Matagorda County Historical Markers

Matagorda County Historical Marker

Bay City

Elliott's Ferry

Hwy 35 near Colorado River Bridge

28°59'0.90"N        95°59'42.44"W


During the early days of Anglo-American colonization in Texas, the Matagorda Bay prairie area was an important route for people traveling between settlements. A convenient river crossing was a necessity, and a ferry was established on the Thomas Cayce League of Land near this site. Known as Cayce’s Ferry, the site was garrisoned by a small army post.

In January 1839 George Elliott (1806-1862) purchased land on the west bank of the Colorado River from Thomas Cayce, and from that time the ferry crossing
was known as Elliott’s Ferry. George Elliott was assisted in his endeavors by two nephews, William Elliott and John Elliott, who continued the ferry business after George Elliott’s death.

By 1863 a small settlement had grown up around Elliott’s Ferry. A small mercantile business and a post office known as Elliott’s Ferry, Texas, were in operation in 1872. In 1893 the post office name was changed to Elliott, Texas, and a year later was moved
to Bay City.

In 1902, a bridge was built over the Colorado River two miles northwest of Bay City. Known as the “Old River Bridge,” its completion resulted in the demise of Elliott’s Ferry.

The Sesquicentennial (1836-1986)

Marker Photo Courtesy of Jerilyn Capers

Elliott Cemetery          Moore Family          Red Bluff Cemetery

Drawn by Raleigh Conklin and submitted by Gale French

Elliott’s Ferry

Early settlers arriving in the Matagorda Bay prairie area discovered many environmental advantages for surviving in the rich land. There was an abundance of natural resources. The many waterways provided an ample supply of water and aided transportation. On the other hand, the rivers at times presented problems to the people, forcing them to travel many miles to find a convenient crossing.

During the days of Stephen F. Austin’s colonization between the Brazos and the Colorado rivers, the Bay Prairie became a convenient route for settlers traveling from Brazoria and Columbia to Texana and destinations beyond. Early maps show a ferry or crossing on the Thomas Cayce league of land near present Bay City. During the days of the Republic of Texas there was a small army post, garrisoned by some thirty or forty men stationed at Cayce’s Ferry. Under the command of Captain Andrew Neill, this army post, known as the First Colorado Station (Station Colorado, Post Colorado), assisted those traveling on official business, prevented the use of the ferry to those without proper orders, and carried out communications between army headquarters near Texana and the capital at Columbia. This army post was in existence from the latter part of November, 1836, until about June of 1837, when the capital was moved from Columbia to Houston.

Cayce’s Ferry became known as Elliott’s Ferry and served the area until the river bridge was built in 1902. On January 22, 1839, George Elliott purchased the land from Thomas Cayce in the H. H. League survey on the west bank of the Colorado River. George, son of William and Mary Elliottt, was born in England, March 29, 1806. He married his wife, Ann, in Virginia and arrived in Texas with a son, Thomas W. Elliott. Thomas was born January 29, 1829, and died July 9, 1853, preceding his parents in death. He is buried near the Colorado River across from the River Oaks subdivision.

Thomas W. Elliott

Born Jan 29, 1829
Died July 9, 1853

"Farewell my friends and children dear

I am not dead but sleeping here.

I've had my share of worldly care,

When I was living as you are.

But now my body is in the dust

Until the rising of the just."

Two brothers from England, nephews of George Elliott, arrived in Matagorda County in 1848. William Elliott, the elder, was born February 14, 1830, and John Elliott was born February 18, 1932. They joined their uncle on the Colorado River, who at this time was practicing his blacksmith trade.

On October 1, 1849, George applied for a permit to establish a ferry on the Colorado at the H. H. League. He was allowed to charge the following tolls.

For every loaded wagon and team $1.00
For every loaded cart and team     .75
For every empty waggon and team     .50
For every pleasure carriage, 2 horses or more   1.00
For every man or horse     .25
For every horse or head of cattle     .12½
For each foot passenger     .12½
For each sheep or goat     .03

 The last application filed by George Elliott to operate the ferry was dated February 18, 1861. His death occurred in 1862, and according to the inventory filed by his wife, he was buried in Matagorda.

William Elliott, Jr., was bonded as a ferryman on July 11, 1861. He had purchased land from Thomas Cayce May 1, 1852. A ferryman petition granting him the privilege of keeping a ferry on the Colorado at his residence was recorded on July 7, 1863.

On January 26, 1863, William D. Barbour, George Elliott’s executor, was granted the privilege of operating the ferry on the George Elliott estate. Peter McMahon, husband of Sarah Ann Elliott, on April 6, 1868, was granted the privilege of keeping the ferry at the old George Elliott place on the Colorado River.

Elliott’s Ferry had become a small settlement by 1863. William Selkirk wrote in his autobiography of enlisting in the Confederate Army. He told of leaving home for Elliott’s Ferry on the Colorado River. On arrival, he found Company “D,” Ed S. Rugeley commanding, encamped there. The whole company consisted of his acquaintances and friends. Other troops were also present.

To the north of the ferry a small log church and cemetery—known as Red Bluff—met the needs of many residents living in this area of Matagorda County. The small log church was the forerunner of the First Baptist Church and the First United Methodist Church of Bay City. Worshippers traveled there from the Caney and Ashby areas for Sunday services, and camp meetings were held periodically. Records of this small church date back to 1870.

On February 18, 1861, Dolph P. Moore purchased land on the east side of the Colorado River. There he built a general mercantile store. On December 17, 1879, he married Louise Wendel, great-niece of George Elliott.

A post office was already in existence in the settlement known as Ellliott’s Texas, with George W. Wallace, appointed February 28, 1872, as postmaster. Dolph P. Moore was appointed postmaster December 2, 1885. According to the records of the Post Office Department Topographer’s Office, on December 30, 1885, the site of the post office was moved two miles to the north. The location was one-half mile from the Colorado River on the east side and three miles from Cottonwood Creek on the west. On April 14, 1893, the name was changed to Elliott, Texas.

In the Bay City Breeze, September 20, 1894, the following article appeared:

Elliotts P. O., Matagorda County, Texas

Postmaster Dan Moore will make application to the proper department to remove Elliott’s Post Office to Bay City and change the name to that of the new county seat of Matagorda County. He will move his store and become a resident of Bay City as soon as a house can be constructed. Everything and everybody is now headed for Bay City.

The last application of William Elliott, Jr., to operate the ferry was dated June 15, 1898.

On February 14, 1902, a contract was awarded to the American Bridge Company of New York to build a bridge across the Colorado River at a site some two miles northwest of Bay City at a cost of $23,200…This bridge, known as the “old river bridge” replaced not only the Elliott Ferry but also, to a certain extent a number of small ferries located up and down the Colorado River.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume I, pages 338-339


John Elliott Family

John L. "Jack" Elliott, Jr. was born in Melton Mowbray, England, on February 18, 1832, and came to the United States in 1848 with his brother, William, who was eighteen years old. They arrived at Galveston after a short stay in New York where a William worked as a mechanic. John and William Elliott migrated to Matagorda County where an uncle, George Elliott, was living. George Elliott was a blacksmith, and practiced that trade until the latter part of his life, when he operated a ferry which crossed the Colorado River. Still later he became a pilot at the mouth of the Brazos River, and kept a hotel there. George died at Columbus in 1862 at the age of sixty-two.

John and William Elliott's father and mother, John and Hannah Beecham Elliott, came to Texas in 1849, and located in Matagorda where he was a shoemaker. Their father later became a prominent stockman and followed that occupation until his death in November, 1885, at the age of eighty-four. His wife died in 1852. Eight children were born to this couple; William; John; Elizabeth, who married John Wendell; Anna who married Waldo G. Thompson; and four other children who died young.

John and William bought 500 acres of land at the site of Elliott's Ferry on the Colorado River. In 1862, John began furnishing beef for the Confederate Army and traveled from Matagorda County to Vicksburg with a herd of cattle; he butchered each day of the trip for a different division of men. After the siege of Vicksburg, John Elliott returned to Texas and was at Prairie Landing from that time until the war ended. He served as a 3rd Sergeant in the Tres-Palacios Coast Guards during the war. He lost most of his property, but regained his land and eventually became the owner of 3,000 acres.

The first vote John cast was in the 1894 election which determined the move of the county seat of Matagorda County from to Bay City. Election day was on his sixty-third birthday, his vote was the sixty-third vote cast, and there was a sixty-three vote majority for the removal of the county seat.

On May 26, 1853, John Elliott married Ellen Trimble, a native of Indiana, whose father had died as a prisoner of war in Mexico. She died in 1864, survived by her husband and three children: Mary Ann "Annie" who married William Johnson; Frances "Fanny," who married George Byrd; and Ellen, who married Pleasant Dawdy.

On January 1, 1866, John Elliott married Mrs. Ellen Butterfield who died in 1871. They had one child, Susan, who died with yellow fever.

On August 21, 1873, Mrs. Mary Jane Gamble, daughter of William A. Dawdy, became his wife. Dawdy, born in Bedford County, Tennesse, in 1810, was one of the first settlers in Matagorda County. He served in the Seminole War and in teh Mexican War where he was a wagon-master. His home was in New Orleans for many years, but later he came to Matagorda where he became a stock dealer and contractor. After the storm of 1854, William Dawsy helped to rebuild the town of Matagorda. He died in 1887.

John was later the president of a bank in El Campo. As a member of the BlHe was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Ashby until his death.

Historic Matagorda County, Volume II, pp. 142-143 & The Elliott Family of Matagorda County, Texas: a Genealogical Review by Gale L. French

Photo courtesy of Winona Klare, Mariana Vancil & Gale French

In Memoriam.

John Elliott, born in England, February 12, 1833 [February 18, 1832], and died at El Campo, Texas, February 10, 1904.

Just as the hands pointed to the hour of seven, the soul of this good Christian man passed away. His end was most peaceful, and he died without the least shadow of pain. Standing at his beside in his dying moments were his devoted wife, his daughters, Fannie Bird of Waco and Mrs. Annie Johnson of Van Vleck: his sister-in-law, Miss Rosa Dawdy of Wharton, and his granddaughter, Mrs. Nora O'Connell of Van Vleck.

It was hard to stand there and see that loving wife, who had been his counselor and companion for many years, give up her loved one; but, thank God, we can all take comfort in the thought that he has gone to a better world than this. The last words he uttered were to his wife, who hastened to him, hoping there might be a change for the better.

Had he lived a few days longer he would have been seventy-one years old. In this long and useful life he had made friends wherever he went. Many and willing were the hands of these friends to aid him, but, alas! nothing could be done but to watch and wait. God's will be done!

Sleep on, dear grandfather,
Take thy rest;
God called thee home--
He thought it best.

Nora O'Connell

Van Vleck, Texas.

Captain Jack Elliott

Captain Jack Elliott died at El Campo yesterday morning of an illness which probably owed its fatality to the effects of a long and severe attack of the grippe of which he suffered last winter. From that he had never entirely recovered, and during the past year had made several trips to different health resorts in a vain quest of his wonted hardy and rugged health. The burial takes place at Wharton this morning, and a number of Bay City's best citizens who had known and loved Captain Jack Elliott went up to pay their last respects to his mortal body.

Captain Elliott landed in this county fifty years ago, from England, a member of a large party of immigrants from the mother country. A number of these pioneers are still with us, among whom the writer recalls the names of "Uncle Billy" Elliott, the Pybuses, Rowleses and Downers.

Up to four years ago Mr. Elliott had resided continuously in this county, where he gathered together a comfortable fortune. His third wife survives him, as do his brother, "Uncle Billie," and a daughter, Mrs. Wm. Johnson of Van Vleck.


Copyright 2011 - Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
All rights reserved

Sep. 13, 2011
Sep. 4, 2013