The Black Cloud sidewheel steamboat, constructed in 1864 in Orange, Texas, was a notable vessel on the Trinity River. At 129 feet long, with a 4 foot draught, and 33 foot beam she had a capacity of 223 tons. Her service lasted a remarkable nine years—surpassing the typical lifespan of 4-5 years for similar steamboats of her time.
In 1871, the Black Cloud steamboat reportedly “hit a snag” in the river, causing her to sink. She was raised and was reportedly running again before her eventual abandonment in 1873. Notably, before her abandonment, the bronze bell from the Black Cloud was removed and donated to the First United Methodist Church of Liberty, where it remains in use today.
The steamboat’s submerged remains were rediscovered in 1965 during the installation of a gas pipeline. In response to efforts and suggestions by historians and citizens of Liberty, Texas, a survey was conducted by students and staff of the Nautical Archaeology Program at Texas A&M University. The purpose of the survey was to provide field experience for students and to map and define the limits of the wreckage.
Through this survey, the physical remnants of the Black Cloud were documented, offering insights into her final resting place and providing valuable knowledge to the Nautical Archaeology program at Texas A&M.
Visit the Texas Maritime Museum to see our scale model of the Black Cloud steamboat.