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Crossing the Brazos River in 1863

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From an 1863 British traveler's account of traveling through Texas (link below) that is utterly fascinating ---- especially the description of crossing the Brazos river:


30th April (Thursday.)--I have to-day acquired my first experience of Texan railroads.

In this country, where every white man is as good as another, by theory, and every white female is by courtesy a lady, there is only one class. The train from Alleyton consisted of two long cars, each holding about fifty persons. Their interior is like the aisle of a church, twelve seats on either side, each for two persons. The seats are comfortably stuffed, and seemed luxurious after the stage.

Before starting, the engine gives two preliminary snorts, which, with a yell from the official of "all aboard," warn the passengers to hold on; for they are closely followed by a tremendous jerk, which sets the cars in motion.

Every passenger is allowed to use his own discretion about breaking his arm, neck or leg, without interference by the railway officials.

People are continually jumping on and off whilst the train is in motion, and larking from one car to the other. There is no sort of fence or other obstacle to prevent "humans" or cattle from getting on the line.

We left Alleyton at 8 A. M. and got a miserable meal at Richmond at 12.30. At this little town I was introduced to a seedy-looking man, in rusty black clothes and a broken-down "stovepipe" hat. This was Judge Stockdale, who will probably be the next Governor of Texas. He is an agreeable man, and his conversation is far superior to his clothing. The rival candidate is General Chambers, I think, who has become very popular by the following sentence in his manifesto: "I am of opinion that married soldiers should be given the opportunity of embracing their families at least once a year, their places in the ranks being taken by unmarried men. The population must not be allowed to suffer."

Richmond is on the Brazos river, which is crossed in a peculiar manner. A steep inclined plane leads to a low, rickety, trestle bridge and a similar inclined plane is cut in the opposite bank. The engine cracks on all steam, and gets sufficient impetus in going down the first incline to shoot across the bridge and up the second incline. But even in Texas this method of crossing a river is considered rather unsafe.

After crossing the river in this manner, the rail traverses some very fertile land part of which form the estate of the late Colonel Terry. There are more than two hundred negroes on the plantation. Some of the fields were planted with cotton and Indian corn mixed three rows of the former between two of the latter. I saw also fields of cotton and sugar mixed."


------- Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, "Three months in the Southern States, April-June 1863" The whole thing is extremely intersting but be forewarned that there is A LOT of "casual, everyday 1863 racism" that is pretty hard to stomach. You can read it here:

Good stuff!

Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.

Posted : 29th December 2019 3:42 pm