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Rockport (Aransas County)

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Rockport, county seat of Aransas County, was laid out as a pair of townsites. The portion south of North Street was platted in 1867 by merchant Thomas M. Mathis, his cousin and business partner J. M. Mathis, and James M. Doughty. The portion north of North Street was platted in 1868 by Joseph F. Smith and rancher John H. Wood. After the awarding of the Power and Hewetson grant, which encompassed Aransas County, in 1828, new towns were developed competitively on the shores of three bays, Aransas Bay, Cópano Bay, and St. Charles Bay, that were accessible from the Gulf of Mexico through Espíritu Santo Inlet between the barrier islands of Matagorda and St. Joseph's. Like most pre–Civil War Texan ports, however, they remained villages. Rockport eclipsed them all because it was an intensively capitalized, vertically integrated industrial venture: a processing and shipping center for the cattle being run on the plains of the Coastal Bend in the immediate post– Civil War period. During the late 1860s and early 1870s, slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants, cattle-shipping yards, and bone and hide businesses were started on Live Oak Peninsula. One astute entrepreneur, George M. Fulton, integrated these activities by consolidating operations. Fulton persuaded San Patricio County ranchers Youngs L. Coleman, his son Thomas M. Coleman, and the Mathis cousins to pool their assets in Coleman, Mathis and Fulton, which acquired and improved livestock, fenced grazing land, collected and shipped cattle, and processed meat, hide, and other cattle parts. Fulton patented a method for using artificial cooling to facilitate the preservation and shipping of processed meat. However, Rockport's ambitions were constantly frustrated. The rise of Chicago and Kansas City as commercial meatpacking centers during the 1870s undercut Rockport's operations. By 1888 the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company disposed of its cattle-processing and -shipping businesses. Despite intensive efforts, Rockport lost out to Corpus Christi, where the federal government built a deep-draft ship channel and harbor in the 1920s.

In the second half of the twentieth century, Rockport came to concentrate on tourism along its bay front. The northern portion of the town, which is nearly continuous with the adjoining town of Fulton to the north, stretches out along the bay shore corniche,Broadway, the most scenic part of Rockport. Downtown Rockport, in the south part of the townsite, possesses a charming scale.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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