of this bay area around Baytown
and La Porte
sailed through the 1800s, with nearly all residents owning boats
or having access to them. There was no other way to get around -
boating was a matter of necessity. The waterways were the highways.
For many, the water was a source of income not only in fishing but
also in building boats and in transporting cargo back and forth
Even in those hard times, however, the water wasn't all work and
no play. Early on, the people around here appreciated the recreational
aspect of their bays and bayous, rivers and creeks.
They had fun on the water.
From information compiled by the La Porte-Bay Area Heritage Society,
I learned there was a San Jacinto Yacht Club in the 19th century,
based in Lynchburg,
and it sponsored its first regatta on April 19, 1860.
The boats sailed from Lynchburg
down the San Jacinto River (present-day Houston Ship Channel), whizzing
and San Jacinto Bay and then circling around the marker at Morgan's
Point before heading back to Lynchburg
Boats in the race included the sloop "Favorite" with Col. James
Morgan at the helm and the sloop "Cassy Holt" with his son Kosciusko
Morgan in charge.
Also racing were sloops bearing such labels as "Clementine," "Clara,"
"Lively Sally," "Calder" and "Mayflower" and a schooner named "Frolic."
Col. Morgan's "Favorite" lived up to its name, coming out on top
in the race. Although 67 and blind, Morgan proved he still knew
his way around a waterway.
Don't ask how he raced a boat, blindly.
Anyway, Col. Morgan - the blind boatman, won the race in the San
Jacinto Yacht Club regatta April 19, 1860.
Fannie Belle Morgan Allen, in an interview with the Houston Post,
told about her father, Kosciusko Morgan, competing in a regatta
that featured 12 sailboats. Kos Morgan named his sailboat "Fannie
The date of this race is not mentioned but I bet it was held in
the early 1860s when Sam
Houston and his family were living full time at Cedar Point.
Fannie Allen said that Houston
participated in this race, sailing the "Favorite" with her grandfather,
I am wondering what those two old Texas revolutionaries talked about
as they made waves down the river.
For starters, Col. Morgan might say, "I should not allow you on
my boat, General. You never were big on the Texas Navy."
"That's right, Morgy. I'm an Army man, myself. Watch where you are
"You watch. I can't see."
The race goes on and so does the talk.
"Remember the time Santa Anna's soldiers burned down my warehouse
and hotel?" Morgan might ask Houston.
"Yeah, and you were not even there to mind the store when it all
might respond, kidding the colonel.
"Hey, I was in Galveston
in charge of fortifying the island. President David G. Burnet ordered
"Good old Davey G.," Houston
might say with a tinge of sarcasm. Thinking more about Davey G.,
the two men rocked the boat, laughing.
OK, I made up that exchange between Morgan and Houston,
but the rest is real history. The boat actually capsized on the
shores of Spillman Island and the occupants had to be rescued, according
to files of the La Porte-Bay Area Heritage Society.
Kos Morgan won the race.
By the way, if you cannot place Spillman Island, think Baytown-La
Porte Tunnel. The island is where the tunnel was dug less than a
century after Morgan and Houston had their "ship wreck."
Here I go wondering again, but what caused the boat to turn over?
Maybe the conversation with Gen. Houston distracted Col. Morgan.
Or maybe, just maybe, Col Morgan could not see where he was going.
© Wanda Orton
Baytown Sun Columnist
1 , 2017 column