JASPER COUNTY, Texas — Severe drought conditions in Southeast Texas have led to the discovery of hidden history in the Neches River.
As river levels decrease, interesting things such as shipwreck, have risen to the surface.
Bill Milner, who grew up on the Neches River, made the discovery last week near Evadale and immediately knew he needed a second set of eyes on the finding.
"I wanted to document to make sure I could share it with someone who may have more expertise than me to make sure what I found was maybe old. I could tell it was a really large vessel," he said.
Milner brought in Museum Curator Susan Kilcrease from the Ice House Museum in Silsbee.
The Silsbee Ice House Museum exhibits illustrate how life was before refrigeration. The building was originally an ice house that produced ice for local homes and businesses, according to their website.
Kilcrease says whatever Milner found needs to be preserved.
"It blew my mind, because I felt like this was very old. We could tell almost immediately that it was constructed of wood, which put it at a certain time period, at the 20th century at a minimum," Kilcrease said.
The next steps involve getting historical experts from the Texas Historical Commission to look at and inspect the wreck site.
"I notified the Texas Historical Commission and the maritime archeologist there because this was important. Our position with this site and keeping it safe is important," Kilcrease said.
While Kilcrease waits on a team from the state to come out and inspect, she is hoping to continue to fight for history to be preserved.
"I think it would be good for the area and I am sure there are other vessels sunken in the area. It would be awesome if we could verify the dates on some of these things. If nothing else mark them, so we can know where they are at in the future," Milner said.
In a Facebook post, Kilcrease says she spoke with Texas Historical Commission Maritime Archeologist Amy Borgens, who says the Neches and Sabine Rivers have lots of possibilities for wreck types with the steam boating, logging industry, commercial use, ferry crossings and more.
The Neches River flows for 416 miles from B.A. Steinhagen Lake through east Texas to its mouth on Sabine Lake near the Rainbow Bridge.
The Neches flows through the Big Thicket National Preserve and is home to more than 200 tree species, 47 mammals, 300 birds and many reptiles and amphibians, according to the Beaumont Convention & Visitor's Bureau.