The Caney Run

 

An Early Trade and Mail Route of the
Golden Gulf Coast.


"Today there are no more dense canebrakes and wild grains growing in the river bottoms. Caney no longer flows an even course, but bobs up spasmodically here and there."


Long ago, Caney Creek (Canebrake River) began its winding course from Southeastern Colorado County near Eagle Lake and flowed to the Gulf of Mexico. The bamboo cane (Arundinaria) grew in an area forty miles wide and seventy-five miles long. It grew as high as thirty-five feet and formed impenetrable growth through which the Caney and Bernard Rivers flowed. Often a person on horseback could not get through and a person on foot went in circles. The cane was used for fishing poles, cattle feed, fencing, flooring and matting. Its greatest value was that it made the soil fertile by its yearly decaying and renewing.

 

THE "SUGAR BOWL" in Texas was the fertile land between the Colorado and Brazos Rivers and especially the land on either side of Caney Creek, from the source near Eagle Lake to where it terminates near Sargent.
 

During the days of Stephen F. Austin, sugar mills dotted the creek from Hawkinsville to Egypt and the trail which transversed the Sugar Bowl came to be known as "Caney Run." The canebrakes which grew along Caney Creek, once known as "Canebrake River," were very dense, often thirty-five feet wide. Scarcely a tree was to be found in this ocean of cane, which received the name "Great Prairie Canebrake."


Mail routes, established by the Republic of Texas in 1838, ran from Matagorda to San Felipe and later to Columbus and used the same Caney Run with stops at Cook's Island, Isham Phillips, Caney Crossing, Preston, Peach Creek and Egypt.


This road was the chief way to get products to market, as railways were not constructed until the 1900's and Caney Creek was often blocked as a waterway. Today, paved highways have replaced the old "Caney Run" and follow the creek from Eagle Lake to Sargent and on to the Gulf of Mexico.
 


POINTS OF INTEREST

 

EAGLE LAKE

 1. Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge FM 3013

 2. Prairie Edge Museum

 3. The Farris 1912, a restored hotel

 4. Thatcher-Montgomery Cemetery (1836) (Marker) Located on 950 1/2 mile off 102

 5. Masonic Cemetery (1867) Burial place of U. S. Congressman J. J. Mansfield

 6. Lakeside Sugar Refinery Site (Marker)

 7. Lakeside Cemetery (1873)

 

EGYPT

 8. Historical Marker for the community

 9. Northington-Heard Museum (Tours by appointment)

10. Red brick ranch house

 

SPANISH CAMP

11. Campsite of Mexican troops during the Texas Revolution

 

GLEN FLORA

12. Sanford Plantation home on Spanish Camp Road (Marker)

 

WHARTON

13. Monterey Square designated courthouse site 1846

14. Wharton County Junior College

15. Former Shearith Israel Synagogue - Built as a perfect Star of David

16. Wharton County Historical Museum - Permanent exhibit of Indian finds in city and county

17. City Cemetery - 77 Confederate Veterans' graves; 5 graves dating from Republic of Texas

18. G. R. Hawes home (Marker) (Not open to the public)

19. Hamilton Home (Marker) (Not open to the public)

20. Cline and Cline Law Office (Marker)

21. Williamson Marker

22. City of Wharton Marker

 

WHARTON COUNTY LINE TO BAY CITY

23. Runnells-Pierce Ranch on left

24. Santa Fe Railway

25. First Rice Field in Matagorda County

26. Historical Courthouse Square - Bay City

A. Ira Ingram Marker

B. Town of Matagorda Historical Marker

C. Matagorda County Marker

D. U. D. C. Civil War Memorial (1913) & Matagorda County War Memorial (1986)

E. First County Officials Marker

 

BAY CITY TO MATAGORDA VIA WADSWORTH

27. Historic cattle drive followed this road from Bay City to Matagorda each Spring and Fall (100th and last cattle drive was in April, 2008.)

28. Rice fields which have been farmed since 1901

29. St. Francisville Catholic Church and Cemetery on FM 521 & Sacred Heart Catholic Church (Markers)

30A. Equistar Plant

30B. South Texas Nuclear Project

31. Site of Old Gulf sulphur plant and community

32. Selkirk Island Historical Marker

33. Matagorda Historical Markers

A. Matagorda Cemetery (1830) (Marker) & National Register of Historic Places
     (There are eight additional markers within the cemetery)

B. Battle Island Marker (Marker)

C. Dale-Rugeley-Sisk Home (Marker)

D. Culver-Mecklenburg Home (Marker)

E. Christ Church, Methodist Church and St. Peter's Missionary Baptist Church markers

F. Old Post Office (Marker)

G. Jane McManus' Dream Colony (Marker)

H. Early Texas Freighting (Marker)

 

WADSWORTH TO CEDAR LANE

34. Early mail route from Brazoria to Matagorda

35. Hawkins Plantation Home on Lake Austin

36. Sheppard's Mott - Site of early plantation and stopping place for travel

 

CEDAR LANE TO INTRACOASTAL CANAL

37. Gainesmore, a ghost town on Caney crossing and named for John Gaines and D. P. Moore

38. Cemetery of the Freeman and Sargent Families

39. Proposed town of Manhattan at mouth of Caney. All early vessels paid toll here.

40A. Civil War - Fort Caney Historical Marker

40B. Sunken Confederate Stern Wheeler, visible in Caney Creek at low tide

 

CEDAR LANE TO VAN VLECK

41. Cedar Lane was site Power Brothers' Sugar Houses on Caney Creek in 1848

42. Rugeley Community - Site of Robert H. Williams' Plantation and third cotton gin in Austin's colony

43. Caney Post Office Centennial Marker

44. Caney (Matthews) Cemetery

45. Bay City Municipal Airport

46. Site of Old Hardeman Post Office at Van Vleck

 

SUGAR VALLEY TO PLEDGER

47. Site of early plantation home and sugar mill

48. Cook's Island Post Office (1838) Ghost Town

49. Podo, named for an African slave - Switch on SP on Duncan Ranch. Ghost Town

 

NEWGULF

50. Former Texas Gulf Sulphur Mining and Cogeneration Plant

 

BOLING

51. First Methodist Church, designed by famous architect. Nicholas Clayton

 

IAGO

52. G. C. Mick Home Marker (Known as the Brockman Home) (Not open to the public)

53. Preston Cemetery - enclosed and dedicated by Boling Junior Historians for first town in southern Wharton County (FM 1096)

 

BURR

54. Burr Albert Harrison Home (Marker)

 

HUNGERFORD

55. Historical Marker for Hungerford, Quinan, J. D. Hudgins Ranch, and West Post Bernard

 

EAST BERNARD

57. Holy Cross Catholic Church (stained glass windows, mosaics, and carvings from Europe)

 

WALLIS

58. Guardian Angel Catholic Church on FM 1952 (Marker)
 


COLORADO COUNTY
 

EAGLE LAKE -- As early as 1819, some of Moses Austin's colonists settled in Colorado County, one of the most historic in Texas. Eagle Lake is located on land granted to Stephen F. Austin's colonists. Its name is supposed to have come from an Indian legend about a princess who was to choose between two suitors by having them cross the lake, climb a tree, and return with a young eagle.

          The town is the center of the rice-growing industry and is known as the "Goose Hunting Capital of the World." A Waterfowl festival is held each November.

 


WHARTON COUNTY
 

BONUS -- A farming community founded in 1896, once had a sugar mill worked by convicts.

 

EGYPT -- In 1827, at a time of crop failures all around, Egypt, as its Biblical namesake, provided corn for those who had none. Famous Texans who once lived in Egypt were William Menefee, signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence; W. J. E. Heard, hero of the Battle of San Jacinto; Eli Mercer, member of the founding board of Baylor University; Major Andrew Northington, who helped settlers in the Runaway Scrape; and Gail Borden, editor of the Texas Telegraph and Register and inventor of condensed milk.

     During the Runaway Scrape, Heard family treasures were hidden in fake graves in the yard of the home. The Heard-Northington Museum is in the old Santa Fe Depot behind the house.

 

GLEN FLORA -- "Glen Flora" was the name chosen by William Hood for his first Wharton County home, the former Sanford Plantation. It was also the name given to the town, which was laid out in 1900. From the first land grants in the 1820's, farmers have grown cotton, corn, vegetables and grain. Once the major crop was sugar cane and a large sugar mill was located across the Colorado.

 

WHARTON -- Wharton county was formed in 1846 from Matagorda, Jackson and Colorado Counties. Many of Austin's original colonists had land grants in the county.

          The county and town were named for two brothers famous in early Texas history, William H. and John A. Wharton.

          William Kincheloe donated land for the town and Virgil Stewart surveyed it. The block set aside for the courthouse was named Monterrey Square.

          Albert Clinton Horton, first Lieutenant Governor of Texas, had a plantation here; Robert McAlpin Williamson "Three Legged Willie," brilliant orator and judge, presided over many important cases in Wharton and died at his father-in-law's home here in 1859. In 1930 his body was moved to the State Cemetery. Abel H. "Shanghai" Pierce established ranch headquarters across the Colorado.

          Today Wharton has a regional medical center and a junior college. There are twenty churches, the oldest being the First Baptist Church, organized in 1847.

          Wharton is the hometown of playwright Horton Foote and birthplace of Dan Rather.

 

LANE CITY -- Named for Johnathan Lane, it was established in 1902 and became a center for the rice-growing industry. At one time, it claimed the world's largest irrigation pump.

 

MAGNET -- Some say that Magnet was so named because developers hoped the fertile land would draw settlers; others say the saloons were the magnet for patrons from "dry" areas. Rich oil fields were discovered in 1937.
 


MATAGORDA COUNTY
 

BAY CITY -- County Seat of Matagorda County was founded on Bay Prairie in September, 1894. Two miles to the west is the Colorado River bridge, an early ferry crossing known as Cayce's Ferry and later Elliott's Ferry. Six miles to the east is Caney Creek. Early mail route from Texana to Brazoria followed this route. Beautiful courthouse built in 1965 has several historical markers surrounding it. The Matagorda County Museum is on the square in the former Post Office building.

 

WADSWORTH -- Located at the junction of Highway 60 and 521 is an area owned by farmers and cattlemen who came to Texas as early settlers. Named for the pioneer Wadsworth family who were in Matagorda by 1836, the town is on the Santa Fe Railroad and near the South Texas Nuclear Project.

 

MATAGORDA -- An important early port at the mouth of the Colorado River. Founded in 1829, the early settlers were prominent during the Republic and early statehood. Christ Episcopal and First United Methodist are two of the oldest churches in Texas. It is in the shadow of the nuclear power plant and near the jetties on Matagorda Peninsula.

 

CEDAR LANE -- On the banks of Caney Creek. It  was on the Southern Pacific Hawkinsville tap and was the center of sugar cane production before 1860. At that time it was called Sugarland, later Bowieville. Sugarland had a Post Office as early as 1847 when Thomas Jamison was Postmaster. Caney Creek was navigable during the era of the sugar cane's productive years and was the means of getting the product to the Matagorda Port.

 

HAWKINSVILLE -- A ghost town on FM 457. The plantation home of James Boyd Hawkins, sugar baron of the mid 1840's is the only evidence of its existence. It once boasted a general store, sugar mill, cotton gin and brick yard. The family cemetery is a well-kept gem sheltered by the guardian pecans and oaks, planted by those who lay peacefully sleeping there.

 

SARGENT -- A small community named for John Sargent who died in the 1875 hurricane. Once a hub for cotton, sugar and cattle production, it now attracts fishermen, hunters, and pleasure boaters who enjoy its lush prairies, beaches and the wide, verdant Caney Creek.

 

INTRACOSTAL CANAL -- The waterway connecting Apalachicola, Florida to Brownsville, Texas was begun in 1912 and completed by the end of World War II. This opened the southernmost tip of Texas to barge traffic from points as distant as the Great Lakes and Florida.

 

VAN VLECK -- Once known as Hardeman's Post Office. In 1900 a townsite was developed which settlers named after the Southern Pacific Railroad Superintendent, W. G. Van Vleck. A small railroad, the first in Matagorda County, had pushed into Van Vleck by 1899.

 

SUGAR VALLEY AND ASHWOOD -- An area of early Texas plantations and sugar mills on Caney Creek. Ruins of a sugar mill are located near Highway 35 and FM 1728. The mill was in operation from 1904 - 1922 and bricks for it were made on the Bouldin Plantation. Sugar cane and ash wood were shipped by gondolas to market.

 

PLEDGER -- An agricultural community named by Dr. J. W. Brown in memory of his deceased wife, Narcissa Pledger and her parents. It has been served by a post office since 1880.

 


 


WHARTON COUNTY

 

DON TOL -- After the Civil War, brothers William Toliver and Solomon Tyre Taylor made an agreement with Green C. Duncan to clear the land of bamboo cane in return for some acreage for themselves. From assets of a silver dollar and a twenty-dollar gold piece, they built their holdings to 12,000 acres. The name "Don Tol" was given by Mexican laborers to Toliver Taylor.

 

NEWGULF --  The Texas Gulf Sulphur Company mined sulphur at "Old Gulf" in Matagorda County before beginning the operation of the world's largest sulphur mine at Newgulf in the last 1920s. The sulphur plant is no longer in operation.

 

BOLING -- In 1902, when R. E. Vineyard plotted the town, once known as Floyd's Lane, he renamed it Boling for his wife's niece. The discovery of oil and sulphur in 1925 made it a boom town.

 

IAGO -- In 1888, C. D. Kemp bought and cleared land for the community. A family friend suggested the name and Kemp became its first postmaster. George C. Mick plotted the town in 1906 and gave two acres of land for the school.

 

BURR -- Burr Albert Harrison of Virginia came to Wharton County in 1859, bought land and developed a large plantation on Caney Creek near present-day Burr. In 1910, Charlie Kriegel gave up the store and post office at Kriegel, Texas, south of the railroad. Gerard Harrison moved the post office to his store on the Boling Road and named it Burr for his father.

 

HUNGERFORD -- Named for Daniel Hungerford, who, with his sons-in-law, chartered the New York, Texas and Mexican Railroad. The railway reached this site in 1881. It was named the "Macaroni" Line because of the food preference of the Italian laborers who helped build it.

 

EAST BERNARD -- On the west side of the river, East Bernard is the center of a fertile farming community. The depot, originally on the east side of the Bernard, was moved because the train had to back up and get a running start to cross the bridge.

          Father Miguel Muldoon had a land grant along the Bernard in 1831. The population was greatly increased by the Czech and German settlers in the 1890's.


 

 

AUSTIN COUNTY
 

WALLIS -- Austin County was a part of the capital department of San Felipe under the Mexican government. San Felipe was regarded as the capital of Austin's colony from 1823 to 1836.

          Wallis was founded in 1875 and was named for J. W. Wallis, director of the Gulf, Colorado, & Santa Fe Railroad.

 


REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS INCLUDE:
 

Commissioner's Court Minutes, June 6, 1846, Page 60

The Houston Chronicle, May 24, 1931, "Texas Sugar Bowl Lived Again."

Texas Post Office Papers, 1836-1839, Texas State Library, Austin, Texas 1966

Holley, Mary Austin: Texas

Williams, Annie Lee: The History of Wharton County

Garver, Lois: "Wharton County Yesterday and Today"

The Primeval Canebrake Forest

The Handbook of Texas

Canebrake Rider drawing courtesy of Freda K. Daniel

 

This was a multi-county Sesquicentennial (1986) project of the counties of Colorado, Wharton, Matagorda, Austin and the cities through which the Caney Run passed.

 

Updated for this website in 2008.
 


Read more about the postmasters who served the towns on the Caney Run at

Jim Wheat's POSTMASTERS & POST OFFICES OF TEXAS, 1846 - 1930
 

 

Copyright 2008 - Present by
Historical Commissions of
Austin, Colorado, Matagorda & Wharton Counties
All rights reserved

This page was created
Apr. 9, 2008
This page was updated
Apr. 9, 2008
   

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