Liberty County History

An occasional gathering place for articles, documents, photographs, records and other ephemera dealing with the history of Liberty County, Texas.

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Kevin Ladd is director of the Wallisville Heritage Park at Wallisville, Chambers County, TX and lives in Hardin, TX. He is chairman of the Liberty County Historical Commission and writes for "Texas Illustrated," a monthly publication of the Liberty Gazette newspaper, which is devoted to local history and folklore.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Drew's Landing & the Trinity River

The more observant readers will immediately pick up on the fact that Drew's Landing was not located in Liberty County, but it was significant to anyone who has ever taken an interest in the history of the various and sundry landings along the Trinity River. Some day when I have a lot of spare time on my hands I am going to list all of the river landings along the Trinity that happened to fall within the boundaries of Liberty County. It is an interesting list and was often published in such newspapers as "The Galveston News" and "Flake's Bulletin," another Galveston newspaper published by German-born Ferdinand Flake. These lists would usually start at the mouth of the Trinity and move up river, catching almost every town and two-bit landing on either side. The distance in river miles from one landing to the next would generally be found there as well, thereby ostensibly giving anyone with a newspaper and a boat a fair chance of knowing where they were going and what they were getting into as they hit one of these landings.

Within that rarefied world of Trinity River landings, hamlets and towns, Drew's Landing was a significant place. There were larger places to land one's boat, but there is even now a hint of romance and folklore attached to this place. Here is a fairly extensive article on this landing that I put together several months back. It is offered here for the handful of folks who have been reading this blog. Here it goes:

Drew’s Landing
Polk County, Texas

The first settler at this place was Monroe Drew, a native of New York, who landed or otherwise settled there shortly after the Republic of Texas came into being. Some accounts place him there as early as 1838, while others purposely avoid giving a year. One of his descendants, Dr. Ernest Drew, was comfortable enough with the 1838 date to write it down in his account of the place. Drew settled on the eastern banks of the Trinity River n southern Polk County. The site was some sixty-five miles north of Houston as the proverbial crow flies, and it was 204 miles from Galveston, if the river mile readings of those days can be trusted. Dr. Ernest Drew described the landing as a bustling place in the mid-1800s. Monroe Drew, he wrote,“established trade on the river and with the Coushatta Indians who lived on the opposite side of the riverfrom Drew’s Store.” Drew and the Coushatta had a lively trade. The Coushatta men brought in deer skins, bears skins, jerked or dried venison, saddle pads fashioned from Spanish moss, beaded work and baskets. He sold them coffee, colored cloth, beads and trinkets. It was a good and profitable relationship for both. Three different bands of the Indians, including the village of the legendary Chief Colita, all lived within close proximity to the store. Trade with the Coushatta tribes alone, however, would not have made Drew’s Landing into a thriving place.

Once the steamboats entered into the Trinity trade,the small settlement became a busy port. In addition to operating a store and a boat landing, Monroe Drew maintained a small sawmill and ran a ferry across the river. A store and hotel were built on the east bank of the Trinity, which provided a shipping route for the major enterprises of the cotton and sugar plantations in the area. In addition to operating a store, Drew opened a boat landing, ran a ferry, and established a small sawmill with his partner Joseph Baird. By the time the War Between the States got underway in 1861, the population of the little place had reached fifty and it had become a bustling center for the Trinity cotton trade. A post office was approved in 1860, with Drew, naturally enough, as postmaster. During the early days of the Civil War, the Confederate navy sent an officer up the Trinity. His job was to give the river a thorough once-over to see if it could be defended against a Union attack, if such a force should ever come that way. The Navy man decided that the Lower Trinity, namely Chambers and Liberty counties, were largely indefensible from a river-borne invasion force. He urged that the first line of defense should be made at Drew's Landing, which prompted the construction of some wooden breastworks and simple barricades along the river. This kept things hopping in Drew’s Landing throughout the war years. The post office closed in 1867, but it reopened in1871. This time, however, Charles Fitze was named postmaster. He renamed it Marianna, in honor of Mary and Annie Goodrich, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. William Goodrich. The Houston, East and West Texas Railway expanded into Polk County over the next few years, and the river boattrade died there just as it did everywhere else. Most of the remaining residents of Marianna moved to Livingston or Goodrich. The post office closed in 1896 for the last time.

Drew's Landing lives on in the fertile fields of memory.

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