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VIRGINIA POINT, TX

VIRGINIA POINT, TEXAS. Virginia Point is in Galveston County on a point of land seven miles west of the city of Galveston, where the causeway from Galveston Island connects with the mainland. The area was a peripheral part of Stephen F. Austin's third colony, known as the Coast Colony. By 1840 a small village was laid out at the point of a ferry crossing. The community grew considerably when the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad began construction there in 1856. The railway reached Houston on January 8, 1859. One of the principal promoters of the railroad was Judge William J. Jones, a cotton planter and owner of the cotton mill at Virginia Point. Until the railroad completed the causeway to Galveston on February 6, 1860, merchandise had to be unloaded from the 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. During the Civil War Union forces blockaded the Gulf Coast. The Confederacy stationed troops along the railroad from Galveston to Houston, and Virginia Point was fortified. After the initial confrontation with a Union fleet, Col. Joseph J. Cook, the Confederate commander, withdrew all troops and armaments from Galveston to Virginia Point on October 8, 1862. They remained there until Gen. John B. Magruder recaptured the island on January 1, 1863. On October 3, 1867, a hurricane destroyed the railroad bridge. While repairs were being made, ferry boats carried freight daily from Virginia Point. In 1875 two wooden railroad bridges crossed from Virginia Point to Galveston, the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway having constructed the second one. The C. P. Huntington Syndicate purchased bayfront acreage in Galveston and Virginia Point in 1883 as a part of their railroad expansion plans into the port of Galveston. The Southern Pacific Railroad acquired the North Galveston, Houston and Kansas City Railroad Company, which had built 15.69 miles of track, including a third railroad bridge, from North Galveston to Virginia Point in 1892. The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway operated the road for Southern Pacific. Galveston County built a steel wagon bridge in 1893. Considering the amount of traffic through the point, in 1893 Walter C. Jones, owner of Virginia Point, made plans to extend the townsite. The Galveston hurricane of 1900, however, swept away the bridges and most of the community as well. When the new reinforced-concrete causeway was completed in 1911, it carried the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway, five steam railroads, and the county highway. Virginia Point's hotel and fishing facilities were busiest on the weekends, when Houstonians and soldiers from Galveston and Texas City came to relax. The 1915 hurricane again destroyed the community. All that remained was the two-story watchtower, which housed compressors used to lift the railroad tracks for ocean-going ships, and two storage buildings owned by the electric railway. Though the causeway and the fishing camps were rebuilt, subsequent hurricanes discouraged the development of a year-round community. In 1936 the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway abandoned its tracks because of competition from automobiles. The University of Texas invested in the marshland of Virginia Point, however, and operated a shell and topsoil company there until the 1950s. Soldiers from Camp Wallace seeking recreation and the construction of Interstate Highway 45 caused a brief flurry of activity at the point during the 1940s and early 1950s. The Santa Fe Railroad also owned property there and leased the shore area to the only remaining business, a baithouse and fishing camp. Texas City annexed Virginia Point on March 28, 1952, but never included the undeveloped area in its seawall system. Increased shipping in the Intercoastal Canal and bay has eroded portions of the old townsite. Virginia Point is reached by a shell road under the old causeway when the tide is out.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Charles C. Cumberland, "The Confederate Loss and Recapture of Galveston, 1862–1863," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 51 (October 1947). Rebecca LaCroix, "Virginia Point's Fading History," Firewheel, Spring 1981. S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno Press, 1981). Herb Woods, Galveston-Houston Electric Railway (Los Angeles: Electric Railway Publications, 1959).

Priscilla Myers Benham

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Priscilla Myers Benham, "VIRGINIA POINT, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/htv07), accessed September 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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