About the Santa Fe Historical Society

Steamship Lines

Selections From The Splinters - Volume 7

Prior to the civil war, all commerce passing through Galveston was carried on sailing vessels, with the exception of a line of small boats operated by Catain Charles Morgan, between Galveston and New Orleans. In 1865, two lines were established to operate between New York and Galveston. They were Spofford, Tileston & Co., with T. H. McMahan & Co., as local agents and C. H. Mallory & Co., with Wm. Hendley & Co., local agents. A short while after C. H. Mallory & Co., established regular service, these interests with Galveston capitalists organized the New York & Texas Steamship Co., which afterwards became the Mallory Line.

The origin of the great Mallory steamship interests was in an obscure shipyard located on the Connecticut shore. C. H. Mallory began building ships as far back as 1837, and operated them, the famous clipper type, between America, the Far East and Australia.

His interest in the possibilities of transportation by water, between the Eastern Seaboard and the Southwestern Gulf, began with the conditions arising from the Civil War. Mr. Mallory had obtained a contract to build thirty gunboats for the Mexican Government, and this fleet was in the course of construction at the time of the outbreak of the War Between the States. He turned them over to the United States to be used as army transports, and at the close of the war they were returned to him.

Because of the operation of these ships between the Northeastern Seaboard and the South Atlantic Coast, Mr. Mallory conceived the idea of establishing regular service between these points after the war, and in 1866 the firm of C. H. Mallory & Company was formed.

Galveston merchants and capitalists were very anxious that a regular steamship line be established between Galveston and the Eastern Seaboard and they interested Mr. Mallory in the proposition. As a result, the New York & Texas Steamship Line was formed.

In those days ships were built of wood, very few of them more than 200 feet long, with a carrying capacity of about 700 tons. Generally they were propelled by steam, but relied largely upon sail as an auxiliary power. Their maximum speed was seven or eight knots per hour. A brisk trade developed, but the cargo capacity being small, a maximum of 1,000 bales of cotton was the rule.

The first agent of this company in Galveston was Captain J. M. Sawyer, who served these interests until his death, when he was succeeded by J. B. Denison.

The list of ships originally assigned in this service will contain names easily recognizable by old-time shipping men. This list included such names as City of Galveston, City of Houston, City of Dallas, City of San Antonio, City of Waco, State of Texas, Southwestern Texas, General Ingersoll, the Tillie and others.

During the early 70's this line established the first regular service to the State of Florida, through the port of Jacksonville. Finally this service was abandoned because of insufficiency of water over the bar at that port. Operations were then transferred to Fernandina, Florida, and after operating through this port for about six years, were transferred to Brunswick, Georgia. Meantime the service between New York and Galveston was maintained. Some of the most prominent men in Galveston were interested in this company, notably members of the Sealy family.

Today the Mallory operates one of the finest fleets of steamers calling regularly at Gulf Ports. Such ships as the Seminole, Algonquin and Mohawk, palatial steamers of 8,000 tons, offer accommodations for passengers weekly from Galveston to New York, with stops in Florida. These steamers also carry freight and additional freight service is afforded by sailings on Wednesday by the steamers Medina and Brazos.

The local agency of this company has been extremely fortunate in that but six men have represented the company since the establishment of the original office in 1866. Captain J. M. Sawyer was succeeded by J. B. Denison. After a number of years, Mr. Denison was transferred to New York, and was succeeded by S. T. DeMilt, then Frank T. Rennie assumed the local agency. Upon the retirement of Mr. Rennie, Hugh B. Wright was appointed local agent, but served only a short time due to serious illness. W. V. Pittman, who has been connected with the Mallory Line for a number of years, succeeded Mr. Wright, and is the present agent. The first line of steamships to ply regularly between Galveston and Liverpool were owned by C. W. Hurley & Co., in 1871. Texas and British capital were interested in this venture, which was subsequently called the Liverpool and Texas Steamship Company. Three ships were ordered built, the first to be placed on the run being the San Jacinto of 1,050 tons. This ship arrived in Galveston ! her maiden voyage February 6th, 1873, Cap. A. C. Burrows, commanding. The San Jacinto was a passenger and freight carrier and on her first trip to Galveston, had 250 passengers for Texas. Later on, the San Antonio and the San Marcos were delivered by their builders and placed in this trade. The San Jacinto carried the first wheat ever exported from Galveston, in 1874. This experiment was not a financial success and after operating about 8 years, the ships were sold and the affairs of the company were liquidated. From that time until deep water was assured, the greater portion of the tonnage shipped from Galveston was carried by tramp steamers and sailing vessels.

From History of Galveston, Texas, 1931
By S. C. Griffin.

Society Info Society Convention On-Line Resources Company Store The Warbonnet Guest Book Santa Fe Links
Society Info | Society Calendar | Online Resources | Company Store | The Warbonnet | Guest Book | Santa Fe Links