Galveston, TX and Its History
The state of Texas is a large land with a large history. One of its cities with an especially rich history is the city of Galveston, TX. Perhaps it is so unique because of its slight isolation from the main state. The city is actually located on Galveston Island, which is a small barrier island close to the mainland (about 50 miles southwest of Houston) that sits in the Gulf Coast. It is small island with a dimension of about 27 miles long by 3 miles wide. Also linked to that island is Pelican Island, an even smaller section that is also part of the city.
Early History of Galveston, TX
Before explorers to the New World came over and colonized America, the area was inhabited by local Native American people. These people were members of the Akokisa and Karankawa tribes. They called the city Auia. The first European interaction with the city came in November of 1528. There was a Spanish explorer named Cabeza de Vaca who got shipwrecked on the island with his crew. Because of this shipwreck, they decided to call the island “Isla de Malhado” which translates to “Island of Bad Fate”. Later in 1785, another Spanish explorer, José de Evia arrived and renamed the island. He called it Villa Gálvez (also known as Gálveztown) after the Count of Gálvez in Madrid named Bernardo de Gálvez.
19th Century Development in Galveston
Interestingly enough, Galveston has an interesting historical connection with pirates. The first long-lasting settlements were created by the French pirate Louis-Michel Aury in approximately 1816. During this time, the Mexican War of Independence was raging on, and Aury created these settlements as a part of his efforts to help Mexico in its fight against Spanish rule. A year later, a different pirate named Jean Lafitte overtook the settlement from him and turned it into a pirate kingdom where he was the “governor”, which lasted until around 1823 when the pirates were forced out.
In 1825 Galveston become a port city under the Mexican Congress. In 1839 the city was incorporated into the Republic of Texas. Throughout the rest of the 19th century, the city continued to grow and become a busy port. As an island in the Gulf, it was an entry point for immigration and trade. During the American Civil War, the city served as the site for the Battle of Galveston in which Major General John B. Magruder led Confederate forces and pushed Union forces out of the area.
20th Century Significance
Galveston began the new century on a less than pleasant note. In 1900, the city endured a powerful hurricane that killed approximately 6,000-12,000 inhabitants. However, from the chaos of that natural disaster, the city made its mark on the country. During Prohibition, the city was a big attraction for tourists and gambling, and this period of the city continued until about the 1950's. Another interesting note is that during the second World War, the city’s airport served as a U.S. Army Air Corps base known as Galveston Army Air Field.
Today, Galveston is a strong center for shipping, healthcare, finance, and tourism. It is also a good city for education, as it hosts the medical branch campus for University of Texas, as well as a branch of Texas A&M.
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