Blog Series: The Brazos RiverBlog Series
Early steamboat transportation
Steamboat transportation on the Brazos River began as early as 1829 but did not really pick up until 1835 with the introduction of the Steamship Yellow Stone. Although the River was hard to navigate, the steamboats offered a way of getting fresh goods back and forth between the interior cities such as Washington. Henry Jones, one of Austin’s “Old Three Hundred”, led the charge to bring the boat to Texas because of an exceptionally high harvest that year that produced more than 5,000 bales of cotton as well as hogsheads of sugar and corn. With a promise of 5,000 acres of land and $800 in cash, Thomas Toby and Brother of New Orleans, owners of the ship brought it to Texas.Yellow Stone’s first passengers to Texas were 47 young men, the Mobile Grays, willing to help in the fight for Texas Independence. The ship, captained by Lt. Thomas Wigg Grayson, also contained ammunition and supplies for the Texas army. One the men and supplies were dropped off, Captain John E. Ross, a veteran of Texas rivers, took over the ship. With him at the helm, he was able to find ways through the river others previously had trouble with. He along with other Texas steamer pilots entered low water with the saying “Tap a keg of beer and we’ll run four miles on the froth.” Ross navigated the Yellow Rose across the Velasco Bar, where the Brazos River laid up its silt. He stopped along the Lower Brazos (Brazoria and Columbia), continued into the middle section (Richmond), and finally made it to Washington on the Brazos. At the time towns were few and far between so planters built landings on their riverfront property. He stopped all along the way picking up goods before delivering them back downstream to the waiting ships off of Quintana. A roundtrip generally took five days without overnight stops.
Information taken from http://www.forttumbleweed.net/steamboats. Photo from the Handbook of Texas Online.