How Did Folks Travel to Aransas County?
Pam Stranahan, History Center for Aransas County
From the very beginning, sailing has defined much of our local history. Maritime shipping and commerce drove the economy and growth of Aransas county from the time Rocky Point was used as a harbor in the late 1800s. Later shipbuilding, fishing, and recreation were the economic mainstays of the area.
Overland trails became important as towns were settled. Travelers from Aransas County could connect with the Spanish Camino Real near Goliad. In the 1870s ranchers drove cattle to market on the Chisholm Trail that connected St. Mary’s on Copano Bay with Cuero. In the 1930s roadways like the Hug-the-Coast highway increased commerce and tourism.
The railroad brought an important connection when it arrived in 1888. The San Antonio and Aransas Pass railway (SAAP) was a two-way road – it provided transport of cattle and seafood to northern markets and brought tourists south to visit the coast. The arrival of visitors prompted the growth of resort hotels and entertainment establishments. This boom continued until the storm of 1919 wrecked the community.
Airplanes arrived in Aransas County prior to World War II. Aransas County leased land on the north end of Live Oak Peninsula to the U. S. government to build runways on which to train naval pilots. At the end of the war, the facilities reverted to the county for future development. The Aransas County Airport has served as a model small airport ever since. In the 1960s an Air Force Radar Station connected with the coastal defense network during the Cold War.
To learn more, visit the History Center for Aransas County, 801 E. Cedar St. The current exhibit, “Sails, Trails, Rails and Wings,” relates stories of the development of transportation. The History Center is open Fri. & Mon. 10-2 and Sat. & Sun. 1-4 PM. Programs are offered on Sundays at 2 PM – live and on zoom. July 12, 2:00 PM Ken Stavinoha will talk about the San Antonio and Aransas Pass RR. See the web site for details.