Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 78
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Though they were slow, sales of lots in Columbus remained fairly steady.
However, the proprietors' profits were consumed by a relentless inflation which reduced
the value of the cash they had collected by perhaps as much as 90%. In the early 1840s,
cash became scarce. Citizens reverted to the barter system. As early as February 17, 1840,
a man named Robert Whitfield bought 140 acres of land in Colorado County, agreeing to
pay either $175 for it, or to deliver a specified variety of farm implements and other
hardware. William Bollaert, who traveled through. Columbus in August 1843, noted that
the town's merchants operated on the barter system, trading, as he said "cotton for sugar
and coffee, and bacon for boots-corn for calomel quinine and whiskey-beef for brandy,
Between 1840 and 1845, Columbus continued to grow very slowly. An 1845
emigrant guide reports that Columbus had only 150 inhabitants. Ferdinand Roemer, who
arrived in Columbus on January 22, 1846, described the place as a town of eighteen or
twenty frame houses with three stores, two saloons, and a blacksmith shop. Another
German, Alwin SOrgel, who was in town three months later, said that it contained thirty
to forty houses, including, presumably, commercial buildings.28
Crossing was included on one mail route. Probably very shortly afterward, since that place was nearly out of
existence, the mail was informally diverted to the north to the incipient town of Columbus. Certainly by
December 1837, the mail went through Columbus, and, a year later, Rezin Byrne, who was in fact a mail carrier,
was apparently functioning as a postmaster in Columbus (see Day, comp. and ed., Post Office Papers of the
Republic of Texas 1836-1839, pp. 37, 200; James M. Day, comp. and ed., Post Office Papers of the Republic
of Texas 1839-1840 (Austin: Texas State Library, 1967), p. 20, Matagorda Bulletin, December 20, 1837).
There may have been a newspaper known as the Columbus Sentinel andHerald published in Columbus
in 1839. On August 22 that year, the Colorado Gazette and Advertiser, which was published in Matagorda,
quoted an item from a paper it identified as "the Columbus Sentinel and Herald of the 11th inst." Though there
is serious doubt that a newspaper from Georgia could reach Matagorda in eleven days time, there was a paper
called the Sentinel and Herald published in Columbus, Georgia between 1832 and 1841 which probably was the
source of the item (see Thomas Streeter, Bibliography of Texas (1955. Reprint. Woodbridge, Connecticut:
Research Publications, Inc., 1983), pp. 191-192 and John Melton Wallace, Gaceta to Gazette: A Check List of
Texas Newspapers, 1813-1846 (Austin, 1966), p. 34).
27 Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas, p. 236; Colorado County Deed Records, Book B,
p. 291; W. Eugene Hollon and Ruth Lapham Butler, eds., William Bollaert's Texas (Norman: University of
Oklahoma Press, 1956), p. 183. Whitfield, who was apparently a land speculator, made several land deals in
Colorado County in early 1840. On January 29, 1840, he bought an undivided one half interest in four blocks
in Columbus and in large tracts outside the city from Dewees, on condition that he or some other purchaser buy
the property outright before January 24, 1841. He made a similar deal with John Louber Gilder six days later.
Between those deals, he purchased the 1476 acre tract that Leander Beeson was entitled to by virtue of a certificate
issued to him by the Colorado County Board of Land Commissioners, but had not yet patented (see Colorado
County Deed Records, Book B, pp. 265, 277, 285; Colorado County Book of Land Certificates, p. 47).
28 Richard S. Hunt and Jesse F. Randel, A New Guide to Texas (New York: Sherman & Smith, 1845),
p. 53; Ferdinand Roemer, Texas, Oswald Mueller, trans. (San Antonio: Standard Printing Company, 1935. Re-
print. Waco: Texian Press, 1967), p. 81; Alwin H. Sorgel, A Sojourn in Texas, 1846-1847, Wolfram M. Von-
Maszewski, trans. (San Marcos: German-Texan Heritage Society, 1992), pp. 43, 222. In their advertisement
in The [Houston] Morning Star of January 9, 1840, the proprietors of Columbus had claimed that there were
500 people and 60 buildings then in town. Obviously, they were exaggerating. People may certainly have left
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996, periodical, May 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151397/m1/18/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.