PLACES & TRIPS
|HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS|
Here is some information about Harris County, Texas which may interest you.
NOTE: To see arrowheads and other Indian artifacts found in Harris County visit Harris County Indian Artifacts on this website.
Harris County is the location of the PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE, the best small natural history museum on Earth. The PMNS also has the most illustrious Board of Directors of any small museum in the nation.
Harris County estimated 2004 population is 3,644,285 and in 2000 the estimated population was 3,400,578.
The main city in Harris County is Houston, which is the forth largest city in the United States.
Is Harris County growing? YES The increase in population from April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2004 was 17.2% and the growth from 1990 to 2000 was 20.7%
The land area of Harris County is 1,778 square miles, making it one of the nation's largest Major city counties. Harris County had 1,967 persons per square mile in 2000.
Harris County has very interesting history. The Battle of San Jacinto took place in Harris County on April 21, 1836. This historic battled which lasted less than twenty minutes.
On the San Jacinto monument (which is ? feet higher than the Washington Monument) is this inscription "Measured by its results, San Jacinto was one of the decisive battles of the world. The freedom of Texas from Mexico won here led to annexation and to the Mexican War, resulting in the acquisition by the United States of the States of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, Utah, and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma. Almost one-third of the present area of the American nation, nearly a million square miles of territory, changed sovereignty."
630 Mexicans were killed and 730 taken prisoner. Texans lost only 9 killed or mortally wounded; thirty were less seriously wounded. Among the latter was General Houston, whose ankle was shattered.
With his army of 910 men, Gen. Sam Houston decided to attack Mexican Presidente & General Santa Anna, whose troops numbered about 1,200. Most of the attack would come over open ground, where the Texan infantry would be vulnerable to Mexican gunfire. Even riskier, Gen. Houston decided to outflank the Mexicans with his cavalry, stretching his troops even thinner. However, Gen. Santa Anna, who planned to attack on April 22, 1836, made a crucial mistake: during the army's traditional Mexican afternoon siesta, he failed to post sentries around his camp.
The Texan wanted vengeance for the massacre of all at the fall of the Alamo and the massacre of surrendered prisoners at Goliad, chased the Mexican soldiers into the swamps continuing to shoot and club them in spite of Gen. Houston's attempts to stop the slaughter. Gen. Santa Anna was captured the next day when he was captured in clothing which did not make him recognizable as the General, but his troops immediately showed recognition of him and it was determined he was wearing fine underwear, which a plain soldier would not have on. He told Gen. Sam Houston, when he feared being killed, that Gen. Houston had captured "the Napoleon of the West".
Harris County is also the site for the United State's NASA Space Center; a major share of the nation's refineries; one of the nation's largest ports; and a leading economic and financial center.
PALEONTOLOGICAL, ARCHEOLOGICAL and ANTHROPOLOGICAL INTEREST
Harris County was a location of population, long before Europeans came to the New World.
In the coastal area along Chambers County, to the East of Harris County, running on along Galveston County, to the South of Harris County, Brazoria County to the Southeast of Harris County and on down the Gulf Coast toward Corpus Christi there existed a group of Indians called the Karankawas. The Karankawa Indians were a group of Indian Tribes that lived along the Texas Coast. By 1860, at the start of the American Civil War, the Karankawas had been completely exterminated. The Karankawas had camp sites along the lagoons and bays along this Texas Gulf Coast area, which undoubtedly included areas of Harris County, as well. This bays were mostly smooth and the water was shallow, which waters enabled the Karankawas to go out into the pools and in the clear, slowly ebbing water take the fish and oysters and other marine life for food.
Click link here for more information on the Karankawa Indians.
The Handbook of Texas includes the following
information: [citation Handbook of Texas
Online, s.v. "HARRIS COUNTY," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hch07.
THE PROCTOR MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE WISHES TO EXTEND OUR APPRECIATION FOR THIS VERY USEFUL INFORMATION AND GIVE FULL CREDIT TO THE DIRECT QUOTATION OF THIS PART OF "Texas Handbook On Line" of the Texas Historical Association, Copyright © Texas State Historical Association--quoted portion below is used by permission of the Texas State Historical Association, Laurie Jasinski, Research Editor Texas Handbook online.
Archeological sites in Harris County reveal
the presence of human beings 6,000 years
ago. The oldest contains a previously undisturbed
deposit of bone remains and dart points dating
from 4000 to 1000 B.C. A site on Clear Lake
features a shell midden and cemetery with
early ceramics dating between 1400 B.C. and
A.D. 950. Other sites in the western area
and along Galveston Bay have yielded pottery,
stone tools, and points from 2,000 years
ago. Many shell middens along the bayshore
and brackish streams were destroyed in the
nineteenth century when residents used the
convenient shell heaps for construction.
Although Spain claimed the Texas Gulf Coast,
few Europeans visited the future Harris County
between 1528 and 1821. It is possible that
Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca ascended the San
Jacinto River from Galveston Island about
1529 to trade with the woodland Indians,
but his adventures failed to stimulate interest
in the Texas coast. A few French traders
from Louisiana visited Indians living on
Spring Creek between the 1730s and 1745,
but made no settlement. A Spanish mission
and presidio complex, El Orcoquisac, was
maintained near the mouth of the Trinity
from 1756 to 1771 to monitor and oppose the
intrusion of foreigners. In 1746 Capt. Joaquín
de Orobio y Basterra from La Bahía visited
the Orcoquisac villages along Spring Creek
while looking for French traders. He reported
the lack of roads or maps and on his return
blazed a trail westward to find the Old San
Antonio Road, on which he had traveled to
Nacogdoches on his way to the lower Trinity
and San Jacinto rivers. The first Anglo-Americans
to explore Harris County were members of
the various filibustering expeditions launched
from New Orleans between 1815 and 1820 to
aid the Mexican Republicans rebelling against
Spain. Using Galveston Island and Bolivar
Peninsula as a base, the men belonging to
the expeditions and encampments of Louis
Michel Aury, Francisco Xavier Mina, Jean
Laffite, and James Longqv looked around the
San Jacinto estuary for future homesites,
their expected reward for freeing Mexico
from Spain. Some of these men were among
the pioneer settlers arriving by boat from
Louisiana in early 1822, just after the Mexican
War of Independence.
Responding to Stephen F. Austin's advertisements, the families wrongly assumed that the San Jacinto estuary was part of his empresario grant. Some moved to the Brazos River in 1824, but merchants and boatmen remained to exploit what turned out to be the best transportation system in Texas and to petition successfully for inclusion in the Austin grant. Since Galveston Island and the Gulf shore were forbidden to Anglo settlement, Harris County was the southeastern border of the colony. The pioneers found no Indians living in the future Harris County. In July 1824 a state land commissioner, the Baron de Bastrop, arrived and spent two months issuing twenty-nine titles to settlers, even though surveys were incomplete. The pioneers, including Nathaniel Lynch, William Scott, and John R. Harris, chose sites along Buffalo Bayou, the San Jacinto River, and the San Jacinto estuary. Between 1828 and 1833, when Austin's colonization effort virtually ended, twenty-three more families secured titles elsewhere in the county, usually along watercourses. In 1826, John R. Harris laid out Harrisburg on his league where Brays Bayou joined Buffalo Bayou, the head of navigation. He opened a store and built a saw and grist mill, while his brothers captained vessels between there and New Orleans and even Tampico. By 1833 Harrisburg was an established port of entry for immigrants and freight destined for the upper Brazos River communities of San Felipe and Washington. Moreover, it was the hub for east-west roads. Eastward from Harrisburg in 1830, travelers crossed the San Jacinto River on Lynch's Ferry on their way to Anahuac, Liberty, or Nacogdoches. Opposite Harrisburg, a road paralleled Buffalo Bayou heading northwest to a community on Spring Creek, then forked for the Brazos villages. A third important road followed the south bank of Brays Bayou for fifteen miles to a community on Oyster Creek near the site of present-day Stafford in Fort Bend County. This area was known as the San Jacinto District from 1824 until 1833, when it was renamed the Harrisburg District. From 1824 through 1827 Humphrey Jackson was the alcalde for the San Jacinto District, which stretched from Lynchburg on the San Jacinto River to the site of present-day Richmond on the west, and from Spring Creek to Clear Creek. Jackson reported to Stephen F. Austin until 1828, when the newly instituted ayuntamiento at San Felipe relieved the empresario and comisariosqv were named. The final stage of development under the Mexican system occurred on December 30, 1835, when the General Council set the boundaries of Harrisburg Municipality. Amid the growing crisis that culminated in Texas independence, 264 voters scattered over five precincts chose Edward Wray alcalde on February 1, 1836, and named Lorenzo de Zavala and Andrew Briscoe delegates to the March convention. Harrisburg District was represented at the conventions of 1832 and 1833qv and the Consultation in 1835. Some residents also participated in the Anahuac Disturbances in 1832 and 1835 and the call for volunteers in September 1835 to oppose Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos. On March 12, the required one-third of the Harrisburg militia responded to the call to leave immediately for Gonzales.
Harrisburg Municipality was the home of both President David G. Burnet and Vice President Lorenzo de Zavala of the new Republic of Texas. They were elected by the delegates at Washington after midnight on March 16, 1836, and the next morning left for Harrisburg, where water transportation offered an escape if the Mexican army should win. On March 25 the group reached Harrisburg, where the president conducted business for the next two weeks. Burnet and his bride had moved to Lynchburg from New Jersey in 1831 with equipment for a steam sawmill that he built on the San Jacinto River above Lynch's Ferry. Declining to claim a headright, he bought land from Lynch for his home on a small bay below the ferry. He was not chosen to represent his neighborhood in 1832, 1833, 1835, or 1836 because of his pro-Mexican views. Delegates, torn by rivalries, chose him because he was not a delegate. Zavala, a refugee from Santa Antonio López de Santa Anna's wrath, bought a house on the north side of Buffalo Bayou below Harrisburg in August 1835, and his New York-born second wife and three children joined him in December. The republic's officials evacuated Harrisburg by steamboat to Lynchburg on April 12, when word arrived that Santa Anna's troops were crossing the Brazos below Richmond. The steamboat Cayuga later took the officials and their families to Galveston Island. A constant stream of refugees from the upper Brazos settlements had been crossing Harrisburg Municipality since mid-March en route to the United States.
Santa Anna and his advance units reached Harrisburg at midnight on April 14 and, after a day of looting, set fire to the settlement on the sixteenth. The general dispatched a cavalry troop to Morgan's Point on April 16 that almost captured the Burnet family. The battle of San Jacinto took place on April 20 and 21 opposite Zavala's house on widow Peggy McCormick's farm, where perhaps 600 dead soldiers remained unburied when neither commander ordered interment.
Harrisburg County was formed by the First Congress on December 22, 1836. The lawmakers also named Andrew Briscoe chief justice and the infant city of Houston the county seat and national capital (see CAPITALS). The county encompassed the territory of the old municipality plus Galveston Island (the mainland was attached to Brazoria County) until May 1838, when its modern boundaries were established. In December 1839, Congress changed the name to Harris County, in honor of John R. Harris. The county briefly lost its northwest corner in 1841 when Spring Creek residents tried to form a separate county. The first county court, convened in February 1837, was composed of the chief justice (called the county judge after 1861), the sheriff, the clerk, and two justices of the peace who served as associate justices. Voters in each militia precinct chose two justices of the peace, and between 1837 and 1846 these men annually elected two of their body to serve as the two associate justices on the county court. Later, with statehood and a new constitution, four county commissioners represented the four precincts on the county court, and justices of the peace exercised their duties only within their precincts. The Congress also established district courts for criminal and civil cases; the first session of the Second District Court met in Houston in March 1837. This court is the forerunner of the Eleventh District Court established after the Civil War. The criminal district court serving Harris and Galveston counties began in 1867 and lasted until 1911, when each county formed its own criminal court. Since the first log court building, the county has built four successive imposing courthouses on the courthouse square in Houston. The 1911 structure still stands but is augmented by four major new buildings on separate blocks housing courts, offices, and the jail. The county has acquired several older office buildings around the courthouse for courts and offices.
Harrisburg recovered from the revolution slowly. By 1853 it had a steam mill and was the terminus for the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway, which crossed the county to Stafford's Point to facilitate the shipment of cotton and sugar. Five other railroads followed before the Civil War. The Galveston, Houston and Henderson connected the island to the mainland, while the Texas and New Orleans constructed tracks along the north side of Buffalo Bayou to Liberty and Orange, thus enabling Confederate troops from Harris County to reach the Neches River on their way to Virginia. The Houston and Texas Central ran west from town to Cypress, Hockley, and Hempstead. The Houston Tap and Brazoria linked Houston with the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado south of town and had a line to Columbia to serve the Brazoria County sugar plantations.
Early settlers in Harris County were mainly from the United States-Southerners bringing their black slaves. Besides cultivating field crops, some of the African Americans worked the cattle on the open-range ranches, particularly in the area south of Buffalo Bayou, which remained ranching country into the early twentieth century. By the 1840s a number of Germans and French had immigrated to Harris County. Both groups included city-dwelling artisans, merchants, and farmers, some Catholic, some Protestant. Many of the immigrant agrarians settled north and west of Houston and established successful truck and dairy farms that drew Europeans through the turn of the century. Contrary to legend, few Mexican prisoners chose to remain in Harris County when all were released on April 21, 1837, by President Sam Houston. The 1850 United States census revealed no Mexican-born males of the right age in Harris County or surrounding counties. A few Mexican families lived in Houston in the 1880s. It was the economic opportunities offered by the Houston Ship Channel and the railroads, combined with the unsettled political conditions following the Mexican Revolution, that brought Mexicans to Houston. Most settled in the city close to their work and the Catholic churches. Asian immigrants have also settled in large numbers within the city since the 1970s.
While the first settlers lived along the streams, those coming after the Civil War chose sites along the railroads that crisscrossed Harris County. By 1890 land developers in the Midwest had purchased land along the new North Galveston, Houston and Kansas City Railroad, which ran east from Houston along the south side of Buffalo Bayou towards Morgan's Point and south to the mouth of Clear Creek. They expected to attract other midwesterners to raise fruit, berries, and vegetables or just to seek relief from cold winters. Pasadena, Deer Park, and La Porte were established in 1892, and Seabrook followed about 1900. South Houston, Genoa, and Webster developed along the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad after the 1870s. Around the turn of the century, Japanese were invited to the Webster area to develop rice farms on the flat prairies and also at a site on a branch line of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway south of Houston that became Mykawa. Between 1911 and 1936 the Galveston-Houston Electric Railway, called the Interurban, ran parallel to the GH&H and provided thirty-minute service from Webster to Houston. In the 1960s the land east of Webster became the home of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center, renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1973. Houston quickly annexed the area. The development changed the rural aspect of the area when several new towns sprang up along the north shore of Clear Lake, the largest being Clear Lake City. Northern Harris County developed similarly. After the Civil War other railways such as the Houston and Great Northern, the Trinity and Brazos Valley, the Houston East and West Texas, and the Burlington-Rock Island entered north Harris County to converge on Houston. The lumbering and farming interests established small towns such as Spring and Tomball along the tracks. The population of Humble, near the Houston East and West Texas Railway, increased with the oil boom at Moonshine Hill in 1905. Harris County east of the San Jacinto River remained an agricultural community focusing on rice culture in the 1890s. Its only commercial developments were small boatyards at Lynchburg and Goose Creek and a brick factory on Cedar Bayou that mushroomed during the 1880s to supply a building boom in Galveston. Between 1903 and 1907 oil was discovered on the eastern shore of the San Jacinto estuary at Goose Creek and Tabbs Bay. Migrant roughnecks and their families moved to the area and established a temporary boomtown amid the derricks between 1915 and 1917. The shantytown was replaced in 1917 by Pelly, which was built on private land above the noisy and dirty oil camp. In 1919 Ross Sterling and his Humble Oil and Refining Company (now Exxonqv) built a refinery on the San Jacinto above the mouth of Goose Creek. The site was bordered by the Humble company town, Baytown, for workers, and a middle-class enclave, Goose Creek, for executives and others. Pelly and Goose Creek vied for dominance, and after Humble sold the company houses to the workers beginning in the late 1920s, the three towns consolidated to become the "Tri-Cities" in the 1930s and finally to be renamed Baytown in 1948. Eastern Harris County also had an electric interurban train, the Houston-North Shore Railroad, which in 1925 connected the three towns to Crosby and ran along the north side of Buffalo Bayou to downtown Houston.
The development of Harris County as an industrial power began in 1911, when voters approved the formation of the Harris County Ship Channel Navigation District. Authorized by Congress and approved by the state legislature, the district could improve the waterway and manage the waterfront within the county. It immediately issued bonds to widen and deepen the channel in order to make the Houston port accessible to oceangoing vessels. In 1914 the United States Army Corps of Engineers finished deepening the existing fifty-mile-long channel to twenty-five feet from the Gulf through Galveston Bay and up the San Jacinto River and Buffalo Bayou to the district's turning basin at the Port of Houston. By 1918 petroleum refineries began locating along Buffalo Bayou and the San Jacinto River, as did various other industries. Since that time, the channel has been deepened to fifty feet and widened to accommodate larger vessels. The very profitable Harris County Navigation District owns the wharves and warehouses around the turning basin (about two miles above old Harrisburg), the Long Reach docks, and various other facilities, including a bulk handling plant at Greens Bayou, the terminal railroad, and the container facility at the Bayport industrial complex, below Morgan's Point. In addition, in the 1950s the district joined national and state governments to build the Washburn Tunnel under Buffalo Bayou from Pasadena to the north side and the Baytown-La Porte tunnel beneath the San Jacinto River, in order to reduce the number of hazardous automobile ferries. Exports from the port include rice, wheat, grain sorghums, cotton, caustic soda, cement, and petroleum products. Imports include crude oil, iron ore, molasses, coffee, gypsum, and automobiles. Another venture authorized by Harris County voters was the Harris County Domed Stadium, which was completed in 1965 and has been leased to the Houston Sports Association. The Astrodome, the first stadium of its kind, was touted as the "Eighth Wonder of the World." The county also maintains two public hospitals in Houston and since 1935 has worked to control flooding through the Harris County Flood Control District.
The success of the ship channel in attracting industry caused a surge in population. In 1930, when residents numbered 359,328, Harris County surpassed its rivals, Dallas and Bexar counties, by more than 100,000 people. It remained the most populous county in Texas. In 1960 it had more than a million residents. In 1990 it reached a population of 2,818,199, of which 64.7 percent were white, 22.9 percent Hispanic, 19.2 percent black, 3.9 percent Asian, .3 percent American Indian, and 11.9 percent assorted others. The population of Houston, the county seat, was 1,630,553. The six next largest incorporated cities were Pasadena (119,363), Baytown (63,850), Spring (33,111), La Porte (27,910), Deer Park (27,652), and Channelview (25,564). Unincorporated Clear Lake City had an estimated 45,000 residents. Harris County transportation systems serve intrastate and interstate needs with six major railroads hauling freight to distribution centers and to the port; passenger rail service is limited to Amtrak. Buses, trucks, and passenger cars utilize a network of highways including Interstate 10 east and west and Interstate 45 north and south, U.S. Highway 59 crosses the county from northeast to southwest and goes to the Rio Grande valley, and U.S. 290 leads to West Texas via Austin. Loop 610 encircles the heart of Houston, and a second loop, Beltway 8, allows traffic to move around the perimeter of the urban sector. Both loops have high-rise bridges over the Houston Ship Channel, and a third new high-rise bridge spans the San Jacinto River and replaces the Baytown-La Porte tunnel. Two major airports, Houston Intercontinental and William P. Hobby, are within the city of Houston.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Herbert Eugene Bolton, Texas in the Middle Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1915; rpt., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1970). Max Freund, ed. and trans., Gustav Dresel's Houston Journal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1954). William Fairfax Gray, From Virginia to Texas, 1835 (Houston: Fletcher Young, 1909, 1965). Margaret S. Henson and Kevin Ladd, Chambers County: A Pictorial History (Norfolk, Virginia: Donning, 1988). Margaret Swett Henson, History of Baytown (Baytown, Texas: Bay Area Heritage Society, 1986). The Heritage of North Harris County (n.p: North Harris County Branch, American Association of University Women, 1977). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). David G. McComb, Houston: The Bayou City (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969; rev. ed., Houston: A History, 1981). C. David Pomeroy, Jr., Pasadena: The Early Years (Pasadena, Texas: Pomerosa Press, 1994). "Reminiscences of Mrs. Dilue Harris," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 4, 7 (October 1900, January 1901, January 1904). Marilyn M. Sibley, The Port of Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968). Virginia H. Taylor, The Spanish Archives of the General Land Office of Texas (Austin: Lone Star, 1955). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Herb Woods, Galveston-Houston Electric Railway (Los Angeles: Electric Railway Publications, 1959).
Margaret Swett Henson, author of above information to Texas Handbook online