Barges on the Trinity — 1906

by Paula Bosse

barge_trinity_clogenson_1906-LOC-1A confident crew, a stoic Old Red, and a stubborn river (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

“A navigable Trinity.” For over 150 years, people have hoped against hope that the Trinity River might one day be made into a commercial waterway, navigable from the Gulf of Mexico to Dallas. For over a century, federal, state, and local funds were optimistically (misguidedly?) poured into various hopeless plans and projects — but not a one was successful.

In 1906, construction was to begin on one of these projects — a series of locks and dams downriver of Dallas. Above and below are photographs showing the barge Charles R. Lane loaded with lumber and camp provisions, which were to be towed by the launch Admiral to McCommas Bluff, where the first lock was to be built. The above photo ran in the May 1, 1906 edition of The Dallas Morning News above the following caption:

Contractor’s barge, loaded with supplies, about to depart from Dallas for the site of the first lock and dam down the Trinity River.

Below, the story that accompanied the photo. (Click for larger image.)

barge_trinity_dmn_050106DMN, May 1, 1906

barge_trinity_clogenson_1906-LOC-2Dudes and fat-cats, with dollar signs in their eyes (click for larger image)

Later that month, a barge excursion to the site of the future lock was arranged for interested parties. This “merry crowd” of curious looky-loos was towed down the river to McCommas Bluff where they de-barged to tour the site and have a picnic lunch atop the picturesque bluff. They returned to Dallas happy and excited, convinced that maybe — just maybe — the Trinity would finally be tamed!

barge_trinity_dmn_052806DMN, May 28, 1906 (click for larger image)

Giddy enthusiasm about the project was all over the pages of The Dallas Morning News:

The time for doubter and pessimist has passed, and belief in the certainty of the practical navigation of the Trinity now appears unanimous. (DMN, May 2, 1906)

Well-intentioned though this wishful thinking might have been, “certainty” is probably not a word that should be tossed around so lightly. And certainly not in the case of anything having to do with the Trinity.

I bet that poor river just wishes people would leave it alone.


Sources & Notes

Both photographs taken by Henry Clogenson; from the collection of the Library of Congress, here and here.

“Trinity River Navigation Projects” entry from the Handbook of Texas is here.

History and photos of the McCommas Bluff Preserve and Trails area (including an interesting photo of Dam #1 from about 1910) can be found on the Dallas Trinity Trails blog, here.

An essential history of the various failed attempts over the years to open up a navigable Trinity between Dallas and the Gulf of Mexico can be found in “Navigating the Trinity: A Dream That Endured for 130 Years” by Jackie McElhaney; the article from the Spring 1991 issue of Legacies can be read here.

An interesting page from the American Canal Society Canal Index — with an illustration of the location of the locks — can be accessed here.

To watch a soothing video shot in the area of the abandoned Dam #1 at beautiful McCommas Bluff, click here.

A related Flashback Dallas post — “Snag Boat Dallas — 1893” — can be found here.

Click pictures for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.