The Galveston-Houston Packet
Many imagine the settlement of the American West as signaled by the dust of the wagon train or the whistle of a locomotive. During the middle decades of the nineteenth century, though, the growth of Texas and points west centered on the seventy-mile water route between Galveston and Houston. This single vital link stood between the agricultural riches of the interior and the mercantile enterprises of the coast, with a round of operations that was as sophisticated and efficient as that of any large transport network today. At the same time, the packets on the overnight Houston-Galveston run earned a reputation as colorful as their Mississippi counterparts, complete with impromptu steamboat races, makeshift naval gunboats during the Civil War, professional gamblers, and horrific accidents.