Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 144
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
unload ships. The problems of the steamboat Colorado, and those of the navigation
company, had caused a severe diminution of interest in the river and a concomitant rise in
the number of proponents of railroads. On June 2, 1852, a former champion of navigation,
the Texas Monument, which was published in La Grange, switched its advocacy, with the
strong remarks: "The Colorado won't do, dear reader; it won't do at all: it may be broad
enough to navigate, but it aint quite deep enough, except when it overflows, and then it is
rather too deep for comfort, or safety.-Besides, when it is up, before a boat can run up,
it runs down again. Then, when navigating it, one never knows whether he is ten feet, or
one foot, or one inch, from a sand bar, or a snag; whether he is sailing in the current, or
over a corn field." And, in July, when the Colorado Navigation Company renewed its
efforts to clean out the river, the paper commented, "We wish them the success their
enterprise deserves, but we fear their efforts and expenditures, though they might be
successful for a time, would hardly prove permanently beneficial to the river or country. "50
The steamboat Colorado had lain idle at La Grange until March 4, 1852, when
the river finally rose enough for her to leave. It had begun raining heavily in Fayette County
on March 3 and continued to rain for four or five days. The river, which had been a trickle
for months, suddenly swelled to past flood stage. Small buildings, fences, bales of cotton,
cattle, and horses were swept away. The regular, once-a-decade flood had come a year
early. The flood waters and the almost-constant rain left the roads impassibly muddy, and
diverted commerce to the suddenly mobile steamboat. In less than a month, the Colorado
made at least two trips between La Grange and the head of the raft. On March 26, 1852,
she left the raft a third time. The falling water, and the consequently exposed debris that
had been carried into the river by the flood, slowed her trip. So too did a rumor that she
had taken advantage of the flood to escape over the raft and abandon her efforts to navigate
the river, which deterred people from leaving wood for her on the river's banks. She made
La Grange, with several passengers and a cargo of sugar and molasses, on April 10, but
could not proceed past Rabb's Shoals, where the flood had formed a new sandbar. She
returned to her moor in La Grange to await another rise in the river. That rise came a month
later, and she proceeded downriver to wait out another summer.5s
Apparently, her captain, Douglass, decided not to wait with her. He left Texas,
taking with him the proceeds of her latest voyage, $1706, or so claimed her two other
50 Texas Monument, February 11, 1852, March 17, 1852, April 21, 1852, June 2, 1852, July 7, 1852,
September 29, 1852.
51 Texas Monument, March 10, 1852, March 17, 1852, March 24, 1852, March 31, 1852, April 7,
1852, April 14, 1852, April 21, 1852, June 2, 1852. The Monument dutifully reminded its readers that the river
was very low on September 24, 1851, October 8, 1851, January 14, 1852, and March 3, 1852. After the flood
receded, there was an outbreak of disease that caused many fatalities. The settlers along the river blamed the
flood for the disease (see Wesley Smith, A Family History and Fifty-two Years of Preacher Life in Mississippi
and Texas (Nashville: University Press Co., 1898), p. 131).
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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/m1/32/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed January 17, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.