The celebration of Aransas County’s Sesquicentennial year has officially started.
The first of many events was held Saturday, Jan. 30 at the History Center for Aransas County. The 45-minute presentation included the introduction of a new 36-page full color Historical Marker Guide, comments about some of the 56 historical points of interest, as well as explanations about the historic foundations now on display at the history center.
Aransas County Airport Manager Mike Geer and Rockport Pilot Editor & Publisher Mike Probst talked about the new guide, which was originally planned for publication last year, but was delayed due to COVID-19 issues.
“It worked out better waiting until this year, tying it in with the county’s 150th birthday celebration,” said Geer.
The guides were inserted in the Jan. 30 edition of The Pilot. There are 10,000 additional copies, which are available for distribution.
Individuals with connections to one of the historic sites, including Jennifer Day, Sandra Gregory Bridges, Rockport Mayor Pat Rios, Anne Hunt, Bubba Casterline, Bob Fisher, John Jackson, County Judge C.H. “Burt” Mills, and others, talked briefly about the sites.
“Ten years ago we bought the Fulton Bruhl Home,” said Hunt. “Five years ago we purchased the R.H. Wood House (the site of the newest historical marker).”
Hunt noted she and her husband like to come to Rockport to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Casterline, recalling his family’s history in Fulton in the shrimping industry, said, “We were fortunate to have generations of families work for our family. They became family.”
He noted how hundreds of people worked in and around the harbors during the middle decades of last century.
John Jackson, who worked in his family’s seafood business after college, talked about the three historical markers associated with his family.
“My grandparents stayed in the Baylor-Norvell House during the 1919 Hurricane, and survived,” he said. “We grew up in a house on Magnolia, down the street from the Wood-Jackson House.”
Mills recalled the story about how his father made a deal with the contractor for the original Copano Causeway.
“He offered the land (where Mills Wharf was located) as a staging area for bridge materials if they gave him pilings, which he used (as the foundation for) Mills Wharf,” said Mills.
Mills Wharf was later sold and became Sea Gun Resort in Lamar.
Sesquicentennial Committee Co-chair Betty Stiles, talking about the replica of the Copano Fishing Pier, said, “We decided we needed a piece of the pier, but was told it wasn’t historic. We thought it was and wanted a piece.”
She described how Richard Prince and his crew from Russell Marine LLC, the company in charge of the pier’s demolition, created the miniature Copano Bay Causeway Pier from remnants of the old bridge/fishing pier.
Four pieces of cleaned square rebar, used in the original construction, were then given to Judge Mills, and representatives from the Aransas County Historical Commission, Aransas County Historical Society, and Friends of the History Center.
Aransas County Navigation District Harbor Master Keith Barrett talked about the collapse of a section of the pier, in the months leading up to Hurricane Harvey, which ended up being the pier’s demise.
He then showed off the large limestone chunk from Rocky Point, which is now on display. It is that point where Rockport got its name.
The area was discovered, almost by accident, when the ACND dredged the new section of Rockport Harbor.
“It was a stroke of luck. It should mean a lot to us,” said Barrett. “It’s from the natural point where the harbor once was.”
“We now have a piece of Rockport, our namesake, for all to see,” he said.
De McLallen recalled there was a shellcrete house on their property when they bought their house on Front Street in Lamar.
“I heard Samuel Colt lived there, and that Pirate Jean Lafitte might have kept his mistress there, but after a lot of investigation I found that timelines never matched up,” he said.
“I recognized it was a piece of history, but I didn’t know what to do with it.
“Harvey knocked down the whole east wall of the house.”
“John Lee got a piece here for display. Shellcrete is unbelievably heavy.”
The final act in the ceremony was the unveiling of Aransas County’s 150th Anniversary Memorial Monument by Judge Mills.
Inscription on the memorial monument reads:
“September 18, 1871 - September 18, 2021
“We the citizens of Aransas County do hereby dedicate this monument to mark our 150th year anniversary. Our Sesquicentennial Celebration includes the totality of our cultural heritage. Our hope is to foster a pride in local stories and to encourage studies, which will result in a deeper appreciation of Aransas County and its place in Texas history.”
The Sesquicentennial celebration features a few events this spring, but the major Sesquicentennial Celebration is set for June 12-20. It will include a Founders’ Breakfast, County Fair, parade, vignettes at historic homes and cemeteries, and thematic exhibits at the History Center, Texas Maritime Museum, Fulton Mansion, and the Rockport Center for the Arts.
Additional details about coming events will be revealed at a later date.
For more information, or to contribute to the celebration, visit www.aransascounty150.org.