Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996 Page: 16
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done by the COE in 1993 on the wreck of
the Charles Morgan Line steamer Mary
(41NU252), previously assessed in 1990by
Espey, Huston, and Associates (Pearson
1993:27) She was lost on the south side of
the bar at Aransas Pass in 1876, en route
from New Orleans with a "general cargo"
and a small number of passengers. Beachcombers
salvaged large quantities of wood,
wagon wheels, flour, apples, oranges, and
onions (ibid: 103). This sturdy iron-hulled
sidewheel steamer, built in 1865, was made
specifically for coastal trade. She is of interest
not only because very little is known
archaeologically of such ships, but because
she can serve as a model, as her effects and
cargo are typical of Morgan Line coastal
Several distinctive features were noted
in the widely strewn wreckage, whose low
profile and decidedly disarticulated nature
betray the dynamiting done in attempts to
clear the channel. The port and starboard
paddle wheel assemblies, a surface condenser,
an impressive walking beam, a stem
section consisting mostly of vertical hull
plates, and a large (34 feet intact, then 11
feet splayed open) section of the bow are
identifiable (ibid:115). The tiny artifact
collection includes two pieces of 2.75 inch
copper pipe, two pieces of .6 inch copper
alloy tube, one small plate brass piece, and
three concretions or encrustations, all in
poor condition (ibid: 123).
In a rare instance of large-scale pure
research, the THC has recently begun its
most extensive underwater archaeological
project since the excavation of the 1554
wrecks in the early 1970s: excavation of
LaBelle, a 65-ton barque longue lost in
January 1686 during the French explorer
LaSalle's ill-fated Texas colonization at
Close observation indicates an "L" in this closeup
view of a bronze ring recovered from LaBelle.
Artifact photos courtesy of Andy Hall, Galveston.
Pewter plates, white-faience pottery, a stoneware pitcher, and a metal strainer are among the few artifacts that
underwater divers were able to recover from the wreckage of LaBelle. Courtesy Andy Hall, Galveston.
...THC has recently begun its most extensive
underwater archaeological project since the
excavation of the 1554 wrecks in the early 1970s:
excavation of LaBelle, a 65-ton barque longue...
tempt. She ran aground in a storm off
Matagorda Peninsula, where her remains
lie in 12 feet of water. The THC located
her inJuly during its Matagorda Bay Project,
an extensive magnetometer survey of
The little ship, a personal gift to LaSalle
from Louis XIV, is a find of international
important for several reasons. She is the
oldest and best-preserved French wreck
ever found in this hemisphere. She had
been the last of the expedition's four ships,
so her sinking more or less doomed the
already foundering colony at Fort St. Louis.
Had the colony succeeded, France might
have kept her claim to Texas. Also, her
hull remains will tell much about a transitional
period in naval architecture, when
shipwrights were switching from the traditional
practice of molding (construction by
rule of thumb) to the modem standard of
line drawings and lofting.
Test excavations yielded many fasci
nating artifacts, the most spectacular of
which was an extremely ornate bronze cannon
bearing the royal initial and the arms
of "Le Comte de Vermandois". An illegitimate
son of the King, Vermandois was
admiral of France from 1669-1683, though
The French pewter plate craftsman is identified by
this impression. "FIN", at the top, means "fine" in
French. From the Texas Historical Commission.
16 HERITAGE *WINTER 1996
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996, periodical, Winter 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45404/m1/16/: accessed December 11, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.