Buffalo Bayou
An Echo of Houston's Wilderness Beginnings
Louis F. Aulbach
Twin Sisters of Harrisburg

HBT Bridge
At the Battle of San Jacinto in 1836, Mexican officer Col. Delgrado, an aide to Santa Anna, described the confusion that beset the Mexican army during the attack, and credited that confusion to the devastating effects produced by the grape shot from the two cannons of the Texian army.

These two cannons, named the Twin Sisters, were gifts from the City of Cincinnati and they were delivered to Sam Houston only weeks prior to the decisive battle. They were the only artillery of the army of Texas.

After the defeat of Santa Anna, the cannons fell into disuse and were considered obsolete by the time they were turned over to the US Army in 1845 as part of the Treaty of Annexation. Yet, these two 6-pound cannons were refurbished in 1861 and used by the Texas regiments in the Civil War.

In 1865, Henry N. Graves, his black servant and four other Confederate soldiers returning home from the war disembarked at the train depot in Harrisburg one evening in August, 1865, and saw the Twin Sisters at the depot. The cannons were about to be shipped out with the Union troops. In order to prevent the Twin Sisters from falling into yankee hands, the former soldiers snatched the cannons in the dark of night. They stripped the barrels from the carriages and burned the woodwork. The cannons were then rolled to the bank of Buffalo Bayou and buried in 3 to 4 foot deep graves.

Dr. Graves returned in 1888 to locate and retrieve the Twin Sisters. Unfortunately, Harrisburg of 1865 was not at all like Harrisburg of the 1880's. The wooded area near the bayou with the trees that had been marked for identification had been replaced by subsequent development. Other landmarks had changed as well, and for the next 20 years, Dr. Graves tried unsuccessfully to locate the buried Twin Sisters. As far as we know, despite repeated attempts, even as recently as the 1980's, the Twin Sisters have never been found. They are lost to history and they rest somewhere in the long forgotten port and railroad terminus of the town of Harrisburg.

Harrisburg, located on the south bank of Buffalo Bayou at its junction with Brays Bayou, was annexed by the City of Houston in 1926. The town that served as the major port of entry for goods and colonists for Stephen F. Austin's colony during the  1820's and 1830's lost out to Houston as the primary rail and shipping center of Texas after the devastating hurricane of 1870 flooded its docks and rail yards, while those in Houston were high and dry.

Today, the Turning Basin of the Port of Houston has transcended the town of Harrisburg. Glendale Cemetery, the resting place of the Harris family and others who were prominent citizens of Harrisburg, overlooks Buffalo Bayou near Brady's Island and the former wharves of the port of Harrisburg.

Just upstream of the Turning Basin is Hidalgo Park where access to Buffalo Bayou is a rough descent through trash and brush along a bulkheaded street. A canoe trip to this part of the bayou is a challenging expedition into the forgotten history of the beginnings of Houston and the settlement of Texas.

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Copyright by Louis F. Aulbach, 2001

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