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Galveston: An Island of Firsts

Updated 506 days ago

Long before metropolises like Houston and Dallas became booming cities, Galveston was making its presence felt on the state landscape, building its reputation as the Wall Street of the Southwest.

During this golden era of Galveston – from the mid-1800s to the mid-20th century – the city was home to a number of firsts in Texas. Bob’s Galveston Island Reader, which originally was published in June 1983, lays out some of the milestones.

The Galveston Firsts include:

  • First customs house (1825)

  • First post office (1836)

  • First military company, now the Galveston Artillery Club (1841)

  • First cotton compress (1842)

  • First law firm west of the Mississippi River (1846)

  • First insurance company (1854)

  • First use of telegraph to send news dispatches (1854)

  • First private bank (1854)

  • First gas lights (1856)

  • First real estate firm (1857)

  • First opera house (1870)

  • First cotton exchange (1872)

  • First telephone (1878)

  • First building built expressly for a newspaper (1884)

  • First black high school (1885)

  • First medical college (1886)

  • First school for nurses (1894)

  • First country club and golf course (1898)

  • First ship through Panama Canal came from Galveston (1913)

Wikipedia, meanwhile, notes yet some other Texas Firsts for the island. Among them:

  • First naval base (1836)

  • First Texas chapter of a Masonic order (1840)

  • First parochial school (1847)

  • First Roman Catholic hospital (1866)

  • First Jewish Reform Congregation (1868)

  • First orphanage (1876)

  • First electric lights (1883)

  • First Roman Catholic Cathedral in Texas (1839).

And the list goes on …

  • First grocery store

  • First public library, and

  • First chamber of commerce

William Breaux, a Galveston native who runs the popular website Galveston Remembered, had this to say about the island’s historical significance to Texas:

Galveston is a unique Island. After the Civil War, Galveston offered employment for freed slaves in her vast shipping industry. Galveston was the largest, most active port in the Gulf of Mexico. Freemen flocked to Galveston to work loading and unloading ships of their cargo. The day prior to the 1900 Storm, Galveston was number 2 in per capita income in the USA, second only to Newport, R.I. The next day, She wasn't even on the list of highest incomes. Even though the Big Storm ended much of the glory of Galveston, losing as many as 8,000 citizens to the storm, she has remained steadfast as unique, a source of pride to those who call Galveston their home. Galvestonians are sturdy, steadfast and they remain attached to the Island regardless of where life takes them. Above all else, Galveston Island flows in the blood of those who have lived along her shores. Once a Galvestonian, always a Galvestonian! Nothing can ever remove the call of the Island once Galveston has claimed you. Even the great storms cannot shake Galveston from the heart and soul of her citizens, they remain Galvestonians forever.

Article written by Robert Stanton - Isle Guy