Part 8, Note 1
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Sadly, there is very little documentary information on the county's changing biota. Stephen F. Austin noted, in August 1823, that the place on the Colorado River he had in mind for the capital of his colony, which seems to have been very near where Columbus was eventually located, was "very well watered with the best of springs" (see Eugene Campbell Barker, ed., The Austin Papers, 3 vols. (vols. 1 and 2, Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1924 and vol. 3, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1926) vol. 1, p. 690). An unknown traveler through Texas in 1837 noted that he found "in the vicinity of Columbus . . . a number of large springs which issued from the banks of the river" (see Andrew Forest Muir, ed., Texas in 1837 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1958), p. 81). William Bluford Dewees described the county, and indeed most of this part of the state, as largely prairie "interspersed with beautiful groves," and broken only by narrow forests along the river, creeks, and other streams (see Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas (Louisville: Morton & Griswold, 1852. Reprint. Waco: Texian Press, 1968), pp. 37, 130-131). Though farmers certainly burned fields in the early days of settlement (see, for example, Dewees, Letters from an Early Settler of Texas, p. 37, and Wilhelm Steinert, North America, Particularly Texas in the Year 1849: A Travel Account, Gilbert J. Jordan, trans., Terry G. Jordan-Bychkov, ed., (Dallas: DeGolyer Library and William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies, 1999), p. 79), by 1871 at least one newspaper was campaigning against the practice (see Houston Daily Union, February 4, 1871). That trees were consuming the county's prairie is confirmed by an article on page 193 of the 1872 Texas Almanac. Charles William Tait, who used dogs to hunt bears in 1848 and found them plentiful, complained that they had already become rare in 1854 (see "Letters of Charles William Tait, 1848-1864," Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, vol. 6, no. 2, May 1996, pp. 96, 106).