stream it has a grist mill on it and the frame of a saw mill28
Since he was travelling from the east, Clopper's diary establishes not only that a
settlement existed at Beeson's Crossing as early as 1828, but that it was on the west
side of the river.
Houston's army camped across the river from Beeson's Crossing from
March 19-26, 1836. He was evidently determined to meet the enemy at the Colorado,
24 Kuykendall, "Reminiscences of Early Texans," The Quarterly of the Texas State HistoricalAssocia-
tion, vol. 7, p. 47.
26 This name is more commonly spelled "Beason" today. Contemporary writers and records spell the
name both ways, but all of nearly a dozen known surviving signatures of Benjamin himself, of his sons Collins,
Abel, and Leander, and of his wife Elizabeth, use two e's, and so that spelling has been adopted here.
27 This crossing is often also referred to as Beeson's Ford and Beeson's Ferry, a disagreement in
terminology which casts some doubt on the exact nature of the place. Ferries, in the current sense, use boats
and therefore require deep water, while crossings and fords require exactly the opposite. But the term "ferry"
was also once used to mean any river crossing, whether or not a boat was present.
It may seem unlikely that there was enough traffic crossing the Colorado before the revolution to war-
rant the presence of a boat and the attention of an attendant, but it is apparent from a contract reproduced
on pages 866-868 of volume 1, part 1 of The Austin Papers (Eugene Campbell Barker, editor) that at least
one such ferry existed in Texas as early as 1824. That contract, by which John McFarland was licensed to
operate the ferry belonging to the town of San Felipe de Austin on the Brazos, specified that McFarland was
"bound to keep a good flat or flats as may be necessary sufficient to carry over a loaded waggon and team"
and was "bound to give due attendance to said ferry and to take over all persons or property promptly and
carefully as soon as called on to do so." No such contract for a ferry at Beeson's has yet turned up, and of
course, there was no town in the vicinity that could have issued him a license. If he kept a ferry for which
he charged a fee, he apparently did not regard it as his principal occupation, for on an 1825 census of the set-
tlers on the Colorado, also reproduced in The Austin Papers (vol. 1, part 2, p. 1244), Beeson is listed as a
tanner. His household though, in addition to a wife and six children, contains a hired hand and seven slaves,
so having someone on hand to operate the boat may not have been a problem. Presumably, Beeson would
have kept any boat he had on the same side of the river on which he lived and may have had a bell or a horn
on the other side of the river so that travellers could notify him of their presence.
It is perhaps more plausible that he had no boat at all and that Beeson's was what we would now call
a ford. An exploration, in the summer of 1990, of the river fronting the Beeson League revealed a few possible
but no obvious sites at which the river could be forded. Of course, since the construction of the dams north
of Austin by the Lower Colorado River Authority, the river has been considerably changed.
28 James Chambers Clopper, "J. C. Clopper's Journal and Book of Memoranda for 1828," The Quarterly
of the Texas State Historical Association, vol. 13, no. 1 (July 1909), p. 64.
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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/m1/8/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.