Historically Katy
Cane Island Creek

| May 1, 2017

The first bridge over Cane Island Creek in Katy is shown in this photograph circa 1895.

The first bridge over Cane Island Creek in Katy is shown in this photograph circa 1895.

This photograph at Cane Island Creek was taken by Katy residents in 1911.

This photograph at Cane Island Creek was taken by Katy residents in 1911.

By Carol Adams

Earliest visitors to the vast Katy prairie, at a point where Fort Bend, Harris and Waller counties meet today, found a creek filled with tall cane. The cane wasn’t native to the area and may have been planted by Native Americans or even earlier by Spanish explorers, perhaps to create an environment for trapping small animals. We’ll never know the source, but we know our earliest settlers saw the creek as an island of cane surrounded by an ocean of tall grass. By the early 1800s the area became a small settlement known as Cane Island.

The Missouri-Kansas-Texas (MKT) Railroad chose Cane Island as a location for a depot and established a new town. In 1896, that town was officially named Katy.

More than 200 years later, various businesses and a new master-planned neighborhood share the Cane Island name with the creek that still runs through Katy.

Cane Island Creek originates just a few miles north of the City of Katy. Experts estimate it was formed about 18,000 years ago, originally fed by wet prairie runoff, later by farmland drainage, and today by ditches and roadways. Cane Island Creek becomes a significant waterway just north of town.

The creek is considered the headwaters for Buffalo Bayou, and today it is officially known as Upper Buffalo Bayou, Cane Island Branch. The creek itself is officially fewer than eight miles long, ending south of IH-10 where it feeds into the waterway known simply as Buffalo Bayou for the next 46 miles before spilling into the Houston Ship Channel.

A drainage district straightened the creek north of U.S. Highway 90 in the 1960s. As drainage improved downstream, the flow of the creek changed. Cane Island Creek is now classified on geological maps as intermittent — meaning it rises and falls and even disappears at times, according to rainfall conditions. But when Katy was founded and before drainage was improved, the creek maintained a more constant water level. It was wider and deeper, and early residents enjoyed rowing boats and swimming. Today Cane Island Creek is a nice reminder of an important part of Katy history.

In 1864, a two-story Stage Coach Inn was built on San Felipe Road where it crossed Cane Island Creek. The inn was operated
by John White and included shed buildings, horse stalls and a brick cistern for water. The location allowed for the changing of the teams that pulled the coaches and wagons. It was also a
saloon that served meals and had sleeping quarters for passengers as needed.

Early Katy settlers told stories of those who traveled through Katy and stayed at the inn. No banks existed in these rural areas, so all transactions for lodging or to purchase goods were paid with cash. White was apparently robbing some of his customers and, as the story goes, even killed one of them. A group of the settlers rallied and killed him and his wife and then burned all of the inn buildings. Nothing was built to replace the inn, but an early resident named Walter Rosenbush recorded his recollections that he found the remains of the cistern and charred timbers in 1888.

 

Carol Adams is the author of HISTORIC KATY: An Illustrated History

 

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Category: Katy Texas History

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