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The Investigation of the Caney Creek Shipwreck Archaeological Site 41MG32

David Layne Hedrick
Thesis: August 1998
Chair: Hocker

The history of river transportation in the interior of Texas has received little attention.  When the early pioneers arrived in Texas to settle land owned by Mexico, the only form of communication between the colonists was over long distances, usually traveled by wagons.  This was extremely time consuming and the transportation of vast quantities were not guaranteed to make it to the final destination.  When steamboats first came to Texas, the settlers immediately recognized the advantages of a more reliable method of communication and transportation.  Steamboats gave men and women of the new frontier a chance not only to survive, but to prosper.

Caney Creek, in South Texas, was a major thoroughfare in the glory days of steamboating.  This creek provided inland communication for plantations along its banks, which were some of the wealthiest sugar cane producers in the Texas.  These plantations helped provide the southern states with essential supplies (sugar cane, cotton, cattle, etc.) during the Civil War.  The use of steamboats on Caney Creek was a valuable method of transporting produce out of the interior of Texas, and the necessary labor back to the plantations.

This thesis is an historical and archaeological examination of the Caney Creek steamboat wreck, archaeological site 41MG32.  Although it has not been identified, its location has been known since the early 20th century.  Unfortunately, due to three hurricanes that battered the Texas coast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, little documentation exists concerning Caney Creek or its associated trade.  Archaeological investigations, however, have revealed several aspects this steamer had in common with other western river steamboats.  This thesis will help illustrate western river steamboat operations in Texas and provide a better understanding of Caney Creek during the 19th century.

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