The Early History of Galveston. 3
vessels and Little Campeachy ceased to exist; the two islands became the I
present island of Galveston.
Galveston Island was charted as early as 1526 at Seville, the Casa de
Contratacion controlling the trade of the colonies. This tribunal, whilst it
permitted colonization, insisted on all trade being carried on with the mother
country (Spain) only; that all merchandise had to be carried in Spanish
vessels, and that the colonies should not antagonize the mother country's
trade in either oil or wine.
Galveston Islan before 1815.
Possibly Galveston island had few permanent white settlers previous to
1815. Refugees from justice in the states, or hunters, may have frequented
Col. W. D. C. Hall claimed that a white man was hunting on the island
in 1815, when he paid his first visit to Galveston Bay. The Carancahua and
Tonkaway tribes of Indians, however, frequently visited the island to hunt
or fish, especially the first named tribe.V The island was well stocked with
deer, and in winter the ponds and marshes were visited by game fowls. The
greater part of the island then was bayou and marsh, and the vegetation
was very luxuriant. Marsh grasses, wild blackberry bushes and tangles of
salt cedar afforded shelter for thousands of snakes. About twelve miles
down the island there extended a long ridge of shell elevated ten or twelve
feet over the surrounding marshes. This ridge was free from snakes, and
at this place the Indians camped. The gulf front of the island was covered
with sand hills and the drift of centuries, forming a barrier against encroachment
by the sea. The overflows of the island were caused by the
northeast storms forcing the bay waters over the shallow island. Successive
storms had caused the formation of shell deposits which became the
higher ridge alluded to. The Indians never formed a permanent camp on
the island. They feared the snakes and the frequent and severe hurricanes.
Undoubtedly many Indians in their frail canoes were overtaken by and lost
in storms. The Gulf of Mexico then was the highway of great commercial
activity between Spain and Mexico. Many vessels were lost on Galveston
Island and the sand hills were frequently covered by wreckage.
Colonel Hall, who was very friendly with the Indians, learned that a
number of moons before he met the Indians a vessel had been wrecked
that was loaded with wines. The tribe was drunk for several weeks. A
squaw, an outcast on the island, told Colonel Hall that long before when
she was small there was a great storm. That the water on the island was
so deep that members of the tribe on the high ridge and in a camp were
drowned. A few days after, the balance of the band who had a camp
thirty miles up the Trinity, came to the island and found' no trace of their
companions. A ship, however, had foundered and a few survivors were
on the beach. The Indians approached them in a friendly manner, but were
fired upon. The Indians were unarmed, but returned to their canoes for
their bows and arrows. They killed all the men, of which there were
Dyer, Joseph O. The early history of Galveston, by Dr. J. O. Dyer. Galveston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth24651/. Accessed December 22, 2013.