Aransas Pass

Rockport, the county seat of Aransas County, is on State Highway 35 on Live Oak Peninsula between Copano and Aransas bays, thirty miles northeast of Corpus Christi in the southern part of the county. It was named for the rock ledge underlying its shore and was founded just after the Civil War as a cattle slaughtering, packing, and shipping port. William S. Hall built the first packeries in 1865, and in 1866 James M. Doughty and Richard Wood built cattle pens to keep the stock until slaughtering. In 1867 John M. and Thomas H. Mathis joined Doughty, and the partners platted the southern half of town. In 1868 Joseph F. Smith and John H. Wood built a shipping wharf and platted the north half of town. John Mathis was the first mayor of Rockport; he was appointed by the governor. In 1867 Col. George Ware Fulton, son-in-law of former governor Henry Smith, returned to the Rockport area from Baltimore, where he had lived with his family since 1846. Rockport was incorporated as a town in 1870 and as a city in 1871, the year Aransas County was demarked from Refugio County. In 1871 Youngs Coleman and his son, Thomas Matthew Coleman, joined the Fulton and Mathis families in cattle raising. The partnership owned 115,000 acres at this time and was a vital part of the boom that began in Rockport in 1873. In 1879 Mathis sold his interest in the company, which was thereafter known as the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company. This company brought in the San Antonio and Aransas Pass Railway in 1886, but at the same time the Morgan Lines withdrew service from the port so that the cattle raisers had no way to ship their beef products. In 1885 Charles P. Taft became director of Coleman-Fulton, and David Sinton of Cincinnati took control by buying a majority of the stock. In December 1886, after the shipping line pulled out, the company sold its wharf, cattle pens, and warehouses. George Fulton died in 1893, but the company continued to be a major force in development of the area and was in existence until 1930.

During the 1880s boatbuilding and fishing began to develop as important industries in Rockport. Tourism and the resort trade also blossomed, particularly after the railroad came into town. Residents also began to investigate the possibility of a deep-water harbor, which would require a channel through the sand bar at Aransas Pass. In 1889 the courthouse, designed by James Riely Gordon, renowned Texas architect, was completed. In 1890 the First National Bank of Aransas Pass was established, and electric lights were installed in town. However, real estate speculation spurred investments that the population could not support, and the town soon went into an economic slump. Interest in constructing a deep-water port at Rockport continued, and projects were begun in 1884, 1905, 1910, and 1921, the year that Robert J. Kleberg of the King Ranch called a meeting at Kingsville to take action. Those in attendance appointed Roy Miller to go to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the "Corpus Christi plan." In 1922 President Harding signed a bill for a port at Corpus Christi, which was finished in 1926.

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Alice M. Shukalo | © TSHA

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Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

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Aransas Pass is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

Aransas Pass is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [2]
  • (Rockport)

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated