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the bay.  We returned on shore.  I took a long walk across the island and around its head by the beach, and enjoyed for the first time a full view of the great ocean; a fresh breeze from the south brought the waves in with a noise resembling a great waterfall.  The [word obliterated by stain] sight of the breakers, whitecrested, lofty and angry-looking, was truly grand, and equalled the ideas I had formed from reading of such scenes.  Saw a great number of birds -- cranes, curlews, gulls, and pelicans.  The latter at a distance resembled companies of soldiers, white and gray; the two colors flock together.  Said to lay eggs in vast quantities in the sand on Pelican Island, where they are left to hatch by the sun.  Pelicans and gulls lay together indiscriminately, and they hatch successively in proportion to the time at which they were layed.

I gathered a number of pretty shells, thousands of which lay on the beach, and boxed them up to send round for my children.

Triplett and Neblett measured off two sections of ground here, as the site of a future town.[39]  It is the site of Lafitte's old fort, the shape of which, and some remains of his operations, in the shape of broken bottles, crockery, bricks, nails, etc., are still visible.  The whole island is low, no part that I have seen ten feet above ordinary tide, and I am told has all been overflowed since the settlement of the country.  The shores are very shoal, and no part presents a good site for a city.  A considerable city must one day spring up on this bay, somewhere, but at what point is yet uncertain.  Galveston harbor is the best yet discovered; it is a safe one, being locked in by Galveston Island, Pelican Island and Point Bolivar.  But at no place can vessels drawing more than two or three feet approach within two or three hundred yards of the shore.

The island is forty miles long -- only three trees on it.  No habitation; fine pasturage.  A great number of deer on the island.  Said to have been named after Count Galves, formerly Viceroy of Mexico.[40]  An Englishman or American must have stood sponsor for it, as the name has an English termination.  The best entrance to the harbor is from the east.  (See Canty's chart.)  The west pass seems to be but little known.  There is believed to be a channel there, having eight or nine feet.  It is between the little island of San Louis and the mainland.  Galveston was formerly called the Island of St. Louis, but that name is now restricted to a small island lying at the west end of Galveston Island.

In the midst of the island, among the grass, I picked up a piece of pumice about the size of my fist, which had the appearance of having been long afloat; the trituration of the waves and sands, etc., had made it nearly round.  It is probable it had floated from the Mediterranean to this place.

Wm. H. Wharton told me in New Orleans that he owned all of this island, having purchased it of a Mexican.  A. C. Allen said he and a company of New York owned a league at the harbor, where they intended building a city.  Burnett


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The Diary of William Fairfax Gray, from Virginia to Texas, 1835-1837
Copyright 1997 William P. Clements Center for Southwest Studies
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas