Discover History

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The diversity of the region’s natural bounty is matched by its fascinating cultural history, which tells the story of a land shaped by extraordinary people from all over the world.

The Karankawa people are thought to be among the first inhabitants, possibly arriving here from the Caribbean on a current that flows clockwise around the Gulf of Mexico. Spanish conquistador Cabeza de Vaca encountered them when he shipwrecked on Galveston Island in 1528.

Courtesy of © Bob Howen Photography.In the late 1600s, the French explorer La Salle established Fort St. Louis near Matagorda Bay, mistaking the area for the mouth of the Mississippi River. Excavations at the Levi Jordan Plantation have exposed remnants of slave and tenant farmer cabins and artifacts related to the culture of the Kingdom of Kongo in west central Africa.

In 1821, the captain of Stephen F. Austin’s ship brought some of the first norteamericano colonists at the invitation of Mexico. These individuals were among those who would eventually help win Texas’ independence during the Texas Revolution. Many battles of the revolution were fought in this region – from the beginning, when some of the first shots were fired at Fort Anahuac in Chambers County, until the end when the treaties of Fort Velasco were signed in 1836 in Brazoria County. The colonists’ victory established the Republic of Texas, which was an independent country until 1845.

Across the channel between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, Fort Travis sits on a strategic overlook guarding Galveston Bay. Jane Long, the “Mother of Texas”, wound up the only adult at the fort in 1821 during one of the coldest winters on record. Unassisted, she gave birth to a daughter, then resumed gathering food and firewood.

As Texas’ agricultural economy developed, a steady procession of ships from all over the world sailed past Fort Travis to reach the port at Galveston. Today, the Bolivar Ferry darts between huge ocean-going vessels that wait patiently in a line that stretches to the horizon – ships that are destined for Galveston and for the Port of Houston. The Port of Houston only became fully accessible after 1910 when Houston’s mayor led a delegation to Washington, D.C., offering to raise half of the required funding to deepen the channel from local interests, if the federal government would pay the other half. Congress agreed, and local government and business leaders raised $1.25 million in bank bond funding to complete the deal. Believed to be the first of its kind, this partnership between the local private and government sectors and the federal government ushered in unprecedented prosperity for the region, which continues to this day.

Galveston, once known as the “Wall Street of the South,” thrived until the Great Storm of 1900. This hurricane is still counted as the most deadly natural disaster in US history. Survivors buried more than 6,000 men, women and children, then literally raised the island’s grade level up to seventeen feet and built a seawall extending miles down the coast.

Texans have always been known for their unconquerable spirit. That same “can-do” attitude has driven six years of recovery from Hurricanes Ike and Harvey and the rebuilding of a more resilient region.

Currently the proposal for the LSCNRA is under consideration. Upon designation this page will be updated to include additional information on the cultural and historic sites in the region.

Links To Partners

Texas Historical Commission

Galveston Historical Foundation