The Texas General Land Office and the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum are pleased to jointly present Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast, which includes ten unique maps covering 252 years of Texas history, from 1740–1992. The maps showcased in this exhibit demonstrate the diverse history of Texas’ Gulf Coast.
With 367 miles of beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, more than 3,300 miles of bays and estuaries, and hundreds of communities, Texas has one of the longest, most vibrant coastlines in the United States. From the earliest days of European settlement to modern navigation and oil drilling, the mapping of Texas’s coast has always been of vital importance.
To view any of the maps below in greater detail, click on the image to access the map’s database entry, then click on the magnifying glass icon to enter “Zoomify” mode.
Maps of the Coastal Islands
The islands along the Texas Gulf Coast have long been a source for exploration, recreation, and settlement, from Alonso Álvarez de Pineda’s survey of the area in 1519 to the thousands of beach-goers, bird-watchers, fishing expeditions, and vacationers who flock to the coastal islands year-round. Two maps on display in this exhibit prominently feature the Texas barrier islands of Galveston Island and Padre Island.
Named in honor of Viceroy Bernardo de Galvéz in 1785, Galveston Island is shown on this map in two sections. In intricate detail highlighting its settlement, the island is divided into five distinct areas, with the City of Galveston on the east end. The western two-thirds of the island were not part of the original city.
1837 was a pivotal year for Galveston Island. the Republic of Texas commissioned a survey of the island by William Lindsey and Robert Tremble to divide the land into lots to sell at auction. Galveston became an official port of entry for the Republic and the port of harbor of the Texas Navy. The town grew with the influx of immigrants coming into the port and the commercial trade, especially cotton, going out.
In composing the map, Tremble and Lindsey highlighted important sites related to the island’s function as a port, including a fort, a customs house, and a store. Reference charts identify the size of various lots, as well as the location and size of avenues, freshwater ponds, and groves of trees.
Produced 125 years after the Galveston Island map, and standing nearly five feet tall, this colorful piece by GLO draftswoman Eltea Armstrong depicts Padre Island and five coastal counties of South Texas — covering nearly 140 miles from Corpus Christi Bay to Brownsville. Created in response to the Tidelands Controversy, the map also served as Commissioner Jerry Sadler’s commemorative map.
Padre Island, named for Padre José Nicolás Ballí, founder of the first Spanish mission in Cameron County, is the largest barrier island in the world at over 100 miles long. In the year of this map’s release, 1962, an 80-mile area was designated as Padre Island National Seashore Wildlife Reserve (it is represented by the dashed black line).
Armstrong was known for including intricate interpretations of historic events that occurred in the region featured. On this map, she represents the six flags on the State seal for the six different nations that have claimed Texas — France, Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States, and the Confederate States of America. Other notable features include the site of the 1912 wreck of the SS Nicaragua off the coast of Kenedy County and an economic development near Cameron County Park.
Mapping Texas: The Gulf Coast runs through January 2017. For more information about viewing the exhibit, please visit http://www.thestoryoftexas.com/visit/exhibits/mapping-texas.
To learn more about the Texas Coast today, please visit http://www.txcoasts.com.
 For more on the explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda see https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fal72
 The records of these sales are held in the GLO Archives, and can be searched in the online Land Grant Database (http://www.glo.texas.gov/history/archives/land-grants/index.cfm) by entering Galveston Island Lots into the Class field.
 Armstrong began her career as a draftsperson (mapmaker) for the State in 1935. During her career with the GLO, she was assigned to create numerous county maps, and, like this one, they were all highly detailed and patiently drawn. A single GLO county map was estimated to take her 900 hours to complete.
 For more on the history of Padre Island see https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rrp01
 For more on the wreck of the USS Nicaragua see https://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/historyculture/the-wrecking-industry.htm