Four river ports and five Gulf ports are chronicled in the last of a three-volume work on Texas forgotten ports. Author Guthrie visited every one of the nine ports in East Texas, including Jefferson, Texas’ major river port the farthest from the gulf. Both the ports and the paddle wheelers that dominated an era in Texas history, have now almost completely vanished from the rivers, bays, bayous, and creeks of Texas.
In their day these old wooden-hulled boats were a part of the yeast that caused Texas to expand into a cohesive community whose growth was constantly being pushed farther and farther up the rivers. The Guthries would have enjoyed a paddle wheeler trip up and down the East Texas Rivers, but had to settle for a more mundane trip with a horseless carriage.
While the author gleaned historical material from state archives, many details in the book came from visits to local museums, libraries and research centers, such as the one in Liberty established by Gov. Price Daniel. While many of the names of early river ports have disappeared from the collective public memory, local historians are still familiar with such ports as Patrick’s Ferry, Sebastopol, Spanish Bluff, Hog Pen Bluff, and Belzora. Of the twenty-eight old river ports/landings, only Orange and Logansport, Louisiana, survived to modern times. Cotton from the upper Sabine River as a rule was taken to Logansport while cotton from the lower Sabine was taken to Orange.
By the 1850s in excess of 15,000 bales of cotton per year were being sent down the Sabine. The story of Texas forgotten ports is one of business and commerce, and of war with the retelling of Dick Dowling’s victory over a superior Union navel force at Sabine Pass. Names of noted Texans, such as Sam Houston, appear among pioneer investors in ports and river development.