Campbell's Bayou, TX

By: Margaret Bearden Hamilton

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: October 6, 2020

Campbell's Bayou was across Galveston Bay from Galveston on an inlet now in southern Texas City, Galveston County. The site was chosen by the Karankawa Indians as a homesite for their friends, James and Mary (Chirino) Campbell. Campbell (1791–1856), who had served in the United States Navy during the War of 1812, had subsequently been an officer with privateer Jean Laffite until 1821, when the United States government demanded that Campeche, the privateer's settlement on Galveston Island, be evacuated. Though some sources say that the Campbells settled at Campbell's Bayou in 1821, it is more likely that they did not finally move there until 1837–39.

The land the Indians had shown the Campbells was situated near the smallest of three bayous and was named Campbell's Bayou. The stream has since been renamed Campbell Bayou. Fish, wild horses, wild pigs, and game were plentiful. The Campbells planted gardens and built an underground cistern and a log house with shuttered windows and a shell floor. They signaled passing schooners with a raised white flag and traded fresh meat for goods they could not grow. Other families soon moved to the site because it offered easy access to the protected waters of Galveston Bay. Thus goods made and grown on the mainland could be traded to passing ships or sent to Galveston to be sold. The small settlement was visited by travelers from the inland on their way to Galveston. As the White population increased, the Karankawas left. In 1856 Campbell's fence lines were repeatedly moved by a wealthy Judge Jones, who coveted Campbell's land.

During the Civil War many men from Campbell's Bayou fought for the Confederacy, and 5,000 Confederate soldiers camped in and around the bayou in preparation for their attack on Union forces at Galveston. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed the community, however, and many survivors moved inland. The few who remained rebuilt their homes with wood washed ashore during the storm. When the storm of 1915 destroyed the settlement a second time, it was abandoned. A state historical marker placed in the late 1960s commemorates the site. A telescope allegedly presented by Jean Laffite to Jim Campbell as a farewell gift is on display in the Moore Memorial Public Library, Texas City; though the authenticity of the artifact was challenged on the PBS show "History Detectives" in 2003.

Claude W. Dooley, comp., Why Stop? (Odessa: Lone Star Legends, 1978; 2d ed., with Betty Dooley and the Texas Historical Commission, Houston: Lone Star, 1985). Charles Adams Gulick, Jr., Harriet Smither, et al., eds., The Papers of Mirabeau Buonaparte Lamar (6 vols., Austin: Texas State Library, 1920–27; rpt., Austin: Pemberton Press, 1968). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (James Campbell). Vertical File, Moore Memorial Public Library, Texas City, Texas (James Campbell).

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

Margaret Bearden Hamilton, “Campbell's Bayou, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
October 6, 2020

Campbell's Bayou
Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Galveston County
  • Latitude: 29.33275000°
  • Longitude: -94.91836000°