Bay City, county seat of Matagorda County, was platted in 1894 by the Bay City Town Company near the geographic center of the county for the purpose of supplanting the coastal town of Matagorda, twenty-two miles south, as the county seat. David Swickheimer, who had struck it rich mining for silver in Colorado in 1886, was the town company's primary investor. Another partner, Goliad newspaper publisher N. M. Vogelsang, so effectively promoted dissatisfaction with the town of Matagorda's isolation at the east edge of the county and its exposure to tropical hurricanes and Colorado River floods that before the new town was even platted county voters authorized its designation as the county seat. The original townsite is a one-mile-square grid of streets and blocks centered on the Matagorda County Courthouse ( BE1). Between 1901 and 1906 the town and county provided incentives for the Cane Belt Railroad, the New York, Texas and Mexican Railway, and the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway to build through Bay City and give it the regional transportation links needed to sustain new businesses, such as those focused on rice cultivation and milling. The buildings surrounding Courthouse Square testify to Bay City's prosperity at the beginning of the twentieth century, as do adjoining residential streets canopied with mature live oak trees.
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