The bays and rivers around South Texas were full of steam boats of every kind. You could look across the bays and see dirty trails of black soot puffing up from steam boats from the small cargo boats to steam boats that resembled passenger ferrys. There were the big side-wheelers that were bringing passengers to the new Republic of Texas to settle or to establish businesses here. Every port had printed schedules with arrival times and departure times posted near the dock. Prices were very small by today’s standard even though some of the businessmen carried large sums of gold coin since banks were not yet part of the frontier scene. Some of the areas in South Texas were quickly growing into huge industrial complexes of shipping and cotton storage barns along with other domestic products. People were building everywhere from railroads and railroad towns to ports shortly after statehood in 1845. The early steam boats were often fired by wood available up every stream and the rivers were plentiful in South Texas. Early farming communities along these rivers built up quickly with the aid of the steamboat and slaves were bought and sold at most of the larger ports and used to clear new fields, plant and gather the crops. There were auction blocks near most boat docks and it was not strange to see several black slaves up at the auction with several rich landowners building their empires by adding more workers. It seems to me the huge landowners were the ones to use the slaves to build their fortunes quickly and many small farmers did the work themselves. It is still the same old story, the rich get richer(often by any means) and all the rest of us just get try to get along and get blamed for everything. The steamboats brought passengers and slaves, and returned commodities produced on the farms. If only the tractor had been invented a little earlier this ugly business of slave trade could have been completely omitted perhaps.
My beach would talk to me now and then and tell me stories of the old times. Years ago I would find strange black looking rocks washed up after stormy weather and now and then other interesting little pieces of history would wash up to weave a good mystery story. I have gathered over time bits and pieces of this mystery and have concluded what the answer is. The clues are everywhere but no one sees them. People come to the beach and look at the beach and yet do not see it as I do. Recently after a storm there was a very large clue visible on the beach that could have been seen by an airplane easily. Still no one saw it but me.
The story told to me by the old beach tells me that back in time over a hundred and thirty to a hundred and sixty years ago there was one of the steam boats that wrecked off my beach but I do not think that it grounded and sank but exploded as several did in the mid 1800’s. Yesterday I found a very old piece of a bowl I think and it probably came off the ship.
I think that it was a big passenger steam ship and that the furnace was fired by coal. At least it was carrying some coal. During the Civil war many blockade runners tried to run past the US gunboats and many were blown out of the water and this boat could be a blockade runner but I don’t think so. Most of the blockade runners tried to sell produce to bring some money in or they traded in outlaw goods. Some of the old armory’s used coal fired furnaces and needed someone to bring it in to construct arms used by the Confederate soldiers in the war.
Before I learned to listen to the old beach talk to me I saw clues then and didn’t think anything about it but I do recall some of the things that I saw. Now after storms and sometimes in the mid winter I find something from the old wreck that washes up on the beach. I found several large pieces of coal that must have scattered as the boiler blew. Just the other day we picked up a piece of a ceramic pot that was made in the early to mid 1800’s. I pick up all encrusted items that I find with my metal detector too, and when I have time I hope to cook them in an electrolysis bath to see what they are I will publish the pictures. Recently, after a storm, people were gathering drift wood on a beach near here and they never noticed when they picked up a piece a wood that it was imbedded with gold coins until after they got home. Obviously an Old Spanish ship loaded with treasure in the hold that imbedded into the ships timbers and washed ashore. Old gold coins have been found not a mile from where I find my shipwreck clues.
I saw timbers out there on a very low tide last winter, and this year I may attempt to reach the wreck. The point of this article is to point out to you the extreme importance of good observation if you are to be a good treasure hunter. Recently I published a story about researching old Civil war sites and with the aid of Terraserver and the aerial photographs it is possible to see very old outlines in the soil. I used the Terraserver and looked off Interstate 45 near me and saw the unmistakable marks in the old field where an early farmer used a crude plow pulled most likely by mules. It cut into the ground in a strange way that marked it for all this time. Clues are everywhere and you must learn how to observe them and how to understand what they mean. A true treasure hunter must see what others overlook. After this storm huge areas of blackened beach appeared and when I examined it I could tell that it was part of the load of coal that was pulverized by the pounding of the storm and scattered along the beach in large areas. I talked to an old timer that knew the beach sixty years ago and he didn’t have a clue about the source of the black contamination. This winter as the tides recede I expect to find other items from my shipwreck. Look for your own treasure clues, they are everywhere.