On this day in 1837, the steamship Columbia arrived at New Orleans in the first recorded voyage of the Morgan Lines, the first steamship line in Texas. The Columbia made its inaugural voyage to Galveston a week later. Originated by shipping and railroad magnate Charles Morgan, the Morgan Lines introduced Morgan's economic influence into the Gulf region. In 1849, rebelling against port charges at Lavaca, Morgan built Powderhorn, which grew into Indianola and was for a time a chief port of the line. In 1858 the Morgan Lines had three sailings a week from Galveston and two from New Orleans, and by 1860 the company had a monopoly on coastal shipping. During the Civil War all of the vessels of the line were commandeered, either by the United States or by the Confederate States. The Morgan Steamship Company took an active part in building railroads after the war to feed the ship lines. In the 1870s pooling agreements were worked out among Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company, the Louisiana Western Railroad Company, and the Texas and New Orleans Railroad. In the late 1870s Morgan worked with E. W. Cave to make Houston an inland port with better facilities for the line. In the late 1870s or early 1880s the Morgan Lines were sold to C. P. Huntington of the Southern Pacific Railroad. The fleet was sold to the United States Maritime Commission in 1941.
On this day in 1862, John Austin Wharton was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Confederate army. Wharton, born in Tennessee in 1828, was brought to Galveston as an infant and spent his early years on a Brazoria County plantation. Before the Civil War he enjoyed a successful career as a lawyer and planter and represented Brazoria County at the state Secession Convention. When the war began Wharton was elected captain of Company B, Eighth Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry's Texas Rangers. He rose to command the regiment after the deaths of Col. Benjamin F. Terry and Lt. Col. Thomas S. Lubbock. Wharton's leadership in the course of Gen. Braxton Bragg's 1862 Kentucky invasion earned him the promotion to brigadier general. His actions at the battle of Chickamauga in the fall of 1863 earned him another promotion, to the rank of major general. In 1865, while visiting Gen. John B. Magruder's headquarters in Houston, Wharton was killed by fellow officer George W. Baylor in a personal quarrel that grew out of "an unpleasant misunderstanding over military matters." Even though Wharton was found to have been unarmed, Baylor was acquitted of murder charges in 1868.
On this day in 1868, the Canadian River Expedition was launched as part of Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's winter campaign against the Indians of the southern plains. Maj. Andrew Evans left Fort Bascom, New Mexico, with more than 500 officers and men. Following the left bank of the Canadian, the column encountered a blizzard two days later, but despite deep snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures the troops trudged their way over the Fort Smith-Santa Fe route across the Panhandle and established a supply depot probably in what is now Hemphill County, Texas. After more than a month of hard campaigning, Evans finally came upon a Comanche village at Soldier Spring, in what is now Greer County, Oklahoma. A sharp battle on Christmas Day drove the surprised Indians from their lodges and resulted in the destruction of vast quantities of dried buffalo meat and other provisions on which they depended for winter survival. The troops lost only one killed and two slightly wounded, while the Indians sustained twenty-five fatalities. Evans and his force returned to Fort Bascom in early February. Although lasting peace was not effected for almost another decade, the Indians of the southern plains realized that winter was no longer a safeguard against campaigns by white soldiers. Evans was brevetted colonel for his action at Soldier Spring.
On this day in 1977, the National Women's Conference began in Houston. The meeting was authorized by public law and supported with federal funds. In 1975 President Gerald Ford established a thirty-five-member National Commission on the Observance of International Women's Year to make recommendations to promote equality between men and women. Conventions were held in all states and territories to elect delegates and consider recommendations. Houston was selected to host the national conference. A National Plan of Action reached at the conference was submitted to the president and the Congress in March 1978. The National Women's Conference is recognized as a major event in the women's movement in the United States.