The Handbook of Texas is free-to-use thanks to the support of readers like you. Support the Handbook today.

Font size: A / A reset

Support Texas History Now

Join TSHA to support quality Texas history programs and receive exclusive benefits.

Become a TSHA Member Today »

Kemah, TX

Diana J. Kleiner General Entry

Kemah is on State Highway 146 and Farm Road 518 in a half-moon pocket on Galveston Bay twenty-five miles northwest of Galveston in northeastern Galveston County. The community was established on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad about 1898 and called Evergreen; it was also known as Shell Siding in the period when the railroad hauled shell from the area. It was renamed Kemah, an Indian word meaning "facing the winds," for its position on the bay in 1907, when the post office opened, because the former name was already in use by another community. By 1914 Kemah had a population of 200, four hay producers, farm homes, summer homes belonging to residents of Galveston and Houston, and several fishing camps. During the Great Depression the population dropped to 100. In 1936 state highway maps showed a church, a school, several businesses, and multiple dwellings at the townsite. World War II brought growth to a population of 550 by 1943. This number held steady until 1965, during which time the town had a maximum of thirty businesses serving primarily the oil and ship-building industries. By then Kemah had incorporated and become part of the Clear Creek Consolidated Independent School District. Thereafter, it reached a high of 2,000 residents and forty-three businesses in 1970, then began to decline. In 1972 the population was 1,144, and in 1988 Kemah had 1,591 residents and sixty-six businesses. Once considered a shrimping town, Kemah continues to celebrate an annual August Blessing of the Fleet. In 1990 the population was 1,094. By 2000 the population had more than doubled reaching 2,330.

Galveston County, Texas: An Economic Base Study (University of Houston Center for Research on Business and Economics, 1965). Samuel Butler Graham and Ellen Newman, Galveston Community Book: A Historical and Biographical Record of Galveston and Galveston County (Galveston: Cawston, 1945). Fred Tarpley, 1001 Texas Place Names (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Communities

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

Diana J. Kleiner, “Kemah, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed April 19, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995