PORT ARANSAS HISTORY PART 3

PORT ARANSAS HISTORY PART 3

www.angelfire.com/journal2/port/1.html

Here’s the link to all four parts of The History of Port Aransas.

There’s only this one illustration for Part 3, so I’ve pasted the entire Part 3 here:

French explorers traversed St. Joseph island in both 1712 and 1718.

1718 famous map made in 1718 by Guillaume Delisle."

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It was on August 14, 1719 that François Simars de Bellisle (1695-1763) was sailing on a French West Indies Company ship ‘Maréchal d’Estrée’. Destination Louisiana. After sailing the Gulf waters they found themselves lost in the expansions and sailed right past the Mississippi River. They would soon find land though, running into a bar close to Galveston. Four crewmen and Bellisle ‘an officer’ were set ashore to try their best to get a fix on their location and perhaps find help. While on their trek of discovery, the Maréchal d’Estrée broke free of the bar, perhaps by high tide, and after a short search for the landing party, sailed wayward.

The five men, now marooned and desuetude were at the mercy of the elements. They would walked east first and find no one. Bellisle alone would explore toward the west, going to the Brazos River. A harsh Texas winter would set in and slowly four would languish and succumb to malnutrition and then starvation. Bellisle would survive on oysters, wild roots and grub worms until at last he would meet some Indians on an Island out in the bay. The Indians would feed him, however they would stripe him naked and beat him as well. It was the Atákapan band Bellisle would stay with during the summer of 1720. Treated as a slave he would endure beatings and servitude until he was befriended by a window Indian and her two children who would lead him to the French post at Natchitoches on February 10, 1721 (Fort Saint-Jean-Baptiste Natchitoches, Louisiana)

Bellisle would later return to the Texas coast with Jean de Béranger and Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe.

Excerpt: By 1714, the governor of French Louisiana began looking for the site of La Salle’s fort, which was presumed to be on a bay called by the Spanish "San Bernard." The French, of course, considered it theirs by La Salle’s occupation (Cadillac, 1714).

Maps of the period were poor, and Galveston Bay looked like it might be the obscure Bahia de San Bernardo. The first French ship to stop in Galveston Bay did so by accident. The Marechal d’Estree sailed from France in August 1719 and reached the Louisiana coast by October with soldiers assigned to the area. The inept captain sailed past the entrances to the Mississippi River and reached Galveston Bay. Needing fresh water, the vessel anchored offshore and sent a boat to sound for a channel. Finding only seven or eight feet of water, the captain sent in small boats with casks to be filled, but the water proved brackish. Leaving the bay and continuing west, the navigator finally convinced the captain that he was heading for Veracruz and trouble. Returning eastward, the captain decided to enter the unnamed bay and the vessel immediately ran aground. The ship was saved by having the crew run back and forth across the deck while hoisting all sails to catch the offshore wind (Folmer, 1940:205-09).

Not knowing where they were and desperate for supplies, five military officers, including twenty-four-year-old Simars de Bellisle, volunteered to go ashore thinking that they would reach a French settlement in a few days and send a relief ship. The next day the five discovered that their ship had abandoned them. For several weeks they roamed the area living off the land by shooting deer and birds and gathering oysters until they ran out of ammunition. All died except Bellisle. He survived by eating anything, including grass and worms from rotting trees (Folmer, 1940:209-215).

Finally he saw three natives searching for bird eggs on an island in the bay and he rowed out to meet them in the small boat he had found washed up on the shore. They took his possessions but in return gave him eggs and fish that they had caught. They took him to their camp on the mainland [below Anahuac] where their families were and fed him boiled "potatoes," perhaps the same roots mentioned by De Vaca. He spent the entire summer [1720] with this band of Indians that he called the Caux. They had no "cabins or fields" and continually searched for food. The men killed deer and buffalo and the women harvested the roots (Folmer, 1940:215-216).

Professor Herbert E. Bolton identified these Indians as 18th century Attacapas, a family that not only included the Louisiana Attacapas but the Texas Bidai, Orcoquiza, and Deadose (Bolton, 1915:3, 36).

At the end of summer, the Indians packed their belongings into "pirogues" and headed to "the end of the bay," a trip of a week, where they joined others. Bellisle was a slave and gathered wood, carried water, and dug potatoes. Learning that there was a white man [St. Denis at Natchitoches] with whom they occasionally traded, Bellisle wrote a letter on a scrap of paper and begged them to give it to the Frenchman. In the interim, Bellisle accompanied the hunters to the prairies to kill buffalo and also engage in warfare. The natives mounted their horses [this is the first mention of horses in the Galveston Bay area] while Bellisle had to trot along behind carrying some of the baggage. They came upon a herd of 80-100 bison and killed 15-16 animals by shooting arrows from horseback. A war party returned with a dead enemy whom they butchered and ceremonially ate portions of the body. When they returned to their camp, two Indian emissaries from St. Denis arrived to escort Bellisle to Natchitoches where he arrived February 10, 1721 and reached the French governor in Biloxi soon afterward (Folmer, 1940:219-225).

While Bellisle was still a prisoner in 1720, Capt. Jean Beranger was sent from Biloxi in August to occupy "St. Bernard Bay." He was unable to enter Galveston Bay because of high water and adverse winds but found another bay [Matagorda] to the southwest and sailed in. He planted a French plaque and left five men on the shore before returning to Biloxi (Folmer, 1940:226-227).

Meanwhile, Jean Baptiste Benard de la Harpe was named commander of St. Bernard Bay in November, 1720, in Paris and reached Biloxi in the spring. He sailed for Galveston Bay in August 1721 on board the Subtile with Beranger as ship captain and Bellisle as interpreter. Bellisle met the same Indians on the shore who had enslaved him two years earlier. La Harpe wanted to establish a trading post in the vicinity, but the Indians were adamantly against it (Folmer, 1940:227-230).

La Harpe and Bellisle explored the bay in a canoe along with a surveyor and ten soldiers. Some of the Indians followed them in pirogues while others skirted the shore on horseback. The Frenchmen entered the Trinity River and noted the fine prairie and forests on the high banks. The natives entertained the French in their camp offering grain, roots, and smoked meat. La Harpe described the 150 villagers as "well-formed" with "regular features." Six pirogues with ten men each visited the Subtile where the French demonstrated the cannon and other firearms. After giving them a dog and some chickens (and instructions for their care), the French put them ashore except for nine men. They took one elderly chief and eight young men to Biloxi in October in order to convince them of French power. In some manner, the nine escaped and made their way back home (La Harpe, 1971:176-182).

Two months later La Harpe abandoned his project on Galveston Bay leaving the Indian trade in eastern Texas a monopoly of St. Denis at Natchitoches (Bienville, 1721 & 1722).

One result of La Harpe’s voyage was maps. One is the "Carte de la Coste de la Louisiane" showing the Baye de St. Bernard and another is the "Plan due Port decourvert dans le Golfe du Mexique le 21. d’Aoust 1721…," the earliest known map of Galveston Bay. One cartographic expert considers the latter more accurate than the Spanish maps published after 1799 (Taliaferro, 1988:70-71).
(Source: cited website – gbic.tamug.edu/gbeppubs/39/gbnep_39_03-15.pdf)

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In 1720 the French explorer Jean de Béranger was commissioned to explore St. Bernard Bay ‘Matagorda Bay’ to establish a colony for the France along it’s shores. Jean took an old Spanish ship that had been captured in Florida during the war with Spain, christened it St. Joseph, and his travels resulted in the rediscovery of the Aransas Pass. His accounts of St. Joseph and Mustang islands, Live Oak Point Peninsula, the vocabulary, practices, characteristics and features of the Karankawa Indians is believed by many to still be the best of them all.

It is now believed Béranger found the Aransas Pass and landed on what is now known as Harbor Island and place a metal marker on it. Béranger went on to explore the Bay of St. Bernard and look for a suitable site for colonization.

Colonel Jose de Escandon was authorized to colonize what was then called Seno Mejicano in 1746. This region included the Gulf coastal strip 200 miles deep, spanning from the San Antonio River to Tampico, consist of most of South Texas and Taumaulipas. Capt. Joaquin Basterra y Orobio was ordered by Escandon to march south, keeping close to the coast. He was to precede to the mouth of the Rio Grande.

On Jan. 29, 1747,Joaquin Basterra y Orobio and about 50 soldiers started out. He described Corpus Christi Bay, and called it San Miguel Arcangel. His account contained the original and most thorough portrayal of Corpus Christi Bay and the mouth of the Nueces River to date. In fact until Basterra’s describe it, it was thought the Nueces flowed into the Rio Grande south of it.

Reports of yet another foreign incursion (this time by the British) pushed Spain to advance another expedition to seek out and destroy the invaders. In 1766 under the command of Diego Ortiz Parrilla (ca. 1715-ca. 1775), the expedition left, following De Leon’s old trail and founded a camp at the Santa Petronilla ranch. He sent one party to investigate Padre Island (he called it Isla de la Malaguitas), looking for the English. His men excavated in the sand to get drinking water. Parilla called the bay Corpus Christi Bay. After exploring Padre Island, he drew a map of the coast as far as Galveston Bay, on the basis of his own exploration and interviews with persons who knew the coast.

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In 1766 Diego Ortiz Parrilla conducted an exploration of the Gulf Coast and gave the names Santo Domingo to Copano Bay and Culebra Island to what is now St. Joseph Island.

By the late colonial period, the Spaniards founded a fort on what is now Live Oak Point, by present day Rockport, which they titled Fort Aránzazu, after a palace in Spain.

But the pass wouldn’t be proclaimed Aránzazu pass till much later, by Governor Prudencio de Orobio y Basterra on his map of 1739, because it served the Aránzazu fort. The name was altered to Aransas on the map of a Captain Monroe of the ship Amos Wright (1833). Powers and Hewetson colonists came into Copano Bay across the Aransas bar in 1830-34, when the water depth was variously reported to be seven to eighteen feet.

The fused islands of St. Joseph and Matagorda, separated by a very shallow sometimes totally dry pass were also known as Culebra. The first account of the United States flag having been flown in Texas is believed to have been on St. Joseph Island by U. S. Troops in 1845. Forts were erected at various times on the south end of the island. The town known as Aransas flourished close to the same spot up until and a little pass the U.S. Civil War

Excerpt: (1791: A hurricane struck the Lower Coast. Padre Island and mainland nearby were submerged. A herd of 50,000 cattle belonging to a Spanish cattle baron drowned in the storm surge (Ellis 21).
National Weather Service)

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Capt. Jean LaFitte and his hearty band of buccaneers spent lots of time on the Texas coast. Galveston would owe it’s start to him, St. Joseph and Mustang Islands were some of his favorite haunts as well as the bluff in Corpus Christi. The era is 1818- to early 1820’s, the sea’s full of men and ships searching for fame and riches and some had no issues when it came to living a bit aside of the law. Local lore tells of a Spanish silver dagger marking the spot of a hidden treasure chest, it’s believed the dagger is laid on it’s side, then a long silver spike was drove through the hilt, securing the location.

It was after the Battle of New Orleans Lafitte felt much betrayed by the people of New Orleans that had proclaimed him a hero. In 1817, Jean would sail from New Orleans for the very last time. The eight ship fleet departed in April of 1817 with a course set for Santo Domingo, after being asked to leave because of past high seas crimes they has committed on Spanish Ships. They would settle on the deserted island of what is now known as Galveston Island. He would call it Campeche. "Campeche Island" was still owned by the Spanish government, but Mexico was in revolt against Spain, fighting for their independence and claimed the island as well.

On Campeche, Lafitte erected a splendid, two-story brick retreat called Maison Rouge (Red House) after painting it red. Part fort, part home, it contained wonderful living accommodates, quarter barracks for his men, and rooms for guests. Cannon barrels projected out its upper portholes overlooking the Gulf. Around it sprang up the warehouses for cargo, taverns, slave quarters, cattle pens, and cottages.

Lyle Saxon gave a description of the village. "More buccaneers arrived, bringing their women with them; an ever-increasing number of traders came to the settlement; and there was a constant infusion of men of all nations — gamblers, thieves, murderers and other criminals who joined Lafitte’s colony in order to escape punishment for crimes committed within the borders of the United States. Numerous rich prizes were brought in, including several captured slavers loaded with Africans. ‘Doubloons,’ says one writer, ‘were as plentiful as biscuits.’"

Lafitte brokered a deal. A "privateering commission" from the Mexican revolutionaries to assault Spanish ships. The booty, bounty and loot would be his for the taking and the island as well, as long as he kept the harassment up.

During this time his ships spread out, seeking save passes and bays to lurk and hid in after the raids on the Spaniards. Mustang and St. Joseph’s Island would make ideal haunts.

In late 1818, a enormous hurricane slammed the island, killing hundreds of men, leveling the little settlement, sinking the most of his fleet, sending smuggled loot and goods into the crashing surf and causing much trouble as did the Karankawa Indians. They had lived on the island long before any white man, and would view this band of men as supplement. They would loot the looters, and kill many of his men. In one battle alone 60 warrior braves were killed as well as many of Lafitte’s men.

New problems would arise. President Madison was trying to secure peace with Spain and one great obstacle in the way was Lafitte. In late 1820, the USS Enterprise dropped anchor in the near by bay. Aboard , Lieutenant Larry Kearney, carrying orders from President Madison. He instructed Lafitte to leave Galveston Island. For months, Lafitte did nothing. Kearney returned, this time backed up by a fleet of war ships. It was in May of 1821, the proclamation; Get off Galveston island or be blown off.

Excerpt: ("That night Lafitte set fire to Campeche. Men aboard the USS Enterprise saw it burst into flames… When they went to shore at dawn they found only ashes and rubble. The ships of Lafitte were gone…" Account of Robert Tallant.)

Lafitte’s travels and whereabouts after this become very obscure. He seems to have faded off into time. Some believe he returned for a time to the Aransas pass to try and make and upstart father down the coast, others believe he set sailed for Charleston, South Carolina. Some history scholars believe he fought with Bolivar’s rebels in South American. Others say he died of a plague at age 47 on the Isle de Las Mujeres near Yucatan, while more contend he headed of a band of pirates in Santo Domingo.

Where he and his resting place are many never be known, one thing is for sure, he opened the lead the way for many seafarers after him.

Quote: ( "Some considered him a rapacious rogue, a man of unmitigated violence. Others, many of whom were young women, regarded him as a charming person. He was seductive, perhaps deceptive, but always elegantly gracious." Prince of Pirates, Jack C. Ramsay, Jr. )

Map of Texas (1820-1836)

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Some time around 1832 James Power established Aransas City on the Live Oak Point near the site of the Aránzazu fort (Rockport today) A customhouse, a post office, and several stores were established in the town, which by April 1840 served as the seat of government for Refugio County. Until the creation of Corpus Christi, "Aransas City" was the western most port in Texas, host several hundred people. The settlement was invaded by Karankawa and Comanche Indians on more then five attacks, and in 1838, 1839, and 1841, by marauding bandits from Mexico, who plundered the tiny port city.

As the still natural pass located at 27°50′ north latitude and 97°03’ west longitude attracted more and more commerce and updated charts were needed, there appeared an 1833 map which noted the location of what would become Port Aransas, but was then called Sand Point. As stated before pass was given the name Aranzazu, which later became Aransas.

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The Aransas pass and the Mexican War.
The Alabama entered the Aransas pass on the morning of July the 26, 1845 to secure a landing to guide the pass and the back bays, and one Lt. Chandler jumped into the shallows, waded ashore and planted the American flag on the highest dune around, making it the first American Stars and Stripes "though with much fewer stars" over the Texas Territories. AS small garrison would soon be built to protect the pass by the Third Infantry.

Gen. Taylor had picked Corpus Christi, as the staging point for the invasion of Mexico and was hasten to break morning and make the bluff. The delivery of troops to Corpus Christi was difficult. The channel between Mustang and San Jose was sounded at three feet during the high tide, as often was the case because of silting. Numerous times the transfer ship ran aground, until finally sticking in the sand for two days. Using fishing and small cargo vessels and locals that knew the bay bottoms, the troops were slowly ferried from the ship to the Corpus Christi bluff. One, Lt. Ulysses Simpson Grant fall over board during the maneuver. Upon landing in Corpus Christi, Grant noted a small village, a trading post where goods were sold to Mexican smugglers, and less then one hundred people.

Excerpt: ( This island (St. Joseph’s) is a curiosity, in many respects. If you dig a well four feet deep any where, even on the sea-shore, you obtain fresh water. Into these wells a barrel is usually sunk, to prevent their caving in. My company was encamped near a fresh-water pond; within a few paces there was another pond, of precisely similar appearance, but salt as brine. . . . The fresh water, at best, has a most unpleasant taste. There are three or four families residing upon this island, who depend upon this water for their drinking. The fishing here can not be surpassed; sheep-head, drum, mullet, red-fish, and many others too numerous to mention, abound; the water is literally alive with them. The red-fish are most prized; the men caught great quantities of them; they bait with fiddlers, wade out into the surf, and as fast as they throw in their lines are sure to have a bite; not so sure, however, to catch the fish, for they often strike such large ones they snap their hooks like pipe-stems. As soon as you have fastened one, you throw the line over your shoulder and put for the shore "double quick;" often, by this means, landing the largest fish without any difficulty; for they swim along with you, and find themselves caught before they know it. A sergeant of my company hooked such a monster that he could not budge him; the fish darted between him and a comrade standing by his side; as he passed they laid violent hands upon him, unhooked him, and started for shore. They had not proceeded ten paces, when he flapped his tail and threw them both on their backs, and escaped.
The hunting here is unsurpassed. Deer abound. If you are in want of meat, you have but to station yourself behind some of the innumerable sand-hills, near ponds of fresh water. Here may be seen the deer for half a mile, when feeding or coming to water. There you can quietly sit, and the deer will walk within thirty yards of you; or, if you prefer it, mount your horse, dash over the island, and you can have the excitement of shooting them under full run. An officer of our regiment jumped on a horse, rode to the shooting-grounds, and in twenty minutes from the time of dismounting killed three fine, fat fellows. Teal and mallard duck were found in the ponds with their young; also jack-snipe. This is somewhat astonishing, as it is the general impression they migrate to the north to breed.
The soil of the island is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of sea-island cotton. Potatoes and melons flourish luxuriantly. It is a light soil, quite sandy, mixed with a great deal of shell; and no matter how much time elapses between rains, the moisture from the soil (water being found so near the surface), combined with the heavy dews, affords sufficient nourishment for the plant. . . . On the 20th, two companies of the 3d, one of which was mine, embarked on the seamer Undine for Corpus Christi. Aransas and Corpus Christi Bays are separated by a long flat of land. It was discovered that the Undine drew too much water to pass over it. We were forced to leave the steamboat, and cross the bay, a very rough one, in small boats. We landed on the main shore on the 31st of July. . . . General Taylor arrived from St. Joseph’s Island on the 15th of August. The 7th Infantry is ordered to join us. . . . Henry, William Seaton. Campaign Sketches of the War with Mexico. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1847.)

Excerpt: (On Sep. 13 1845 a steamer used to ferry men from St.Joseph’s Island blew a boiler near McGloin’s Bluff ( Ingleside on the Bay) killing 7 men. "A report reached this place on Monday from Victoria, that the steamer Dayton was blown up on the 12th inst., and that several persons were killed. We regret to say that this shocking news is confirmed by Captain Tichener, who arrived from Galveston on Monday evening. He was present when the explosion occurred. He states that the Dayton was within nine miles of Corpus Christi, when from some cause wholly unknown, the boilers suddenly exploded: nine person were instantly killed, and several others severely scalded. Among the killed were Lieuts.Berry and Higgins, Sergt. Edwards and a private of the U. S. army; the watchman and four unknown. The Telegraph, Houston, Wednesday, September 24, 1845, p. 3, col. 1")

Excerpt: (We have two different accounts with regard to the health of the troops at Corpus Christi. The Galveston papers mention on the authority of persons who have recently arrived from Aransas that the troops at Corpus Christi enjoy excellent health. We learn however from persons who have arrived from Victoria that a number of the soldiers are sick and that three or four have died daily for several successive days. As there are now almost 3000 troops at that point and many of them have been necessarily subjected to great hardships in their long journeys from. . . The Telegraph, Houston, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 1845, p. 4, col. 3)

Exceprt: (Latest from Corpus Christi and Galveston. — The steamer Cincinnati, Capt. J. Smith, arrived at this port yesterday, having left the Bay of Aransas on the evening of the 28th ult., whither she had taken troops and munitions of war from Charleston, S. C. On her return she touched at Galveston, from which city she brings us dates to last Saturday, the 4th inst. – a fortnight later than our previous advices. The Cincinnati carried two companies of the 3d Artillery to Corpus Christi: Company A, Capt. Burk, Lieuts. Kilbourne and Churchill; and Company I, Capt. Geo. Taylor, Lieuts. Gilham and Ayres, Surgeon Hawkins, Capt. Perkins, Sutler. . . .

The Cincinnati carried two companies of the 3d Artillery to Corpus Christi: Company A, Capt. Burk, Lieuts. Kilbourne and Churchill; and Company I, Capt. Geo. Taylor, Lieuts. Gilham and Ayres, Surgeon Hawkins, Capt. Perkins, Sutler.

Through Galveston papers we learn by this arrival that Capt. West, wounded by the explosion on board the steamer Dayton, of which he was acting as clerk, has died of his wounds, as also some two or three other persons, from the same cause – one a cabin boy and another a United States soldier.

On the 26th ult., the barque Phoenix, of Richmond, arrived at Aransas in 24 days from Fortress Monroe, Va., with two companies (D and E) of the 4th Regiment of Artillery, under command of Brevet Major Morris, 4th Artillery. The following is a list of the officers: Brevet Maj. W. W. Morris; 1st Lieuts. R. C. Smead and E. Deas; 2d Lieuts. R. S. Garnett and C. Benjamin; Brevet 2d Lieut. S. Gill.

Gen. Worth arrived at Aransas by the Cincinnati, having gone on board at Tampa Bay, at which place the steamer touched.

The barque Pacific arrived on the 20th ult. at Aransas from New York, with flying artillery and horses on board. Thirteen horses were lost on the passage, from being placed in the hold, as is alleged.

Last week, (the day I don’t recollect,) the schr. Letitia, from New Orleans, loaded with coal, for Aransas, anchored off Corpus Christi. A gale coming up, she parted both anchors and then put to sea. The next day she was found to leak badly, and with three feet water in her hold she was ran ashore, 35 miles South of this. Capt. Webster had his wife aboard – all saved, no lives lost. The wreck, as it lay, was sold to-day at auction for $25. Source: Daily Picayune, October 8, 1845, p. 2, cols. 3-4.)

Excerpt: (Florida may be the "land of promise," but Texas is the land of "varmints." In clearing the ground to pitch my tent, I killed a water moccasin; about 3 o’clock in the morning I was wakened up by the barking of a dog; he had just run a rattlesnake out of my neighbor’s tent, when the rattling and barking aroused me – 9 rattles – captured. I again lay down, and when day broke, a yellow-necked lizard was cocking his eye cunningly at me from the ridge pole of my tent. I sprang up, seized my boot to despatch him, when lo! Out the boot dropped a tarantula! Exhausted from fright and fatigue, I sunk back in a chair; but no sooner down than I was compelled rapidly to abandon the position, having been stung in the rear by a scorpion!

Our friend was certainly very unfortunate. Because the above mishaps, he lost a valuable dog by a shark. The dog had jumped overboard from a boat, to follow his master to the shore, when the voracious monster caught him. The Daily Picayune, October 7, 1845, p. 2, col. 5.)

Map of Texas (1844)

In 1840 Refugio took on the county seat. Imminent was the demise of Aransas City trade. After the war was over, a few cattlemen, merchants, smugglers and sailors founded another community, Aransas, on the southern end of St. Joseph’s Island.

Across the Aransas pass, the sand point was first known as El Mar Rancho, Star, Ropesville, Tarpon and then Port Aransas as small amounts of frontiersmen, then merchants, mariners, smugglers and bootleggers looking to forge a better life appeared on the sandy point.

From a sandy point to . . . a tropical paradise?
The first noted man of history to make a successful go at it on Mustang Island was Capt. Robert Ainsworth Mercer of Lancaster, England. (d.o.b Nov 6 1799 Lancashire County, England; d.o.d. March 19 1875 Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas) Mercer settled on what is now known as St. Joseph Island in 1850. Creating a cattle and sheep ranch. He was also a bar pilot "Captain" for hire, guiding the ships through the chancy pass.

Mercer soon for unknown reasons moved across the Aransas Pass and built a small house on Mustang Island where he raised his family. He established a sheep and cattle ranch known as El Mar Rancho in 1853 0r 55, accounts differ. Huge herds of wild horses "mustangs" rambled over plush range lands of the island when Mercer first settled here. An extensive log "Captains keep logs not diaries" of island life then was kept by one of his son

The tireless work and research on the Mercer Family Ancestry must be given to Kellie Crnkovich (e-mail markkell95@aol.com)which is found on her website freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~kelliesconnections/ . The hours and time taken to research it must have been very long and at times strenuous and has become a vital start to any research on Port Aransas in modern times so please lets give credit where credit it due. Thanks Kellie.

Generation No. 1
1. Robert Ainsworth2 Mercer (Unkown1) was born November 06, 1799 in Lancashire County, England, and died March 19, 1875 in Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas. He married Agnes Rowlinson February 11, 1823 in Saint Johns Old Haymarket, Liverpool, Lancashire Co, England.
Agnes Rowlinson was born April 12, 1802 in Westmoreland County, England, and died July 20, 1863 in Indian Point, Texas.

Notes for Robert Ainsworth Mercer:

Went to New Albany, Indiana in 1830. Went to Mobile, Alabama 1850. Moved to Aransas in 1852/1853. He bought cattle and sheep and built a dwelling on Mustang Island and sent word for the family to come from Mobile. Jane stayed with Husband Samuel Shoemaker and Peter stayed with wife Margaret (Marguerite). They settled there in 1855.
PURC 1855 Wharf & Adjacent Warehouse at Aranasas Pass; PURC 1855 House; Ranch was named El Mar Rancho; Was Appointed Wreck Master By Governor Clark for Aransas Pass in 1860.
In 1862 the Federal bark "Afton" appeared off the Pass with a force of soldiers and marines. They burned the home of Robert and Agnes on Mustang Island and confiscated their cattle and sheep. The family moved to Corpus Christi where Agnes died.

Notes from "Hurricane Junction" by Cyril Matthew Kuene quotes Mercer diary entry:
"March 19, 1875: Father (Robert Ainsworth Mercer) age 75, departed this life about 3:15 a.m.; he had been confined to his bed for about four months and had been gradually sinking until this A.M. when he died"
"Frank started to Corpus to bring Jane (who had moved from Mobile to Corpus in 1873)…."

"Captain Heah came to the house, and helped put father in the coffin. March 20, 1875: At about 1 p.m., Captain Heath, Parry Humphreys, Tom Rattray, Captain Robert, Frank Stephenson and John Runnel wer pall-bearers. Ned read the Burial Service."

"April 30, 1876 – Frank Stephenson made some fencing for graves in Corpus. John and Ned made a box to put Father’s coffin in…"

"May 1, 1876 – Frank Stepenson, his children, his father and mother, left for Corpus… John, Ned, Jake, Joe Hull and George Stephenson dug up Father’s coffin (from Mustang Island!) and taken it aboard the Doaga to go to Corpus Christi. Coffin was in good state of preservation."

"May 2, 1876 – Ned and Jake buried Father and Mother side by side in the Catholic burying ground."

Found record of Robert and Agnes Robinson believe this is a misspelling and so included date as marriage.

Death: 19 MAR 1875 Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas

Burial: 2 MAY 1876 Holy Cross Cemetary, Corpus Christi, Texas (K-21-001A)

More About Robert Ainsworth Mercer:
Burial: May 02, 1876, Holy Cross Cemetary, Corpus Christi, Texas (K-21-001A)

Notes for Agnes Rowlinson:
Excerpts of a letter sent by Agnes Mercer to Peter and Jane, published in the book "Hurricane Junction a History of Port Aransas" by Cyril Matthew Kuehne states:

Mustang, May 29, 1856
My dear son and daughter,
…We are all well… we have plenty of provisions to last till Christmas, and beef, pork, and mutton for life… we have just done some sheep shearing – we had a merry time of it – and now Robert and Edward (Ned) have gone to Indianola for lumber…we have over 40 young calves, 20 milk cows, and have plenty of milk and butter…Father and all send there love…

From your mother, Agnes Mercer

More About Agnes Rowlinson:
Burial: Unknown, Holy Cross Cemetary, Corpus Christi, Texas (K-21-001B)
Christening: April 16, 1802, Found Christening for Agnes Rawlandson 4 days after birth could be her. Kendal-Rc, Westmoreland, England. Parents Petri and Marg

Children of Robert Mercer and Agnes Rowlinson are:

i. Peter R.3 Mercer, born June 25, 1823 in Ulverston, Lancashire County, England; died Abt. 1866 in Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama.
ii. William H. Mercer, born November 29, 1825 in Ulverston, Lancashire County, England; died Abt. 1830 in Lancashire County, England.
iii. Robert Ainsworth Mercer, Jr., born July 03, 1827 in Liverpool, Lancashire County, England; died November 16, 1875 in Calvert, Robinson County, Texas.
iv. Mary A. Mercer, born November 18, 1829 in Liverpool, Lancashire County, England; died Unknown.
v. Dorothy A. Mercer, born June 25, 1831 in New Ablany, Floyd County, Indiana; died Unknown.
vi. Jane Amelia Mercer, born December 06, 1833 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died 1907.
vii. Thomas Rowlinson Mercer, born April 22, 1836 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died Unknown.
viii. William Henry Mercer, born October 02, 1838 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died Bet. 1860 – 1865.

Notes for William Henry Mercer:

Died serving in the confederate army during the Civil War. Steamer Cuba was a private blockade runner, not an official CSN ship. It was burned to prevent capture in 1863 while heading to Mobile.

Census: 1861, Mobile, Alabama – listed as clerk, steamer Cuba

John George Mercer, born December 27, 1840 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died 1896 in Mustang Island, Nueces County, Texas.
Edward Thomas Mercer, born December 13, 1842 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died Unknown.
xi. Mary Agnes Mercer, born March 10, 1845 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana; died April 16, 1876 in Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas
2. Peter R. Mercer (Robert Ainsworth, Unkown) was born June 25, 1823 in Ulverston, Lancashire County, England, and died Abt. 1866 in Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama. He married Margaret Pamelia Schroebel July 17, 1850 in Mobile, Alabama, daughter of Jacob Schroebel and Louisa Colzey. She was born November 21, 1833 in Claiborne, Monroe County, Alabama, and died Abt. 1913.
Peter was a blockade runner to France for weapons for the South in the Civil War and was taken prisoner for 18 months. He died not long after being released and Margaret (also called Marguerite) and children came to California to live with her brother.
Census: 1861, Mobile, Alabama – listed as Engineer
Christening: June 29, 1823, Saint Mary Of Furness-Rc, Ulverston, Lancashire County, England

Notes for Margaret Pamelia Schroebel:
Margaret (Marguerite) Schroebel Mercer’s father was German, Mother was French. Peter Mercer’s father was English, Mother was Irish. Marguerite married Peter at 16. Peter was a Ship’s Captain. He ran the blockade to France for arms during the Civil War in the First Alabama Regiment. The ship was captured by the federals mid-ocean and sunk it’s crew was taken to Maine and kept in prison for 18 months. He came home after the war thin and ill and died soon afterward leaving his wife and 5 children in Mobile, Alabama. Marguerite’s brother Charles Henry Schroebel brought her, her son Robert, and her daughter Janie to California to take up preemption on land near where he lived on Bear Mountain near San Andreas.

Margaret P. Schroebel to Peter Mercer July 17, 1850 11/74

More About Margaret Pamelia Schroebel:
AKA (Facts Pg): Marguerite Schroebel Mercer
Burial: Unknown, Peoples Cemetery, San Andreas, Calaveras, CA SecA Row11GR18
Census: 1869, Mobile, Alabama
More About Peter Mercer and Margaret Schroebel:
Marriage: July 17, 1850, Mobile, Alabama

Robert Ainsworth Mercer, Jr. (Robert Ainsworth2, Unkown1) was born July 03, 1827 in Liverpool, Lancashire County, England, and died November 16, 1875 in Calvert, Robinson County, Texas. He married Mary Augusta Krell. She was born in Rudolstadt, Saxony, Germany, and died Unknown. Owned a boat called Prima Donna.

Jane Amelia3 Mercer (Robert Ainsworth2, Unkown1) was born December 06, 1833 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, and died 1907. She married Samuel Shoemaker May 02, 1853 in Mobile, Alabama. He was born 1822 in Louisville, Kentucky, and died 1906.

John George3 Mercer (Robert Ainsworth2, Unkown1) was born December 27, 1840 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, and died 1896 in Mustang Island, Nueces County, Texas. He married Emma Christine Scott February 04, 1874. She was born in Matagorda, Texas, and died Unknown.
Received a Pilot Commission (after 1866) Appointed keeper of the Life Saving Station September of 1880 to 1882.
Emma Christine Scott: Burial: Unknown, Mercer Family Cemetary, Port Aransas, Texas

Edward Thomas3 Mercer (Robert Ainsworth2, Unkown1) was born December 13, 1842 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, and died Unknown. He married Emma Livingston Thompson April 23, 1873 on St. Joseph’s Island. She died Unknown. Was appointed Pilot for Aransas Pass in 1866 by Governor Throckmorton Owned a boat called Prima Donna

Mary Agnes3 Mercer (Robert Ainsworth2, Unkown1) was born March 10, 1845 in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana, and died April 16, 1876 in Port Aransas, Nueces County, Texas. She married (1) Henry Reeves. He was born in Ingleside, Texas, and died 1868. She married (2) Frank Stephenson. He was born January 01, 1839 in Mustang Island, Nueces County, Texas, and died Unknown.

Notes for Mary Agnes Mercer:
Notes from "Hurricane Junction" by Cyril Matthew Kuehne quoting Mercer Diaries:

On Easter Sunday, April 16, 1876.
"Departed this life, at 2 o’clock this a.m., Mary Agnes Stephenson, wife of Frank Stephenson, and sister of John and Ned Mercer, and Jane Shoemaker, age thirty-one years, one month, and six days; her death was unexpected, she has been complaining of pains near her heart for a long time, but Dr. Ansel said it was nothing serious. She felt unwell last Sunday and grew worse, sent to Rockport and got Dr. Clarke, but he said her complaint was very serious and her liver was affected, and it was doubtful whether she would get over it, which she did no. God be merciful to her poor soul! May she rest in peace.

More About Mary Agnes Mercer:
Burial: April 17, 1876, Catholic burying Grounds, Corpus Christi, Texas

Notes for Frank Stephenson:

Captain Frank Stephenson was for many years the lighthouse tender at Aransas Pass, Texas. He was appointed on June 29, 1897. He retired on January 20, 1918 at the age of 79.

The Mercer Cemetery in Port Aransas, a small family plot has these markers.

Mercer, Emma C.(G), b. 21 Jan 1854, d. 28 Jan 1906
Mercer, John, b. 27 Dec 1840, d. 23(28) Sep 1895
Mercer, Wm. H., b. 13 Nov 1874, d. 11 Nov 1895
Mercer, Roberta A., b. 21 Apr 1891, d. 29 May 1891
Roberts, Agnes, d. 5 Nov 1894 age 1 hour, d/o T.P. & L.S.
Roberts, Wm. R., b. 28 Jan 1821, d. 12 Mar 1896(1876?), Capt.
Scott, Vallie, no dates, according to the last member of the family he was the brother of Emma Christine
Listed here are who these people are in this tiny little cemetery we use to run by at night as little kids, in the event their ghost were still around.

Emma C Mercer was the wife of John George Mercer, son of Robert A. Mercer.

John Mercer is John George Mercer.

Wm. H. Mercer is one of their son’s

Roberta A. Mercer is their infant daughter it seems, but this could not be confirmed.

Agnes Roberts was born to Lydia Ann Stephenson and Thomas Roberts, Lydia Ann Stephenson is the daughter of Mary Agnes Mercer and Frank Stephenson, and her "Mary Agnes Mercer" was of course born to Robert A. Mercer. Lydia Ann Channel as mentioned before is her namesake.

Wm. R. Roberts was more then likely Thomas’ father, but can’t find records to support this. ( Thomas Roberts was born December 05, 1866 in Port Aransas, Wm. R. Roberts would have been 45 and since this is a family cemetery, we can deduce he was either an uncle or Thomas’ father.)

The one marked "Scott, Vallie," has a editors note to the online records that reads ( no dates, according to the last member of the family he was the brother of Emma Christine.) But could have been her son as well. Valentine Scott Mercer, born August 02, 1889 in Port Aransas, Texas; died January 31, 1939 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Who is listed as there child as well. Since they are all in the same cemetery, it it could be mercer just was left off or weathered off.

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Next folks, if you send something to me, PLEASE give credit where it is due. If you fond something on the web, send me the page as well, and not just a copy and paste through an e-mail. . . and of course if anyone sees their work here, or even picture and wants

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An e-mail on the subject. . .

Oh P.S.
Vallie S. Scott, I have some info on:

Mary Agnes Mercer first married a Henry C. Reeves, 13 OCT 1864 (both of Ingleside, San Patricio Co., TX) at Our Lady of Refuge, Refugio, Refugio Co. TX. He died before their first child, Mary Agnes Reeves, was born. Mary Agnes Mercer remarried Frank Stephenson shortly thereafter, (so shortly, he was listed as Mary Agnes Reeves father for the baptism in the church records) and they had two children, Lydia and John. Agnes Reeves was taken in like a Stephenson.

This family lived intermittenly between James and Lydia Stephenson’s (Frank’s parents) in Corpus, and the Stephenson/Mercer "enclave" on Mustang Island (in 1880 they were listed 3 TIMES in 3 different counties! in Rockport, Corpus, and Mustang Island.)

Vallie Scott married Agnes Reeves. I do not know his relation to Emma though.

Children: 1) Mary Agnes REEVES b. 5 DEC 1866 NC m Vallie S. Scott ACBR b. 1864?

2) Lydia Lavonia Stephenson b 17 MAY 1870 NC 23 AUG 1935 Corpus Christi, TX m. Thomas Peter Roberts b. 5 DEC 1866 d. 26 JAN 1923 Corpus Christi, TX

3) John Stephenson b. 3 JUN 1872 NC

p.s. Also, FYI, the Mercers moved to Ingleside during the Civil War,not CC and that is where Mrs. Mercer died in 1863.

Hope this helps.
Scott

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By 1854 the Texas Senate had sanctioned a seven-mile channel from Corpus Christi to the Aransas Pass bar to better serve the Port of Corpus Christ. Also In the 1850’s a regular steamship service route for cargo and passengers would be established between New Orleans and Mustang Island . This would benefit the island indirectly many years later, as the pass was brought into permanence, there was need of local pilots to guide the ships safely across the bar. For this permanent, structures would be needed to house these pilots, docks, a lighthouse, storage, jetties, a "Life Saving Station" would all have to follow in the coming years if this pass was to become a viable crossing of the bar, and all would follow. The Mercer family would soon become the caretakers of the island for many years, building docks, a general store and guiding the ships across the bar all for a fee.

It was soon after the announcement of the steamship route that Congress commissioned $12,500 for the construction of the Aransas Pass Lighthouse. Haggling over what type of lighthouse was needed would mare things down and another survey was done, the pass was slowly moving southward as rushing northern water currents banked sand on the north bank of the pass which is the south end of Saint Joseph Island. It was then advised that a lightship be used to mark the pass. More surveying was done, more talk and then a proposition was accepted to erect a screw-pile lighthouse of brick.

In December of 1855, the ship transporting the bricks struck and then stuck on the bar. The crew mates were all rescued but the ship and its cargo went to the bottom of the sea. New bricks arrived in 1856, soon followed the lantern room that would set on top, and lastly a fourth-order Fresnel lens. There was also need of a lighthouse keeper’s dwelling, a small storage room and docks. The construction would be complete by mid 1857 and the illuminated lens would enlightened the dark night, guiding ships through the pass later that year.

The very first noted deep draught steamship that entered through the pass was reported and recorded in 1859. Regular passenger steamship routes entended to Galveston and New Orleans soon after, and the bustling activities of all the coastal bend ports brought cargo ships from all over the country and globe.

A curiosity note in history is Stephen F. Austin, who said of the Karankawa women, to be women of fair looking, and one he claimed was even beautiful, yet turned around and secured relatively peaceful relationships with the Tonkawa and Lipan while his colonists drove the Karankawa into virtual extinction. By the mid 1850’s to 1860 they had all been killed off, or the remaining of the group integrated with other bands in North Mexico and parts of Texas.

Here’s the link for all four parts. Part 1 opens and then at the end of Part 1 are the choices to click on.

www.angelfire.com/journal2/port/1.html

Posted by mrbill78636 on 2007-07-02 02:27:10

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