Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Sunken ship becomes a bittersweet discovery


Southeast Texas Live
By Jamie Reid
January 27, 2006

A group of local history buffs that found a ship submerged in Adams Bayou in 2002 had hoped it was a Civil War gunboat, but have received disappointing news that it is far younger.

The mystery ship is probably from the 1930s or '40s, Texas Historical Commission state marine archaeologist Steve Hoyt said.

The ship's straight sides and flat deck, teamed with other clues, make it look like an old wooden barge, Hoyt said.

Members of the local Texas Archaeological Studies Association suggested the ship could be the Josiah H. Bell, a Confederate steam gunboat that participated in an offshore battle at Sabine Pass.

The Bell was about 171 feet long, 40 feet too long to be the 131-foot long sunken ship, Hoyt said. The mystery ship also had no evidence of paddlewheels or any other form of propulsion, which the Bell would have had, Hoyt said.

Also, the Bell would have had iron bars that run from the back to the front, Hoyt said. These bars, which look a lot like an arch above a bridge, keep the boat from dipping into the water, Hoyt said.

"It was obvious it was not the Bell," Hoyt said.

Hoyt inspected the shipwreck site twice, in July 2002 and July 2003.

Bruce Lockett, a Vidor man who found the boat in March 2002, did not return calls to his home.

However, Hoyt said Lockett had a good attitude about the boat when he delivered the bad news.

"He basically said, 'If that's not it, we will find it,' " Hoyt said.

Lockett, a man always uncovering interesting articles, also found a fort in Orange County in November 2001, which he has been trying to authenticate as a Civil War fort.

Lockett and other history buffs sent a report of its discovery to the Texas Historical Commission in Austin for verification.

Hoyt said the group has not made a determination on the fort.

In late 2003, Lockett also found carved stones along the Neches River that could date back 4,000 years. One of the seven stones was a small hematite ax head with several images carved into the face, including an animal of some kind.

Lockett believes the ax head might have ended up in the hands of the ancestors of the Atakapa Indians, who lived in the coastal areas of Texas, through trade with the Caddo.

Yet, as Lockett's luck would have it, other archaeologists are not convinced the stones are old.


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