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It is thought that Privateer Luis-Michele de Aury first used the name Bolivar to honor Simon Bolivar, liberator and president of five Latin American nations. Filibuster expeditions of Henry Perry, Warren Hall, and James Long started at Bolivar Point with a goal to end Spanish rule and start new republics. Long’s wife, Jane, braved harsh elements and gave birth to a daughter while waiting for her husband who did not return from his adventure.
Jane Herbert Wilkinson Long is often called the Mother of Texas. She is one of the earliest Anglo women to settle in Texas when she lived on Bolivar. She later ran a boarding house on the Brazos River and played an instrumental role in Texas’ battle for independence.
By 1896, the Gulf and Interstate Railroad to Beaumont stopped in Bolivar Point, allowing local farmers to ship their produce to market on iced rail cars. Previously, produce was taken to Galveston by boat. Trains connecting to Galveston were taken across the bay on a barge.
Fort Travis was built in 1898 and functioned throughout both world wars. For a time before World War I, cargo shipments were accepted at the port, but the 1915 storm devastated all dock improvements and most of the town. The residents that remained maintained small cattle farms and harvested seafood. Roads and a ferry were built in 1930. Before this, the only way to travel on the peninsula was to drive along the beach.
The construction of Fort Travis. Photo courtesy of Ralph W. Stenzel.