History of Aransas Pass

Other reading: "Where Sails Meet Rails" by Larry Ray...a fascinating read with a pictorial history

The community of Aransas Pass was organized three times before it stuck. The first two times the promoters lauded its virtues as a potential farming area, and struck out both times. The third time was in 1909 when the firm of Burton and Danforth platted the area and advertised far and wide that lots would be sold for $100 each. They made their pitch around the healthy atmosphere of fresh sea air. But even so, it turned out to be a comedy of errors.

First of all they oversold the promotion by $3,000,000 and had to return the money; the Post Office said that their policy of drawing for lots constituted a lottery by mail and was illegal; and a great many people purchased property and never even came to look at it. The Postmaster reported that only 78 people were getting mail in Aransas Pass after all the lots were sold.

So the town remained a sleepy fishing village for thirty years until oil was discovered on the land. This brought a boom of people to the area. The 85 room Bay View Hotel quickly filled up and fifty Pullman cars were rented, hauled to the area, and the berths rented out at $1.00 and a great many property owners who were trying to make peace with the tax collector they had ignored for thirty years or to get snarled titles straightened out.

One case in mind was that of a little old lady, her name lost to time, who owned two lots in the middle of a lease. The company, stalled in drilling operations until she could be found, frantically sent telegrams and registered mail in all directions in an effort to locate her - all without avail. Then one day she walked into their office and blithely stated: "I heard they struck oil out here and so I came down to see what there was to it."

Burton, one of the men who masterminded the 1909 land sale, didn't realize much from the oil boom, although he remained a resident here for many years. As a matter of fact he only took one fling in oil and that was in 1915 when he financed a well near Ingleside. They went down 3,000 feet and then quit. Later another company went 2,500 feet deeper and brought in a paying well. There lies, not far from Aransas Pass, a long, low island that seems to have been doomed to live in a cloud of intrigue and mystery. That is St. Joseph's Island. In the early 19th Century it was a headquarters for the pirate LaFitte and after his demise it lay virtually unknown until the 1800's when a coalition of cattlemen and seafarers built a town there they called Aransas Wharves.

When or why this town vanished is not known, it may have been the victim of the Civil War, but the island again was uninhabited until the turn of the century when it was purchased by Col. E. H. R. Green. Green, his title seems to have been self adopted, was the only son of famed Hetty Green, one of the richest women in the world. yet she was as noted for her stingy ways as for her wealth and when she passed on, her son reversed the field and tried to spend his mother's money as fast as he could. He lavished money on a mansion on the island and imported fine wines and liquors and threw fantastic parties. Unfortunately, the "Colonel's" health was not up to his style of living and after he passed on, the island again fell into "lonely" times, uninhabited and avoided even by its neighbors.

Sometime in the 20th Century the property passed to the oil tycoon, Sid Richardson, who built a great house and furnished it with original paintings of Frederick Remington and Charles Russell. He also built wharves and an airstrip for his guests and employed an army of guards to keep the uninvited away. Sid is gone now but the property remains in his family and they raise Santa Gertrudis cattle there. The island is as guarded and forbidden as it was in the days of LaFitte's pirates and as far as is known there has never been any exploration for oil there, even though the family fortune was built on oil. Even as the island seems to have been designed for secrecy.