The majority of early settlers came by sea from New Orleans or Mobile to Galveston, Matagorda Bay, or the mouth of the Brazos. Lumber, wool, and cotton from Texas were sent back to New Orleans by sea. The vast majority of manufactured goods, from weaponry and ammunition to cloth to heavy equipment for sawmills and cotton gins, also came by sea.
Detail from Republic of Texas currency (1838 $10 serial)
Prints and Photographs Collection,
Texas State Library and Archives Commission. #1989/84-10.
In the early days of American colonization, the Spanish and Mexican authorities allowed travelers and goods to land duty-free to encourage the economic development of Texas.
In addition to its importance to American settlers, the Texas coast was also vital to Mexican hopes of retaining control of the province. It was a twelve-day march over dry, harsh terrain from Monclova, Mexico, to San Antonio in Texas. Most Mexican military authorities believed such a march would be hazardous in almost any season, and their plans relied on using ships to transport troops and supplies to Texas in the event of an uprising among the Americans.
In 1830, Mexico instituted a ban on further American immigration to Texas. To enforce the ban and to begin the collection of duties, Mexico established army garrisons at Velasco, near Brazoria, and at Anahuac, near Galveston. Americans protested the new laws through official channels, and some took the law into their own hands, simply overpowering Mexican waterfront guards to load and unload their ships without having to pay the port charges. The thinly staffed garrisons were no match for the angry and well-armed Texans. A number of Americans who later became prominent in the Texas Revolution, most notably William B. Travis, first came to notice during the so-called Anahuac Disturbances in 1831 and 1832.
At Velasco, Americans mounted an armed attack to seize two cannons at the Mexican garrison. Ten Texans and five Mexicans were killed in the fighting before the Mexicans were forced to surrender when their ammunition ran out. After the bloodshed, Mexico relaxed its efforts to collect customs along the Texas coast for the next several years.