Matagorda County History 1858
This county, like all of the seaboard country, is too level for much regular propelling water power ; however, there is a short stream called Mill Creek, running past "Selkirk's Islands" from the west branch of the Colorado to the east, which has a steady fall of three or four feet, and could be used for machinery.
The grazing facilities are equal in this county to any in the State, owing to the abundance of fresh water, the fertility of the prairie soil, and the peculiarly mild winters ; the sea atmosphere mollifies the rigors of January and February, and renders pleasant the summer months.
The kinds of animals kept by those persons who make a business of stock-raising, are horses and neat cattle, excepting on the " Peninsula," where several flocks of sheep are kept ; these latter animals thrive nowhere else on the seaboard.
West of the Colorado, and all that portion of Matagorda County watered by the "Trespalacios," is exclusively occupied by stock-raisers and small farmers, to both of which lucrative callings the Trespalacios lands, and those bordering on the Colorado, are well adapted ; $300 or $400 invested here in cattle, breed-horses, and land, render an industrious man independent in a few years. Land here can be purchased at from $1 to $2 per acre, stock cattle at $5 per head, and brood-mares for $25 each. Planters would scorn to look at this poor region, as the lands of "Old Caney" are too rich and productive for them to be content with any but -the best soil in the world ; but to be a planter requires more capital than belongs to a poor man, and none but a planter should think of the alluvial bottoms.
The towns in this county are Matagorda and Palacios ; the former is a very old place, and had at one time a considerable commerce with foreign countries, and trade with the interior and Mexico ; in fact, during the revolutionary period, it was a frontier town. It is situated on Matagorda Bay, which lies in front and to the south, and the east branch of the Colorado forms the corporate limits on the north west, and disembogues into the bay about one mile below the town.
All shipping drawing over seven feet water are obliged to come to anchor eight miles below.
The town contains about 1200 inhabitants, who rank high in the social scale, on the score of morality, hospitality, and superior intellectual endowments ; they are also very fashionable in their attire and habits, and in religion are generally Episcopalians. There are many fine buildings, and several commodious public edifices. The latter is little more, at present, than a town site, or paper town ; nevertheless, it is the most important place in Texas, considered in a commercial point of view. Palacios was surveyed and laid off several years since, west of the Colorado River, on a high point of land between Matagorda and Trespalacios bays, and is in a more favorable position for a large seaport town than any other on the whole coast of Texas ; the water in front of the town, within sixty yards, being eleven feet deep, with safe anchorage, and good holding ground, and is perfectly protected from all prevailing winds ; in fact, the harbor is so secure, that small boats, in, passing up and down the bay, always seek refuge here in rough or threatening weather. The distance to the Pass, or entrance from the Gulf of Mexico, is twenty miles south by west, with good and open sea way. The largest class steamers and sail vessels that enter the bay can come directly up to Palacios, with all sails set, or steam up, without impediment or risk of danger. This place being firmly seated on the mainland, is not so subject to serious damage from the destructive hurricanes, or cyclones, which visit our coast now and then, as are other places more exposed, and on lower and more insecure locations; in fact, within the last two or three years, people have began to think-that the islands and peninsulas along the Texas and Louisiana coast are unsafe for human abiding places ; and to any one who experienced our memorable storm of September 18th, 1854, or beheld the sad relics of the "Last Island" disaster, the debris lands of the Gulf coast will hardly appear suitable and pleasant for permanent settlements. And Galveston Island, with all its boasted accumulation of people, habitations, wealth, trade, and commerce, is but a waif of the ocean, a locality but of yesterday, a resting-place for drift and sea-birds, liable, at any moment, and certain, at no distant day, of being engulfed and submerged by the self-same power that gave it form. Neither is it possible for all the skilful devices of mortal man to protect this doomed place against the impending danger ; the terrible power of a hurricane cannot be calculated, much less resisted ; its strength is the awful power of combined elements, and the waters of the mighty deep are made a fearful and sudden engine of destruction ; a part of the ocean itself, as it were, is lifted up and onward, and goes rolling, hurling, and crashing over the low coast, with all the conceivable fury and end of matter attributable to the final day, carrying devastation, death, and destruction to all created beings, obliterating the works of man, and frequently blotting out the low islands and coast altogether. I should as soon think of founding a city on an iceberg as on Galveston Island, if I looked to its safety and perpetuity.
Palacios, from its water facilities, and otherwise favorable locality, seems to have been pre-eminently designed by Nature for the emporium seaport town of Texas, and, as soon as trade and commerce shall have been turned to their proper channels, will take such position. - Braman's information about Texas, 1858