If the furnace should be established near the Trinity, in the region indicated, and foundry, &c., at Liberty, then the navigation of the river becomes an important element in the calculation of their usefulness. Its navigation above Liberty, which is the head of tide-water, depends entirely on the rains, and cannot be relied on, excepting for a few months in the spring, and even then it is sometimes so baffling and uncertain as to be almost useless. The river usually falls about the close of the month of May, and remains very low during the summer and fall, and, generally, the winter. Unless, therefore, the furnace can be put in successful operation in time to produce the necessary amount of iron to be boated down on the rise of next spring, another year would be lost, excepting so far as halting with wagons would be practicable at a distance of between 150 and 200 miles. So, afterward, unless a full year's supply of iron can be shipped down during the brief and uncertain navigation of each spring, the foundry must be idle during a portion of the year. How far these facts may militate against placing them so far apart, connected for only a small portion of the year, and then by the most precarious navigation, is a question respectfully suggested for consideration.
Though there seems at present every reason to hoped that a suitable location can be obtained near the Trinity in the region mentioned, yet as the ore there has never been successfully worked, these anticipations may fail, and we may be obliged to resort to the more eastern portion of the iron region, the availability of which has been fully proved by the successful working in Cass County. The Angelina and Sabine Rivers are in that region, both of which are nearly as navigable as the Trinity. A location on one of these rivers comes near to meeting the conditions sought, as the iron could be boated down either of them to Beaumont, and thence forwarded by railroad to Liberty. I am, therefore, endeavoring to obtain all necessary information with regard to those rivers in favorable locations on them for iron-works, holding this information in reserve, and not intending to trouble the major-general commanding with it unless it should be needed.
The iron region of Texas which I have described lies in the tertiary strata of geologists, and the iron usually appears in the form of the red and brown oxides (hematites), though the State geologist claims to have discovered also important deposits of carbonate of iron, which is the ore chiefly relied on in the English furnaces. The whole region abounds with timber, and extensive beds of lignite have been found in some parts of it, though not in the neighborhood of the Trinity.
Dr. Riddell, of the State geological survey, ascertained by analysis that the iron ore used in the Cass County furnace contained nearly 80 per cent. of iron, and a specimen from Rusk County over 71 per cent. The Honorable J. R. Anderson, of Cherokee County, informs me that specimens have been examined in that county which contained 80 per cent.
If the arsenal workshops and foundry should be established at Liberty, it will not be necessary to resort to the Neches for oak timber, as is supposed. It grows on the Trinity above Liberty in great abundance and variety and of excellent quality.
I will report again so soon as I shall have collected such further information as may seem necessary to enable the special agent of the Mining Bureau to determine where to commence and how to prosecute his examination for selecting a suitable site for the iron-works.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
13 R R-VOL XXVI, PT II