MATAGORDA PENINSULA

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.

 

In his book, Information About Texas, written in 1858, D. E. E. Braman writes about Matagorda Peninsula:

The Bay of Matagorda, a large body of water almost wholly within the county, is separated from the Gulf of Mexico, and formed by the "Matagorda Peninsula," a strip of land sixty-five miles long, and averaging one mile wide. It lies nearly N.E. and S.W. and is inhabited by small farmers and stock raisers. A portion of the land, lying back from the Gulf, is an excellent, dark, sandy soil, easily cultivated , and very productive in all kinds of vegetation which is not injured by the sea-breeze. Notwithstanding high winds, a crop of sugar cane was raised here, several years since, and manufactured into first quality sugar on the premises. There is no healthier region in the world than Matagorda Peninsula; and many invalids have been restored to sound health through the happy influences of its pure air and sea-bathing. Game and fish can be obtained here, at all seasons with ease and abundance; and I dare assert, that I have never seen a place where poor men, by agricultural pursuits, may live so easily and so soon became independent.

 

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

 


Peninsula Corn

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, 1915
 

 


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
 
HH NAME AGE SEX RACE OCCUPATION BORN
1-1 Vanderpool, James 52 M W Farmer Kentucky
  Vandepool, Emily 39 F W Housekeeper Alabama
  Vanderpool, John 3 M W   Texas
  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
2-2 Forrestier, Joseph 48 M W Farmer Louisiana
  Forrestier, Augustine 37 F W Housekeeper Louisiana
  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, Josephine 9 F W   Texas
  Forrestier, Alice C. 5 F W   Texas
  Forrestier, Mary 1 F W   Texas
  Forrestier, Delilah 2 F W   Texas
3-3 Forrestier, Alexander 35 M W Farmer Louisiana
  Forrestier, Louisa 23 F W Housekeeper Louisiana
  Forrestier, James 3 M W   Texas
  Forrestier, Henry 1 M W   Texas
4-4 Hutchings, James 45 M W Farmer England
  Hutchings, Cladia 35 F W Housekeeper Texas
  Hutchings, James 12 M W At Home Texas
  Hutchings, Lina A. 10 F W At Home Texas
  Hutchings, Charlotte 7 F W   Texas
  Hutchings, George W. 4 M W   Texas
  Hutchings, Richard 1/12 M W (b April) Texas
5-5 Glidewell, James 32 M W Farmer Alabama
  Glidewell, Martha 27 F W Housekeeper Alabama
6-6 Arthur, Marcus 37 M W Farmer Kentucky
  Arthur, Fanny 27 F W Housekeeper Mississippi
  Arthur, James 10 M W At Home Texas
  Arthur, Marcus 8 M W   Texas
  Arthur, Allen 5 M W   Texas
  Arthur, Peter 3 M W   Texas
  Arthur, Prince 2 M W   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
  Barbour, William 8 M W   Texas
  Adams, Frederick 16 M W Farm Hand Missouri
  Jackson, Alexander 14 M B Farm Hand Texas
8-8 Eidlebach, John 64 M W Farmer Nassau
  Eidlebach, Elizabeth 37 F W Housekeeper Hanover
  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, Emma 5 F W   Texas
  Eidlebach, Charles 3 M W   Texas
9            
10-9 Eidlebach, John 29 M W Farmer Nassau
  Eidlebach, Kate 21 F W Housekeeper Texas
  Eidlebach, Frederick C. 1 M W   Texas
  Tuttle, Lizzie 3 F W   Texas
  Hillard, Lewis 17 M B Fisherman Texas
11-10 Cain, Patsy 48 M W Farmer Ireland
  Cain, Jane 45 F W Housekeeper Ireland
  Cain, Thomas 13 M W At Home Louisiana
  Cain, John 9 M W   Texas
  Cain, Andrew 8 M W   Texas
  Cain, George 6 M W   Texas
12-11 Yeamans, Joseph 24 M W Farmer Texas
  Yeamans, Erastus 34 M W Farmer Texas
  Yeamans, Elizabeth 29 F W Housekeeper South Carolina
  Yeamans, Mary 1 F W   Texas
13-12 Yeamans, Joseph 63 M W County Surveyor New York
14-13 Jacobs, Edwin 60 M W Doctor New York
  Jacobs, Susan 36 F W Housekeeper Arkansas
  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
  Jacobs, Augustus 8 M W   Texas
  Jacobs, Riley 6 M W   Texas
  Jacobs, Lucinda 1 F W   Texas
  Smith, Margaret 19 F W At Home "Sick" Texas
15-14 Cleveland, Philomen 48 M W Farmer Ohio
  Cleveland, Catherine 37 F W Housekeeper Nassau
  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, John 6 M W   Texas
  Cleveland, Orison 1 M W   Texas
  Cleveland, Leana 20 F W Asst. Housekeeper Arkansas
  McNabb, Mary A. 33 F W School Teacher Pennsylvania
16-15 Raymond, Gertrude 41 F W Housekeeper Nassau
  Raymond, Jesse 18 M W Boatman Texas
  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
  Raymond, Lizzie 9 F W   Texas
  Raymond, Virginia 6 F W   Texas
17-16 Burkhart, Alex C. 34 M W Farmer Pennsylvania
  Burkhart, Emma 25 F W Housekeeper Alabama
  Burkhart, John 6 M W   Texas
  Burkhart, Emma 5 F W   Texas
  Burkhart, Alexander C. 3 M W   Texas
  Burkhart, Henry G. 2 M W   Texas
18-17 Zipprian, John 62 M W Farmer Baden
  Zipprian, Catherine 50 F W Housekeeper Baden
  Zipprian, William 20 M W Farmer 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
  Zipprian, Lewis 9 M W   Texas
  Zipprian, Mary 4 F W   Texas
19            
20-18 Bennett, Walter 37 M W Farmer Tennessee
  Bennett, Lucy 36 F W Housekeeper Texas
21-19 Nolte, Frank 44 M W Farmer Hanover
  Nolte, Verana 40 F W Housekeeper Hanover
  Nolte, Frank 13 M W Farm Hand Texas
  Nolte, Josephine 11 F W At Home Texas
  Nolte, Mary 10 F W At Home Texas
  Nolte, Emma 2 F W   Texas
22            
23-20 Hooper, Joshua 38 M W Farmer Virginia
  Hooper, Eliza 26 F W Housekeeper Texas
  Hooper, Nancy 10 F W At Home Texas
  Hooper, Alexander 8 M W   Texas
  Hooper, Charles 6 M W   Texas
  Hooper, Joshua 5 M W   Texas
  Hooper, Horace 2 M W   Texas
  Hooper, George 1 M W   Texas
  Hooper, George 35 M W Planter Alabama
  Sneed, Susan 8 F W   Texas
24-21 Sterry, James 41 M W Carpenter Maine
  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
  Nelson, Charles 59 M W Boatman Sweden
25-22 Dunbar, William 29 M W Carpenter Maine
  Dunbar, Harriet 20 F W Housekeeper Texas
26-23 Berg, William 40 M W Farmer Nassau
  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
28-25 Williams, Catherine 40 F W 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, Mary 12 F W Nurse Texas
  Williams, Laura 10 F W At Home Texas
  Williams, Sallie 9 F W   Texas
  Williams, Virginie 8 F W   Texas
  Williams, Henry 6 M W   Texas
  Gyle, Clement 48 M W Blind Missouri
  Croom, Phoebe 50 F W Blind Texas
  Blair, Eliza 30 F B Insane Louisiana
  Franz, Conrad 58 M W At Home Nassau
29            
30            
31            
32-26 Thompson, Nancy 60 F W Housekeeper Georgia
  Keiser, Gertrude 30 F W Housekeeper Mississippi
  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
33-27 Smith, Charles 29 M W Farmer Hanover
  Smith, Christina 29 F W Housekeeper Nassau
  Smith, Kate 8/12 F W (b November) Texas
  Sterling, Ida 11 F W At Home Texas
  Sterling, Rudolph 8 M W   Texas
  Hastrich, Charles 5 M W   Texas
34-28 Berg, Joseph 41 M W Farmer Nassau
  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
  Berg, Bertha 5 F W   Texas
  Berg, William 1 M W   Texas
35-29 McCarty, Ellen 37 F W Housekeeper Ireland
  McCarty, Joan 16 F W Asst. Housekeeper Texas
  McCarty, Mary 11 F W At Home Texas
  McCarty, Jeremiah 13 M W At Home Texas
  McCarty, Thomas 7 M W   Texas
36-30 Allen, John 60 M W Farmer Maine
37-31 Duffy, Peter 56 M W Farmer Nassau
  Duffy, Catherine 50 F W Housekeeper Nassau
  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
  Duffy, August 28 M W Boatman Nassau
39-32 Collins, Mercy 48 F W Housekeeper Maine
  Jones, Dexter R. 20 M W Farmer Texas
  Jones, Augustus 18 M W Farmer Texas
  Jones, Aaron 9 M W   Texas
  Jones, Isabell E. 22 F W Asst. Housekeeper Maine
40-33 Vogg, Frederick 46 M W Farmer Wirtemburg
  Vogg, Mary 36 F W Housekeeper Ireland
  Vogg, Margaret 13 F W At Home Texas
  Vogg, Frederick 8 M W   Texas
  Vogg, Mary 6 F W   Texas
  Vogg, Elizabeth 2 F W   Texas
41-34 Phillips, John B. 60 M W Farmer Ireland
  Phillips, Susan 60 F W Housekeeper England
  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
  Evans, Benjamin 55 M W Boatman Pennsylvania
42-36 Harkell, Eliza 60 F W  Housekeeper Georgia
  Duke, Frederick 15 M W Farm Hand Texas
  Duke, Eliza 12 F W At Home Texas
43-37 Peasley, Henry 30 M W Farmer Kentucky
  Peasley, Cordelia 22 F W Housekeeper Texas
  Peasley, Decrow 1 M W   Texas
  Smith, John 10 M W At Home Texas
  Peasley, Stephen 55 M W Retired Farmer Kentucky
44            
45-38 Cherry, Rebecca 32 F W Housekeeper Texas
  Cherry, Thomas 21 M W Stockraiser Texas
46-39 Decrow, Thomas 65 M W Stockraiser Maine
  Decrow, Lucretia 60 F W Housekeeper Maine
  Decrow, Robert 30 M W Stockraiser Texas
  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
47-40 Brown, Simeon 34 M W Pilot Maine
  Brown, Mary 25 F W Housekeeper Texas
  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
All rights reserved

Created
Jan. 16, 2006
Updated
Jan 11, 2009
 

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