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Corpus Christi History
By Murphy Givens

Wednesday, Nov. 18, 1998

Ghost towns of the Coastal Bend


   Formerly thriving towns in the Coastal Bend disappeared. The railroads passed them by, or competing towns captured their trade, or their reasons for existence faded away with change and progress. Now they are little more than footnotes in our history.
    Aransas was on the southern end of St. Joseph's Island. It was one of the state's major ports in 1840. A ferry connected it with the mainland. The town was destroyed in the Union occupation of the island in 1862. It was rebuilt after the Civil War, but then was hit by a hurricane in 1875. After that, residents moved to Tarpon, which was renamed Port Aransas.
    Aransas City was founded on Live Oak Peninsula in 1837, near the south end of where the Copano Bay Causeway is today. It was one of the first ports of entry for the Texas Republic. It was raided several times by Comanches and Karankawas. Henry L. Kinney, founder of Corpus Christi, arrived at Aransas City in 1838. The state's first Texas customhouse was here, but not for long.
    Lookout Point, across Copano Bay, coveted Aransas City's trade. It changed its name to Lamar to ingratiate itself with Texas President Mirabeau B. Lamar and it worked. Lamar repaid the flattery by ordering the state's customhouse moved from Aransas City to Lamar. Aransas City went into decline while Lamar prospered. It had two salt works on St. Charles Bay. (The salt was produced by running seawater into pits; the water evaporated, leaving the salt.) Lamar was badly damaged by federal gunboats in 1864. An epidemic swept the town in 1878. There's still a Lamar community, but it never regained its former status.
    Copano, at the western end of Copano Bay, was a place used by pirates and smugglers, perhaps as far back as 1722. It played a major role in the Texas War of Independence. But the bay's shallow depth and the town's lack of drinking water caused it to decline. Its residents moved to Refugio.
    St. Mary's was Copano's rival. Longleaf pine from Florida used for building houses in South Texas came through St. Mary's port. St. Mary's languished when the railroad bypassed it and ended at Rockport. The town was leveled by storms in 1875 and '86, followed by a fire in 1891. Clara Driscoll (whose money saved the Alamo and who helped establish Driscoll Children's Hospital) was born at St. Mary's. Bayside includes part of old St. Mary's.
    San Patricio was founded in 1829 by empresarios James McGloin and John McMullen. The ancient fort of Lipantitlan was across the river two miles away. Many of the early citizens of Corpus Christi, which was founded much later, came from San Patricio, an old settlement that figures prominently in early Texas history.
    Ramirena was sited between San Patricio and Odem. It changed its name to Sharpsburg. S. G. Borden (not the Gail Borden of condensed-milk fame) built a store and operated a ferry there after the Civil War. Borden and his partner planted grapes and sold wine under the brand names "Sharpburg's Best" and "Rachal's Choice." Sharpsburg in the 1890s had a gristmill, blacksmith and wheelwright shops, and a population of 300. It declined when the railroad missed it by three miles.
    Nuecestown ("The Motts") was established in 1852 by H.L. Kinney. The town, 12 miles from Corpus Christi on the Nueces, in its bustling prime had a stagecoach inn, a ferry, a meat-packing plant, a cotton gin, a general store and one of the largest schools in Nueces County. The village is still remembered for the famous bandit raid in 1875, called the Nuecestown Raid or the Noakes Raid. It was the home of Thomas J. Noakes, whose store was burned in the raid. Like Sharpsburg, Nuecestown lost its businesses and citizens to Calallen.
    Newport, on Mustang Island near the old Corpus Christi Pass, was not really a ghost town; it was more like the ghost of a ghost. Newport was included in a survey ordered by President Sam Houston in 1836, but lay dormant until it was platted in 1911. No one ever lived there, but lots were sold and carried on the county's tax rolls. Another ghost of a ghost was the city of Grayson, surveyed in 1838 and shown on maps in 1841. This paper town was located in the area of North Port and West Broadway in what would later become the city of Corpus Christi.
    FORGET THAT OOPS: In an earlier column, I was taken to task for writing that Corpus Christi was once the county seat of San Patricio, but it looks as if I was right.
   Judge Max Bennett found a passage from the Laws of Texas (1822-1897), which says, under the heading of "To authorize the re-organization of the Counties of Refugio and San Patricio" that . . . "The town of Corpus Christi be, and the same is hereby declared, the county seat of San Patricio County." The act was approved on Jan. 18, 1845.
   

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  © 1998 Corpus Christi Caller Times, a Scripps Howard newspaper. All rights reserved.


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