Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 16
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
Other endeavors that had been interrupted by the war were also resurrected. By
1866, the citizens of Columbus were again ready to turn their attention to the railroad. Of
the three railroads in the area, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado, the Columbus, San
Antonio and Rio Grande, and the Columbus Tap, only the last had done any significant
construction during the war. The C S A & R G, in fact, had never built an inch of track. The
Columbus Tap, which had been stalled by its inability to secure the necessary iron, had
finally, in 1863, gotten the iron from the Confederate government, opened a line from Alleyton
to a point across the river from Columbus in 1864, and signed a contract for the construc-
tion of a bridge into town. The war had ended, however, before the railroad paid for the
iron. The railroad was only too happy to neglect to report the debt to the United States
government; but the government found out about it anyway, leading them to claim that the
iron that was in use on the track had been among the property surrendered to the United
States by the Confederacy, and to threaten to remove it. Though the railroad successfully
kept the United States from confiscating the iron, the bridge contract fell through; and the
railroad seemingly despaired of its ability to continue. So it was that in 1866, the apparently
bankrupt Columbus Tap agreed to transfer its charter to the B B B & C. Though the state
legislature would not formally authorize the transfer until September 21, 1866, with the
deal assured, on August 15 the B B B & C hired Charles William Tait and Nathan Wheeler
to build the bridge into Columbus. The new bridge and its approaches was to be 325 feet
long, with two spans, one of 125 feet and one of 150 feet, between three piers. Invigorated
by the prospect of linking up with the prosperous B B B & C at Columbus, the
C S A & R G quickly moved to renew its charter. Backed by locals Tait, Leander Calvin
Cunningham, John Richard Brooks, and Richard V. Cook, and by men from outside the
county including heavyweights Samuel Augustus Maverick, Thomas William House, and
Gustav Schleicher, the C S A & R G got its new lease on life from the legislature on October
6, 1866, again securing the right to construct track from Columbus to San Antonio.26
Shortly after absorbing the Columbus Tap, the B B B & C inaugurated its plan
to build the bridge into Columbus. Boosted by investors from Galveston, by February 1867,
Wheeler and a crew were driving piles in the river by means of a hammer suspended from
a windlass on a boat. On April 24, however, work on the bridge halted when Wheeler fell
from the scaffolding and was seriously injured. Then, money began to run short. On June 3,
26 Letter of George W. Smith, December 30, 1865, Governor's Papers (RG 301), Andrew J. Hamilton,
Archives and Records Division, Texas State Library, Austin; Letter of Enon M. Harris, August 23, 1867, Barry
A. Crouch Collection (Ms. 41), Archives of the Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus; Gammel, comp., The
Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, vol. 5, pp. 1256-1257, 1308-1312; Colorado County Bond and Mortgage Records,
Book F, p. 150. On August 28, 1868, the legislature amended the charter of the Columbus, San Antonio and Rio
Grande Railroad to allow it to commence its rail line at Gonzales, or some other point on the as yet unbuilt rail
line of the Indianola and Austin Railroad, rather than at Columbus, removing it from the concerns of Colorado
County historians (see Gammel, comp., The Laws of Texas, 1822-1897, vol. 6, p. 56).
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999, periodical, January 1999; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151405/m1/16/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.