Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 125
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
Though the roadways had improved to a sufficient degree to allow them to
better get their crops to market, the county's farmers and plantation owners had a real and
abiding interest in the navigation of the Colorado River. By 1846, the Colorado Navigation
Company had made no real progress toward removing the obstruction of wood and other
debris near the mouth of the river that was known as the raft; however, two events revived
the spirits of the company's backers. On May 11, 1846, the legislature chartered the
Colorado and Wilson Creek Rail Road Company, which was authorized to construct a
railroad that connected the navigable part of the Colorado River above the raft with the
navigable part of Wilson Creek, which ran into Trespalacios Creek and thence into the bay.
The railroad's backers, John Duncan and Charles L. Bolton, the latter of whom had just
moved into Texas, expected to profit by making it easier to transfer goods from the head
of the raft to the coast. However, their railroad apparently never built any track, and went
out of existence five years after its charter was passed."
A few months before the railroad was incorporated, a steamboat, the Kate
Ward, captained by William J. Ward, had been launched on the river. The Kate Ward was
certainly the most substantial vessel yet to operate on the river. She tested her limits in early
1846, going upriver and arriving at Austin, to great acclaim and excitement, on March 8.
The promise of her early days, however, was, like those of the railroad, not to be fulfilled.
She was too large for the unpredictable river. She was never destined to return to Austin.
Little more than a month after her journey to the capital city, she ran aground near
Columbus, where she had to wait until the river rose. That spring, she made at least one
trip between La Grange and the raft, but, with the river in a shallow stage, she lay idle
throughout the summer. By winter, her owners, still in debt from her construction, had
determined to try to abandon the Colorado by escaping around or over the raft at a high stage
of the river. In the spring of 1847, the Kate Ward made another trip upriver. Though she
could not proceed as far as La Grange, she evidently took on cargo and returned it to the
raft. In late June 1847, the Colorado rose, and her crew attempted to take the steamboat
into the Gulf of Mexico. She failed, however, and was forced to remain in inactivity above
German priest, " providing us with the closest thing to a physical description that we have (see The Metropolitan
Catholic Almanac and Laity's Directory, for the Year of Our Lord 1851 (Baltimore: F. Lucas, Jr., 1850), p.
217; Jean Marie Odin to Antoine Blanc, April 19, 1850, Episcopal Collection, Papers of Jean Marie Odin,
Catholic Archives of Texas, Austin).
17 Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, vol. 2, pp. 1524-1525. Bolton is described in the
law as a resident of Colorado County, and he had been, albeit briefly. On January 27 and February 21, 1846,
he had purchased most of the Alexander Jackson Survey on the Colorado River, which was then in Colorado
County. Two months later, however, his land was removed from the county when Wharton County was created.
18 Telegraph and Texas Register, November 5, 1845, April 15, 1846, December 7, 1846, December
21, 1846, May 10, 1847, June 14, 1847, July 5, 1847; Galveston Evening News, March 3, 1846; Texas
Democrat, March 11, 1846; Victor Bracht, Texas in 1848, Charles Frank Schmidt, trans. (San Antonio: Naylor
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996, periodical, September 1996; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151398/m1/13/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.