Genevieve Miller Hitchcock Public Library

Loading palette preview Loading

Hitchcock History

First history is by Lawrence Henckel

Second history is by Dorothy Peterson

                                                         HITCHCOCK HISTORY

First History                                                              

Lawrence Henckel:  The area around Hitchcock was settled first around the 1860's.  Some of the early settlers wre French as the Tacquards, Bouthery, Renaud, Duroux, Beguion, Perthuis, and many others.

These people settle mostly along the bayou and other waterways as that was then the only means of transportation outside of horse and wagon.

Later, in the 1870's and 1880's, others settled here and were German and Italian families.

My father, the late George Henckel, came from Germany with only his father in 1882. They landed in Galveston and worked on the railroad at Cameron, Texas, as this was the end of the Santa Fe track going North.  Two years later, his mother and the balance of the family arrived in America.  George Henckel moved to this area in 1886 to farm where the Colored School now stands. He was eighteen years old.

Strawberries and green vegetables were the principal crops.  There being very little market locally, a Farmers Co-op was formed to ship the begetables to Northern markets. George Henckel was Secretary-Treasurer of  the Organization.  Joe Terrasso was one of the first farmers in this area.  After a few years, George Henckel went into the wholesale produce business and bought the crops from the farmers and shipped on his own.

From the early 1900's, Hitchcock prospered in this line with eight produce shipping businesses and as many as five to six express cars were shipped daily.

During the 1890's, this country was opened up to people from the North.  Much land was sold to them and they were told to plant orange and pear trees and to come back in a few years to harvest their crops.  On returning, all they found was the orchards grown up in weeds and dead trees.  Many left and never returned.

The original railroad station was about two miles east of the present one and was named "Fairwood".  The entire area from the Bay  to Fairwood was laid off in town lots and subdivisions and are still on real estate records as such.

In the early 1890's, L.M. Hitchcock was a prominent surveyor and many outlots still carry this name.  After his death, his wife offered the Santa Fe Railway a plot for a townsite if they would build a depot here and name it "Hitchcock", which they did.  The townsite consisted of two rows of lots on the North and South side of the railroad from FM 519 to "Cow Gulley".  These lots were sold at auction in one day and that is how Hitchcock was named.

From 1910 to 1926, the vegetable business was very good and everybody had money.  In 1927, the plant lice got into the crops and were destroying as fast as they grew.  Therefore, the produce shipping folded.  Then the 1929 to 1940 Depression:  Nobody had money.  In 1933, the Pan American Refinery opened in Texas City and some of the younger men were able to obtain employment there.  In 1940, (November), the Army announced the building of Camp Wallace, and Hitchcock was on the "boom" again.  There were eight cafes, a shooting gallery, pool halls, and many people drifting in looking for work.  This lasted until about 1945 when it ceased.

The Naval Air Station (or Blimp Base) was built in 1943.  and was under the Navy with blimps flying all around.

In 1945, the people of Hitchcock voted a water and sewer district but until 1950, they were unable to get it in operation.  When the Blimp Base was sold, the Water District pruchased the disposal plant, water well and tower, and all water and sewer lines at the Blimp Base, with approximately 30 acres land for $25,000.00, and leased the Santa Fe water well and tank to get started.

After the acquisition of water and sewer in town, people subdivided their land and built new homes such as Garden Terrace, Bayou Terrace, Greenwood, Temple Courts, Wood Acres, and the Tacquard Addition west of the town, and some in other sections.

Hitchcock now has many fine churches: a fine school system, many businesses, and is growing.  The 1960 population was 5,218 and it is now approximately 6,500 people.  The town was incorporated about four years ago, and now the town has its own city government.  Lets all help to make Hitchcock grow and prosper so that our children and grand children will have a better place to live!

Second history:

The Bulletin, Wednesday, March 14, 1984 by Betty Monych(Dorothy Peterson)

     Local historian Dorothy Peterson has spent many hours researching the history of Hitchcock.  "Hitchcock first began with just a few settlers back in the 1840s who settled along the Highland Bayou," she said.

     "The people had small farms and they took their produce in little canoes over the bay to the marketplace in Galveston.  In the 1840s Galveston was not much of a city either, but there was a market for fresh vegetables, because they couldn't be raised on the island," she said. Early Hitchcock settlers were of French and German descent, and were of only two occupations,  either farmers or cattlemen.

     The Tacquard family were early settlers here who had their start with great herds of Texas cattle that were native to the area. 

     The city itself obtained its name from a man who nevere lived here, according to the publication, Historical Sketches of the Communities Along the Santa Fe, written by the Santa Fe area Historical Foundation.  The publication states that Lent Munson Hitchcock, born in Bridgeport, Connecticut and a Texas Navy man, had purchased 3,600 acres of land on the mainland and willed it to his widow and son when he died.  Much of the land was sold to various individuals, but when Mrs. Hitchcock was approached by the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad Company for a right-of-way, she refused to even talk with them.  On many occasions, she would not even let them in her home.  She finally made an agreement with the railway company to grant the right-of-way, but only if a station would be named in honor of her late husband.  The company agreed. 

     When a group of businessmen from Galveston later purchased land on both sides of the track, they used the name Hitchcock for the townsite.  The railroad was agreat asset to the community of Hitchcock.  Believe it or not, from the turn of the century to about 1930, Hitchcock was the shipping capital of the United States.

     "Mr. Henckel's father came to Hitchcock as quite a young man, and saw many possibilities for the community,"  Mrs. Peterson said.  "He saw that what was needed was the organization and finances to begin shipping interests here. So, he organized a group of farmers and they began to ship vegetables all over the country." 

    Mrs. Peterson said that Hitchcock's soil was excellent for growing crops, but that the markets in California, Florida or the Texas Valley had yet to open up.  At one time, she said, there were eight packing houses here, they were: H. L. Roberts, George Henckel, Charles Schiro, W. T. Reitmeyer, J. A. Bret, Rowan Shipping, Dave Perthuis and Warren Kemmerling.

    In the '30's, however, farmers here began having problems with insects destroying their crops and knew of no ways to fight this nuisance.  At the same time, markets in other areas began to open and the boom was over for the community of Hitchcock.  Fortunately, about this time Pan American Oil Company opened in Texas City, providing much needed jobs for Hitchcock citizens.

     Another boom period came for the community during World War II, when the Blimp Base and Camp Wallace were built here.

     Camp Wallace was a boot camp for enlisted men, and the blimp base was a training ground for the U. S. Navy.

     With these operations came large number ot restaurants and shuttles to Galveston. A person culd catch a bus to the island every 30 minutes, day or night.  When the war ended, so did this time of excitement.  The city settled into the comfortable bedroom community atmosphere it has today.

     People lived here, but worked elsewhere.  The Blimp Base was purchased by John Mecom, who leased the blimp hangar to Bowen-McLaughlin, Inc., a company that worked on government contracts making tanks and half-tracks.  During the Korean War, this equipment was assembled here, loaded onto flat cars and shipped to the war zones.  In 1953, these contracts ended.