Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 141
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
Matagorda was being considered. Though the fever to make the river navigable had
diminished, its promise as the least expensive transportation option was still compelling.
Excitement was raised again by the efforts of three men, Samuel G. Powell, Charles M.
Coen, and Samuel Douglass, to make a profit by operating a steamboat on the river. That
boat, named the Colorado and designed to carry 1000 bales of cotton, was 120 feet long,
with a beam of 22 feet, and included a hold four feet deep, an elaborate upper cabin, and
two engines. She was built, apparently in a northern state to specifications supplied by her
owners, in 1849 and 1850. Shortly after her arrival at Matagorda in December 1850, cold
weather froze water in the Colorado's machinery, slightly damaging it. That, and the low
stage of the river, delayed her attempt to cross the raft.44
The arrival of the steamboat Colorado caused considerably more excitement
than the revival of an earlier scheme to enhance navigation on the river, the formation of
a company to remove the raft. That company, the third Colorado Navigation Company, was
chartered by the state legislature on September 5, 1850. Its prime mover, Thomas J.
Hardeman, and some of its future directors, as a formally organized board of commission-
ers, had already made an effort to clean out the raft and had begun collecting subscriptions
for the new company even before it was chartered. Like its two failed predecessors, the
company was given authority to remove the raft and thereafter to charge tolls for traffic on
the river, this time until they had collected the full amount they had expended on clearing
the river, plus ten percent interest per year. The new company had the advantage of a United
States government report, submitted April 16, 1850, which described the obstructions in
the river in detail. The raft was composed of eleven separate obstructions spread out along
seven miles of the river, beginning eleven miles from the coast. Between the head of the
raft and Bastrop, there were fifty-four additional small clusters of debris, between Bastrop
and Austin, three major clusters of fallen trees and three places obstructed by boulders, and,
between La Grange and Austin, numerous overhanging trees past which steamboats could
not easily proceed. In addition, there were nine shoals on the river, eight of which could
be easily improved. The ninth, that at Columbus, would require more serious excavation.45
44 Texas Monument, July 20, 1850, September 18, 1850, December 4, 1850, December 25, 1850,
April 13, 1853; Fayette County District Court Records, Civil Cause File No. 563: Samuel G. Powell and Charles
M. Coen v. Samuel Douglass. That the Colorado was built to specifications provided by her owners is deduced
from a statement made in the Texas Democrat of March 31, 1849 that unnamed persons had gone to the north
to procure a steamboat for the river. It may reasonably be assumed that Powell, Coen, and/or Douglass were
among those persons, and that, since the Colorado was not delivered until nearly two years later, they ordered
a new steamboat rather than purchase an existing one.
45 Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 3, pp. 803-806; Texas State Gazette, March 16,
1850; Texas Monument, September 4, 1850, October 2, 1850, October 9, 1850; Charles William Tait to James
Asbury Tait, September 21, 1849, Tait Family Papers, Ms. 32, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library,
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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/m1/29/?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.