The Story of Batts Ferry

The Batts family history is forever intertwined with 7F Lodge. Craig and Carol completed their final “6 Flags over Texas” representation with the Batts Ferry Log Cabin to depict the Republic of Texas period. On this land, the Batts family carved out a living with a ferry business across the Brazos River and settled on what is now 7F Lodge land. Carol fictionalized the Batts family with this cabin scenario. Enjoy!

A Fisherman's Wedding

A Fisherman’s Wedding

 

BATTS FERRY

Once the waterways of the world were the only main gateways to new worlds. A man could “put it” on a sufficient river and connect to an ocean that connects to all other oceans on Earth.

It cost money for passage. Shallow crossings on the muddy Brazos estuary were few and far between as the river made its way to the Gulf Coast.

Edmond Batts arrived on the East bank of the Brazos with a wagon full of rope, lumber and ambition, his team of four mules pulling the load one step at a time.

He had fallen in love in Galveston, a city filled with riches and failures and merchants wealthy from trading shiploads of timber, sugar, coffee, rum, porcelains and thick carpets to hold carved walnut furniture from the Old World.

Edmond had landed in Galveston from the distant shores of Ireland, trading his passage for an exchange of dock working and long hauling.

Through the salt grass marshes, he learned to ferry loads of cargo, poling his way through the shallows and catching the high tides and draining currents back to the channel around Galveston.

He had first seen her on The Strand in Galveston coming from a schoolhouse where she taught English to young children from around the world. The scandalous man that brought Monique here from New Orleans had drowned when a barge collided with his small skiff headed back from the Bolivar Peninsula in the dark of night. She was left alone. The man was her father and his death put her in the unenviable position of being an unprotected woman.

When Edmond arranged a chance encounter and an opportunity to walk the block with her, he could not get enough of her beauty. New Orleans held a mystery to him, but not like the others in the city. Others could not fathom a woman leaving the sophistication of the Vieux Carrie for the flat sand bar of Galveston. Many thought she and her father left for a conspicuous reason since she did nothing to try and return there after his death.

She had little interest in him at first. The work she was doing with the unfortunate children was from her heart and felt it the only way she could give back to those less fortunate. She found that their scrappy ways were difficult, but for the most part the children were dear and gentle and anxious to learn. It was Edmond’s tenderness with them that he displayed in honesty as he waited for her outside the school building. Over time, she began to trust him.

Knowing that she was accustomed to the finer things, he had to take action to become a merchant in his own right. Following the finish of his servitude, he set out for the Brazos, north of Washington and he staked an area known to need safe passage. He would return for her as he made his fortune. Hopeful that she could count on him, she could not allow herself to believe that he would return for her. Losing her father left her without confidence.

As the ferry began, Edmond became known as the proprietor of Batts Ferry, the only crossing between Calvert and Washington. In no time, business was brisk. Wagons arrived before sunup, lined in a row, eager to board the ferry that was guided by rope and pulled by the mules, two mules on one side of the river and two mules on the other side of the river. One wagon would cross east and often another wagon would cross west. It became prosperous and Edmond was becoming wealthy.

But with wealth comes another burden: no time. Passage did not wait for daylight. Often, wagons or lone riders needed to cross during the night, willing to pay the higher tariff. Edmond did not mind. His fortune was growing, but her heart was breaking.

Convinced that he had forgotten her or lost interest, she succumbed to making a visit to a “fortune teller” in the lower bowery by the dock that receives the ships from Europe. The old woman was from Hungary and was often consulted by the superstitious sailors that were sailing new routes across the sea.

Monique entered the Hungarian woman’s hovel and lifted the veil from her hat. She had traveled the streets in disguise, hoping to ward off the gossip of those watching her every move.

As the fortune teller looked into Monique’s eyes, she could see the heart of a woman in love. She turned over cards, she gazed into crystal balls, she burned pieces of paper and she gave her firm advice.

“The man loves you deep, but he cannot come to you. He cannot,” she snapped with a thick accent.

Monique felt tears. What she heard is that he will not come to you, a casualty of a sad heart that is confused and crazy with love. As a tear fell from her eye, the gypsy woman continued.

“He is troubled for he cannot come. He has trouble in his heart for the longing. There is no coming for you now. Now he is not to come.”

Monique wept. The gypsy pulled her in closer to the table.

“Where is this place he will not leave? Where?”

Monique could not say. She did not know Texas.

The Hungarian snapped her fingers. “I know this man he has news on everything. You come back and he will know.”

Moving to the door, the gypsy spoke again. “You can make a trip? You can travel?”

Monique was puzzled.

“You can make this trip to travel for this man that loves all of you.”

That night Monique dreamed. Edmond had a box of gold and no one to cook for him. He fell asleep on his dock and his mules were hungry. She woke with a start knowing he needed her.

The next day, again under concealed dress and via a zig-zagged path, Monique arrived at the fortune teller’s door.

“Come, yes. Come. I get this man,” and the gypsy sent a young boy with a message to the dock. “You like tea for now?” she offered.

With a nod, Monique took a china cup filled with thick, dark leaves and very hot water. She sipped cautiously.

“Drink all, then I read leaves for you,” the woman ordered with a smile. “I love work with the lovers missing each of the other.” Her accent was still thick and Slovak, but tender and motherly.

In a moment there arrived a dock worker that was a living news man. He removed his hat and took a seat after the gypsy gestured. He turned to Monique.

“There is a ferry crossing 35 miles north of Washington. It is on the Brazos River and it is where Edmond is living and working. It is the first crossing for miles and Edmond cannot leave for the work is constant. He is working himself literally to death. It is prosperous, but he is likely to die before he can come back to Galveston. He had no idea the demand in the area,” the man said gently.

The reflection of the dream flooded Monique. She was close to jumping out of the room. Her anxiety was obvious.

“Drink and give me your cup. Drink.” The gypsy was anxious, too.

Monique sipped and drained the liquid, handing the cup to the Hungarian who quickly turned it upside down, prayed over it and then turned it upright again. She looked carefully at the leaves.

“You must, right now, go to find him for to save him. He is calling for you, saying your name.” She was emotionally invested.

Monique stood and with the assertive stance of ship captain she demanded, “Who can I pay to take me there?”

The gypsy gestured to the man who nodded.

Knowing the docks were full of charlatans and con artists, Monique had to take a quantum leap of faith. “When can we leave?”

The man mentioned he could leave in two days.

“We will leave in the morning,” commanded Monique and the man nodded again.

With a handful of coins, Monique paid the gypsy and she turned to leave.

“Stop for this,” said the woman as she reached in a pocket and pulled out a dried rose and some crumbled herbs. “Make this with tea when you see him first.” And with the tenderness of a grandmother she handed the bundle to Monique.

It took four days of camping and long, bumpy, muddy rides in a wagon to get to the ferry. Rain had followed them from the coast and upon arriving at the site, the ferry had two buildings, one on each side of the river. With a heavy mist cloaking the water, Monique rang the bell on the East side of the ferry, barely able to see a lantern in the evening light coming from the West ferry side.

“Who needs passage? How large a load?” came a man’s voice.

“Just one,” Monique shouted. “It’s Monique.”

Edmond dove into the river and swam to her side. The ferry was not fast enough.

We hope you can enjoy the charms of Batts Ferry Log Cabin. It will be our March Cabin of the Month, but it is available for rental year-round. Many a guest has fell in love with this peaceful, romantic log cabin nestled in the heart of 7F Lodge property.

Batts Ferry Road dead-ends at the Brazos River near Wellborn, Texas.

Batts Ferry Road dead-ends at the Brazos River near Wellborn, Texas.

 

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