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History of Galveston, Texas

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Galveston island was originally inhabited by members of the Karankawa and Akokisa American Indian tribes. The Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca was shipwrecked on the island in 1528 and Mexico designated Galveston a port of entry in 1825 and established a small customs house in 1830.. During the Texas Revolution, Galveston served as the port for the Texas Navy and as a seat of the Texas government. Michel B. Menard and a group of investors obtained ownership of 4,605 acres to found a town. After adopting the name Galveston, Menard and his associates began selling town lots on April 20, 1838.

About Galveston | Galveston History

Due to its excellent harbor Galveston became the largest port in Texas, with cotton being shipped out and farming supplies and immigrants being shipped in.  In 1860, a railroad line and bridge were built to connect Galveston to nearby Houston.  The Civil War blockade was a difficult period of time for the city and for a while it was occupied by Northern troop.  Galveston recovered quickly after the war and much of the reconstruction efforts of the state were shipped through its port.  Galveston was the largest city in Texas in 1870 and remained the fourth largest in 1900, when it was struck by a powerful hurricane that destroyed large portions of the city, killing an estimated 10,000 people.  

The city of Galveston has many firsts to its credit in Texas, it had the first structure to use electric lighting, the Galveston Pavilion; the first telephone; and the first baseball game in the state. The Galveston News, founded in 1842, is the state's oldest continuing daily newspaper. In 1881 the city won the site of the state medical school in a statewide election; and the Grand Opera House was built in 1894 and restored as a modern performing arts hall in the 1980s. Galveston is currently the number one cruise port on the Gulf Coast.

Galveston has been the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), a major teaching and indigent-care hospital which now encompasses 84 acres, since 1891. UTMB is the largest employer in Galveston County, creating over 15,000 jobs and bringing about $300 million into the local economy. The Shriners Hospital adjacent to UTMB is a 30-bed pediatric burn hospital providing comprehensive acute care and reconstructive and rehabilitative care to children who have been burned. American National Insurance Company, one of the larger life insurance companies in the United States, and Moody National Bank are headquartered in Galveston.

Galveston's historic downtown and abundant beaches are major tourist destinations. Man made attractions in Galveston include Moody Gardens, the Galveston Railroad Museum, Schlitterbahn, the Strand and the Lone Star Flight Museum. Galveston also has several historic ships on display: the Texas Seaport Museum is home to the tall ship Elissa and Seawolf Park on nearby Pelican Island is home to the submarine USS Cavalla and the destroyer escort USS Stewart, both WWII era ships.

Galveston has been featured in songs by such artists as Jimmy Buffet, Glen Campbell, ZZ Top, Austin Webber and Scott Clare, and Gene Autry. The pirate Jean Lafitte took up residence here after having been driven from his stronghold in Barataria Bay off the coast of New Orleans, Louisiana. Lafitte organized Galveston into a pirate "kingdom" he called "Campeche", anointing himself the island's "head of government." Lafitte remained in Galveston until driven off in 1821.

















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