Matagorda County History 1858
Matagorda County History Written in 1858
The area is 1334 square miles, about 510 of which are covered by Matagorda and Trespalacios bays. The general surface is level, and classed as bottom and prairie lands. There is much alluvial bottom-land in this county, which is nearly all well adapted to the culture of cotton, sugar-cane, rice, and Indian corn, besides many other productions of minor importance —sugar and cotton being, at present, the staples for exportation.
The alluvial soils, or what is called the planting lauds, lie on the east side of the Colorado river, and are the bottom-lands, or deposits, which it has taken untold ages to accumulate on Old Caney, Peach Creek, Sinville Bayou, and Live Oak. There are several other smaller streams on the east side of the Colorado, with good bottom-lands and timber, not extensive enough for plantations, but well adapted for small farms and stock-raisers.
The Colorado lands, in the lower part of the county, are subject to occasional overflows, with the exception of some choice spots; and, therefore, not withstanding the fertility of the soil, not so desirable. Old Caney, the most important stream, in an agricultural point of view, runs S. E. and N. W. through the county, and its dry bed opens into the Colorado in Wharton county: from the immense alluvial bottoms on each side, its present diminished waters, and deep bed, it is supposed to have been the former main channel of the Colorado. It is several miles below the intersection with the Colorado, before Caney contains any water: its banks never overflow from heavy rains, and it is very little else, above tide-water, than a large prairie drain : it runs into the Gulf of Mexico, in the south-eastern part of the county: it is also connected with the head of Matagorda bay by a large canal, half a mile long, which is navigable for the largest lighters. The Caney alluvial deposit is, in many places, thirty feet deep ; and its surface is covered with forests of gigantic oaks, elms, red cedar, and cane and wild-peach brakes. The cane and peach lands are considered best for cultivation, and have been so nicely compounded and proportioned in the laboratory of Nature, that no other soils in the world are equal, for the production of cotton, sugar-cane, and corn. The Bay of Matagorda, a large body of water, almost wholly within this county, is separated from the Gulf of Mexico, and formed by the "Matagorda Peninsula," a strip of land sixty-five miles long, and averaging one mile wide. It lies nearly N. E. and S. W., and is inhabited by small farmers and stock-raisers. A portion of this land, lying back from the Gulf, is an excellent, dark, sandy soil, easily cultivated, and very productive in all kinds of vegetation which is not injured by the sea-breeze. Notwithstanding high winds, a crop of sugar-cane was raised here, several years since, and manufactured into first quality sugar, on the premises. There is no healthier region in the world than Matagorda Peninsula; and many invalids have been restored to sound health through the happy influences of its pure air and sea-bathing. Game and fish can be obtained here, at all seasons, with ease and in abundance; and I dare assert, that I have never seen a place where poor men, by agricultural pursuits, may live so easily, and so soon become independent.
The bays of this county are, Matagorda, Trespalacios, and a portion of Karanqua. The timber is live-oak, post-oak, pin-oak, pecan, ash, cotton-wood, white and red elm, mulberry, red-cedar, and several other kinds, of minor importance.
We have no rock or stone, excepting conglomerates ; no minerals excepting salt. In the sea-board part of the county, at from five to ten feet below the surface, is found an abundance of strongly impregnated salt water, of much greater density than sea water. The manufacture of salt used to be carried on, in this county, during the days of "Austin's Colonial Government," to a considerable extent ; but scarcity of fuel caused its abandonment: it is thought, however, that solar evaporation may be profitably employed. The water-courses in this county are, the Trespalacios and Colorado rivers, Peyton's Creek, Caney, Peach Creek, Linville Bayou, and Live Oak Creek, all of which are unimportant for navigation, excepting the Colorado, Trespalacios, and Caney : the former is one of the most important rivers in the State, and will, with some little outlay for clearing out obstructions of fallen timber, become navigable for steamers to Austin, about 300 miles by road. An appropriation of $50,000 was made, by our last legislature, for this object; which sum, if properly expended, will bring the people of the Colorado valley in easy communication with Matagorda bay. This river is the great natural high-road for the bulky, but valuable, productions of all that region ; and Matagorda bay is the natural terminus of the road, in Texas. At some point on the bay will be established the receptacle for the masses of raw pro ducts, as they are floated down the stream for a distant mart; and here, in transit, will arrive, in exchange, the "purples and fine linens" of luxury and extravagance, together with the more useful articles of husbandry, arts, and manufactures all of which, by means of the interior thoroughfare, will be quickly diffused throughout all the regions round about. The various and vast amount of productions from the interior will attract to our bay the shipping and wealth of distant States, and build up, at some favored spot, a city of no inconsiderable size. It is no enigma where that sea-port town will be ; for Nature has favored Palacios, above all other site, with the advantages of a great seaport town. It is estimated that the cotton crop of 1857, in the five counties below Travis, through which the Colorado runs, will produce at least 60,000 bales; not to reckon the amount produced in the adjoining tributary counties, and the other productions which seek a market. All this now goes through the slow, expensive, and destructive process of being hauled to Houston, or some other inconvenient place. Trespalacios and Caney are navigable, for large lighters and small steamers, a short distance above tide-water.