Pelican Island, a small island north of Galveston Harbor (at 29°20' N, 94°48' W), was a narrow salt marsh in 1816 with a few hundred feet of dry soil. An adjoining salt marsh known as Pelican Spit as late as 1841 is now a part of Pelican Island. The island is directly north of the Galveston Harbor docks and provides protection for the harbor from the open Galveston Bay. The island also protects the ship channel leading to the wharf area. The Texas legislature gave Pelican Island to the city of Galveston in 1856. During the Civil War, the Confederacy built a small fort there in 1861 and installed "quakers" (fake cannon), which contributed to the Union success in 1862. After the recapture of Galveston by John Bankhead Magruder in 1863, six casement guns on Pelican Island and eight more at Fort Point on Galveston Island secured the channel for the remainder of the war. The island has been used for a fish and oyster business, for an immigration and lifesaving station, and for the Todd Ship Yards. Galveston established a park on the island in 1955–56, and a viaduct was opened in 1958. Commercial and industrial development on the island never reached expectations. In 1965 a local citizen, George Mitchell, bought a large parcel of land on the island and donated some of it for the permanent site of the Texas Maritime Academy (now Texas A&M University at Galveston).
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David G. McComb, Galveston: A History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1986). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Texas Maritime Academy).
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Pelican Island (Galveston County),”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 30, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995