High Island is on a tall salt dome on Bolivar Peninsula at the extreme eastern end of Galveston County. Its thirty-eight-foot rise above sea level makes High Island the highest point on the Gulf of Mexico between Mobile, Alabama, and the Yucatán Peninsula. In 1845 Anson Jones referred to the dome as the High Islands. Mineral springs on the so-called island attracted Indians, who called the area Doe Island. Jean Laffite is said to have occupied the area, and Charles Cronea, his cabin boy, is said to have built a home on High Island in 1876. The house is built of cypress, pegged together, and was remodeled in 1972. Cronea's grave is in the High Island Cemetery. Laffite is supposed by some to have buried treasure at High Island, but no discovery has ever been reported. The first Anglo settler was Martin Dunman, who received a league of land for his part in the Texas Revolution and moved to High Island in 1845. A post office was established in 1897. During hurricanes and floods, residents from miles away on the flat Bolivar Peninsula and coastal lowlands rush to High Island-often the only point above water-for protection. Around 1890 the mineral springs were purchased by Sam Smith, who apparently promoted their curative value. A fine hotel was built, and rail cars drawn by mules took guests to the beach each day. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed the business. A search for oil at High Island began as early as 1901, after the Spindletop oilfield discovery near Beaumont, but the major find did not come until the 1930s, when drilling in the marshes and not on the dome proved successful. At one time there were as many as 200 flowing wells surrounding the salt dome, and in the 1980s there was still oil activity, with pumps operating daily near the intersection of State highways 87 and 124. Sulfur production added to the economy. In the 1940s trappers gathered muskrat hides at High Island. The Houston Audubon Society's Louis Smith Bird Sanctuary and the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary are two local bird preserves. A nearby fishing pier contributed to the area's tourism, but no longer exists. In 1990 High Island had a population of 500 and nine businesses. In 2000 the population remained the same, though the number of businesses increased to twelve.
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A. Pat Daniels, Bolivar! Gulf Coast Peninsula (Crystal Beach, Texas: Peninsula, 1985). Kathleen E. and Clifton R. St. Clair, eds., Little Towns of Texas (Jacksonville, Texas: Jayroe Graphic Arts, 1982).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
A. Pat Daniels,
“High Island, TX,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed July 05, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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