While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


A. Pat Daniels
High Island
High Island. Courtesy of the Houston Chronicle. Image available on the Internet and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

HIGH ISLAND, TEXAS. High Island is on a tall salt dome on Bolivar Peninsula at the extreme eastern end of Galveston County. Its thirty-eight-foot rise above sea level makes High Island the highest point on the Gulf of Mexico between Mobile, Alabama, and the Yucatán Peninsula. In 1845 Anson Jones referred to the dome as the High Islands. Mineral springs on the so-called island attracted Indians, who called the area Doe Island. Jean Laffite is said to have occupied the area, and Charles Cronea, his cabin boy, is said to have built a home on High Island in 1876. The house is built of cypress, pegged together, and was remodeled in 1972. Cronea's grave is in the High Island Cemetery. Laffite is supposed by some to have buried treasure at High Island, but no discovery has ever been reported. The first Anglo settler was Martin Dunman, who received a league of land for his part in the Texas Revolution and moved to High Island in 1845. A post office was established in 1897. During hurricanes and floods, residents from miles away on the flat Bolivar Peninsula and coastal lowlands rush to High Island-often the only point above water-for protection. Around 1890 the mineral springs were purchased by Sam Smith, who apparently promoted their curative value. A fine hotel was built, and rail cars drawn by mules took guests to the beach each day. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed the business. A search for oil at High Island began as early as 1901, after the Spindletop oilfield discovery near Beaumont, but the major find did not come until the 1930s, when drilling in the marshes and not on the dome proved successful. At one time there were as many as 200 flowing wells surrounding the salt dome, and in the 1980s there was still oil activity, with pumps operating daily near the intersection of State highways 87 and 124. Sulfur production added to the economy. In the 1940s trappers gathered muskrat hides at High Island. The Houston Audubon Society's Louis Smith Bird Sanctuary and the Smith Oaks Bird Sanctuary are two local bird preserves. A nearby fishing pier contributed to the area's tourism, but no longer exists. In 1990 High Island had a population of 500 and nine businesses. In 2000 the population remained the same, though the number of businesses increased to twelve.


A. Pat Daniels, Bolivar! Gulf Coast Peninsula (Crystal Beach, Texas: Peninsula, 1985). Kathleen E. and Clifton R. St. Clair, eds., Little Towns of Texas (Jacksonville, Texas: Jayroe Graphic Arts, 1982).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, A. Pat Daniels, "HIGH ISLAND, TX," accessed May 26, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlh44.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on August 16, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on TexasAlmanac.com!
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...