Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 126
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Late in 1847, with the Kate Ward still trapped on the Colorado, the city of
Victoria gave her further incentive to depart the unpredictable river, offering to pay as much
as $1000 to transfer her to the Guadalupe River, and to guarantee that she would do no worse
than break even in her business endeavors on the Guadalupe in her first year. Shortly
afterward, with the river at a high stage, she finally escaped around the raft. Her route, over
what normally was dry land, prompted some to speculate that the best way to open the river
to traffic would be to dig a canal around the raft, along the route taken by the Kate Ward.
In March 1849, a committee of five men, James S. Montgomery, Eli Mercer, John Duncan,
Albert Clinton Horton, and John Rugeley, inspected the raft with the possibility of a canal
in mind. Their report, however, was not encouraging. They reiterated that the best way to
open the river was to remove the raft, noting that because debris continued to collect, the
head of the raft constantly moved upriver, and that at some point in the not-too-distant
future, it would block the head of the proposed canal. They estimated that the raft could
be removed for $30,000, and called for the six river counties, Matagorda, Wharton,
Colorado, Fayette, Bastrop, and Travis, to begin raising money.19
The counties responded by calling meetings. The citizens of Bastrop County
met on March 31; those of Travis on April 2; and those of Matagorda on April 3. All three
pledged to send delegates to a convention of the six counties in La Grange on May 7. The
citizens of Colorado County met on April 17, with Montgomery as their chairman. He and
Asa Townsend were appointed to begin taking subscriptions, and Claiborne Herbert,
Armstead Carter, and William Fields were appointed as delegates to the La Grange
convention. After the adjournment of the meeting, Montgomery and Townsend secured
"several thousand dollars" in subscriptions.20
The La Grange convention, however, was a debacle. No delegates from either
Matagorda or Wharton Counties, and only two of the three Colorado County delegates,
showed up. Those who were there waited until May 8 to convene in hopes that every river
county would be represented, then called another convention, this one in Columbus, on
Printing Company, 1931), p: 10. The Kate Ward was built and owned by two men, identified as Ward and
Robertson. They may have been Trowbridge Ward and Joseph W. Robertson, each of whom was named as a
commissioner in the law which created the second Colorado Navigation Company (see Gammel, ed., The Laws
of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 2, p. 937). Ward may also have been Thomas William Ward, who was involved in
later navigation efforts, or Samuel Ward, who at the time owned a substantial amount of land in Colorado
County, or George W. Ward, a cotton merchant in Matagorda who sold the land to Samuel Ward (see Colorado
County Deed Records, Book D, p. 217, Book E, p. 321). Probably, though, he was William J. Ward, the captain
of the boat.
The above-cited issue of the Texas Democrat provides this physical description of the Kate Ward: "115
feet keel; deck the same; 24 feet beam; hull divided into 8 compartments, all water tight; 2 engines or 70 horse
power. With wood, water &c., she draws 18 inches, and is capable of carrying 800 bales of cotton."
19 Telegraph and Texas Register, December 20 , 1847; Texas Democrat, March 31, 1849, July
20 Texas Democrat, April 7, 1849, April 21, 1849, April 28, 1849.
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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/m1/14/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed September 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.