How A-Town Got Named After A Dead Man Not From Texas

How It All Began

Before the 1820s, the region of Hitchcock was held by Karankawa Indians (also known as Carancahuas, Carancahuases, Carancouas, Caranhouas, Caronkawa) were Native Americans that concentrated in southern Texas along the Gulf of Mexico coast. They were several independent seasonal travel groups who shared the same language plus much of the same culture. They voyaged from place to place in their dugouts (canoes). There would be thirty to forty people in their group. They would remain in each location for roughly about four weeks.

In 1825, Stephen Austin commissioned as a captain to lead volunteers to expel the Karankaw from Austin land grant. In later years the Karankawa were repeatedly attacked by Texan colonists who drove then out of their native lands. By the 1840s, the Karankawa split into two groups, one settled on Padre Island, and the other fled to Mexico to the state of Tamaulipas.

It was 1858, Juan Nepomuceno Cortina led a raid of Texan Colonists against the Karakawa’s killing the remaining members of the tribe. By 1892, the Karakawa people were believed to be extinct.

People moved into the area of Hitchcock recorded as early as the 1840s, who settled along the Highland Bayou. They were farmers taking their produce by canoe to Galveston Island to sell at the Market, for they were in high demand since vegetables couldn’t be raised on the island.

The other occupation as this time in the Hitchcock area was a cattleman. The Tacquard family had their start with vast herds of Texas cattle, which were native to these lands.

Lent Munson Hitchcock, born Bridgeport, Connecticut, was a Texas Navy man who had purchased 3,600 acres of land on the mainland. He willed it to his wife and son when he died.

Mrs. Hitchcock was approached by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad Company for a right-of-way. After much effort on the railroad part, Mrs. Hitchcock made a deal with the railway company to grant the right-of-way, but only if a station and the townsite would be named after her late husband. This is how this town became known as Hitchcock.

It is said that around 1930, Hitchcock was the shipping capital of the United States. Unfortunately, in the 1930s, farmers began having problems with insects destroying their crops with no way to fight the insects. Also, at this time, other markets started to open, which hurt Hitchcock. Until Pan American Oil Company opened in Texas City, this provided many need jobs for the people of Hitchcock.

Hitchcock boomed once again during World War II for the bases which opened Camp Wallace, and the Blimp Base both were located within Hitchcock.

Camp Wallace Base

Camp Wallace, also known as “Swamp Wallace” United States Army Basic Training Camp in Galveston County, Texas, it was designed as a training center for Antiaircraft Units it was formally opened on June 1, 1941. The base was named for Colonel Elmer J. Wallace of the 59th Coast Artillery, who was fatally wounded in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive of 1918. Camp Wallace got its nickname “Swamp Wallace” from the fact it rained excessively from the beginning of its construction.

On April 15, 1944, Camp Wallace, the camp was officially transferred over to the United States, Department of the Navy used as a Naval Training Center and a Distribution Center this location was used to hold, Basic Training as known as “Boot Camp.”

After the war, Camp Wallace became the Naval Personnel Separation Center.

On October 15, 1946, Camp Wallace site became custody of the War Assets Administration.

After the Texas City Disaster of April 16, 1947, the cold storage facility at Camp Wallace was converted into a morgue. The Red Cross, along with Federal Works Administration, set up shelters for evacuees from the Texas City disaster area. It was recorded 399 dead, and 113 missing.

Following the Texas City Disaster, Camp Wallace was declared surplus with orders of the removal of all buildings.

Upon the surplus completion, part of the land (915 acres) was deed to the University of Houston. Remaining parcels were either returned to the original owners or set aside for a county park.

This day nothing stands left of the Army or Naval Base. Part of what was once the base is a park with a historical marker. Another part of the base has become the Galveston County Fair Grounds.

Naval Air Station

Hitchcock Naval Air Station is also known as “Blimp Base,” was built-in 1942 but was not commissioned until May 22, 1943. Just 15 miles north of Galveston, the base was a total of 3,000 acres. The base housed the hangar, barracks, mess hall, gymnasium, auditorium, and swimming pool, which was used to train personnel to swim as well as water rescue.

Hitchcock Naval Air Station housed the Fleet Airship Wing Two ZP-23 lighter-than-air-aircraft blimps. The hangar size was 1,000 feet long, 300 feet wide and 200 feet high it cost $10,000 to build, held six blimp aircraft. It had massive concrete pillars while the rest of the hanger was made of wood.

The Fleet Airship Wing Two ZP-21 at NAS Richmond, Florida, was the Headquarters. There was ZP-22 at NAS Houma, Louisiana, and ZP-23 at NAS Hitchcock, Texas. They covered the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, the northern Caribbean from San Julian, the Isle of Pines (now called Isla de la Juventud) and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as well as Vernam Field, Jamaica. There were two auxiliary fields, one in Key West, Florida, the other in Brownsville, Texas.

During the war, 532 ships were sunk without escorts near the U.S. coast by enemy submarines. There was one ship, the Persephone, which was a tanker out of 89,000 to be escorted. It was sunken by the enemy.

Airships engaged submarines with depth charges at times using other on-board weapons. These Airships were exceptional at driving subs to a limited speed. It also affected their range, which prevented them from attacking convoys. The weaponry available to the airships were so limited they had little chance of sinking a submarine. Until the U.S. Navy developed the Mark 24 mine. The Mark 24 was called a mine for security reasons; it was actually an aircraft launched, anti-submarine passive acoustic homing torpedo, which is an acoustic torpedo aims itself by listening for specific sounds (sonar) of its target.

The Blimp aircraft was used to scout for the German Navy submarines called “Wolf Packs” which were believed to be lurking around in the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1945, citizens of Hitchcock voted to become a water and sewer district. It wasn’t until 1950 when it was put into operation.

Hitchcock Naval Air Station was sold to John W. Mecom, Sr. in the late 1950s. However, the Water District purchased the disposal plant, water well, tower plus water and sewer lines at the Blimp Base with approximately 30 acres of land. Santa Fe leased the water, well, and tank to get started with a water supply.

Mr. Mecom leased the hanger to Dowen McLaughlin, Inc., a company to worked government contracts. Dowen McLaughlin, Inc., during the Korean War, used the hangar to remanufactured half-track vehicles and World War II tanks to be used in the war. The equipment once was assembled at the hangar was loaded onto flat cars and shipped to war zones. In 1953, the contact ended.

In 1961, Hurricane Carla damaged the hangar beyond repair. In 1962, they removed the wooden parts of the hangar leaving only the concrete pillars to indicate where the front and the back of the hangar stood plus the foundation as a reminder today there was once a Hitchcock Naval Air Station.

 Galveston County Fair & Rodeo

Since 1984, Hitchcock became home to the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo. The Galveston County Fair & Rodeo started in 1938, being held at facilities in Runge Park in Arcadia. However, in the early 1980’s it had reached the capacity of growth, so the Fair and Rodeo were moved to Jack Brooks Park in Hitchcock. The same grounds to house Camp Wallace.

The Galveston County Fair & Rodeo, Inc. is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to serve the youth of Galveston County by promoting youth, education, agriculture by supporting 4-H and FFA programs.

There are some sites to check out when you visit Hitchcock:

Lodging

• Hitchcock RV Park
• Bostonian Motel
• Highland Bayou RV Park
• Louis’ RV Park
• Lazy D RV Resort
• Blowout’s Lone Star Campground
• Lily’s by The Bay RV Park
• Sunset RV Park

Restaurants

• El Sombrero Café
• Jack In The Box
• Mi Molcasalsa Taco Shop
• Louis’ Bait Camp & Restaurant
• Barcenas
• Slappy’s
• Smokin’ Z’s BBQ
• Subway
• Larry’s Louisiana Rib’s & More
• Baja Cantina

My favorite restaurant to eat at is El Sombrero Café. They have the best Margarita drinks. The food is off the wall delicious.

Arts & Entertainment

• Harborwalk Community, Yacht Club & Marina
• Good Ole Days Entertainment
• GrandSport Speedway

Landmarks & Historical Places

• Jones Bay
• Jacks Brook Park
• Hitchcock City Park
• GTO Ranch

Jacks Brook Park is a quiet place to go to relax. If you have small children, there is a playground to keep them occupied.

Museums

• The Hitchcock Heritage Society

There are two houses. One was donated. The other one was purchased. You will need to call the library to get in touch with the curator of the Museum to schedule a time to view. The museum has a lot of history on the first couple of family’s to settle in Hitchcock. There are still descendants today who currently live within the town. There are many other things as well clothing of this period plus other household items.

Bar

• Tie Down Saloon
• Water’s Edge
• Hitchcock Post Bar
• Palms

The only one I checked out was Water’s Edge, which is a small bar on the water with a boat ramp. It is out of the way by that I mean it is not on the main drag. It is in the back behind the houses. You will need to use GPS to find the place.

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