Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 145
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
owners, Coen and Powell, in the lawsuit they filed in Fayette County on May 25, 1852.
Douglass was no doubt prompted to abandon the venture because of the persistent financial
losses the Colorado had endured in her trips along the river. The trip that had yielded the
$1706 with which he had absconded, for instance, had cost the partners $4000. Soon
enough, the parties had settled the suit out of court. Probably, Coen and Powell agreed to
accept Douglass' share of the boat in return for their shares of the $1706. In any case, Coen
and Powell remained partners, and, by early 1853, the Colorado was again plying the river,
hauling cargo. However, on February 28, 1853, about halfway between La Grange and
Columbus, an underwater obstruction breached her hull and she sank in three feet of water.
Fortunately, her cargo, chiefly sugar and molasses, as well as her engines and other
machinery, were saved. The following month, Coen and Powell announced that they
intended to build a new boat, not quite as elaborate as the old one, out of the salvageable
parts of the Colorado.52
Meanwhile, those who would open the Colorado to navigation were working
to secure an appropriation from the federal government. In September 1852, they
succeeded in persuading congress to appropriate $20,000 to make the river navigable. The
appropriation provided not just funding, but renewed enthusiasm, for the project.
However, there were legal obstacles to clear. The following May, a government
representative contacted the largely-dormant Colorado Navigation Company and asked
them to relinquish their right to charge tolls on the river after it was cleared, stating that
the government would not begin work until they did. He also approached them about
purchasing the Kate Ward, which the company then owned. By the end of the summer, the
government had purchased the Kate Ward, thoroughly overhauled and repaired her, and
set some twenty to thirty men to work with her on the river. However, the work stopped
after a few days. Shortly afterward, they changed their approach to opening the river,
abandoning the idea of removing the raft in favor of what was now regarded as the less
expensive option, digging a canal around it.53
While the government was beginning work on the river, two men were
financing the construction of a sternwheeler in Bastrop, a new sidewheeler was being built
52 Texas Monument, August 18, 1852, October 6, 1852, February 16, 1853, March 2, 1853, March
9, 1852, April 13, 1853; Fayette County District Court Records, Civil Cause File No. 563: Samuel G. Powell
and Charles M. Coen v. Samuel Douglass, Minute Book F, p. 155. Coen and Powell, in their petition to the
court, declared rather colorfully that the Colorado had routinely lost money, saying "that the Boat aforesaid in
stead of making money, Since She has been in the trade, has Sunk money." The petition also states that, rather
than just transporting it for a fee, the proprietors of the boat actually purchased the cargo.
53 Texas Monument, September 8, 1852, September 29, 1852, May 25, 1853, June 1, 1853, August
10, 1853, September 28, 1853, November 30, 1853, April 5, 1854. Two of the directors of the Colorado
Navigation Company, John W. Gordon and John Duncan, were apparently so disenchanted with the efforts of
the company that they contemplated hiring laborers on their own to remove the raft (see Texas Monument,
December 15, 1852).
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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/m1/33/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.