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Galveston County - Galveston (Part 3: Hurricane to Modern Day)

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The changes that were brought about by the hurricane that hit Galveston on September 8, 1900 simply cannot be overstated.  Formerly the largest city in the state of Texas, the most important port city along the Gulf Coast other than New Orleans was also home to the most mansions, millionaires, and modern amenities.  With a population over 36,000 people on an island that only rose 5' above sea level, the 120 mph winds were only the second-most destructive element of the hurricane.  A storm surge lifted the sea 15' in advance of the arriving storm, catching the sleeping city unaware, drowning thousands, and cutting off residents from the mainland.  Without any method of communication, it was two days before anyone was able to reach Houston in order to request aid for the ruined island community.  Bodies were so numerous that burial was impossible, and attempts were made to dump both humans and animals into sea.  After those remains once again washed ashore, massive funeral pyres

Galveston County - Galveston (Part 2: Independence to the Golden Era)

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Welcome back to our continuing story of Galveston.  If you haven't already read Part 1 I'd encourage you to do so (after all, this post will still be here when you finish).  We left off with the Port of Galveston serving as an important location during the Texas war for independence in 1836, but a permanent city had not been established since the destruction of Jean Lafitte's Campeche settlement.  That all changed when a group of investors led by a former Canadian fur trader by the name of Michael B. Menard purchased land on the east end of Galveston Island for $50,000 to lay out a new town near the island's port.  By 1839 Galveston was born, incorporated by the Republic of Texas. Growth happened rapidly, as the largest port west of New Orleans was already a major immigration point by then.  A railroad bridge connecting the island to the mainland bolstered the value of Galveston's port by allowing the direct transfer of goods between railcars and oceangoing ships. 

Galveston County - Galveston (Part 1: Discovery to Independence)

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To all of you who have been along for the entire tour of Galveston County, thank you for joining me for the trip!  We've finally reached the final stop, and because the city of Galveston, TX is a city with far too much history and too many stories to tell in one post we will take our time telling the tale of this fascinating location.  With a population of 54,774 according to the 2020 US Census, the county seat is the southernmost point of Galveston County and takes up the majority of Galveston Island.  Only 41.05 square miles of the total 211.72 are on land, leaving quite a bit of offshore territory.  Although the city is only 7 feet above sea level, it is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by a seawall that rises approximately 17 feet and extends for over 10 miles.  Separating FM 3005 (known as Seawall Boulevard) from the drop down to the beach is a strip of concrete that is said to be the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at 10.3 miles. When Spanish explorer Alvar Núñez Ca

Galveston County - League City

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As we approach the end of our tour of Galveston County, we've finally arrived at what is now the largest city.  With a 2020 population of 114,392 according to US Census Bureau data, League City surpassed the county's namesake city during the years immediately following the dawn of the 21st century.  With an elevation of 20 feet above sea level, the city covers an area of 53.06 square miles (of which 1.80 sq. mi. is covered by water) and sits at the midpoint between Houston and Galveston.  On a personal note, League City is important to my family as it was our home for three years, and is where my kids go to school as well as where both my mom and wife have worked at various times over the years. As with most of the region, the area now known as League City was originally populated by various native tribes.  A significant archaeological site along the northern boundary (shown in the map above as land extending into Clear Creek next to the labeled nature center) contains the olde

Happy Easter!

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I want to wish each one of the readers of this blog a very happy Easter.  We'll continue our journey through Galveston County next week as we head towards the finish line.  Only the two largest cities to go!  Thank you once again for continuing to read these posts on a regular basis - it's amazing to think that this little experiment that began with a simple Bible study would have crossed over to so many topics and will likely be approaching 50,000 hits by the time summer arrives!  So with heartfelt gratitude I pass along my appreciation and wishes for a wonderful Easter. 

Galveston County - Bayou Vista

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This week, on our tour of cities in Galveston County, we take a break from some of the big towns we've visited recently to stop by another one of the smaller communities.  But if location means anything, then Bayou Vista is a prime place to be.  According to the 2020 US Census, this town had a total of 1,763 residents, and a total land area of 0.45 square miles (of which 0.13 sq. mi. is water).  Like its neighbor, Tiki Island, this town was built from the marshy wetlands near Jones Bay, which separates Galveston Island from the Texas mainland, and its elevation is therefore a mere 3 feet above sea level.  The citizens embrace their proximity to the bay, however, and have adopted the motto "Where living on the water is a way of life." Sitting at the intersection of I-45, Highway 6, Highway 146, and Highway 3, this small town's site has always been at the crossroads of Galveston County.  Shortly before the Texas Revolution began, a land grant that included everything ne

Galveston County - Texas City

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This week we're stopping at a city named after the Lone Star State itself - Texas City.  They say that everything is bigger here, and this is a city that follows that mantra with the largest total area of any town in the county at 185 square miles (although the majority of that is covered in water with only 66.28 sq. mi. of land area).  Stretching along a significant portion of the eastern portion of Galveston County's mainland, the city's official elevation rises 10 feet above sea level and is home to 51,898 residents according to the 2020 US Census. Nine years after Texas became the 28th American state, the US government erected a lighthouse in Galveston Bay that came to be known as the Halfmoon Shoal Lighthouse.  Along the shore to its west, a small community began to form and by the time a post office was created in 1878 the town was known as Shoal Point.  In 1891 a group of three brothers from Duluth, MN visited the area on a duck hunt and were intrigued by what they s

Galveston County - Kemah

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The focus of this week's stop during our tour of Galveston County is a place where I've spent plenty of time, because in addition to being a great place to visit, eat, and play, it's also where my parents used to live for a number of years.  And while they lived there we had our first kid, so it was important to visit the grandparents often, right?  This city by the bay, right next to the very first town we visited on this rambling adventure through the county, is Kemah, TX.  According to the US Census Bureau the community boasts a 2020 population of 1,807, and nestled at the far northeastern extent of the county where Clear Lake empties into Galveston Bay it has a total elevation of just 7 feet above sea level.  Of the city's 1.91 square miles, the vast majority is land with just 0.07 sq. mi. covered by water. For being such a small city, Kemah has a big impact on Galveston County and beyond, including being ranked as the #1 tourist destination in the Houston area just

Galveston County - La Marque

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This week's stop along our tour of Galveston County is another town with a history nearly as old as Texas itself that owes its existence in large degree to railroads and industry.  And it's yet another town with a unique cultural history that has changed its name over time.  La Marque stretches through the central portion of the county's mainland portion, including more frontage along I-45 than any other city (a total of 14.3 miles), and is home to 18,030 residents as of the 2020 US Census.  The city is a low-lying area with an elevation of 16' above sea level, although it does have a system of levees for hurricane protection, and barely half a square mile of the total 14.28 sq. mi. area is covered by water.   In 1838 a settlement was formed near the northern banks of Highland Bayou and initially adopted the name of Highlands.  The Houston, Henderson, and Galveston Railroad laid their tracks through the community, which supported the agricultural businesses in town, mos

Galveston County - Bacliff

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A quick thank-you once again to everyone who takes a moment to read this blog (whether it's just once, once in a while, or every week).  Blowing past 40,000 viewers is a bit mind-boggling for me, and the regular traffic is a big reason I have kept making sure there's something new to look at each week.  This week's stop is a small community on the edge of Galveston Bay - the town of Bacliff.  Of the 2.7 square miles that make up the city limits, only 0.2 is water and 2.5 is land.  The 2020 population stood at 9,677 according to the US Census Bureau, and the town's elevation rises just 16 feet above sea level.  That height, however, is slightly higher than other points around the bay and has actually prevented some of the flooding damage seen by nearby cities. Shortly after the dawn of the 20th century, the Great Hurricane of 1900 had wreaked havoc on the development of communities stretching from Galveston to Houston, and by 1910 a pair of local landowners decided to bu

Galveston County - Dickinson

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Sitting in the heart of Galveston County we find this week's stop along our virtual tour - Dickinson is a city with a long history and a proud population that I've gotten to know in recent years.  In fact, this community that boasts 20,427 citizens as of the 2020 US Census will be celebrating their annual Little Italy Festival soon at the end of Spring Break.  For information, including location and timing, please click here:  https://www.dickinsonlittleitalyfestivalofgalvestoncounty.com/  - I've been fortunate enough to work alongside several of the event planners to build maps and even do a little historical digging along the way.  They're great folks, and I'd highly recommend visiting if you're in the area. Stretching along a bayou that shares its name, Dickinson is a town that encompasses 10.33 square miles, of which 9.89 is land.  The elevation is low, which you likely realize is a common trait within the county, and sits at just 10 feet above sea level.  B

Galveston County - Santa Fe

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This week our tour through Galveston County returns to the western side of the mainland.  Santa Fe is a city that exists, not primarily due to the wishes of its own residents, but to those of the neighboring city of Hitchcock.  According to the US Census Bureau a total of 12,735 residents populate this town which sits along Highway 6 at an elevation of 30 feet above sea level.  The city has been incorporated since 1978 and now includes a total area just over 17 square miles.  The story of the town began with a railroad - the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe - that sought to connect Galveston Island with the inland part of Texas without passing through Houston.  Founded in 1873, its goal was to traverse Texas and terminate at Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory.  Work began in 1875 and by 1877 enough track had been constructed that the line extended beyond the county's edge.  Several communities began to grow along the line, including a few in western Galveston County by the names of Alta Lo

Galveston County - Bolivar Peninsula

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So far all of our stops in Galveston County have been focused on the west side of the bay.  There is, however, a rich history on the east side that still deserves attention.  Bolivar Peninsula sits just across from Galveston Island, and is home to 2,769 residents according to the US Census Bureau's 2020 count.  The peninsula that varies in width from nearly 3 miles to barely 600 yards across stretches for 27 miles between the Gulf of Mexico to the south and East Bay to the north, until it reaches the mainland at Galveston County's border with neighboring Chambers County.  Several communities are strung out along Highway 87, the main road that serves Bolivar - including Port Bolivar, Crystal Beach, Caplan, Gilchrist, and High Island - and we'll visit them all as a group. The history of Bolivar Peninsula, like so many other areas along the Texas coast, begins with a number of the tribes that frequented the area long before Europeans began exploring.  In addition to the Karank

Galveston County - Tiki Island

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If you were a driver heading towards Galveston Island on I-45, you would probably recognize how close you were to the water when the majority of the trees you had seen along the way eventually gave way to several miles of grassy marshland.  And if you were looking the wrong direction while approaching the bridge over West Bay, you might miss the small community that has sprung up just before you left the mainland: The Village of Tiki Island.  According to the US Census Bureau, this tiny group of homes boasts a 2020 population of 1,106 that supports a full-time police department and a volunteer fire department with a paid staff of one.  The total area of the city is officially 1.59 square miles, but 2/3 of that amount is water and only 0.48 square miles is on land.  This stop along our tour of Galveston County towns has no extended history because before 1960 it didn't even exist. That's right, at a time when the eyes of the world were focused on the emerging war in Vietnam on t

Galveston County - San Leon

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A lonely, unincorporated peninsula on the way to nowhere is home to the next stop along our journey of discovery through Galveston's towns.  San Leon, a community so small that the US Census doesn't even keep data for it, has a longer history that many of the other mainland cities within the county.  An estimated 4,970 people live there, but nobody seems to have an official count.  Surrounded by Galveston Bay to the east, Trinity Bay to the north, and Dickinson Bay to the south, the town that barely reaches 10' above sea level in elevation has successfully resisted incorporating themselves or being drawn into neighboring Bacliff or Texas City for years.  Jean Lafitte, the famous pirate who frequented the waters surrounding Galveston Island, was an early European visitor to San Leon, but by that time the area was already popular with the nomadic Karankawa Indian tribes.  One of the many legends of the natives involved a group of specialized warriors who used the Red Fish Bar

Galveston County - Friendswood

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This week we'll continue our tour of Galveston County by making a stop in a place that's near and dear to my family - our home town, Friendswood!  This city with such an amiable name sits at the farthest northwest corner of the county, and certain portions of town actually reach into neighboring Harris and Brazoria counties.  The population of Friendswood was 41,213 according to the 2020 US Census and nearly all of its 20.9 square miles are on land (water accounts for a scant 0.14 sq. mi.).  Being farther inland than either of our previous cities, it rises higher in elevation to a level of 31 feet above sea level. The name Friendswood came from the city's unique founding, as it remains as the only permanent Texas town that was originally established as a Quaker colony - a group also known as the Religious Society of Friends.  A group from Kansas had attempted to move to Texas but did not like their first attempted settlement near Lubbock, and therefore sent a representative

Galveston County - Hitchcock

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Occupying the southernmost portion of Galveston County's mainland is the city of Hitchcock, our second stop as we take a meandering tour through the communities that form this interesting Texas county.  Claiming 7,301 residents as of the 2020 Census, this city that lies just across West Bay from the central portion of Galveston Island has a total area of 91.48 sq. mi., of which 60.43 sq. mi. is land.  The highest point in the area peaks at just 16 feet above sea level. The earliest modern history of the town began in the 1840s when settlers, the majority of whom were French, began moving to the area.  A man named Jonas Butler purchased land along a bayou there in 1848 and built a house.  The burgeoning community that sat on the high bank of the bayou became known as Highland, and the waterway the residents used to reach Galveston in turn adopted the name of the new settlement.  The current name of the growing town was not established until the Gulf, Colorado, and Santa Fe Railroad

Galveston County - Clear Lake Shores

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The first community we'll look at during our no-particular-order survey of Galveston County is the small town of Clear Lake Shores.  Nestled in the far northern extent of the county, this town has a total area of less than 0.75 square miles, only 0.43 of which is on land.  Clear Lake Shores claimed a population of 1,258 residents in the 2020 census, which represented a significant recovery after the 2010 count had dropped significantly due primarily to the impact of Hurricane Ike in 2008 which destroyed several homes.  Set along the shoreline where Clear Lake meets Galveston Bay, the town has an elevation of just 10' above sea level. Clear Lake has long been a popular location for aquatic sports and recreation, and the allure of waterfront properties enticed developers to this portion of the county during the prosperous time following the first World War.  Oil was big business at that time, and money was easily changing hands.  Many of the initial buyers of the new parcels were

Galveston County - Introduction

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Lying just southeast of Houston, TX along the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston County has a rich and colorful history which is perhaps matched only by the population that now calls it home.  As it currently exists the county consists of a portion of the Texas mainland, a sizeable piece of the largest estuary in the state (the Trinity-San Jacinto Estuary, which includes Galveston Bay and several smaller extensions and inlets), and various islands, the largest of which is Galveston Island.  Only 43% of the county's total area of 874 square miles is covered by land, and the latest population estimate by the US Census Bureau stands at approximately 350,000 residents. As with most areas in Texas, nomadic tribes were the primary residents for thousands of years and aside from scattered camps along the coast or simple burial grounds there are very few records of long-term settlements.  Much of what has been learned of early inhabitants comes from study of shell middens, which are essentially the

Happy New Year 2022!

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Happy New Year!  I hope everyone has found something useful over the past several months as we've looked at basic success principles, and hopefully you've been able to try out some of the techniques that will help you along your own personal path.  Moving into the new year I have been considering what might be an enjoyable new topic to work on.  Recently I've gotten to know several folks who are involved in one of the local cultural festivals, and in the process of trying to help out with some basic mapping needs that they had I've been fortunate enough to find out some really neat history of the surrounding towns.  I would like to share some of that with each of you, so over the coming weeks we'll explore some of the stories, people, and places that helped make Galveston County, TX what it is today.  Each week we'll delve into one of the locations, or perhaps into a particular event or group that has had a lasting impact in our area.  Come along for the ride, a

Success Starts Early - Hit Reset

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Christmas is done, and New Year's Day is fast approaching.  I hope the season has been good to each one of you who take the time to read these posts from time to time.  This is the week when so many of us pause to analyze how things have been going in our lives.  Most holidays give us an excuse to relax our discipline, and whether we succumbed to the lure of food, spending, relaxation, or any other opportunity that was presented, most of us recognize we went overboard somewhere.  No wonder the New Year's Resolution is so popular!  Hopefully, however, we don't waste time beating up ourselves over what went wrong.  Instead, this is a good a time as any to learn how to reset . Playing video games as a kid, our console had two buttons on the front: Power and Reset.  If we figured out that we'd gotten into a really bad situation and weren't likely to win the game, sometimes we'd just stop playing and hit the Reset button.  The game would jump back to the starting poi

Success Starts Early - Courage

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As a young musician, I once played in a concert series based on MGM's film "The Wizard of Oz" that included live appearances by several of the original munchkins.  It was fascinating to see actors and actresses recounting their experiences with amazing detail, roughly six decades after the movie was released.  Who were some of your favorite characters, and were there any that you didn't like at all?  Most kids I knew were scared of the witch, but it was actually had one of the "good guys" who always bothered me: the Cowardly Lion.  I don't think anybody really admires the individual who will turn and run whenever a situation becomes uncomfortable or dangerous, and this character's defining trait was his poor reactions to his fears.  In everyday life, it is important to have the courage to act.  (Credit: NBC Television Network) In his first inaugural address President Franklin Roosevelt made the statement, "let me assert my solemn belief that th

Success Starts Early - Responsibility

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One of my favorite Christmas classics features a scene where the main characters sing a fun song about how they miss the good time they had in the army.  One of their reasons was that there was always someone else in charge where they could "pass the buck" for any bad decisions or outcomes.  This may have been a subtle reference to President Harry Truman, who was said to have a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that read, "The Buck Stops Here".  With all due respect to the imaginary soldier buddies, I think the man who had climbed to the highest office in the land had the right idea.  And it wasn't just a motto - he was willing to make the biggest decisions that led to the end of WWII.  To become successful in any endeavor, you must accept responsibility for your actions.  It seems as though every time something bad happens, there are those who want to assign blame.  Sometimes the rationale is good - we need to know the cause of a problem to keep it from happ