On this day in 1860, the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad completed its bridge from Virginia Point to Galveston Island. Virginia Point, on the mainland west of Galveston, was an outlying part of Stephen F. Austin's Coast Colony. The bridge brought growth, as it facilitated traffic between Galveston and Houston. Previously, merchandise had to be unloaded at the point from trains, carried by the steam ferryboat Texas across to Galveston, unloaded onto drays, and unloaded again on the wharves. With the new 10,000-foot bridge in service, trains came through Virginia Point daily. The causeway survived the ravages of the Civil War, only to be destroyed by a hurricane in 1867. While repairs were being made, ferry boats again carried the freight. In 1875 the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway constructed a second wooden bridge. Other railroad interests brought a third railroad bridge from North Galveston to Virginia Point in 1892, and Galveston County built a steel wagon bridge in 1893. But the Galveston hurricane of 1900 swept away the bridges and most of Virginia Point. A reinforced-concrete causeway completed in 1911 carried the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway, five steam railroads, and the county highway. Virginia Point remained a train stop and fishing resort until another hurricane wiped out the town in 1915. In 1936 the electric railway abandoned its tracks as automobile traffic took over. The University of Texas operated a shell and topsoil company in Virginia Point until the 1950s. Texas City annexed the point in 1952, but never included it in its seawall system. Increased shipping in the Intracoastal Canal and bay has eroded portions of the old townsite, which is now reached only at low tide by a shell road under the old causeway
On this day in 1879, the first issue of the Texan, the first Czech newspaper in Texas, appeared. Though the periodical, published by E. J. Glueckman, lasted little more than a decade, it reflected the rich influence of the Czech culture in Texas and was just the first of many publications to come. Czech immigrants came to Texas in the early 1850s and were inspired by the glowing descriptions of countryman Josef Arnošt Bergmann. This pioneer, known as the “father” of Czech immigration to Texas, wrote of the freedom and fertile land available in the Lone Star State. Austin, Fayette, Lavaca, and Washington counties in Central Texas saw the growth of Czech settlements. The immigrants brought with them their family-oriented farming way of life and many religious and social societies. They also added to the fabric of the state’s ethnic culture with a wealth of folk stories, music, dance, and food. Immigration to Texas reached its zenith in the years before World War I, when foreign-born Czechs numbered over 15,000 in the state. By the end of the twentieth century, more than thirty Czech newspapers and periodicals had been published, and a number of societies and festivals honored the Czech heritage in Texas.
On this day in 1756, Joseph Blancpain, a French trader whose activities in Texas heightened bad feeling between France and Spain in the middle of the eighteenth century, died in prison in Mexico City. Blancpain had been arrested in 1754 by Spanish army lieutenant Marcos Ruiz for unauthorized trading with Indians, to whom he was evidently furnishing firearms. The Spanish authorities believed him to be an agent for the French government. As a result of Blancpain's activities the king of Spain ordered that any Frenchman found in Spanish territory would be imprisoned.