Mary B. Ingram
Matagorda Peninsula, a fifty-one mile stretch of land not more than two miles in width, extends from the mouth of Caney Creek in eastern Matagorda County to Decros Point (Pass Cavallo) on the west. The Colorado River channel cuts through the Peninsula some twenty-four miles from the pass. From the time of Stephen F Austin in 1822, immigrants have settled on the Peninsula for various reasons: health, livelihood, recreation, and the like. In the 1800's several settlements existed on this land, flourished, then disappeared as hurricanes took their toll.
Settlers found the land to be productive for all kinds of field crops and garden vegetables. Potatoes and watermelons grew especially well, and the soil was good for truck farming. Raccoons and opossums were numerous and frequently furnished meat for the settlers. Fresh water could be found near the surface of the gulf side. Salt grass was bountiful, and many sheep and cattle grazed on the forage. It was a splendid place for cattle, because they could not stray with the wild herds that infested the mainland.
There were many settlements on the Peninsula as late as 1880. Mrs. R. D Dietrich was born in Matagorda, January 24, 1875, and she lived on the Peninsula as a small child. Only six or seven years of age, she recalled that her family had sheep and cattle as well as a garden on their land. There were several other families living in the same area. Mrs. Dietrich's father, William Dunbar, was a cousin to the Decrow family who had lived on the Peninsula as far back as 1824. Dunbar built the first bridge on the Colorado River in the county He also built the Matagorda jailhouse for which he was paid $500 in $20 gold pieces.
The Decrow families were a group of seafaring men who came to Matagorda in 1823. Thomas, Daniel, Elijah, and Howard were all brothers and each settled in the county Thomas lived with his family at the lower end of the Peninsula at Pass Cavallo. He acquired a large tract of land above and adjoining his first parcel and became a prosperous stock owner in cattle, sheep, and horses. He served as a pilot for the sailing vessels which came into Matagorda Bay The pass or point of the Peninsula at the western end came to be known as Decros (Decrow's) Landing and later Decros (Decrow's) Point, being named after Daniel Decrow, a member of Austin's "Old Three Hundred" families. Daniel operated a sloop between the Brazos River and San Jacinto Bay until his death in 1837. The family lived at Decros Point until the storm of 1875, which totally destroyed their home and drowned most of their family.
An interesting letter written by Thomas Decrow dated June 14, 1838, tells some of the frontier experiences of owning cattle:
To I R. Lewis, Esq., Sir, I rec'd yours for Miss Aidkins. Now the cow, I have no doubt but it is the same one I drove from Matagorda. I had her of J Tilly, he had her of R. R. Royall, he had her of J Nevil, he had her of Geo. Robinson, he had her of the government, so says George, so says Nevil, and R. R. Royal as well as Robinson and Nevil says all the stock of that brand was turned out to the government and paper rec 'd for the same previous to the date of Miss Adkins Bill of Sale
This is my claim if hers is a better one I lie, if not she will so I think by applying to the above named citizens the matter can be adjusted. Yours respectfully, Thos. Decrow
To I. R. Lewis, Esq. Sir, please Look into this Negro affairs let me know how to manage if you are not engaged on the other side, if so let me know, you will find the Bill of Sale recorded, I now apply to you for counsel, write me as soon as possible for I commit an
error, I find our Constitution says a man shall have the right to ware [sic] arms in defense of his person or property . I call her my property. A speedy answer to this will greatly oblige. Your friend, Thos Decrow.
I. R. Lewis was a lawyer in Matagorda. His private papers did not reveal the outcome as to whether Decrow or Miss Aidkins got possession of the cow.
A German settlement was situated about midway between Decros Point and the mouth of Caney Creek. In 1846 a colony of Germans left Hanover, Germany, for Texas. They landed at Indianola where disease broke out among them and many died. The remainder of the colony moved to the Peninsula and settled. Each man was skilled in a trade. Christian Zipprian made all of the chimneys. He burned oyster shells to obtain lime; then mixed it with sand and shell for cement with which he constructed the chimneys. Soon there was a thriving little colony of about a dozen houses in the center of which stood the small frame cottage where Charles A. Siringo was born February 7, 1855. This little settlement had a school house about three miles distant. A Mr. Hale from Illinois was the teacher. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Hale left for the Union Army and there was no more school until after the war.
Tiltona was another early settlement on the Peninsula. It was here the Mavericks made their home. In 1844 Samuel Maverick, a lawyer, real estate man, and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, moved his family to the Peninsula. On the bay side of the Peninsula there was an inlet referred to as "Tilton" taking the name from Charles Tilton, an early sailor who had purchased the land before Maverick. The place came to be known as Tiltona.
Elias Wightman owned a league of land at the eastern end of the Peninsula near the mouth of Caney Creek and it was there he tried to establish the Manhattan University. The Frederick Vogg family lived on the Peninsula from 1854 until after the storm of 1875.
In the 1867 Registration of Voters for Matagorda Peninsula, the registration showed the following living on the Peninsula. Joshua Fisher, Fletcher Layton, Frederick Vogg, John Allen, August Duffy, Gustav West, August Cole, Edward K. Wade, Peter Duffy, Henry Cookenboo, Christian Zipprian, Benjamin Evans, Conrad Franz, Conrad Dietrich, and Sebastian Dietrich.
The settlers worked hard as all pioneers have had to do and finally began to prosper. All their toils, sufferings, and hardships were in vain, however, for a storm in 1854 brought disaster to most all of them. Those who escaped with their lives were lucky. The fortunate few took refuge in the salt cedars, and remained all night in company with snakes, raccoons, and other wild animals. Most of the houses had been built with the kitchen away from the main part of the house. One story of the storm concerns the family of John Berg, who lived in such a house. The family was in the kitchen at the storm's outbreak. Not feeling safe, they decided to move to the supposedly stronger part of the building. While making their decision, they saw the main part of the building being torn away. A channel had been made across the Peninsula by the high water, a lamp on the table marked the passage of the house down this channel into the Gulf.
Another story is told in connection with this storm and a house of similar construction. A woman started from the main part of the house for the kitchen. The wind blew the baby which she carried in her arms into the surging waters; the body was never found.
The settlement was rebuilt and remained upon the Peninsula until another storm brought it completely to an end in 1875. This was the storm that destroyed Indianola. A few of the descendants of this German colony live in Matagorda County.
In 1934 a channel was cut from the town of Matagorda through the Peninsula and Matagorda Bay to the Gulf of Mexico so that the Colorado River could flow at a better pace and rid the river of the raft of logs which had choked it for so many years. The opening of the channel got rid of the raft but formed a delta. In the early 1940's, a road was built from Matagorda along the river channel for five or six miles to the Peninsula.
The Intracoastal Canal separated the delta and peninsula from the mainland. The area is a year-round recreation center for fishermen, hunters, and beachcombers.
Back of the Peninsula's sand dunes (on the bay side) one can see cattle quietly grazing, windmills turning with the breeze, water troughs, and salt cedar brakes, where settlers once resided and made their living from this rich and productive land.
Historic Matagorda County Volume I, pages 361-362
The average person not familiar with the soil possibilities of the Texas Coast would be astonished to learn that even Matagorda Peninsula dirt is remarkably fertile and productive. For example, Mr. Dick Serrill brought to town yesterday and presented to Mr. George Austin some specimens of ordinary Indian maize that were raised on the John Duffy farm on the peninsula. The samples are extra fine, the ears being large and the kernel well developed. Mr. Duffy averaged 40 bushels of corn to the acre on this land this year. He also raised 1000 bushels of sweet potatoes on his peninsula land.
Matagorda County Tribune, November 12,
1867 RESIDENTS OF MATAGORDA PENINSULA
Abstracted by: Villa Mae Williams
1870 FEDERAL CENSUS OF MATAGORDA COUNTY, TEXAS
INHABITANTS IN PENINSULA POST OFFICE: MATAGORDA
Every person is listed who lived in this area on July 1, 1870 regardless of the date census was taken.
HH = Household F = Female M = Male W = White B = Black *Married Within the Year
|Vanderpool, Mary||5/12||F||W||(b February)||Texas|
|Bell, Wesley||17||M||W||Farm Hand||Alabama|
|Bell, Elizabeth||16||F||W||At Home||Alabama|
|Bell, William||13||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Bell, Peter E.||11||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Forrestier, Anthony||16||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Forrestier, Eveline||15||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Forrestier, Joseph||14||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Forrestier, Rosalia||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Forrestier, Alice C.||5||F||W||Texas|
|Hutchings, James||12||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Hutchings, Lina A.||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Hutchings, George W.||4||M||W||Texas|
|Hutchings, Richard||1/12||M||W||(b April)||Texas|
|Arthur, James||10||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|7-7||Barbour, William D.||50||M||W||Farmer||Pennsylvania|
|Barbour, Mary A.||50||F||W||Housekeeper||New York|
|Barbour, Mary||12||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Adams, Frederick||16||M||W||Farm Hand||Missouri|
|Jackson, Alexander||14||M||B||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Eidlebach, Mary||15||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Eidlebach, Henry||13||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Eidlebach, Lilley?||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Eidlebach, Frederick C.||1||M||W||Texas|
|Cain, Thomas||13||M||W||At Home||Louisiana|
|Yeamans, Elizabeth||29||F||W||Housekeeper||South Carolina|
|13-12||Yeamans, Joseph||63||M||W||County Surveyor||New York|
|14-13||Jacobs, Edwin||60||M||W||Doctor||New York|
|Jacobs, Charles||14||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Jacobs, Mary C.||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Jacobs, George W.||10||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Smith, Margaret||19||F||W||At Home "Sick"||Texas|
|Cleveland, Lorena||15||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Cleveland, Mary||13||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Cleveland, Philomon||10||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Cleveland, Leana||20||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Arkansas|
|McNabb, Mary A.||33||F||W||School Teacher||Pennsylvania|
|Raymond, Annie||16||F||W||Absent on a visit||Texas|
|Raymond, Samuel||13||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Raymond, George||11||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|17-16||Burkhart, Alex C.||34||M||W||Farmer||Pennsylvania|
|Burkhart, Alexander C.||3||M||W||Texas|
|Burkhart, Henry G.||2||M||W||Texas|
|Zipprian, Angeline||16||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Zipprian, Charles||15||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Zipprian, Jacob||12||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Zipprian, Anna||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Nolte, Frank||13||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Nolte, Josephine||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Nolte, Mary||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Hooper, Nancy||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Sterry, Nancy||51||F||W||Housekeeper||New York|
|Sterry, Christopher||16||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Sterry, Hannah||16||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Sterry, James||12||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Sterry, Julia||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Berg, Catherine||49||F||W||Housekeeper||Sax Miningen|
|27-24||Zipprian, Christian *||27||M||W||Farmer||Baden|
|Zipprian, Wilhelmina *||27||F||W||Housekeeper||Nassau|
|Franz, Elizabeth||67||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Nassau|
|Williams, James||20||M||W||Cattle Driver||Texas|
|Williams, John||19||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Williams, William||17||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Williams, Louisa||14||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Williams, Laura||10||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Franz, Conrad||58||M||W||At Home||Nassau|
|Keiser, Maria||13||F||W||At Home||Louisiana|
|Watkins, Prudence||46||F||B||Farm Hand||Georgia|
|Thomas, Tom||20||M||B||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Thomas, Leanda||12||F||B||House Servant||Texas|
|Smith, Kate||8/12||F||W||(b November)||Texas|
|Sterling, Ida||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Berg, Ann E.||32||M||W||Housekeeper||Nassau|
|Berg, John H.||12||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Berg, Lucy J.||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Berg, Joseph S.||7||M||W||Texas|
|McCarty, Joan||16||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|McCarty, Mary||11||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|McCarty, Jeremiah||13||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Duffy, Christian||22||M||W||Farm Hand||Nassau|
|Duffy, Catherine||20||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Nassau|
|Duffy, Peter||18||M||W||Farm Hand||Nassau|
|Duffy, Andrew||16||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Duffy, Annie||14||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Duffy, John||12||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Jones, Dexter R.||20||M||W||Farmer||Texas|
|Jones, Isabell E.||22||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Maine|
|Vogg, Margaret||13||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|41-34||Phillips, John B.||60||M||W||Farmer||Ireland|
|Phillips, Edward||28||M||W||Cattle Driver||Mexico|
|Phillips, Charles||17||M||W||Attends School||Texas|
|41-35||Phillips, John *||33||M||W||Farmer||Mauritia [Mauritius]|
|Phillips, Lucy *||30||F||W||Housekeeper||Texas|
|Phillips, Annie||15||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Duke, Frederick||15||M||W||Farm Hand||Texas|
|Duke, Eliza||12||F||W||At Home||Texas|
|Smith, John||10||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Peasley, Stephen||55||M||W||Retired Farmer||Kentucky|
|Decrow, Olivia||28||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Texas|
|Decrow, Thomas||20||M||W||Cattle Driver||Texas|
|Decrow, Elijah||70||M||W||Retired Farmer||Maine|
|Duke, Mary||21||F||W||Asst. Housekeeper||Alabama|
|Brown, Irvin T.||3||M||W||Texas|
|Armstrong, William||14||M||W||At Home||Texas|
|Kent, Henry||31||M||W||Farmer||New York|
Copyright 2006 -
Present by Carol Sue Gibbs
Jan. 16, 2006
Jan 11, 2009