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San Felipe in Austin County, Texas — The American South (West South Central)
 

Rio Brazos

Commerce Square

 
 
Rio Brazos Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 20, 2022
1. Rio Brazos Marker
Inscription.  
Empresario Stephen F. Austin Considered several sites for his colony's headquarters, but this location on the Brazos River had a convenient advantage. A ferry, operated by an early settler named John McFarland, took travelers on the Atascosito Road over the river. Austin platted his town around the ferry crossing and donated lot 580 to McFarland in return.

With most "roads" in Texas little more than faint tracks marked only by trees, the Brazos River was an important means of transport. The waterway enabled the colony to ship out its exports and bring in goods from ports like New Orleans, Tampico and Vera Cruz.

Vessels on the Brazos
San Felipe traders tried virtually anything that could float to transport their goods. Robert Hancock used a "big canoe" to carry farm products to market. Merchants Perry & Hunter tried a keel boat, but the upriver journey could take weeks.

Steamboat travel arrived in San Felipe when the Cayuga docked at Commerce Square in 1835. Elated townsfolk threw a ball at the Gay & Adams Tavern to celebrate. Later that year, the steamboat Yellowstone
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left New Orleans for Texas carrying volunteers for the Texas Revolution. In April 1836, the vessel ferried the retreating Texian army across the Brazos. The Yellowstone came under cannon fire as it steamed downriver past enemy - occupied San Felipe.

Port to Town
Before regular shipping service was established, traders relied on overland transport. At ports like Brazoria and Bell's Landing near the Gulf of Mexico, ox-drawn wagons loaded up with imports shipped in from New Orleans. The wagons trundled over roads back to San Felipe, where the merchandise was sold to locals.

Captions
Lower Middle (1): Top: Steamer Yellow-Stone, by Karl Bodmer
Lower Middle (2): Left: Ferry Ordinance and Ownership Announcement - The town council, or ayuntamiento, printed ferry regulations in the local newspaper. A new manager also advertised the ferry's rules of passage."
Lower Right (1): Top: Manifest of the Schooner Santiago listing cotton exported to New Orleans. Profits from San Felipe's exports allowed merchants to buy the imports that stocked village stores.
Lower Right (2): Above: Ads for Shipping Freight and Passage Published in San Felipe

Images Courtesy: Rugeley-Moore Collection; Beinecke Rare Book and Manscript Library; Yale University; Joslyn
Rio Brazos Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 20, 2022
2. Rio Brazos Marker
Art Museum; National Archives and Records Administration

 
Erected by San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceRoads & VehiclesWar, Texas IndependenceWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1836.
 
Location. 29° 48.389′ N, 96° 5.808′ W. Marker is in San Felipe, Texas, in Austin County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of 2nd Street and Farm to Market Road 1458. The marker is located in the western section of the San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site along the pathway. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 220 2nd Street, San Felipe TX 77473, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Clopper Store (within shouting distance of this marker); Governing the Town (within shouting distance of this marker); Business District (within shouting distance of this marker); Austin & Perry Stores (within shouting distance of this marker); Founding the Town (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Travis Law Office (about 300 feet away); Cotten Print Shop (about 300 feet away); Building the Town (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Felipe.
 
More about this marker.
The view of the Rio Brazos Marker along the walkway image. Click for full size.
Photographed By James Hulse, July 20, 2022
3. The view of the Rio Brazos Marker along the walkway
The marker is located on the grounds of the San Felipe de Austin Historic Site. There is a small fee to access the historic site and markers.
 
Also see . . .
1. San Felipe de Austin History. Texas Historical Commission
San Felipe de Austin was founded in 1824 by Stephen F. Austin as the unofficial capital of his colony. It became the first urban center in the Austin colony, which stretched northward from the Gulf of Mexico as far as the Old San Antonio Road and extended from the Lavaca River in the west to the San Jacinto River in the east. By October 1823, after briefly considering a location on the lower Colorado River, Austin decided to establish his capital on the Brazos River. The site chosen was on a high, easily defensible bluff overlooking broad, fertile bottomlands. The location offered a number of advantages, including a central location and sources of fresh water independent of the Brazos.
(Submitted on September 17, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 

2. River Navigation. Texas State Historical Association
In 1834, encouraged by a subscription list formed by a number of planters, Robert Wilson and William P. Harris put the Cayuga in service on the Brazos. The Yellow Stone began to ply the Brazos in 1836 and reached San Felipe in February. By 1840 there were at least two small vessels, the Mustang and the Lady Byron, operating above
Yellow Stone steamer - Photo from the marker image. Click for full size.
Public Domain - Karl Bodmer, 1833
4. Yellow Stone steamer - Photo from the marker
Brazoria. In 1840 the Constitution, a reclaimed ocean steamer, took a load of 300 bales of cotton over the Velasco bar, which was the principal impediment to navigation on the Brazos.
(Submitted on September 17, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.) 
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 17, 2022. It was originally submitted on September 17, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas. This page has been viewed 91 times since then and 5 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on September 17, 2022, by James Hulse of Medina, Texas.

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Mar. 2, 2024