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Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 3:49 pm

The Trinity River Steamboat Trade

I have always been somewhat fascinated by the Trinity River steamboat era, which had its heyday before the Civil War, enjoyed a time of resurgence after the war, and then sort of a last gasp towards the end of the Nineteenth Century. The towns of Wallisville, Anahuac and Liberty all figured prominently in the steamboat trade, but many a family had a river landing which also allowed the steamers to stop there. The following articles capture some of the spirit of that time, but also they tell how quickly disaster could strike.

I might also note that the Frankland family, mentioned in a couple of the articles, were associated with Smith Point at various times.

Telegraph & Texas Register

September 9, 1840


The sale of the Steamboat Sam Houston is postponed until the 27th day of November next.

The Sam Houston steamboat, lately in the trade from Anahuac, to Houston and Galveston, is offered for sale with her tackle, apparel, etc., as she now lies partly sunk (in the west fork of Double Bayou), about eight miles from its mouth, and about two miles from the city of Chambersia [Anahuac].

The engine is well known to be an excellent and very powerful one. The sale will positively take place on the 27th day of Nov. next, one half cash in hand, and the balance six months.


Agent for the proprietor.

City of Chambersia, Oct. 16, 1840

Telegraph & Texas Register

May 4, 1842

The Trinity

The late rains have the waters of the Trinity, so that it is now in a fine navigable stage. The Vesta lately made a trip from Liberty to Galveston, freighted with cotton and will return immediately to Alabama [a landing on the Trinity] and the intermediate ports. The planters of the Trinity will thus be furnished with an opportunity of forwarding their cotton to Galveston markets. The Trinity has been low for five or six months, in consequence, nearly all the cotton on that stream on that stream has been detained on the plantations.

Telegraph & Texas Register

April 17, 1844

Ellen Frankland Lost

The Steamboat Ellen Frankland was wrecked in Galveston bay, near Red Fish Bar, in the gale of the 13th inst. She went down at her anchor about eleven o’clock in the evening. The crew and the passengers with the exception of one, were saved. The person lost was a German, who was sick and unable to extricate himself. A large quantity of cotton was lost with the vessel.

Telegraph & Texas Register

April 24, 1844

Ellen Frankland

The Galveston News gives the particulars of the wreck of the Ellen Frankland as follows:

“She was at anchor above Red Fish Bar with a full freight of cotton, &c., and went down at her anchor about eleven o’clock in the evening. The crew and passengers succeeded in saving themselves, with the exception of one or two, by clinging to pieces of the wreck which was prevented from floating off by previously having been lashed to the hulk of the boat. In this situation they remained till eleven o’clock next day, when a small boat fortunately came to their relief. “The gale is represented as being tremendous, and the suffering of those aboard, very severe.

“The Ellen Frankland was owned, we believe, by Messrs. Frankland and Co., whose loss will be considerable, as we learn nothing was saved; not even the money and papers on board.”

The loss of this boat will be seriously felt by the planters on the Trinity, as but a small part of the cotton in that section has been sent to market.

It is estimated that the cotton now ready for shipment on the banks of the Trinity exceeds two thousand bales.

Telegraph & Texas Register

November 29, 1849


The Steamboat Reliance, Capt. [John H.] Sterrett, has recently been thoroughly repaired and furnished with a new and substantial boiler. This steamer will immediately resume her trips to Galveston, and will probably make a few trips to the Trinity in a few weeks. The Reliance is perhaps the only temperance steamer in the State. There is no Bar on board of this vessel, and we are informed that no liquor will be kept for sale on board. The officers are all deservedly popular.

Telegraph & Texas Register

January 10, 1850

New steamer

A steamer named the Jack Hays, in honor of the most noted and popular of our frontier [Texas] Rangers, arrived at our landing on the 2nd inst. This boat is commanded by Capt. [Thomas] Webb, and we understand she is intended for the Trinity trade. The planters on that river have subscribed about $10,000 to purchase a steamer to ply constantly on that river. This steamer is about the same size as the Reliance, is well built and will doubtless be quite an acquisition to the trade of the Trinity Valley.

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