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Port Aransas, Texas


The Islands and the Civil War.

Sometime right before or right after the start of the Civil War, the lens was taken out of the lantern room (the top of the tower) of the lighthouse and hidden in the vast marshlands somewhere behind the structure. This lighthouse was of utmost importance because it controlled the nighttime pass, whoever governed the light beacon, regulated the night time passageway. Without that light, the Union Ships could only transverse the treacherous pass in the daytime, thereby limiting the Union ship's movement in their blockade of the coastline So before the war, or right after it's upstart, the plan was set to remove the lens. The harbors in Corpus Christ, Rockport-St.Mary's, Copano Bay area and Mustang and St. Joseph's Islands were all supplying the Confederate Army with much needed beef, salt, seafood and cotton supplies for the troops fighting the North, and the Union was bent on stopping those shipments. Around November 1861, as expected the Union Navy started a campaign of coastal blockade. Then, marines off the navy vessel the U.S.S. Afton surged ashore on St. Joseph's Island and leveled the small town of Aransas, burning most of the houses, structures, warehouses, piers, docks and wharf sometime in February of 1862. The small town was all but wiped out, but remnants of it can still be found today when the area is searched well. Jurisdiction of the lighthouse traded back and forth between the Confederate and Union detachments throughout the war.


The next highlight of the war was when the Eighth Texas Infantry averted a union raid on Corpus Christi in August 1862. This was the first time the city had been bombarded by Union forces. Most citizens buried their precious goods and rushed out of town and a huge camp was set up west of the city. They camped for four days as they listened to the exploding bursts of cannon fire as the ships and a Southern battery did battle. The City of Corpus Christi was heavily bombarded before the Union fleet set sailed, but a land invasion was thwarted off by the Southern Forces. (About one month later, the commander of the barraging fleet, a Lt. J.W. Kittredge, was taken captive while he was rowing ashore at Flour Bluff, reportedly in search of cheese, buttermilk .and fresh eggs.)

Though the Lt. J. W. Kittredge, attempted the expropriation of Corpus Christi from the Southern forces, a Maj. Alfred M. Hobby and troops, sent the Union ships sailing away. By early that summer, southern civilians had forsaken the islands rather then be under the rule of the North. The United States Navy Vessels under J. W. Kittredge (before he was capture) besieged the coast, using St. Joseph's Island, and the few remaining structures as a depot to store captured cotton.

It was on Christmas Day of 1862 when a bold move was made by a Confederate General, John B. Magruder, who authored a detachment of troops to commence the ruination of the lighthouse tower. Gunpowder kegs were clustered inside the tower, and lit. It resulted in the damaging of 20-25 feet of brickwork, the glass housing case and the round stairwell.

The next significant stage in the war for this arena was on May 3, 1863, when Capt. Edwin E. Hobby's Confederate company assaulted the Union garrison set to protect the Lighthouse and killed twenty soldiers and then the 8th once again maintained a battery on Mustang Island and later in the month pushed Union forces off St. Joseph's Island. But this great victory wouldn't be long lived as the Union comprehended the significance of the pass, and in November federal troops under T. C. G. Robinson, came back and regained control of St. Joseph's Island. St. Mary's was a small port on Copano Bay, which had been a favorite haunt for local blockade runners and smugglers and was attacked as well, and its warehouses, docks, and wharves were demolished. Union troops again overran Mustang Island in the fall of 1863 as well and, controlling the pass. The city of Corpus Christi was twice bombed by Union gunships that flowed through the pass.

Mustang Island After the War.

After the war, and sustaining damage, restorations started in 1866 and early in 1867 workers arrived to repair the top portion of the damaged tower. On April 15, 1867 the light shined once again, guiding seafarers safely through the treacherous pass.

The then acting District Lighthouse Engineer M.F. Bonzano reported a winter storm that slowed the work: "During the progress of the repairs one of the severest 'Northers' ever experienced on the Texas coast occurred. The cold was so severe that frozen fish were hove ashore by the hundreds and birds of all sorts sought refuge in the tower and camp of the workmen where they perished in large numbers."

This Lighthouse was the last one reactivated into service along the Texas coast after the war.

Excerpt: (September 4-5th, 1874: A tropical cyclone originating in the Bay of Campeche on the 1st made landfall just south of the Rio Grande. It was the worst storm at Corpus Christi since the time it was known as Kinney's Rancho. A gale accompanied by rain increased towards the evening of the 4th. Bathhouses and wharves were beaten by the waves back into timber. Waves "mountainous high" rolled through the Bay. Heavy winds and rains continued until 3 PM on the 5th, when the eye passed overhead. Winds that evening increased out the south with greater force. Schooners were shoved inland, ramming houses and trees along their way. Water Street was wiped out of existence. Half the chickens in Corpus Christi met an untimely fate. (Ellis 27). The Brazos Santiago lighthouse, already in a rotting state, was completely leveled. The light keeper's wife met her fate in the storm (Cipra 204). Velasco, one of the oldest towns in Texas, was originally located at the Mouth of the Brazos River. Soon after its founding in 1821, population swelled. By the time of the Texas Revolution in 1835, over 25,000 people resided there. It briefly became the capital of the Republic of Texas around 1836.
National Weather Service)

Excerpt: (September 14-16th, 1875: A tropical storm was first sighted east of the Lesser Antilles on the 8th. It moved west through the Northern Caribbean, grazing the coasts of Haiti and Cuba along its way. The storm then progressed into the Gulf, striking San Jose Island, then crossing Copana Bay and moving inland. Several chickens roosting in the trees of Mustang Island during the storm perished.
National Weather Service)

The Mercer Docks as they were locally known then, where turned into a pile of wreckage during the 1875 Storm, but soon after, other docks would again be constructed to handle the cargo vessels.

Excerpt: (September 15-17th, 1877: Hurricane affected the entire Texas coast. In Galveston, winds were noted out of the east during the night of the 15th. By the 17th, tides had increased to 5.2 feet above mean low water. Winds increased to 60 mph at that time. High tides, though, were the main villain. A "fresh gale" at Mustang Island destroyed their wharf.
National Weather Service)

History of the "Life Saving Station" on Mustang Island.

It was in 1878, on a hot June 18th, when the "Life Saving Station" was officially established in Port Aransas by an act of Congress. 1 ½ acres of land was bought from the State of Texas for $750.00 by the federal government and this is the same site which the station stands on today. The "Life Saving Station" which as mentioned before was the forerunner of the Coast Guard initially included a dock that stretched from the boathouse into the channel. The boats were hauled onto rails, and pushed into the boathouse when not in use. Initially the small fleet of boats included: a 16 ft skiff, a 24 ft surf boat, a 26 ft whale boat and a 27 ft whale boat for rough surf.

Designated keeper in charge of the 8th District Station on Mustang Island was John G. Mercer. John Mercer, Robert's brother was also one of the local bar pilots, and was appointed sometime in September of 1880.

In January of 1915 the Coast Guard as we know it today was organized and the Life Saving Station here on Mustang Island changed to U.S. Coast Guard Station, Port Aransas, Texas. A little over a year and a half later, on August 18th, the 1916 hurricane pounded the vicinity killing at least twenty civilians. The again on September 14, the devastating 1919 struck, 284 people died, with approx. 20 million in property damage. Because of it's age and the furious hurricanes, a new building was erected by the end of 1924. The building remained as the station for many years, right across the street from the Tarpon Inn and also the grounds for years had the light beacon tower on it as well, to guide ships through the pass. The newest station was constructed in 1976 and is being expended this very day. Their are about 60-65 active duty personal stationed there, and with the Coast Guard now under the Department of Homeland Security, their duties have become ten fold.

In 1879 a quarantine installation was raised to fight the increase of livestock diseases that showed up by shipping. A Life Saving Station, which would become the Coast Guard years later, was also constructed in 1880. Then William and Ed Mercer built a general store on the island which opened in November of 1880. Next to the Island came a two-story building to house workers for the building the south jetty (Known then as the Mansfield Jetty). When the job was finished, the structure was converted into a hotel and known as the Tarpon Inn in 1886, a historical landmark to this very day, though rebuilt various times because of hurricanes. It was opened by Mary Hatfield and her son, Ed Cotter, hence the street in front of it being named Cotter St.

Excerpt: (Capt. Weeks 27 Dec 1883 Drowned in Gulf between Aransas and Caballo bars. Of the schooner Tilly Ida, body not recovered. 30 Dec 1883, p 5)

Excerpt: (Coleman Died at sea on wrecked schooner Juanita Julia. Buried on Mustang island where the schooner came ashore near Aransas Pass. 20 Apr 1884, p 5)

By 1885 the jetties, a breakwater and a mattress revetment pad along the Mustang Island side of the channel had slowed the erosion down, but the pass was still moving slow but steady southward. One was also layed on the northside of the pass on San Jose Island (as the locals took to calling the island) also, all to try to stop the movement of the pass southward.

Elihu Harrison Ropes, while visiting Galveston Island in 1887-88? was intrigued in the development of a deep water port on the Texas coast, and looked to Corpus Christi as being the state's first much needed deep-vessel port or call. After exploring Mustang Island, Ropes proclaimed a plan to excavate a channel through the island. To complete the venture, Ropes founded the 'Port Ropes Company'. Mr. Ropes then paid $25,000 for Mustang Island, purchased a dredge to dig the channel. It was in June of 1890 that Mr.Ropes launched the fruitless project to build a channel across the island to give the Port Corpus Christi a direct connection with the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn't long (by the end 1891) before the project was terminated by many problems.

Excerpt: (George W. Knott 15 Dec 1887 about 35y Fell off the wharf at the T-head and drowned. Was an Englishman, said to have been a man of means, was an officer in the English Army. Left a wife on Mustang Island. C.C. Times 17 Dec 1887, p 5.)

In 1888 the towns first official post office was established under the name Ropesville. This would be the first official name of what is now Port Aransas, but wouldn't last for long.

It was in 1890 when the Aransas Pass & Harbor Company, under government contracts, launched a major endeavor to deepen the channel through the pass and over the sandbar once and for all. The plan called for the construction of two brand new jetties. The plan failed to increase the depth of the channel. A another plan was put into action. It called for the blasting of the channel with thousands of pounds of dynamite, but to failed. The newest jetties, and shallow draft would have to stay as they were for the time being.

Excerpt: (Nellie Pinckney 22 May 1892 27 9y Drowned with the Tingstrom couple near the light house at Aransas Pass. May 1892, p 7)

Excerpt: (Mr. and Mrs. E. Tingstrom 22 May 1892 Drowned near lighthouse at Aransas Pass. Article describes incident. Also drowned with them, Nellie Pinckney, 9 years old. 27 May 1892, p 7)

Excerpt: (Theodore Elio 9 Jul 1893 about 40y Accidentally shot himself with a Winchester rifle, pulled it to him muzzle first. Incident took place on board a schooner "at Lewis' shipyard at Mustang Island. Elio was a native of Greece, had lived in CC about 5 years and was a fisherman. 14 Jul 1893, p 6)

In 1896 the name would changed to Tarpon because of the abundant game fish that filled the waters around it. The population at that time was about 250. The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 called for the elimination of the old Mansfield jetty "south jetty". After many problems, and much trouble the project was finished by 1911 while this was still going on, and after several private and government endeavors couldn't to get a deepwater pass between Mustang and St. Joseph islands, the United States Army Corps of Engineers took over the project in 1907, and was granted to build a new south "Nelson" jetty and to unite the "Haupt jetty" to St. Joseph Island that same year.

A firm in Rockport, The D. M. Picton Company was set to contracted to do the jetty work. Picton and J. P. Nelson started with the building of a railroad to carry the granite blocks that were to be used on the jetties. The railroad was constructed a series of man-made islands joined by the trestles, and it ended at Morris and Cummins Cut, a some of 3½ miles from the town of Aransas Pass. Rock for the jetties was brought into the town of Aransas Pass by the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway and then onto the Old Terminal Railway. At the end of the line, ar Morris and Cummins Cut, the rock was then unloaded and then loaded onto huge barges to make the short voyage to the jetty construction site. Old-timers long passed now, referred to this first rail-line as the "Old Terminal Railway" to differentiate it from a new line built later, that extended all the way to Harbor Island.

Excerpt: (August 29th, 1895: Hurricane moves through Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico before making landfall 80 miles south of Rio Grande on August 29th. The town of Abasola in Mexico was completely washed away. The nearby town of Rodriguez no longer has a house standing. Corpus Christi saw 75 mph winds; trees and houses were leveled. Rockport has a severe gale set in for 36 hours, building high tides not seen since 1883. Velasco experienced winds of 40-50 mph, heavy rain, and storm surges up to 4 feet. The tide was high enough in Galveston to flood several blocks of the city.
National Weather Service)

Mr. Frank Stephenson was the designated lighthouse keeper in 1897. He and his wife had a daughter, named Lydia Ann, whose namesake the lighthouse, immediate island and the channel (now part of the inter-coastal waterway) that runs in front of the lighthouse, are named after.

Excerpt: (Grant Capt. James 8 Nov 1900 76y Died in CC, of cancer. Native of Halifax, Nova Scotia. "Capt. Grant came to Texas in his early days. During the war between the states he was pilot at Brazos Santiago, when he married Mary Hayes. In 1868 he moved to Nueces county, settling on Mustang island and engaging in the cattle and sheep raising business, which he continued the rest of his life. He leaves to mourn his death two daughters and four sons - his wife having passed away on February 11, 1899, viz: Mrs. Andrew Anderson and Miss Maggie Grant, and Messrs. William, James, John and Ed. Grant. The funeral took place this afternoon at 3:30 o'clock from the residence of Capt. Anderson on Water street, the obsequies being held at the Catholic church. The remains were laid by the side of those of his wife in the old Bay View cemetery." 9 Nov 1900, p 5 )

Excerpt: ( Mary Grant 12 Feb 1899 69y Wife of Capt. James Grant. Died in CC at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Andrew Anderson, after a long and painful illness. Native of New Orleans. Resided on Mustang Island for many years. Another daughter: Maggie Grant. Also had 4 Sons, William, James, John, Edward. Buried in Bay View cemetery the same day she died. 17 Feb 1899, p 4)

The town once known as Sand Point, Star, Ropesville and now Trapon was doing considerable traffic in the sea turtle export, by the 20th century, shipped on their backs, live, to market, they would arrive fresh for the much raved about meat. Net fishing too had become a viable enterprise and a school, the Mustang Island School, was instituted around 1900.

Excerpt: (Geo. S. Wentworth 1 Mar 1902: Justice Joseph Dunn returned last night via Rockport from Tarpon, where he went last Monday to hold an inquest on the body of Geo. S. Wentworth. De- ceased, it appears, took his own life at Tarpon, on the head of Mustang Island, last Saturday night, and was buried there Monday. The testimony of J. R. Cotter, taken at the inquest, was that deceased had boarded at his hotel for seven months; that he had left the hotel last Saturday night about 8 o'clock for his room in a house about twenty yards distant; that deceased seldom came to breakfast, she he was not sent for till 1:30 p.m. Sunday, when he was found dead on his cot, with a chair close by on which was a glass with some liquid in it; a label pasted on the glass read 'poison'. "Capt. Edward White… testified that he had known the deceased about nine months; that on the 25th of February deceased handed him a letter, with a grip, instructing him not to open the letter until he had left and failed to call; that deceased left a trunk and some clothing. Capt. White says he understood deceased was going away before long, but postponed the time; that he couldn't understand what deceased meant by not opening that letter until he had gone." The letter ended with the postscript: "If anyone feels curious, you may tell them I said lack of money and no particular reason for living any longer." 7 Mar 1902, p 4 43y)

Excerpt: ( The Great Galveston Hurricane - The Last and Worst Hurricane of the 19th Century . . . Mustang Island also saw many bodies litter the beach. Corpus Christi had a stiff northeast breeze and exceptional fishing. In Flour Bluff Harbor, millions of red, trout, and mullet infested the waters, avoiding the hurricane. Local residents feasted on tarpon and helped Galveston with over $1000 being raised for food and clothing. After the storm moved inland, it accelerated north to the Great Lakes, still carrying 70 mph winds. It then moved across Canada, the North Atlantic, and Northern Europe before finally dying in Siberia.
National Weather Service)

Citizens began calling their town Port Aransas about 1910.


Excerpt: (October 16th, 1912: Winds of 55 mph howled through Brownsville as a hurricane made landfall between there and Corpus Christi. Heavy rain was accompanied with the storm. The steamship Nicaragua was wrecked 80 miles down Padre Island. Two of the ship's boilers can still be seen there.
National Weather Service)

Excerpt: (June 27th-July 3rd, 1913: Greenville saw a flash flood associated with a hurricane that originally made landfall near Corpus Christi. Montell in Uvalde County received 20.6" of rain in 19 hours. The flood peaked at 4 PM on the 27th, reaching as high as 3 to 4 feet inside area homes. The storm surge was 12.7' at Galveston. Over $1 million in damages occurred. National Weather Service)

The Inn in 1913
Note Cotter St. in front of the Inn at the time, nothing more then a sandy path and yes, that is the approximate location of what is now the intersection of Cotter and Trout St.

Post Aransas During World War I Era: 1914-1918.

Port-Aransas Excerpt: (The Coastal Bend had felt protected from the worst hurricanes in its early history. Corpus Christi, with its high bluff and the protective barrier island, felt particularly secure. Quickly forgetting what happened there in 1874, local newspapers in 1886 referred to Corpus Christi as "the only really safe place on the Texas coast." An article in 1909 continued to sing praises as "the oldest inhabitants cannot recall a storm of sufficient severity to alarm even a timid woman" and "nine-tenths of the area of Corpus Christi is on a bluff 30 feet high, probably the safest point in saltwater America," or so they thought.
August 18th, 1916: On the 12th, a storm formed east of the Windward Islands and progressed through the Caribbean and the Gulf with an unusually rapid speed. During the morning, the Corpus Christi Weather Bureau Office warned it would strike between there and Brownsville. An evacuation was ordered by the Mayor. Refugees fled to sturdy buildings away from the waterfront.
It reached the coast near Corpus Christi on the 18th; the winds were very destructive but the storm moved too rapidly to form an excessive surge. At 3 PM, winds increased to 50 mph and debris was flying. At 6:30 P.M., wind instruments at Corpus Christi were destroyed; the 5- minute maximum sustained winds were 90 m.p.h., lowest pressure 29.07". Winds subsided by 1 am.
The storm surge demolished many boats and every pier in the Bay. Most of the damage was below the bluff. Downed power lines were everywhere. At the Aransas Pass lighthouse, the keeper's dwelling and all outhouses fell victim. Only 20 people died and damages were near 1.8 million dollars. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times two days later ran the headline "CORPUS CHRISTI DEFIES TROPICAL HURRICANE". This would prove to be short lived.

National Weather Service)

A distress call once again occurred at the Lighthouse. The immense hurricane of 1916 clashed impetuously into it, leaving only the tower and part of the living quarters erect, and with much damage. The storm totaled the surrounding building, and removed them from the island by it's might winds, taking them to an unknown destination. The top of the tower as well, had extensive damage done to it, and was out for sometime, leaving seafarers to wait till daylight hours, or chance the pass at night without the beacon to guide them through unscathed.

Port A old days A Model-T Ford truck was converted into a small train engine, and a railway passenger line was provided to transport people to Port Aransas, which was raved over the old way, by boat. It was opened during WW I and ran from the mainland to the south end of Harbor Island. Old Rails and Train to Port A This of course was a hard pressed way to travel and the Island was still pretty much left to the most hardy to live and even to visit. It was still at the end of the line and to some degree even remains so to this very day. If you look close at the picture of the train, you'll see how they loaded up your car onto the flatbed rail cars, then carried them the 7 or so miles to what is now known as Cummings Cut, where the Ferry Land use to be years ago.

Post Aransas and Prohibition 1918-1933

By 1919 the south jetty had been completed to 7,385 feet and the Haupt jetty to 9,241 feet, and the channel began to deepen. The south jetty plunges out further into the gulf, though the north or "St. Jose jetty" is longer because the north jetty runs along the channel face of St. Jose Island, setting it back farther toward the mainland.

Soon the tiny railroad started transporting automobiles on flatcars to Harbor Island, from there they went to Mustang Island by ferryboat. Later wood planks were placed inside the rails, and a little wooded railway road was made for cars to drive to Harbor Island as long as the train wasn't coming at the same time.

Port Aransas-Harbor Island Causway 1903

At the very entrance of prohibition, Mustang Island and Port Aransas became a hideaway for whiskey and rum runners. The barrier Islands being on the outskirts of the coast and so close to Mexico made it ideal for the smugglers, and with little to no local law enforcement, the back bays and inlets made fantastic hideouts for those willing to take a chance on the lucrative enterprise.

Port-Aransas 1939 Ransom Island, in Redfish bay was also a well known gambling and beer peddlers paradise. Fishing, tourism, seafood export and miles of now freely accessible beach front were also inciting adventures to those willing to chance the journey and hardships that came along with the pristine fresh gulf air and always exciting environment. Wild game was still abundant, with deer, hog, ducks, geese and other equitable tablefare ready for those willing to live on the barrier island. Small campsites where set about the Island, a local part of the town nicked ragtown was erect, known for it's less then savory people, most of whom it is said had dealings with smugglers. Docks and small shops started to be constructed and the outlook for the small town was favorable and one could almost live off the land still to this time.

Excerpt: (1919: A severe hurricane formed just east of the Virgin Islands on the 1st of September. It gained much of its strength between Santo Domingo and the Central Bahamas, one of the favored areas for major hurricane development. The pressure at Key West fell to 28.81" as the storm passed by on the 9-10th; gales were experienced for 26 1/2 hours due to the storm's slow movement. The Sand Key Weather Bureau station was abandoned at 1 P.M. on the 9th. The anemometer was blown away as winds passed 84 m.p.h. and the pressure fell to 28.35" at midnight.
As it moved over the Dry Tortugas on the 10th, the pressure had dived to 27.51"...a nearby ship reported a pressure of 27.36". Ten vessels were lost in the Florida Straits, among them included a ship with 488 people on board. Gales began along the entire Gulf coast, yet the Weather Bureau had difficulty keeping track of it due to very few ship reports. Storm warnings were hoisted on the 11th for the state. Fish invaded the Corpus Christi Bay that day. On the 12th, a ship about 300 miles south of New Orleans reported a pressure of 27.50"...and Galveston already had a storm surge of 8.8 feet!
Rumors began to spread that the hurricane made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, which caused the dropping of the storm warnings. Even as the Bay became frothy early on the 14th, their Weather Bureau advised it would be smaller than the 1916 hurricane, and winds would only be 40 mph. Soon after though, hurricane flags were back up.
By September 14th, the storm moved inland 25 miles south of Corpus Christi while the storm continued its slow forward trek, putting the city in the dreaded right-front quadrant of the storm, where the highest winds and storm surges normally occur. Corpus Christi's number was finally up. Winds of 110 mph and a pressure of 28.65" were noted. Storm surge at Corpus Christi was 16 feet. Timbers from the docks at Port Aransas became battering rams, destroying buildings. Residents on North Beach took an 18 hour trip across Nueces Bay, but this was no pleasure cruise. They clung to whatever they could find and battled the 10 foot waves.
After the storm, the beaches were littered with debris and bodies. Many were quickly buried in mass graves near White Point. Over 300 people died. Damage estimates were at 20 million dollars. During the storm's life, Miami, Burrwood in Louisiana, and Galveston all reported winds at least as high as 60 m.p.h., indicating this system's large size. Aftermath of the storm led to a breakwater in 1925, and ultimately to their seawall by 1940.
National Weather Service)

The hurricane of 1919 practically wiped out Port Aransas except for a very few fortunate buildings. The docks, wharf and warehouses were now on the mainland, and the whole of the island was flooded and infested with rattlesnakes seeking some kind of high ground. The rebuilding would be hard and long, as most towns in the region were bestowed the same fate, materials would become increasing hard to find and transport as well, so many would not return.

Port Aransas Tarpon Inn

The Tarpon Inn rebuilt after the 1919 storm. Note that Cotter St. no longer ran infront of the Inn after the Storm for awhile, no doubt washed away by the storms.

A Census taken in 1925 showed a firmly committed 250 people living on the Island.

Port Aransas and the Depression. 1929

In 1928 the Lighthouse Service installed a radio beacon at the station and in the process erected a small wooden radio shack and a steel skeleton tower.


Censuses show a firm population of 300 by 1931. A toll road was also opened in 1931 between the town of Aransas Pass and the Ferry Landing. You no longer had to buy a ticket, load your car onto a flatbed or by a ticket and use the wooded planks inside the rails when the train wasn't on a scheduled run. You could now just pay a toll and drive on a wooded plank structure built next to the rail tracks. Once the railroad closed in 1947, it was used only to traffic automobiles until 1960, when the state built a new and modern road to Harbor Island and the ferry landing.

Port-Aransas 1939

Excerpt: (September 4-5th, 1933: The 11th storm of the season was stronger and struck the furthest north. It passed over Turks Island in the Bahamas with a pressure of 27.47" on August 30th. Havana saw winds reaching 94 m.p.h. on late afternoon of September 1st. The next day, in the east central Gulf, a ship reported a pressure of 27.99". During the night of the 4/5th, it moved inland just north of Brownsville. The pressure fell to 28.02" at 1 am on the 5th with winds estimated at 80 m.p.h. in the city.
A 13' storm surge flooded areas near Brownsville, with high tides occurring along the entire Texas coast. The Don Patricio causeway from Flour Bluff to Padre Island was destroyed. All dunes on South Padre Island were leveled. Over 40 cuts were made in that area, which was then abandoned until after World War II. For a picture of flooding in Corpus Christi with this storm, There were 40 people killed and 12 million dollars of damage to property.
National Weather Service)

1933: The 21st Amendment repeals prohibition amendment and smuggling activities around the pass soon subside.

Barney Farley's Bait and Tackle House. Barney Farley was an excellent fishing guide and boat builder, and one of the very first "catch and release unless you're going to eat" conservationist to speak out, in both Texas and the United States as a whole. Part of his story is online and his book, via his great-grandson "Barney Farley III" and family can be found HERE Small replica boats that serve as flower planters can be seen throughout the Island as tribute to Barney's legacy. Many of His decedents still live or visit the Island. Also when president "FDR" visited Port Aransas and Sidney Richardson's ranch house on St. Joseph's Island has been preserved in the annuals of time as well and a search should begin HERE

Barney Farley and Don Farley with FDR and son.

In this photo President Franklin D. Roosevelt is seated, holding a fishing rod, as Barney Farley and the Presidents son, Elliot hold up the tarpon off the jetties. Standing in the bow of the 24 foot Farley built boat is a secret service guy with a coast guard serviceman as well. Don Farley is at the helm. In this next photo, Don Farley is shown at Barney's Place with a huge tarpon that were common in the waters of the day, but were almost fished out completely in the late 50's and 60's, and are just now making a good come back.

Don Farley with huge tarpon. In this next photo, Don Farley is shown at Barney's Place with a huge tarpon that were common in the waters of the day, but were almost fished out completely in the late 50's and 60's, and are just now making a good come back. The Tarpon is still protected "catch and release only" and is not known as very good table fare anyway.

Sept. 20, 1999
Recent Catch Shows Potential For Texas Tarpon
AUSTIN, Texas — Hooking a tarpon is somewhat like grabbing hold of a runaway train. The ride doesn't stop until you run out of track.
Heralded for their awe-inspiring jumps and tenacious power, tarpon are the stuff from which fish tales are spun. Although they may not be as prominent a game fish in Texas as they were during the first half of the century, a recent catch illustrates the "silver king" is still running.
Biologists at TPW's Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station in Palacios, along with other marine scientists at Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Universidad Technologico de Victoria in Tamaulipas, Mexico, are studying the life history, ecology, and genetics of tarpon. Biologists, guides and anglers around the world have been cooperating in the study; pulling scales for DNA analyses and tagging released fish.
"The objective of this program is to define the stock of tarpon on the Texas coast," said Colura. "We hope to determine if Texas tarpon live only in Texas waters or migrate and if so where. Tarpon have been found up and down the Texas coast for many years. The fish is increasingly popular among sport fishermen in Texas and many of the guides are reporting fish weighing more than 100 pounds.
The rest of this article can be found HERE

Excerpt: (1934: The third storm of the season formed off the North Carolina coast on July 21st. It then moved south and southwest across Florida into the eastern Gulf...a move only 1 other cyclone on record has ever matched. It then developed rapidly south of Louisiana on the 24th and struck just north of Corpus Christi (Rockport) on the 25th as a minimal hurricane. Winds at Corpus Christi gusted to 56 mph as the pressure fell to 29.12". Rockport saw the pressure bottom out at 28.79". St. Joseph's Island had a 10.2' storm surge.. Damage estimates were near 1.5 million dollars and 19 deaths occurred in Texas with this storm.
National Weather Service)

The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip was a three-month, 6,500 mile trip through the Southern United States. Beginning in Port Aransas, Texas, on March 31, 1939, and ending at the Library of Congress on June 14, 1939. The recordings and filings can be examined HERE

Port-Aransas in 1936

Excerpt: (June 27th, 1936: During the night of the 26/27th, a hurricane of very small diameter formed in the Western Gulf. It struck Port Aransas shortly before noon on the 27th. It came virtually without warning. After a clear night, a few clouds moved into Corpus Christi at 12:40 am. The clouds thickened and covered the sky by 1:30. Rain began at 3 am. Squalls buffeted the area until 7, when the eye began to go overhead. Winds resumed at 8:11. Gusts to 55 mph occurred at Corpus Christi. The Coast Guard Cutter Woodbury measured a pressure of 29.23".
At Ingleside, winds gusted to 90 mph. This destroyed cooling towers at the Humble Oil Refinery. Camps and lodges were destroyed at Aransas Pass and Port Aransas, where winds of 80 mph blew through. Houses were damaged badly in Rockport. Crops were severely damaged west northwest to Gregory and Sinton. Corn was practically destroyed and cotton was damaged. Small fishing boats and pleasure craft were sunk or driven ashore. Port Aransas measured a 3.8' tide. Damage amounted to $550 thousand. No loss of life occurred.
National Weather Service)

Port-Aransas about 1940


Port-Aransas 1941

The flats in Port Aransas in 1941, showing Tarpon Inn and the Old Coast Guard Station

Port Aransas and W.W. II


During WW II, an artillery gun turret was erected by the army and maintained throughout the war, on a hight dune just off Cotter St. acorss from the UT campus, and is now part of the UT properties. It was placed to protect the pass from reported sightings of German U-boats. Blackouts where called on all the Island during nighttime hours, no fires on the beach or car lights, and house widows couldn't show light either and had to be covered with heavy curtains, blankets or wood.

Port-Aransas 1943

Excerpt: (August 26-27th, 1945: An intense hurricane struck Matagorda. It was the worst along the Lower Coast since the September 1933 hurricane. Two-thirds of the Texas coast saw winds of hurricane force. Winds were in excess of 100 mph from Port Aransas to Port O'Connor. The highest gust was 135 mph at Collegeport. The pressure fell to 28.57" at Palacios.
Tides were as high as 15.0 feet at Port Lavaca. Rainfall amounts of 30" were seen along sections of the coast. A tornado 8 miles north-northeast of Houston killed one. Heavy damage was seen across Nueces, San Patricio, Aransas, Calhoun, Matagorda, and Wharton counties. Severe crop and livestock losses were suffered along nearly all Middle and Upper Texas coast locations. Three were killed; damage estimates were near $20.1 million.
National Weather Service)

Port-Aransas Political Ad

The Inn in the 40's
The Tarpon Inn, and Port Aransas once again see a surge in Island activities.
The Inn in the 40's

Port Aransas After the war.

The Lighthouse Station includes several historically significant buildings dating from 1857 to 1938. These buildings brandish the history of the second oldest surviving lighthouse on the Texas Coast. The Lydia Ann Channel Lighthouse was deactivated in 1952 after a major channel shift left the station a mile from the channel entrance. To better mark Aransas Pass, a new light was established in 1952 at the Port Aransas Coast Guard Station, and the Aransas Pass Lighthouse was deactivated, just a few years shy of a century of service.

HERE is a link to the Texas Highway Dept. on the taking over of the causeway to Port Aransas, and the building of the intercoastal waterway bridge right after you leave Aransas Pass, Tx. Please note that if you click on the article, it will enlarge and also there are two pages to this article, so don't miss the second one.

Excerpt: (September 5-7th, 1955 (Gladys): Gladys struck 140 miles south of Brownsville as a category 1 hurricane on the 5th. The rainfall total at Flour Bluff was 17.02". Corpus Christi saw 7.6" of rain in 24 hours. Tides rose to 4.5'. A circulation center rotating around the eastern periphery of the storm moved onshore on the 7th south of Baffin Bay. Locals to the area named it "Glasscock", after the oil platform 15 miles east of Port Aransas that recorded winds of 83 mph. Winds of 60 mph were seen at Flour Bluff. Damage was confined to the coast.
National Weather Service)

Port-Aransas Ferry Deck

THIS SECTION IS STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION, if you would like to contribute please e-mail all info at e-mail provided herein. We would like to have more info on the Farley family, Mathews, Dryer, Willey, Olsen, Gibbs and loads of others as well. Old photos of the Island Food Store, Newport hotel before it burnt down, Cody's on the beach, The Dunes restaurant and bar, Shorty's, etc etc etc.

ALSO I'm sure there are going to be pics sent and have already been sent from online sources that may have a copyright to them, if you own any pictures posted on this site, and do not wish for them to be there, please contact us at the e-mail provided.

So please don't send us anything that isn't permitted by copyright permission and if anyone notes something, that is on this page, that is unlawful by copyright laws, please let us know.

Excerpt: (September 14th, 1961 (Carla): No list of Texas hurricanes would be complete without the mention of Carla, which made landfall near Port Lavaca. Carla was among the largest hurricanes of historical record (number 2 behind the Great New England Hurricane of 1938). The storm produced many tornadoes, gusts estimated to 175 m.p.h., torrential rains, and a 22 foot storm surge at Port O'Connor. Hurricane force gusts were seen along almost the entire Texas Coast. Winds gusted to 86 mph at Corpus Christi. Her path of devastation inland extended from Victoria to Dallas. The death toll of only 34 in Texas can be attributed in part to what was the largest peace time evacuation of an area in history. A quarter million people fled the middle and upper Texas coasts to move inland to safety.
Twenty-six tornadoes were spawned, one of which tore apart 120 buildings and killed 6 in Galveston. Structures outside the seawall were severely damaged by the storm surge. Texas city saw 90% of its homes flooded. Surfside, near Freeport, saw extensive damage. The trail of destruction extended south to Point Isabel, where 4-5 foot storm surges were seen. Port O'Connor was 75% wiped out.
The Matagorda Island Air Force Base was virtually swept away. Damage there totaled $18 million. In Jefferson County, 180 miles from the landfalling storm, $17.5 million in damage occurred, with $14 million of it water damage. Rain totaled 19" at Votan. Three to four feet of water flooded Port Arthur. The only injuries reported there were due to snake bites. Total damages were estimated near $400 million.
National Weather Service)


Port-Aransas 1970

Excerpt: (August 3rd, 1970 (Celia): Hurricane Celia hit Corpus Christi. The system was spawned by a tropical depression which formed in the Northwest Caribbean on July 30th and moved on a west-northwest heading. Celia became a hurricane on the 1st of August, when centered about midway between Tampa, FL and Merida, MX. Evacuations of the upper Texas coast began at 11 am on the 2nd and hurricane warnings were extended southward to Corpus Christi at 5 am on the 3rd.
Celia made landfall between Corpus Christi and Port Aransas by 3 P.M. and moved across Mathis, Fowlerton, Cotulla, Eagle Pass, and Del Rio. Gusts estimated to 180 m.p.h. blew down the anemometer at Aransas Pass. Corpus Christi reported sustained winds of 125 m.p.h. with gusts to 161 m.p.h. occurring at 5:38 P.M. on the 3rd. Damage reached $1 million in Del Rio as winds gusted to 89 m.p.h.. Robstown measured 7.24" of rain, while Aransas Pass reported 6.5" of rain, and Corpus Christi had 6.38". Three tornadoes were spawned by the hurricane. The remains of Celia drifted into Southern New Mexico by the 5th.
A storm surge of 9.2 feet was seen at Port Aransas Beach. An oil derrick designed to withstand 175 mph winds was blown away at Robstown. Lowest station pressure recorded on land was 27.89" at 4:45 P.M. in Ingleside. Damages totaled $500 million, most due to high winds. This is quite unusual considering storm surge is the greatest source of damage from a major hurricane. Four died in the storm.
National Weather Service)

MURDER in Paradise U.S, Coast Guard Seaman Apprentice Duncan Hugh Poirier stationed in Port Aransas would leave the station for a part-time civilian job at a local motel and never return. Two individuals exploring the back dunes of Padre Island would come onto a most ghastly sight on the tenth of January. The decaying and half eaten body of Seamen Poirier. The remains were face down in the sand dunes approximately 400-450 yards back from the dune vegetation line. His skin and flesh had been ripped from the bones by plundering coyotes, apart from the feet, which still had the boots on. His right arm and hand were totally gone, more then likely ripped off by coyotes or wild dogs, and were never found. The skull was shattered as if by a shotgun blast. Signs also indicated a struggle was attempted by Poirier in defense of his life.

Later, that same day, the main suspect, a seamen serving with Poirier was charged with the murder, as the investigation findings showed dealings with shady characters, homosexuals, bikers and drug dealings. None of which the deceased was believed to have taken a part in. The seamen was by accident let loose of the Armed Services and without even going to trial, was charged in the deaths of two men in New Orleans and was found to be mentally insane and not able to stand trial on any of the charges against him, and believed to still be in a mental care unit.

MURDER in Paradise On Monday, June 6 of 1972, two local fishermen found an adult male body washing back and forth through the surf. It was badly torn, cut, decomposing and was weighed down with a chain and concrete block. After a lengthy investigation by the local police dept, the Sheriff's dept, the Texas Rangers and the FBI, the body was identified as that of George Randolph "Randy" Farenthold, one of Corpus Christi's and Port Aransas favorite playboy millionaires. His grandfather, Rand Morgan, was of of the richest and leading industralist of the region, and had left Randy with a substantial amount of money. (Rand Morgan Rd. in Corpus Christ is a namesake of his.) After years of investigation, and as many twists and turns as any suspense novel, it was revealed that Randy was murdered by Bruce Bass of Corpus Christi, and other Mafia associates after a treasury bond scheme went awry and Randy had agreed to testify against them all.

This is an excerpt from a The City of Waco's local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald.

Nethaway: Those who wouldn't budge
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Rowland Nethaway Senior editor

Why many Gulf Coast residents couldn't bear to walk away

Years ago, my favorite bar was a ramshackle joint called Shorty's on Mustang Island, a short ferry ride off the Texas mainland.

Shorty's was located in what might be described as the heart of Port Aransas, not far from the small community's only streetlight.

Port Aransas now has high-priced condos and upscale hotels. Shorty's would be judged on the lower end of the “improvements” scale back when Port Aransas had no high end.

What attracted shrimpers, weekend fishermen, artists and college students to Shorty's was Shorty.

Shorty was short. She owned and ran the bar. She was loud, brassy, jovial and a darned good washtub player.

Her husband, whose name I've forgotten, played the piano in the informal no-name band that kept the joint jumping every weekend and whenever the spirit moved enough musicians to crank things up. He played only the black keys on an old upright piano shoved up against one wall.

One time I asked Mr. Shorty why he only played the black keys. He said he didn't know. He just liked black keys more than white keys. Since running the bar was his wife's business, he grew vegetables somewhere over on the mainland. He occasionally had good, fresh vegetables for sale.

Other members of the band included anyone who showed up with an instrument and wanted to play. The music was as diverse as the musicians and the customers willing to pack themselves into the small un-airconditioned beer joint.

When the Coast Guard warned that a big hurricane was heading toward the Texas coast and might score a direct hit on Port Aransas, most people headed inland.

Shorty said she wasn't leaving. She survived other hurricanes and she figured she would survive this one. Besides, she said she had to look after her property.

Shorty was killed inside her bar when the hurricane reduced her building to kindling. She didn't have much, but it was hers. She just couldn't bring herself to abandon all she owned.

In New Orleans, most people headed inland as soon as they learned that Hurricane Katrina was coming in their direction. Many others would have fled the hurricane if they had the money and the transportation needed to get out of the city.

Others, like Shorty, decided to play the odds and protect their property. I can understand how they arrived at such a decision.

Many people have survived hurricanes. And many people would not risk losing their belongings unless they were confident that their only choice was between their lives and their property.

These are not bad people with misplaced priorities. Everyone has a different risk threshold. People who are naturally risk-averse think risk-takers are fools. People who require risks to balance their chemistry have an equally ungenerous assessment of their risk-averse friends.

Generally, the people heard saying that possessions are meaningless and that it is always possible to get more stuff are people who just lost everything they own. What else could they say?

Life is more precious than material goods. That's a given. But no one wants to lose everything they have saved, collected, created, worked for and cherished.

Our stuff is our memories. It is our identity. It is what separates us from everyone else. This stuff is my stuff; it is not your stuff. Without our stuff, we would be destitute.

Many thousands of New Orleans citizens are destitute. They lost everything they own. An admirable ingredient of human nature is the ability to commiserate with fellow citizens who find themselves destitute through no fault of their own.

Unfortunately, less noble components in human nature lead some people to take advantage of tragedies. The people in New Orleans who chose to stay in their homes to protect their possessions from the twin perils of nature and human nature remind me of Shorty.
Rowland Nethaway's column appears Wednesday and Friday. E-mail:

I had sent Mr.Nethaway a email correcting him on some of his mistakes on the matter, then came across this, for the Corpus Christi Caller Times Newspaper. Now let us hear from the family, I know Joy, one of the dearest people one will ever met, as is Ms.Rose.

My view: Joy George
Writer wrong about Shorty
By Joy George: September 26, 2005

PORT ARANSAS - Why would Rowland Nethaway, senior editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald, choose to write about something of which he knew nothing? His facts were consistently wrong in his column ("Shorty felt the same as some in New Orleans," Viewpoints Page, Sept. 16).

First, Shorty never played the washtub. That was her friend, Buttercup, and her husband Bob. They did not live in Port Aransas

Second, my grandfather, Shorty's husband, Mack, never played the piano. He played the fiddle, very well I might add. And he was never referred to as Mr. Shorty!

Third, Bob played the piano and he played all the keys, not just the black ones.

Fourth, Mack did not have a garden or raise vegetables "somewhere on the mainland." He never left Port Aransas except when a storm was coming.

Port-Aransas 1970 Fifth, to which "big hurricane" was he referring when he wrote that Shorty wouldn't leave? I can't find any record of a hurricane in May, 1978. The building was standing then, as it is now, with few changes. It continues to attract visitors and writers from all over the world.

Shorty was delightful, energetic, and, yes, brassy when she wanted to be. She was a wonderfully fun grandmother and not just to her three grandchildren, but to many children and their parents on the island. She provided food, clothing and shelter to moms, dads, and kids during the long chilling winters when there were no jobs, which meant no paychecks. She bought presents for children she knew would not receive any on their birthday or at Christmas.

She was a one-woman relief fund. Since Nethaway felt so compelled to identify Shorty with the New Orleans storm, it would have been more appropriate to compare her to the caregivers instead of the ones who "decided to play the odds and protect their property."

She was a strong woman and a good business person, but she did not value property over human lives. She protected, gave and never asked for anything in return. The smiles and thank you's were enough for her. She didn't need or want her picture in the paper or any public recognition of any kind.

Her daughter, my mother, runs Shorty's in the same manner and has since May, 1978.
Joy George of Port Aransas is a granddaughter of Gladys "Shorty" Fowler.

Please note, I have been asked how Shorty died, but I took notice that Joy did not state why, and until I see and talk to her again, I will assume she feels it is family business. This too shall hold true to any Island Families that wish to keep certain things within the family.
David Shaw

Okay, I have since talked to Joy, and she believes things need to be cleared up as well, and that it's already part of public knowledge, so I have her blessing. So I will try my best from memory to relate the details here.

Shorty was murdered "bludgeoned" to death in the bar, with a pool cue, by a teenager from Aransas Pass, who was working on the Wharf Cat (I could have that part wrong, but pretty sure its on the mark). His name was Benny Ray Dupnik. Most of us that were teenagers at the time knew him well. In fact some of us were arrested with him not long before, because he forgot to inform us that the truck we were rat racing around the Island in was stole from Aransas Pass. Then Years later I would work with his dad on a tugboat for Ankle Towing. His dad (who shall remain unnamed), at that time had disowned Benny for his action. A few years later, I ran into Benny Ray, while doing some time on the Ferguson Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. Though Benny Ray will never pay for all he has done, till judgment day, if it is any comfort to anyone, his life has become a very harsh one, with much turmoil and trouble. Benny Ray's excuse to me, while in prison (and right before he got a bit of extra payback) was this. ( I didn't mean to kill the women, all I wanted was the cash, so she had her back to me when I came into the bar, so I took the pool cue and smacked her in the back of the head. But she didn't go down, instead she started to turn her head around, and I thought to myself, I can not let her see my face, so I hit her again, and then again.) ANYONE that thinks hitting and elderly lady or anyone in the back of the head is some kind of an excuse deserves what he got.

I hope this puts things to rest.
David Shaw.


Waco Paper; Nethaway: Say cheese for Uncle Sam: Wednesday, September 28, 2005.

My Sept. 14 column on hurricane preparedness included an anecdote based on false information.
I wrote of a woman named Shorty in Port Aransas who I understood had been killed when she refused to leave her bar in the face of an oncoming hurricane.
It turns out that this was wrong. According to responses to the column, Shorty actually lost her life when she was murdered in her bar.
My apologies to all of those who knew Shorty and the actual story of her untimely demise.

Excerpt: (August 10th, 1980 (Allen): Allen formed 1100 miles east of Barbados on August 1st. It moved westward through the Atlantic and became a hurricane on the 3rd, when about 120 miles east of Barbados. The storm became the strongest hurricane ever in the Caribbean on the 7th, with winds of 185 m.p.h. sustained and higher gusts, and a pressure of 899 mb (26.55"). It began to weaken as it entered the Gulf of Mexico on the 8th as it moved west-northwest. Dry air began to intrude into the system which caused weakening. As it slowed to a crawl off of Brownsville, dry air continued to be entrained and it kept weakening. Allen made landfall as a category 3 hurricane near Port Mansfield on August 10th.
Highest wind gust reported was from Port Mansfield, 138 m.p.h.. Storm surges reached 12 feet at Port Mansfield. Five foot surges were reported up to Galveston Island. Severe beach erosion took place as far away as Port Arthur, completely destroying Texas highway 87 between High Island and Sabine Pass on the 9th. The pressure at Brownsville fell to 28.62". Winds gusted to 92 mph at Corpus Christi. Buildings in Brownsville had up to 4 ft. of water. Padre Island was cut through in 68 places, by one count. Tornadoes damaged 25 homes in Penita and injured 3 in San Antonio. About 300,000 people evacuated. Seven died in Texas and 17 in Louisiana; most in Louisiana died as a helicopter evacuating them from an offshore platform crashed. Damages totaled $1 billion. Rains from Allen relieved a serious drought in Southern Texas.
National Weather Service)

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