Corpus Christi History 1937
Corpus Christi History Written in 1937
The City of Corpus Christi
Three years after General Sam Houston and his footsore army won Texas' independence at San Jacinto, the trading post from which Corpus Christi sprang, was established on the west bank of the Nueces River.
The founder was H. L. Kinney, an intrepid Irishman who, disappointed in love, sought the excitement of the frontier to forget his broken romance. Even then the territory in which Kinney carried on his activities, was in dispute. Mexico claimed the Nueces River marked the southern boundary of Texas, while the “colossus of the north” was equally firm in its contention that the Rio Grande was the dividing line. The territory in between was a sort of no-man’s land, and while some historians believe that Kinney sided with his own kind, many facts are available to show that he cultivated the friendship of the people who made up the rank and file of the area’s rather scattered inhabitants. Anyway, he carried on an extensive pack train trade with Mexico. He traded openly when he could, and smuggled when he had to. The shallow harbor of those early days provided a safe refuge for freebooters with contraband cargo.
The first wave of prosperity swept over Kinney’s trading post in 1845, when General Zachary Taylor, fuming at the heat, sailed into Corpus Christi Bay with his army of occupation. Some say that “Old Rough and Ready’s” arrival at this particular segment of Texas’ far-flung coast line, was inspired at least partially by Kinney’s persistent campaign in regard to the boundary dispute.
Regardless of how he felt about the dispute, he lost no time in making the most of his opportunities. Saloons, gambling halls, and other emporiums of pleasure sprung up like magic, and the post grew rapidly. Col. E. A. Hitchcock, Taylor’s chief of staff, wrote that the army’s officers fraternized with the citizens, and that social affairs were many. Later he conceded that “it was a small village of smugglers and lawless men, with but few women and no ladies.”
The army camp, located on the beach north of the city as it is known today, soon grew to 5,000 enlisted men, the mobilization having been, up to that time, the nation’s largest peace time concentration of troops. In March, 1846, General Taylor began his historic march to Mexico, and Kinney’s trading post was left high and dry, its houses and hovels depopulated.
After the army’s departure, the settlement continued for a while under the old name. Later, to provide “something more definite for a postmark on letters”, the name was changed to Corpus Christi, in honor of, or after, Corpus Christi Bay, discovered by de Pineda in 1519.
Undaunted, Kinney turned to the colonization of the vast territory over which he held sway. He constituted a one-man Chamber of Commerce, seeking immigrants from beyond the seas, painting a vivid picture of life and opportunities in “the “Italy of America.” He conducted good will trips, organized fairs, and although his methods may not have been approved by “truth in advertising’ standards as they are known today, he did get the job done, in a way. Remnants of his old home, located on Corpus Christi’s high bluff, are still to be seen.