The Houston Direct Navigation Company was chartered on October 9, 1866, to improve transportation and navigation on Buffalo Bayou and avoid wharfage charges at Galveston. It replaced the former Houston Navigation Company, which dominated shipping in the 1850s but failed to survive the Civil War. The charter specifically denied the new firm exclusive rights to navigate and improve the channel and put it under the supervision of the state engineer. Under an agreement with the C. H. Mallory steamship line, the company shipped freight between Houston and New York. In 1869 it transported an estimated 11,554 passengers and 815,466 barrels of materials, including those used in the construction of the International-Great Northern Railroad. The company was operating four passenger steamers, eighteen barges, and three tugs by 1872, when it grossed $165,000 in a single month. When Charles Morgan of the Morgan Lines bought the company in 1873, along with the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company and other channel interests, six steamers, forty barges, and five tugs were in operation. Morgan's ship, the Captain Theissen, reached Clinton, seven miles below Houston, in 1876. Between January 1869 and October 1881 the company moved a total of almost two million bales of cotton down the bayou. In 1896 the name of the company was changed to Direct Navigation Company by the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, which purchased it from Morgan. Rail competition made the company increasingly unprofitable, and it was abandoned in 1927, when terminal facilities were built at Clinton to serve steamers operating as the Southern Pacific Atlantic Steamship Lines.
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Marguerite Johnston, Houston, The Unknown City, 1836–1946 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991). Ellen Robbins Red, Early Days on the Bayou, 1838–1890: The Life and Letters of Horace Dickinson Taylor (Waco: Texian Press, 1986). Marilyn M. Sibley, The Port of Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). WPA Writers Program, Houston (Houston: Anson Jones, 1942).
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
S. G. Reed,
“Houston Direct Navigation Company,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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