Having recently completed a rationalization for the location of the Corazón de Jesús y Santa Bárbara,
lost after the hurricane of early September 1766, and reported to be near Galveston or Bolivar, I now
proceed with bringing forward the Ancient Wreck on Galveston’s Each Beach. Investigations were
initiated in 2011, but progress was stymied until discovery of exacting information. This exacting
information was in the form of a rare map, rolled up in a box in the Galveston County Engineer’s office.
The writer had developed a relationship of support with Mike Fitzgerald, County Engineer at the time,
pursuing much in the files of his office archives as necessary. One day Mike noted that I might be
interested in a few old maps that survived Ike; Ike had destroyed much of what was stored in the
This particular map was by W. C. Willits, Civil Engineer, who produced the island long map with
“Sanborn type” precision, extremely rare in its existence, made of heavy paper, rolled with no band or
restriction, the map tearing and cracking in places. Taking multiple photos of various sections, these I
studied later in detail, with Willits capturing much in lost history of Galveston. I was also quite
astonished to note that Willits had included a careful survey of the shoreline, noting low and high tides,
and therein, as luck would have it, capturing precisely the location of the ship remnants in 1891 when it
was exposed briefly for the last time.
WILLITS 1891 MAP TITLE SECTION
Now you might think this exacting information is some small matter, and you would be wrong. Articles
of the day noted the hull to be near 17th street, sometimes 18th , and at other times 20th. The problem
was that few braved or wanted to live close to the “tides” and thus certainly the threat of storms, the
streets faded out into the sand as it approached the beach several blocks away, therefore no local
datum or reference.
EXACTING THE LOCATION OF THE ANCIENT WRECK ON GALVESTON'S EAST BEACH
All one has to do is review the section of the 1885 Birds Eye View map below, and it is quite clear what
the problem was, and if you think the streets were outlined as noted, they were not.
Therefore, a Civil Engineer’s basis s critical, especially including the survey of high and low tides, and
who was there at the location in 1891.
Engaged in many other Galveston County and local area historical pursuits, the particular interest in this
shipwreck over others was its apparent ancient nature. General descriptions and comments made at
the time by several older mariners was that this ship was of a class of architecture long forgotten, others
believed certainly over 200 years old, and this recorded in the 1880’s.
The vessel had a beam (width) of 30 feet with ribs 20 inches thick, including a huge bowsprit which was
fitted in between two massive pieces of oak (proper terminology-brits), a large spike driven through the
whole, unlike modern construction of the times. The common feeling was of a very heavy and bulky
vessel, and that the old vessel in its day was evidently a “tough”, the appearance of strength and solidity
not often met with in craft of much more modern construction.
This then set in motion the need by this writer to investigate beach at very low tides, and preferably
aided by a strong northern front during the winter conditions, to overlay with various other maps and
plats the location of the ancient vessel remnants as recorded by Willits, including abstracting properties,
and locating on modern aerials.
EXACTING THE LOCATION OF THE ANCIENT WRECK ON GALVESTON’S EAST BEACH
One might think that abstracting properties was a “misguided” waste of time, and again, you would be
incorrect. On Galveston Island, in the city plat proper, hence the first plats via Groesbeck in 1838,
private ownership of land in the plat, whether dry or under water, is still valid to current times. This
means even land under water outside the seawall, which was subdivided generally as Outlots, hence
large lot subdivisions, could be owned by individuals and entities, and in general applies to all bayous
and lakes on the island as well. The Trimble and Lindsey island surveys of 1837 manifested the island lot
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