Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 9, Number 1, January, 1999 Page: 31
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Consider the Lily: The Ungilded History of Colorado County, Texas
ate, recently-arrived farmer, Isaac Towell, planted rice, and, despite problems caused by his
own inexperience, made a successful crop. Even so, neither he nor the other county farmers
were ready to abandon the cultivation of cotton. As July 1869 opened, the cotton worms
had not yet been seen in the county; and the farmers were hoping for another few weeks of
dry weather, which they believed would keep the worms away. Then, the Colorado River
began rising. Soon, fields all over the county were inundated. By July 10, Columbus was
completely surrounded by water. That day, the river rose so rapidly that homes were flooded
almost before people had time to evacuate them. By evening, the Colorado Citizen re-
ported, the situation in Columbus was beyond description. The townspeople, plus their
livestock and vehicles, were clustered in the center of town. Boats wandered through the
city, rescuing persons who were stranded in their homes. The few families whose homes
remained unaffected provided shelter for the refugees. At the city cemetery, many bodies
washed out of graves. In Eagle Lake, four or five people were caught in the rising water and
drowned. In Alleyton, a near-riot erupted, and one man, Rudolph Mewes, shot and killed a
local blacksmith, Joseph Hale. When the water receded about a week later, the farmers
assessed their damage. Livestock and rural buildings had disappeared; perhaps half the
cotton crop had been ruined. To fully convey the effect of the flood, the Citizen employed
biblical prose. The citizens, the newspaper said, were "in sack-cloth and ashes. They have
been severely visited, and are bowed down in humbleness and contrition that the chastening
hand of God has fallen so heavily upon them."48
Though plantation owners who had relied on slave labor suddenly found the
going tough, others found conditions ripe to prosper. Robert Earl Stafford had come to
Texas in 1859, settling near Oakland. His family had evidently been slaveholders in Geor-
gia, and, when his wife came to join him in Texas, she reportedly was accompanied by at
least one slave. However, either because he had insufficient land or because he had other
ideas regarding how to prosper, Stafford apparently had no intentions of owning slaves
himself. As soon as he could, he divested himself of his slaves and invested the money in
livestock. When the Civil War broke out, he had enlisted as a private in the company raised
by John Cunningham Upton for Hood's Texas Brigade on April 8, 1862. However, later the
same month, he had a fight, apparently with another Confederate soldier, near Niblett's
Bluff, Louisiana, and was injured enough to secure a medical discharge, which was finally
48 Letter of John H. Crisp, March 19, 1868, Small Manuscripts Collection (Ms. 5), Archives of the
Nesbitt Memorial Library, Columbus; Galveston Daily News, October 11, 1868; Houston Daily Times, Decem-
ber 12, 1868; [Hempstead] Texas Countryman, June 25, 1869, July 16, 1869, July 23, 1869, July 30, 1869,
August 6, 1869, September 17, 1869; Colorado County District Court Records, Criminal Cause File No. 789:
State of Texas v. Rudolph Mewes. In reporting the deaths in Eagle Lake, the newspaper states that "Wilson
Wood, Drumgoole, wife and two children" were drowned. None of these persons have been further identified.
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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/m1/31/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.