Saturday, December 27, 2014

TMN-COT members on an evening ride on the Brazos Belle

The Brazos Belle is a historic riverboat that once plied the waters of the San Bernard River.   Around 2005, Mike Leebron purchased the boat and renamed it the Brazos Belle.   Leebron was a licensed riverboat captain, a trial lawyer, and partner in the Houston law firm Fibich, Hampton, Leebron, Briggs and Josephson, LLP.

After purchasing the boat, Leebron commissioned a Freeport-based shipbuilding company to renovate it.   Over a period of several months the engines were replaced and the entire structure was stabilized and repainted.

While the boat was undergoing restoration, Leebron purchased a property on the east bank of the Brazos River south of State Highway 35, near East Columbia.   An old barn located on the property was an important feature.   Working with several contacters — and doing much of the work himself — he converted the barn into a tavern named Belle's Landing.   It became a popular music venue often featuring the Dog Town Blues.

The choice of the name Belle's Landing recognizes the nearby historic  Bell's Landing, the historic ferry that Josiah Bell operated here in the 1820s.

By 2011 Captain Mike had substantially completed the renovations of both the Brazos Belle and Belle's Landing, and began offering riverboat cruises to the public.   In an effort to publicize the historic significance of the Brazos River he invited representatives from local historical museums to join him for a cruise.   Invited speakers included:
  • Flem Rogers, an East Columbia resident and frequent speaker about the area.
  • Michael Bailey, Curator of the Brazoria County Historical Museum, speaking abut the Texas Navy.
  • Phil Huxford, TMN-COT member, speaking on the local natural history of the area, and the connection between natural history and cultural history.
In December 2011 the Brazoria Bird Count Countdown was held at Mouchette Hall, an open-air meeting space near Belle's Landing.   Mike named it in recognition of his long-time partner Marlene Mouchette.

In July 2013 Members of the Cradle of Texas Chapter enjoyed a cruise on the Brazos Belle.   Photos from this trip are posted below.

Unfortunately Captain Mike passed away unexpectedly in July 2013 of a heart attack.   His partner Marlene Mouchette was not able to continue operating the businesses that Mike had created.   The Brazos Belle was sold, and the new owners renamed it the Yellowstone Paddlewheeler and moved it to the San Bernard River where it is now docked at Dido's Seafood & Steak Restaurant.   The new owners now offer dinner cruises on the San Bernard.

The Brazos Belle at its  home dock on the Brazos River
Viewed from the SH35 birdge

Belle's Landing, where we assembled for dinner before boarding the Belle

Pete Romfh, Mike Mullins

Captain Mike Leebron, owner of Belle's Landing and the Brazos Belle

Captain Mike

Listening to Captain Mike's pre-boarding instructions

Aboard the Belle

Captain Mike

Ed Barrios

The group assembled on the dock

Rainbo Johnson, Mary Holler

Looking upriver from the bow of the Belle

Flem Rogers speaks to the group

Flem Rogers

Back at Belle's Landing

Phil Huxford, Mary Holler

Peggy Romfh, Pete Romfh

Phil Huxford, Neal McLain

Torry Tvedt, Ruth Tvedt

Phil Huxford, Marty Cornell, Jerry Krampota