Notes and Documents
Corpus Christi: A Quarter Century
of Development, 1900-1925
DAN E. KILGORE*
CORPUS CHRISTI IN 1900 WAS AN UNUSUAL COMBINATION OF COW-
town and coastal village. From the time Henry L. Kinney first
established his trading post on the western shore of Corpus Christi
Bay in 1839, a deep-water port had been the town's unattained goal.
There was no natural pass to the Gulf of sufficient depth to allow
ocean-going vessels to enter the bay, and numerous attempts to dredge
a channel to tidewater had been only partially successful. In 1845,
when General Zachary Taylor encamped at Corpus Christi before
the Mexican War, he supplied his army by "lighters"-shallow-draft
vessels capable of navigating the narrow, winding channels into the
bay. At the turn of the century, fifty-five years later, cargoes destined
for Corpus Christi still arrived by lighters. Deep water was coming
but it was a quarter century away.1
In 1900 the town was recovering from the effects of one ambitious
attempt to speed its progress. Elihu H. Ropes, a promoter, had prom-
ised in 1890 to build a great deep-water seaport that would make
Corpus Christi a combined "Chicago of the Southwest" and "Long
Branch of the South." The New York speculator's extensive land-
development schemes collapsed in the national depression of the
early 1890's, and when he finally departed to replenish his "un-
limited capital," he left a broken-down dredge, unpaid creditors, and
blasted hopes. The only tangible evidence of his grand dream was
the unfinished 126-room Alta Vista Hotel at the edge of the bay.
His Corpus Christi and South American Railway Company survived
only as a short span of railroad embankment which gave the name
*Mr. Kilgore, a member of the Association Executive Council, is a longtime student
of the history of Corpus Christi.
1American Guide Series, Corpus Christi: A History and Guide (Corpus Christi, 1942),
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 75, July 1971 - April, 1972. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101201/. Accessed March 27, 2015.