Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 2, May, 1996 Page: 88
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
its floods, which after all, seemed to come regularly, and only once every decade.
However, they were not satisfied with the river's state as a transportation facility. Despite
the failure of the Colorado Navigation Company, some of the citizens along the river
remained keenly interested in opening it to commercial navigation. On June 1, 1842, men
from the several counties along the river had met in Columbus and determined to raise
$30,000, an amount that was far less than that the Colorado Navigation Company had
raised, but which nonetheless they felt would be sufficient to remove the raft. By the
summer of 1843, ten flatboats which had been recently built in or near Bastrop, were
carrying freight, including cotton, hides, pecans, and lumber, between Bastrop and the raft.
In addition, a keelboat continued to ply the waters of the Colorado between La Grange and
the raft, aided in its journey upriver by sails. Certainly the flatboats and probably the
keelboat stopped at Columbus and other points along the river to take on cargo. At the raft,
the boats unloaded their cargo, which was then hauled overland to Matagorda for export.
This system, however, apparently did not provide the growing number of farmers along the
river with the transportation system they needed to prosper economically. Accordingly,
probably in 1843, they drafted a charter for a second Colorado Navigation Company and
submitted it, with a petition that it be adopted signed by 201 citizens, to the congress. On
January 18, 1844, the congress complied. The new Colorado Navigation Company was
charged with removing the raft within five years, and was allowed, after removing the raft,
to charge tolls on all vessels, except government vessels, that traveled on the portion of the
river that formerly had been obstructed by the raft. The charter also gave the company
power to use, if necessary to seize for an arbitrated consideration, dirt and timber from
landowners along the river, and the authority to set its own tolls for five years. The
government reserved the right to buy out the company at any time over the following thirty
The cause of navigation, however, suffered a severe blow in the spring of 1844,
when rising water wrecked both a keelboat named the Edward Burleson and one of the
flatboats. On April 20, the Edward Burleson, proceeding upriver, had gotten near
Columbus when the water started to surge. Her captain had her lashed to a tree on the bank,
but the cable did not hold, and she was swept downriver and broken apart. All her cargo,
merchandise bound for stores in La Grange and Bastrop, was lost. The flatboat, which had
been headed downriver, was wrecked in a similar manner the following day. Most of her
44 Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas, pp. 247-248, DeWitt Clinton Baker, comp., A
Texas Scrap-Book (New York: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1875), p. 327; Telegraph and Texas Register, June 22,
1842, June 28, 1843; Hollon and Butler, eds., William Bollaert's Texas, p. 261; Petition of the Citizens of the
Colorado Valley, n. d. [c. 1843], Memorials and Petitions, Texas State Archives, Austin; Gammel, ed., The
Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 2, pp. 937-940. See also A. B. Lawrence, Texas in 1840 (New York: 1840),
p. 93; Francis S. Latham, Travels in the Republic of Texas, 1842 (Austin: The Encino Press, 1971), p. 19.
Regarding the identity of the keelboat, see the following footnote.
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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/m1/28/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.