Cottonwood with red flame resin filling a void from the crossing
In 1822, Benjamin Beason, one of Stephen F. Austin's original 300 colonists, settled on the west side of the Colorado River at a widely used crossing. He and his wife Elizabeth proceeded to build a large home which they also used as an inn. Here they established a gristmill, sawmill, gin, and ferry operation at the crossing. Over a span of fourteen years, their home and operations, combined with a scattering of homesteads in the area, formed a settlement known as Beason's Crossing. But in the early spring of 1836, Beason found his home, his family, and everything that they had worked so hard for in a very perilous position.
Looking West across the river at the crossing
Sam Houston and his army were at Gonzales when news of the fall of the Alamo reached them. Houston began his retreat, and so also began the "Runaway Scrape" with settlers grabbing whatever they could to get away from the fast approaching Mexican army.
Instead of following the Gonzales-San Felipe road, General Houston began marching the troops north. Houston was wary of the movements of the Mexican Army and hoped that they could dodge them. The army marched approximately 16 miles to Burnham's Ferry on the west bank of the Colorado River, about nine miles southeast of La Grange. After crossing the river using the ferry, they made camp. The following morning, a cold drizzling rain began to fall which turned the camp into a muddy mess. Knowing that this would make travel harder for the women and children fleeing behind them, General Houston decided to rest the army there while the settlers caught up and were able to use the ferry. But he also knew that Burnam's was not the place to make a stand.
It was still raining the following morning, and after all had crossed the river, the Texian Army broke camp. Houston ordered the ferry to be burned, and they began a march down the east bank of the river towards "Beason's Crossing." The Texian Army was joined by several other companies during the trip, which brought the armies number up to just over 800 men.
Upon reaching Beason's, the growing army made a large camp on the east side of the river, opposite the Beason's home and the ferry. Many Texian men who now fully understood the serious threat facing their country came to Beason's to join in with the army, which now increased its number to around fifteen hundred. The spring rains continued falling, swelling the banks of the Colorado and temporarily rendering it an impassable barrier for the Mexican army.
The east bank at Beason's Crossing, looking south
What a view Benjamin and Elizabeth Beason must have had looking across the river from their home on the bluff on the western bank. A swelling muddy camp of Texian volunteers, enraged at the reports of the Alamo slaughter and who were ready for a fight. Following them in were the groups of families, old men, and women and children hoping to reach safety farther east. Houston had chosen this site to camp because of its strategic location at the edge of the most populous part of Texas. With his 1500 troops in position, Houston declared, "On the Colorado I make my stand."
And one can only imagine Benjamin Beason saying "Wait...WHAT??"
But his worst fears were realized when a Mexican division numbering between six and eight hundred arrived on the west side of "Beason's Crossing" and pitched camp, putting his family right between the two armies.
Texian lieutenants were urging Houston to lead the army across the river and attack the Mexican's before they could be reinforced. But Houston disagreed. He wanted to wait for Fannin's forces to arrive which he was expecting at any time. But Houston's strategic plan was completely devastated when the news arrived of Fannin's defeat and capture. Houston now ordered that the Army should retreat towards San Felipe on the Brazos River.
The Beason's, and all other remaining families of "Beason's Crossing" had no choice but to cross the river on the ferry and join in on the retreat, and could only watch in sadness as the ferry and all that they'd built was burned to the ground by the Texian Army in order to slow the Mexican army's progress and to prevent them from looting any supplies that could benefit them.
Ferry picture - ndnhistoryresearch