Historical Markers

Site of Austinia

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Empresario Stephen F. Austin urged Mexico to improve foreign trade by establishing ports in the Galveston area as early as 1825. Historical references suggest Austinia was settled in the 1830s as part of Austin's foreign trade efforts in this area. The original site of Austinia was located on coastal property owned by Austin one mile north of this site. After Austin's death in 1836 his sister, Emily Austin Bryan Perry, became sole proprietor of the village of Austinia. In 1837 George L. Hammeken and partners petitioned the Republic of Texas for a charter to construct a railroad from Austinia, where the main office was to be located, southwest to Bolivar on the Brazos. The railroad was part of a venture connecting Galveston with the mainland to tap the trade of the fertile Brazos River valley. In 1839 Emily Perry sold Austinia to her son, William J. Bryan, and his partner, George Hammeken. Later that year Emily's husband, James F. Perry, became treasurer of Hammeken's corporation. James Perry's plans to build 40 or 50 houses and other public buildings in Austinia were never realized as Hammeken later chose an alternate route for the proposed railroad.

Campbell's Bayou

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Settled 1821 by Privateer James Campbell (1791-1856), U.S. Navy veteran, War of 1812, who after discharge was lieutenant and close friend of buccaneer Jean Lafitte, operating out of Galveston (then called Campeche). In Karankawa Indian rituals about 1817, Mary Sabinal (1795-1884) became Campbell's bride. When Lafitte left Texas in 1821 Campbell pleased his wife by settling here as a rancher. Community remained until its second destruction by hurricane, 1915. Graves of the Campbells and many other early Texans are in cemetery at Campbell's Bayou.

First Aero Squadron

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First tactical air unit, U.S. Army; was stationed here 1913-1915 during U.S. border troubles caused by revolution in Mexico. The 7 planes, 5 officers, and 21 enlisted men were not in combat, but made aerial maps and achieved a long distance flight record.

Frank B. Davison House

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Built by Frank and Florence Haven Davison from 1895 to 1897. Sturdy Victorian structure, of cypress. Home of first child born in Texas City (formerly named Shoal Point). Survivor of many storms; suffered most in 1947 disaster. Davison, prominent civic leader and pioneer in Texas City, was first in many capacities: city commissioner, postmaster, school trustee, bank director. Opened the first store in Texas City, and had the first telephone.

Also on the National Register of Historic Places and the list of State Antiquities Landmarks.

First Baptist Church of Texas City

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On March 16, 1905, five Texas City residents met for worship and Bible study. The Rev. D.L. Griffith assisted them in founding Texas City's First Baptist Church. The Rev. WC. Ponder served as pastor for the first decade, during which time services were held in private homes. The growing congregation met at different sites until the early 1950s, when it built a sanctuary at this site. During its first 100 years, the congregation endured the 1915 hurricane, the Great Depression and the 1947 Texas City disaster. Through hardships and hard work the church persevered, and today it continues in service to its community through a variety of programs and missions.

First Methodist Church of Texas City

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This church began with informal Methodist meetings attended by a small group of newly arrived families to Texas City in 1894. The congregation grew and became Texas City's first formally organized church in 1896. The Rev. E L. Ashmore, a member of the Gulf Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) served as the congregation's first paid pastor. Compelled to seek a secure location after much of Texas City was destroyed in the 1900 storm, the congregation built its first sanctuary at the corner of 3rd Avenue N and 3rd Street by late 1900. A split between the older "northern" and newer "southern" factions of the church led to the formation of the separate Central Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 1907. Although Central Methodist Church initially struggled, their sanctuary, built at the corner of 4th Street and 6th Avenue N about 1913, eventually housed a congregation larger than that of its parent church. The two congregations joined in 1938, before the denominational reunion, to form the First Methodist Church. In 1940, during the pastorate of the Rev. F. Clyde Woodward, the congregation built a new sanctuary at 5th Avenue North and 4th Street. The church was renamed the First United Methodist Church in 1968.

First Texas City Refinery

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The first oil refinery built in Texas City was established in 1908 by the Texas City Refining Company. Contractor J. C. Black and more than 100 craftsmen constructed the refinery. Processing equipment included eleven stills, storage tanks, and a boiler house. Railroad tank cars delivered crude oil for processing. The finished product was shipped by rail or carried by pipeline to the Texas City docks for loading on seagoing tankers. Through the years more land was purchased, extra storage tanks were built, and facilities were modernized as technology advanced. Petroleum products made during both world wars provided significant contributions to the nation's defense. World War II production demands caused Texas City's population to nearly triple. Despite economic shifts, natural disasters and accidents, oil industry fluctuations, and multiple owners, this refinery has been an integral part of the area for over eight decades, providing employment for hundreds of employees, and infusing millions of dollars into local, regional, and national economies. Now an upgraded, modern facility, the refinery's capacity for processing crude oil has grown from 1,500 barrels per day in 1908 to 130,000 barrels per day in the 1990s.

William Jefferson Jones

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(September 27, 1810 - May 5, 1897) Virginia native William Jefferson Jones received his license to practice law at age 19. He was an associate of Mirabeau B. Lamar, future president of the Republic of Texas, in a Georgia newspaper enterprise. Urged by Lamar to move to Texas, Jones traveled to Galveston in 1837 and in 1839 joined Lamar's military campaign to remove the Cherokee Indians from East Texas. Chosen as associate justice to the Texas Republic's first Supreme Court about 1840, Jones would later render the court's second decision. He married Elizabeth Giberson in 1841 and moved to Columbus in Colorado County to serve as district judge. He retired about 1852 and came to Virginia Point where he became the first person to successfully harvest valuable sea-island cotton in Texas and make use of its cottonseed oil. With William R. Smith in 1853, and again with his son, Walter C., in 1885, Jones produced plans for a city at Virginia Point. Although his proposals failed he is nevertheless credited with being among the first to envision the potential for a deep water port city on Galveston's mainland. Jones, whose generous land terms led to the development of La Marque's post-Civil War African American Highland Station community, is buried in Galveston's Lakeview Cemetery.

Old Bay Ranch

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Established by Guy M. Bryan (1821-1901), nephew of Stephen F. Austin, "Father of Texas." Bryan was one of couriers for William B. Travis's Alamo letter. Served in state legislature (where he was Speaker of the House) and U.S. Congress. Aide to Confederate President Davis and a colonel in army in Civil War.

Old H.B. Moore Home

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Built 1912 by Colonel Hugh B. Moore (1874 to 1944), transportation expert. Born in Tennessee, he managed Texas City Terminal Railroad, Wolvin Steamship Line, Texas City Transportation Company, Mainland Company, was a banker, leader in building dike, enlarging port, and bringing in industries. He was director of army transports, World War I. His securing of emergency coal as fuel for armies, 1917, helped to save allied efforts. Was adviser in transportation, World War II. His wife Helen (Edmunds) served 2 terms in Texas Legislature in 1930s. There she helped improve conditions in state institutions. She was a leader in numerous civic activities and, with Moore, helped found the local library, named in their honor in 1929. This spacious, 13-room brick home has walls 14 inches thick with steel railroad rails as reinforcements. It withstood the 1915 hurricane and the 1947 Texas City ship explosion. It has been visited by distinguished persons.

Also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Phillips Memorial Cemetery

Located in West Texas City.

Rising Star Cemetery

Located in West Texas City.

Settlement Community

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During Reconstruction, former slaves founded a community known as the Settlement on land platted by Judge William J. Jones for purchase by freedmen. Prior to this, a number of cattlemen moved to this area with their slaves. During the Civil War, George Washington Butler was placed in charge of a containment camp and used slave labor from there to drive cattle for the Confederate Army. After the war ended, Butler continued in the cattle industry, hiring freedmen as cowboys. Some of them lived in the community first known as Highland Tank. The first settlers were Kneeland and Sylvia Britton, and Albert and Priscilla (Britton) Phillips. Calvin Bell, Thomas Britton and David Hobgood were area cowboys and pioneers of the community. By 1870, the Rev. Israel S Campbell helped begin a church; residents built a sanctuary and school the following year in a community called Campbellville for the Reverend. The pioneering families, however, called it Settlement, shortened from "Our Settlement," declaring the importance of freedom and owning land. The African American community prospered throughout the late 1800s. Many male residents worked on Butler Ranch or as farmers. Also, unique for the time, the community had a high literacy rate. By the early 1900s, residents worked in railroad occupations and later in industry. In 1911, and interurban line came through the community, and Highland Station opened; the Settlement was known as Highlands and La Marque until it was incorporated into the city limits of Texas City in the 1950s. The community began to decline in the 1960s, when many young people left to work in an integrated society. However, rodeos and trail rides have been held as reminders of this once flourishing and self-sufficient community founded by African American cowboys.

This site has been named a 2010 National Register Historic District.

Shoal Point & Half Moon Shoal Lighthouse

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A number of families settled along Galveston Bay in the 1830s after land grants were awarded to veterans of the republic of Texas army and navy. An early community at this site became known officially as Shoal Point in 1878 when a U.S. Post Office was established. It was renamed Texas City in 1893. The commencement of shipping in Galveston Bay led to increased settlement in the area. In 1854 the U.S. Government erected a lighthouse in the bay two miles east of Shoal Point at Half Moon Shoal. One of several lighthouses built along the Texas Gulf Coast that year, the Half Moon Shoal lighthouse was a red and white painted frame structure with galleries surrounding the main portion of the building and a captain's walk around the light. A bell served as a fog warning device. Decommissioned during the Civil War, the lighthouse was returned to service in 1868 and provided hazard warnings until the disastrous 1900 storm, when a steamship broke free from its mooring and drifted into the structure, destroying it and killing keeper Charles K. Bowen. A beacon replaced the lighthouse until the shipping lanes in the bay were chanted after the construction of the Texas City channel and dike.

Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana in Texas City

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In the 1870s native Tejanos organized "Sociedades Mutualistas," mutual aid societies designed to protect their interests from the growing Anglo population of Texas. Although most of the early settlers of this area were of English, French, and German descent, increasing numbers of Mexican immigrants arrived in 1893 when construction began on the city's port facilities. In 1910 the Texas City census revealed a significant Hispanic populace. In March 1914, under the auspices of Texas City's Mexican consulate, the community established "Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana" (Mexican Mutual Aid Society), a descendant of the "Sociedades Mutualistas." Members were offered such services as legal aid, refuge from discrimination and economic deprivation, social and cultural activities, financial loans, libraries, sickness and burial insurance, and adult education. The society's motto was "Union, Paz, y Trabajo" (Union, Peace, and Work). While cities such as San Antonio and Corpus Christi had several societies, the memberships of which were mostly male with a few female auxiliaries, Texas City had only one. Most "sociedades" in Texas lasted until the Depression era. Descendants of the "Sociedad" in Texas City include the "Comision Honorifica Mexicana" (Honorable Mexican Commission) of the 1920s and 1930s and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), still strong in 1998. While LULAC is a civil rights-based organization, the "Sociedad" was primarily a labor rights group. The "Sociedad Mutualista Mexicana" was a significant element of Texas City's labor and industrial history. (1998)

St. George's Episcopal Church

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The first Episcopal worship service in Texas City took place on March 23, 1913, two years after the city incorporated and the same year the United States Army arrived as part of its coastal defense of American interests during the Mexican Revolution. The Rev. C. W Freeland, chaplain to the 6th Cavalry stationed in Texas City at the time, presided at the Easter Day service. That summer, the Route Rev. George H. Kinsolving, Bishop of Texas, organized the new congregation as a mission to be known as St. George's. Worship services were held in the homes of members until the spring of 1915. In that year, St. George's purchased and moved an Army recreation building to its new property at 314 10th Avenue North. Despite the destruction of its first church building in the 1915 Hurricane, the first recorded baptisms were held in September 1915, and Bishop Kinsolving confirmed the seven members in the first confirmation class in 1917. A new frame chapel, built on property at 10th Avenue and 4th Street, was completed about 1923. In 1940, St. George's became self-supporting and moved from mission to parish status. Within the next decade, the congregation experienced World War II, the 1947 Texas City explosion and the beginnings of a booming city economy. During the 1950s, the growing congregation constructed a new church building at this site, a rectory a few blocks east, a classroom and office wing, and a parish hall. Hurricane Carla in 1961 and a disastrous fire in 1983 caused much damage to the facilities, but the members of the congregation persevered to continue their mission and a variety of ministries, including worship, education, and community outreach, into the 21st century. (2003).

Texas City

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This community traces its origin to settlement by a few families along the bayshore in the mid-1800s. Completion in 1854 of the Half Moon Shoal Lighthouse, a Federal project near the present day Texas City Dike, hastened the formation of a village which in 1878 added a post office under the name Shoal Point. In 1891-1892 Minnesota investors chose Shoal Point as the future site of a port and industrial center and asked their friend Frank Davison to manage the venture. By the end of 1893 the town, renamed Texas City, had a hotel, railroad station, post office, and a 6-mile-long channel project underway. Despite delays created by the 1900 storm, an enlarged channel capable of receiving ocean going vessels was completed by 1905. Construction of a tank farm in 1920 initiated decades of oil refining and petrochemical industrial development. The city's rapid growth in the late 1930s and during World War Ii was briefly interrupted by the disastrous port explosions of 1947. Nevertheless, during the 1950s the city's population almost doubled to 32,000 people as the local economy responded to a surge in worldwide demand for oil by-products. By 1992 Texas City was Galveston County's largest mainland city.

Texas City Dike

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In early efforts to develop a major port here on Galveston Bay, Texas City capitalists, acting against the advice of engineers, dug a ship channel directly through and across the Bay's natural water line. As a result, currents carried silt into the man-made channel that required constant dredging to keep the waters navigable. To solve this problem, the Texas City Dike was designed to divert the flow of silt by deflecting the waters of Galveston Bay out to the Gulf of Mexico. With the help of civic leader Hugh B. Moore, funds for the dike's construction were authorized in the 1913 U.S. Rivers and Harbors Act. Under the direction of William Moore and Lt. Col. C. S Riche of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Galveston District, the dike was completed in 1915 at a cost of $1.4 million. Originally 28,200 feet in length, it was extended to its current 5.4 miles in 1934. Thus protected from the bay's tidal action and from excessive silting, the Texas City channel became a busy shipping lane, which led to significant economic growth for the community. In the latter part of the 20th century, the Texas City Dike became a prime recreational site in this part of Galveston County, boasting fishing piers, bait shops, boat launch sites, refreshment stands, and a marina.

The Texas City Disaster

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On April 16, 1947, three ships -the "Grandcamp", the "High Flyer", and the "Wilson B. Keene" - were docked in the Texas City port. They were loaded with cargo, including ammonium nitrate fertilizer, bound for Europe to assist in the Post-World War II recovery effort. At 8:33 a. m. the Texas City fire department responded to a call for assistance with a fire on the "Grandcamp". As smoke billowed from the ship, spectators gathered to watch. The "Grandcamp" exploded at 9:12 a. m. with a tremendous force that was felt for miles around. A second explosion came at 1:10 a. m. on April 17, when the "High Flyer's" cargo caught fire, destroying the "Wilson B. Keene" as well. More than 550 people, including 27 firemen, were killed; flying pieces of concrete, steel, and glass injured thousands more; resulting fires took days to extinguish. Response to the disaster came immediately, with the American Red Cross coordinating relief efforts. Far-reaching effects of the Texas City disaster included the implementation of safety standards and revised emergency medical treatment procedures. Citizens determined to rebuild. By 1950 few physical reminders of the disaster remained, although the event retains a prominent place in state and national history.

Texas City Memorial Cemetery

Texas City Terminal Railway Company

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Minnesota investors and brothers Jacob R. and Henry H. Myers and Augustus B. Wolvin formed the Texas City Improvement Co. in 1893 and developed a port facility and townsite here. By 1897 the company had built a rail spur line linking its port facilities with national railroad systems 4.5 miles inland. Wolvin acquired the company in 1898 and created the separate Texas City Company for the townsite and the Texas City Terminal company (TCT) for the railway and docks. He persuaded the U.S. Congress to fund dredging of the channel for ocean-going vessels by 1904 and to designate Texas City as a U.S. port of customs in 1905. TCT official Hugh B. Moore persuaded the Pierce-Fordyce oil refinery company to move to the port industrial area in 1908. He continued to attract oil companies, and by the 1920s oil and petroleum refined products made up over 80% of the tonnage handled at the port. The Texas City Terminal Railway Company provided Texas City its early water, electric, and sewage utility systems and established the community's first telephone, newspaper, and banking operations. Despite a catastrophic 1947 dock explosion, national recession, and hurricane damage in 1983, TCT continued to expand and upgrade its port and rail facilities.

Texas Sugar Refining Company

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The Texas City Transportation Company established the Texas Sugar Refining Company in 1910 to increase its profits by locating a sugar refinery at the Texas City port. A ten-acre tract on this site was chosen as early as 1910, but negotiations proceeded slowly. The refinery complex was designed by Eastwick Engineering. The Kirby Lumber Company of Houston supplied all lumber for the five million dollar project. Comprised of nine large buildings, the refinery employed three hundred and fifty people and produced one million pounds of "Diamond Star" granulated and powdered sugar daily. In 1926, the company signed a three-year contract with the American Sugar Company to refine and package sugar under the American Sugar label. Two years later, the Chicago Title and Trust Company filed suit against the Texas Sugar Refining Company for a three million dollar outstanding mortgage balance. This debt led the company into bankruptcy. The refinery was sold at public auction for two million dollars. In January 1929 the Texas Sugar Refining Company reorganized as the Texas Sugar Refining Corporation and returned to refining and marketing its own "Diamond Star" sugar. The corporation closed its operations in April 1932. The Texas Sugar Refining Company played a significant role in the early industrial development of Texas City and provided competition for the nearby Imperial Sugar Company. The refinery facilities were later acquired by the Monsanto Chemical Company and were virtually destroyed in the 1947 Texas City dock explosions. (1998)

Booker T. Washington School

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Public education for African American students in Texas City began in 1915. The Texas City Independent School District hired Mrs. J. R. McKellar to teach the students; classes were held in churches and lodge halls until 1937, when the district purchased this property and moved a one-story wooden building to the site. For many years, Booker T. Washington School offered instruction only through Grade 7, so students traveled to Galveston to complete their education. A brick schoolhouse constructed here in 1946-47 housed grades one through ten. In 1953, a high school building was added to the campus, and African American students could at last complete their high school education in Texas City. Extracurricular activities, including athletic and music programs, were important parts of student life. With the full integration of Texas City public schools in 1969, Booker T. Washington closed. It remains, however, a significant part of Texas City's 20th-century social and educational history. The campus has continued in use for a variety of community purposes, including facilities for The College of the Mainland in its initial years (1967-71), for Project Head Start (1974-89) and for the Calvin Vincent Learning Center (1996). (1997)

Wedell's Corner

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Site, childhood home of Jimmy (1900-1934) and Walter (1901-1935) Wedell - aviation pioneers. Jimmy designed, built, raced planes. With financier Harry Williams, operated early airline. At time of death in crash, Jimmy Wedell held world's land plane speed record. Walter died in a later air disaster.

U.S. Army Camp at Texas City

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An increasing number of disturbances along Texas' Rio Grande border after Civil War broke out in Mexico in 1910 prompted U.S. President William Taft to consider increasing the U.S. military presence in the area. Hugh B. Moore, Texas City Terminal Railway executive, and Augustus B. Wolvin, developer of Texas City's port and owner of a steam ship line, persuaded U.S. officials to establish an army camp in Texas City as a strategic point for possible troop movements into Mexico.

In March 1913 approximately 14,000 army personnel comprising three infantry brigades, one regiment each of cavalry and field artillery, one battalion of engineers, one signal corps company, one field bakery, one field hospital, and an aviation squadron set up camp here in an open field just north of town.

The army camp's air squadron was the first of its kind in the nation. Pilots of the eight aircraft located here set flight records for distance and speed, and entertained spectators with flying exhibitions.

A local economic boom brought on by the camp ended abruptly when a major hurricane destroyed the camp and damaged some buildings in Texas City in 1915. The camp was not restored and many of its personnel were later stationed along the Texas-Mexico border.

Engineer's Cottage

  • Location: Heritage Square, 100 block of 3rd Avenue, Texas City
  • Background: Built by the Texas City Improvement Company before 1895 and originally located at 206 2nd Avenue N The original inhabitant was a Texas City Improvement Company surveyor who was shot and killed over local resistance to TC Improvement Company activities.

McIlvaine Building

  • Location: 902 6th Street, Texas City
  • Background: Originally built as a hotel in 1913. Later used for offices and businesses, with some rooms rented for accommodation. Named for the original owner, R. E McIlvaine. Currently owned by the Contractor's Safety Council of Texas City, which occupies the premises, along with other businesses. The building was renovated and restored in 1995.

William Moore Home

  • Location: Heritage Square, 109 3rd Avenue N, Texas City
  • Background: Built in 1896 and originally located at 502 2nd Avenue, this home was owned by William Moore. The building passed through several hands until the 1980s, when it became vacant and began to deteriorate. After the building was condemned, the owner agreed to give the building to the Texas City Heritage Association, who had it moved to Heritage Square and renovated, with the cooperation of the City of Texas City.

Lee Dick Home

  • Location: Heritage Square, 109 3rd Avenue N, Texas City
  • Background: Built in 1907, and originally located on 6th Avenue and 14th Street. The house was owned by Lee Dick, a descendent of James Campbell, and his wife, Mable Parr Dick.

Texas City Museum

Located at 409 Sixth Street N within Texas City.


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