Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 6, Number 3, September, 1996 Page: 146
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
from the remains of the Colorado at the place where it had sunk, and flatboats continued
to haul cargo along the river. Within the next few months, the two steamers would be
launched. In March 1854, the one that was built at Bastrop, newly christened the Water
Moccasin, was floated downriver to Matagorda to have her machinery fitted. In April,
apparently, the new Colorado, which was built from the old, also was floated to Matagorda
to be fitted with machinery, though, quite sensibly, she was first loaded with cotton. The
flatboats, however, encountered unusual difficulty on the unpredictable river. Two
flatboats loaded at Bastrop ran aground before they reached Columbus. Two loaded at La
Grange made it to the coast. They were perhaps the first two boats to travel through the
federal government's canal, which opened in March 1854. The canal, little more than four
miles long, flowed back into the river just south of what had been left of the raft by the
Colorado Navigation Company's efforts. It diverged from the river about one and a half
miles north of the raft. Its first spring, cotton passed through the canal with decided
regularly. Whether for that reason or for some other, many of the plantation owners along
the lower Colorado who had grown sugar in years past began planting cotton.54
On February 3, 1854, the state legislature had passed an act to encourage the
building of steamboats by offering to grant 320 acres of land to those who did. Some five
months later, residents of La Grange began organizing a company to build a boat. One can
assume that the La Grange company did not succeed, for no land was ever granted to it.
However, the law did lead to the construction of one boat which is believed to have been
used on the Colorado River, the Betty Powell. Built by that intrepid backer of navigation,
Samuel G. Powell, the Betty Powell was presumably launched shortly before February 7,
1855, when her owner received certificates for the land he was entitled to by virtue of having
built her. Her time on the Colorado was apparently quite short. By 1857, she was plying
the waters between the Trinity River and Galveston. On May 17, 1859, en route to
Galveston with a load of cotton, she caught fire and was destroyed.55
54 Texas Monument, August 24, 1853, September 14, 1853, October 26, 1853, March 8, 1854, March
22, 1854, March 29, 1854, April 5, 1854, April 12, 1854, April 26, 1854; Charles William Tait to James Asbury
Tait, July 9, 1854, Tait Family Papers, Ms. 32, Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus. William
Jones Elliott Heard, who for many years had grown sugar at Egypt, dropped the crop after 1854. His neighbor,
Eli Mercer, who had grown sugar since at least 1844, continued to do so at least through 1855 (see P. A.
Champomier, Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in Louisiana in 1852-53 (New Orleans, 1853), p. 44;
Champomier, Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in Louisiana in 1853-54 (New Orleans, 1854), p. 47;
Champomier, Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in Louisiana in 1854-55 (New Orleans, 1855), p. 45;
Champomier, Statement of the Sugar Crop Made in Louisiana in 1855-56 (New Orleans, 1856), p. 44;
La Grange Intelligencer, November 28, 1844).
55 Gammel, ed., The Laws of Texas 1822-1897, vol. 3, p. 1478; Texas Monument, February 22, 1854,
June 14, 1854, July 14, 1854, August 1, 1854, August 8, 1854, August 15, 1854; Samuel G. Powell, Milam
District Scrip File 484, Archives and Records Division, Texas General Land Office, Austin; Galveston Weekly
News, May 26, 1857; Annual Report of Steamboat Inspections for 1859, Fourth Supervising District, RG 41,
National Archives, Washington. The law allowed land grants to persons who built seagoing vessels, whether
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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/m1/34/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.