The Bailey Pavilion was at the end of a long wharf, in front of the Del Mar Hotel
By Vickie Moon Merchant
Friends of the History Center for Aransas County
The founding of The Rockport Pilot can be traced back to Charles F. Bailey when he established The Transcript in 1869. Before that, Bailey had served as a shipping agent in St. Mary’s, or Bayside, as well as serving as Quartermaster for the Confederate Army, 8th Infantry under Hobby’s Company D. Hobby’s Company D was responsible for the Confederacy guarding the Texas coast from north of Galveston to south of Corpus Christi.
While living at St. Mary’s, Bailey and Gerald A. Beeman began a newspaper, The Vaquero. Upon moving to Rockport, Beeman and Bailey then began printing The Transcript using the same printing machine that had been used in St. Mary’s. After a while, Beeman returned to St. Mary’s and later his newspaper business failed. In Rockport, Bailey hired Lyman Russell, Henry (Bailey’s son), and Emilie A. Perrenot, who had worked for him at The Vaquero.
When Bailey moved to Rockport in 1869, Aransas County had not yet been formed from Refugio County. Bailey was one of the civic leaders who urged senators and representatives in the Texas Legislature to form a new county and county seat. That occurred on May 26, 1871.
Bailey married his wife, Frances, in July of 1857, when she was just 15. They had 10 children, five girls and 5 boys, and lived in the Holland House in Rockport. His first son, Louis, owned the first ice-making plant, while Charles, his second son, owned a livery stable and transfer station. For 14 years, Henry, Bailey’s third son, served as Aransas County Sheriff.
Bailey also built Bailey Pier and Pavilion at the end of a wharf in front of the Aransas Hotel. Events dating back to 1894 were held there. During the day, the Pavilion sold icecold soda, mineral water, ginger ale, lemonade and cider to tourists, who were enjoying the bay waters. For 15 cents, people could rent a private changing room to change from their “street clothes” into their bathing suits.
At night, traveling troupes would present minstrels, plays and medicine shows on the Pavilion’s stage. In the evening: “anyone attending the dances held in the Pavilion would never forget this pleasure: the moonlight on the water, the gentle breeze, the dance music, all went to make it so romantic (Allen & Taylor, 1997, p. 223). Irene Norvell introduced the game of charades at the Bailey Pavilion. The first graduating class of Rockport High School held their commencement exercises there in 1907 – for six students, four girls and two boys. The Pavilion continued to be used until the hurricane of 1919, when the water and winds blew it to shore along with boats and other piers.
Bailey also served as the County Clerk for Aransas County. Bailey, along with George F. Perrenot, who was elected Aransas County Tax Assessor/Collector, developed two patents. Bailey & Perrenot filed patents for an “Improvement in ironing apparatus” on Oct. 24, 1876 and on June 28, 1881, a patent was granted for a “Water Heater for Washing Machines.” On his own, Bailey invented the “Improvement in Ironing and Fluting Machines” and received a patent on June 13, 1878.
Bailey died in 1898 at the age of 64.
The History Center for Aransas County is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. It is located at 801 E. Cedar St. Visit www.aransashistorycenter.org for more details.
The History Center for Aransas County at 801 Cedar Street showcases regional history for visitors of all ages.